Connecticut Shooting Victims' Stories Begin To EmergeMost died at the very start of their young lives, tiny victims taken in a way not fit for anyone regardless of age. Others found their life's work in sheltering little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. After the gunfire ended Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the trail of loss was more than many could bear: 20 students and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.
A glimpse of some of those who died:
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Officials released a full list of the names of the 27 victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. All victims died of multiple gunshot wounds, medical examiners said.
www.huffingtonpost.com/.../newtown-shooting-motive_n_2306876....1 day ago – NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- Investigators tried to figure out what led a bright but painfully awkward 20-year-old to slaughter 26 children and ..
26 victims who were shot and killed at a Connecticut elementary school.
The victims are 12 girls, eight boys and six adult women. The victims, police said, were shot up close, multiple times.
The following is a list (as released by police) of the victims in Friday's shooting spree on the campus of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
- Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female
- Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male
- Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female.
- Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female
- Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female
- Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female
- Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male
- Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female
- Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female
- Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female
- Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male
- Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male
- James Mattioli , 3/22/06, male
- Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, female
- Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female
- Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, female
- Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, male
- Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male
- Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, female
- Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, female
- Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female
- Lauren Rousseau, 6/1982, female (full date of birth not specified)
- Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, female
- Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female
- Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male
- Allison N. Wyatt, 7/03/06, female
Police knew the names of the victims Friday, but officials said they were pending positive identification by the state medical examiner's office.
Ana Marquez-greene 04/04/06
Noah Pozner 11/20/06
Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male
OLIVIA ENGEL, 6
The images of Olivia Engel will live far beyond her short lifetime. There she is, visiting with Santa Claus, or feasting on a slice of birthday cake. There's the one of her swinging a pink baseball bat, and another posing on a boat. In some, she models a pretty white dress; in others, she makes a silly face.
Dan Merton, a longtime friend of the girl's family, says he could never forget the child, and he has much to say when he thinks of her.
"She loved attention," he said. "She had perfect manners, perfect table manners. She was the teacher's pet, the line leader."
On Friday, Merton said, she was simply excited to go to school and then return home and make a gingerbread house.
"Her only crime," he said, "is being a wiggly, smiley 6-year-old."
DAWN HOCHSPRUNG, 47, principal
Dawn Hochsprung's pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert; days before that, the tiny hands of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.
She viewed her school as a model, telling The Newtown Bee in 2010 that "I don't think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day." She had worked to make Sandy Hook a place of safety, too, and in October, the 47-year-old Hochsprung shared a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "safety first." When the unthinkable came, she was ready to defend.
Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.
"She had an extremely likable style about her," said Gerald Stomski, first selectman of Woodbury, where Hochsprung lived and had taught. "She was an extremely charismatic principal while she was here."
MADELEINE HSU, 6
Dr. Matthew Velsmid was at Madeleine's house on Saturday, tending to her stricken family. He said the family did not want to comment.
Velsmid said that after hearing of the shooting, he went to the triage area to provide medical assistance but there were no injuries to treat.
"We were waiting for casualties to come out, and there was nothing. There was no need, unfortunately," he said. "This is the darkest thing I've ever walked into, by far."
Velsmid's daughter, who attends another school, lost three of her friends.
CATHERINE HUBBARD, 6
A family friend turned reporters away from the house, but Catherine's parents released a statement expressing gratitude to emergency responders and for the support of the community.
"We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy," Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard said. "We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy."
CHASE KOWALSKI, 7
Chase Kowalski was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbor Kevin Grimes, telling him about completing – and winning – his first mini-triathlon.
"You couldn't think of a better child," Grimes said.
Grimes' own five children all attended Sandy Hook, too. Cars lined up outside the Kowalskis' ranch home Saturday, and a state trooper's car idled in the driveway. Grimes spoke of the boy only in the present tense.
NANCY LANZA, 52, gunman's mother
She once was known simply for the game nights she hosted and the holiday decorations she put up at her house. Now Nancy Lanza is known as her son's first victim.
Authorities say her 20-year-old son Adam gunned her down before killing 26 others at Sandy Hook. The two shared a home in a well-to-do Newtown neighborhood, but details were slow to emerge of who she was and what might have led her son to carry out such horror.
Kingston, N.H., Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr. said Nancy Lanza once lived in the community and was a kind, considerate and loving person. The former stockbroker at John Hancock in Boston was well-respected, Briggs said.
Court records show Lanza and her ex-husband, Peter Lanza, filed for divorce in 2008. He lives in Stamford and is a tax director at General Electric. A neighbor, Rhonda Cullens, said she knew Nancy Lanza from get-togethers she had hosted to play Bunco, a dice game. She said her neighbor had enjoyed gardening.
"She was a very nice lady," Cullens said. "She was just like all the rest of us in the neighborhood, just a regular person."
JESSE LEWIS, 6
Six-year-old Jesse Lewis had hot chocolate with his favorite breakfast sandwich – sausage, egg and cheese – at the neighborhood deli before going to school Friday morning.
Jesse and his parents were regulars at the Misty Vale Deli in Sandy Hook, Conn., owner Angel Salazar told The Wall Street Journal.
"He was always friendly; he always liked to talk," Salazar said.
Jesse's family has a collection of animals he enjoyed playing with, and he was learning to ride horseback.
Family friend Barbara McSperrin told the Journal that Jesse was "a typical 6-year-old little boy, full of life."
ANA MARQUEZ-GREENE, 6
A year ago, 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was reveling in holiday celebrations with her extended family on her first trip to Puerto Rico. This year will be heartbreakingly different.
The girl's grandmother, Elba Marquez, said the family moved to Connecticut just two months ago, drawn from Canada, in part, by Sandy Hook's sterling reputation. The grandmother's brother, Jorge Marquez, is mayor of a Puerto Rican town and said the child's 9-year-old brother also was at the school but escaped safely.
Elba Marquez had just visited the new home over Thanksgiving and is perplexed by what happened. "What happened does not match up with the place where they live," she said.
A video spreading across the Internet shows a confident Ana hitting every note as she sings "Come, Thou Almighty King." She flashes a big grin and waves to the camera when she's done.
Jorge Marquez confirmed the girl's father is saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who wrote on Facebook that he was trying to "work through this nightmare."
"As much as she's needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise," he wrote. "I love you sweetie girl."
JAMES MATTIOLI, 6
The upstate New York town of Sherrill is thinking of Cindy Mattioli, who grew up there and lost her son James in the school shooting in Connecticut.
"It's a terrible tragedy, and we're a tight community," Mayor William Vineall told the Utica Observer-Dispatch. "Everybody will be there for them, and our thoughts and prayers are there for them."
James' grandparents, Jack and Kathy Radley, still live in the city, the newspaper reported.
ANNE MARIE MURPHY, 52, teacher
A happy soul. A good mother, wife and daughter. Artistic, fun-loving, witty and hardworking.
Remembering their daughter, Anne Marie Murphy, her parents had no shortage of adjectives to offer Newsday. When news of the shooting broke, Hugh and Alice McGowan waited for word of their daughter as hours ticked by. And then it came.
Authorities told the couple their daughter was a hero who helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets. As the grim news arrived, the victim's mother reached for her rosary.
"You don't expect your daughter to be murdered," her father told the newspaper. "It happens on TV. It happens elsewhere."
EMILIE PARKER, 6
Quick to cheer up those in need of a smile, Emilie Parker never missed a chance to draw a picture or make a card.
Her father, Robbie Parker, fought back tears as he described the beautiful, blond, always-smiling girl who loved to try new things, except foods.
Parker, one of the first parents to publicly talk about his loss, expressed no animosity for the gunman, even as he struggled to explain the death to his other two children, ages 3 and 4. He's sustained by the fact that the world is better for having had Emilie in it.
"I'm so blessed to be her dad," he said.
NOAH POZNER, 6
Noah was "smart as a whip," gentle but with a rambunctious streak, said his uncle, Alexis Haller of Woodinville, Wash. Noah's twin sister Arielle, assigned to a different classroom, survived the shooting. He called her his best friend, and with their 8-year-old sister, Sophia, they were inseparable.
"They were always playing together, they loved to do things together," Haller said. When his mother, a nurse, would tell him she loved him, he would answer, "Not as much as I love you, Mom."
Haller said Noah loved to read and liked to figure out how things worked mechanically. For his birthday two weeks ago, he got a new Wii.
"He was just a really lively, smart kid," Haller said. "He would have become a great man, I think. He would have grown up to be a great dad."
LAUREN GABRIELLE ROUSSEAU, 30, teacher
Lauren Rousseau had spent years working as a substitute teacher and doing other jobs. So she was thrilled when she finally realized her goal this fall to become a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook.
Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, a copy editor at the Danbury News-Times, released a statement Saturday that said state police told them just after midnight that she was among the victims.
"Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten," she said. "We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream."
Her mother said she was thrilled to get the job.
"It was the best year of her life," she told the newspaper.
Rousseau has been called gentle, spirited and active. She had planned to see "The Hobbit" with her boyfriend Friday and had baked cupcakes for a party they were to attend afterward. She was born in Danbury, and attended Danbury High, college at the University of Connecticut and graduate school at the University of Bridgeport.
She was a lover of music, dance and theater.
"I'm used to having people die who are older," her mother said, "not the person whose room is up over the kitchen."
MARY SHERLACH, 56, school psychologist
When the shots rang out, Mary Sherlach threw herself into the danger.
Janet Robinson, the superintendent of Newtown Public Schools, said Sherlach and the school's principal ran toward the shooter. They lost their own lives, rushing toward him.
Even as Sherlach neared retirement, her job at Sandy Hook was one she loved. Those who knew her called her a wonderful neighbor, a beautiful person, a dedicated educator.
Her son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, told the South Jersey Times that Sherlach rooted on the Miami Dolphins, enjoyed visiting the Finger Lakes, relished helping children overcome their problems. She had planned to leave work early on Friday, he said, but never had the chance. In a news conference Saturday, he told reporters the loss was devastating, but that Sherlach was doing what she loved.
"Mary felt like she was doing God's work," he said, "working with the children."
VICTORIA SOTO, 27, teacher
She beams in snapshots. Her enthusiasm and cheer was evident. She was doing, those who knew her say, what she loved.
And now, Victoria Soto is being called a hero.
Though details of the 27-year-old teacher's death remained fuzzy, her name has been invoked again and again as a portrait of selflessness and humanity among unfathomable evil. Those who knew her said they weren't surprised by reports she shielded her first-graders from danger.
"She put those children first. That's all she ever talked about," said a friend, Andrea Crowell. "She wanted to do her best for them, to teach them something new every day."
Photos of Soto show her always with a wide smile, in pictures of her at her college graduation and in mundane daily life. She looks so young, barely an adult herself. Her goal was simply to be a teacher.
"You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself," said Mayor John Harkins of Stratford, the town Soto hailed from and where more than 300 people gathered for a memorial service Saturday night. "That speaks volumes to her character, and her commitment and dedication."
usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/.../15926718-newtown-gunman-had-alt...1 day ago – EXCLUSIVE UPDATED 12:30 p.m. ET: The gunman in the Newtown massacre had an "altercation" with four staff members at Sandy Hook
What Happens When We Die?
I Thess.4: 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18Why comfort one another with these words.
By Steve Wohlberg
Are you ready for the truth about death? We have seen that the Bible forbids all attempts to communicate with the dead (see Deuteronomy 18:11). There are two reasons: 1) Demons can easily impersonate those who have died, thereby tricking the living into communicating with them; and 2) It is impossible for the dead to talk with the living anyway. I hope to prove this below.
Honestly, I have wrestled over the contents of this article. After prayer and thought, I have decided to present my views, based on the Bible, even though some may disagree. I urge you to read each Scripture presented, and then come to your own conclusions. David prayed, “Open my eyes” (Psalms 119:18). May this be our prayer.
Based on years of research, I have concluded that there are essentially two different views about the nature of man that affect one’s beliefs about what happens after death.
- The Immortal Soul view
- The Non-Immortal Soul view
The Immortal Soul view is believed by most of the world’s religions. The idea is that every human body houses an immortal soul that continues after death. When we die, only our body disintegrates back to dust, but the soul goes on, much like a snake shedding its skin. Of course different religions disagree with each other about where souls go after death, but the basic idea of the soul surviving physical decease is shared by most in our society. And like it or not, the Immortal Soul doctrine is the basis of the belief that we can talk to the dead. The reason is simple: the dead supposedly aren’t really dead.
The Non-Immortal Soul view is different and contends that – biblically speaking – the word “soul” applies to the entire person. When God first created Adam in Paradise, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Thus man doesn’t have a separate soul, but rather he is a soul (see also Joshua 10:35, 37, 39; Lev. 23:30; Acts 27:37, KJV). After man sinned, his entire person, or soul, became mortal, or subject to death. When a sinner dies, he or she returns to the dust, and “the breath of life” returns to God. This “breath” is not a conscious entity, but is the spark of life that exists in everything alive. At death, the sinner is truly dead – unconscious, asleep, waiting for the resurrection. This view is sometimes called “soul sleep.”
Which view is right? What does the Bible really say? For the moment I am going to build a case for the non-immortality of the soul. Later on in this article on the truth about death I will examine the passages about being “absent from the body” (2 Corinthians 5:8), the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43), the appearance of Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:3), the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Paul’s desire to depart and be with Christ (Philippians 1:23) and the martyred souls under the altar (Rev. 6:9-11). These verses are often quoted to support the Immortal Soul teaching. Do they really? We hope to find out. After this, we will closely examine another big topic – the doctrine of Hell.
First, let’s see what the Bible says about “immortality.” As we discovered earlier in this article on the truth about death, after Adam and Eve sinned they were barred from the tree of life, lest they should “eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22 -24). The message here is that sinners do not naturally “live forever.” Paul wrote that we “seek for glory and honor and immortality” (Romans 2:7) and that Christians will “put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53, 54) on Resurrection Day. Presently, God “only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach” (1 Timothy 6:16). To me, these verses are clear. Fallen man is not immortal.
Next, what does the Bible say happens at death? Notice carefully: “The living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing…there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10). “For in death there is no remembrance of You, in the grave who shall give You thanks?” (Psalms 6:5). “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence” (Psalms 115:17). “His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalms 146:4). These Bible verses say that after death a person knows nothing, has no thoughts, doesn’t remember God, and lies silent in the grave. This is God’s Word, not man’s opinion.
Next, death is sleep. David spoke of “the sleep of death” (Psalms 13:3). All throughout the Old Testament, when kings died, they “slept with their fathers” (1 Kings 2:10). The same is true in the New Testament. When Lazarus died, Jesus Christ said, “Our friend Lazarus is sleeping… Jesus spoke of his death” (John 11:11 -13). After Stephen was martyred, “he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60). Dead Christians “sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Daniel wrote that at the end of time, “many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). Thus the dead are sleeping in the dust of the earth. Someday, they will wake up.
Finally, the Christians’ hope is the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection. When our Lord returns, “the dead in Christ shall rise…so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). Look closely. Paul said Christians will “be with the Lord” when He returns. Jesus taught the same thing when He promised His disciples, “I will come again, and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3). Again, look closely. Jesus did not say, “I’ll meet you in Heaven when you die,” but that He would receive us when He returns.
Ultimately, Bible truth about death is comforting. Our beloved dead are sleeping quietly, awaiting the resurrection when Jesus returns. Truth also protects us from being deceived by heartless, tricky demons who can easily impersonate the dead. I encourage my readers to continue studying this topic prayerfully. I’ll conclude with the words of Jesus Christ Himself:
Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28, 29, NKJV).
Grave Errors about Death
In the first two topics we covered here on the truth about death we discovered that:
- The Bible forbids all attempts to communicate with dead people (see Deuteronomy 18:11)
- Demonic spirits are deceptively at work around the world (see Revelation 16:14) that can easily impersonate those who have died.
- Communication with dead people is impossible because those who have died are dead. They lie unconscious, asleep in their graves, awaiting the resurrection (see Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Psalm 6:5; 13:3; 115:17; 146:4; John 5:28, 29; 6:39, 40, 44, 54: 11:11-14; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
Twenty-six years ago I learned this Bible truth: Jesus Christ died for my sins, was buried in Joseph’s tomb, and rose from the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). To Christians, these facts should be non-negotiable. As I have continued studying my Bible, I have also come to believe that when human beings die, they are dead, asleep in their graves, waiting for “the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). Death, burial and resurrection,this is what God’s Book says.
I realize that many other God-fearing Christians don’t quite view everything as I do. Most believe that when we die, only our bodies disintegrate to dust, whereas our souls instantly enter the presence of Jesus. Personally, I don’t believe this. If we disagree, can we do it respectfully? I hope so. Later on this article on the truth about death, I will closely examine some well-known Bible texts normally used to support the “we go to Heaven immediately at death” doctrine. Much is at stake here. Please consider my arguments, and then come to your own conclusions.
Absent from the body, present with the Lord? (2 Corinthians 5:8)
This is probably the main Scripture used to support the common view. The exact text reads, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Paul is clearly talking about a transition from this sinful “body” to being “present with the Lord.” There is no question about this. But notice carefully that in this verse Paul doesn’t specifically say when this transition occurs. Most assume he meant at death. Did he? Could he have meant on Resurrection Day when Jesus Christ returns? Amazingly, we don’t have to guess, for the following verses make Paul’s meaning plain.
Four verses earlier Paul said this transition occurs when “mortality” is “swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4). When is that? If we back up a few chapters to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the answer is obvious. Notice carefully:
Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)
Here Paul is writing about the climactic return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of God’s saints. Paul called death “sleep” (verse 51). He also said we are currently “mortal” (verse 53). Finally, he clarified that when “the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised… then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (verses 52-54). Add 2 + 2. In 2 Corinthians 5:4 and 5:8, Paul said the transition from this sinful “body” to being “present with the Lord” occurs when “mortality is swallowed up by life.” In 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, he clarified that this “mortal” will “put on immortality” and that death will be “swallowed up in victory” at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Beyond this, did Paul clarify anywhere else at what point believers will be “present with the Lord”? Yes indeed. Once again, notice carefully:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
These verses parallel 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, which explain 2 Corinthians 5:4-8. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, when will believers get to be “present with the Lord”? Answer: When Jesus Christ comes crashing into our polluted atmosphere with a shout, a voice, and the ear splitting trumpet of God! That trumpet will be so loud it will pierce the slumbering ears of those who have died trusting the Crucified and Resurrected One. They will burst out of their clammy graves. How awesome! Then those of us who are still living (I hope to be among this group) will be “caught up” into the greatest space ride humans have ever experienced. And then? Don’t miss it: “so shall we ever be with the Lord.” This is the Word of God. Alleluia!
There lies Uncle Manuel. He’s dead. My seven-year-old brain tried to comprehend what was happening as I attended my uncle Manuel’s funeral, beheld his casket, stared into his pale face, held my dad’s hand while surrounded by mourners dressed in black, and witnessed my mother’s tears. It was all very strange. At such a young age, I could hardly understand what death meant, much less what happens next to those whose short life on this earth has ended.
Uncle Manuel’s funeral was almost 40 years ago. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research into what the Bible says in regards the truth about death, burial, and the resurrection. After years of study, I’ve come to the conclusion that when a person dies – whether saint or sinner – they are dead, that is, they lie unconscious in their graves awaiting the “resurrection of the dead” (Acts 24:15). I realize this is a bit different from what most people believe. Nevertheless, I am not accountable to man, but to God alone. To my readers I make this plea: Read my arguments, study the Bible for yourself, pray, and come to your own conclusions. Sound fair enough?
Solomon said that “there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) and that “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Both the Old and New Testaments plainly teach that the dead “sleep in the dust of the earth” (Daniel 12:2) as they await the resurrection (see Psalms 13:3; John 5:28, 29; 11:11-14; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 51-55). Jesus Christ said concerning the man who dies believing in Him, “I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). I have found this to be the consistent teaching of Scripture.
Yet as I mentioned earlier, there are a few Bible passages that seem to support a different view – that of immediate entrance into heaven, or of instant descent into hell-fire. Earlier we looked at 2 Corinthians 5:8 where Paul wrote about being “absent from the body and present with the Lord.” It’s time to look at another well-known passage.
The thief on the cross (Luke 23:42,43)
On history’s darkest day, as the Son of God hung suspended between heaven and earth bearing the sins of the world, a dying criminal crucified beside Jesus breathed hopefully, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). The King responded, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise ” (verse 43). Many interpret Christ’s response as conclusive evidence that the dying thief’s soul was instantly ushered into the presence of Jesus on that very day. I disagree. Here’s why:
First, the dying thief pleaded, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Thus the thief hoped to be remembered at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, not before. Second, Jesus Himself did not go to Paradise that day, but into Joseph’s tomb. Three days later, after rising from the dead, Jesus candidly told Mary, “I have not yet ascended to My Father” (John 20:17). Thus our Lord did not ascend to glory on the day of His death. Thirdly, Jesus clarified that His followers will be with Him when He returns. “I will come again”, He promised, “and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3, italics added). Paul taught the same thing when he wrote that true believers will get to “be with the Lord” when He descends from heaven and resurrects the dead (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).So what did Jesus mean when He spoke to the dying thief?
Believe it or not, the confusion stems from one tiny piece of punctuation called a ‘comma.’ Before we look again at Christ’s exact words to the thief, let me clarify that the Bible calls itself “the Word of God”, not “the Comma of God”. The fact is that punctuation and commas were added to the inspired text many years after the New Testament was written. It is the same with the numbering of verses. Whatever translation you are reading from, your Bible says “43” before Christ’s response the dying thief. “42” comes before that, then “41”, etcetera. Guess what? Luke didn’t write “41” or “42” or “43” or “44.” He just wrote one book of Luke. It wasn’t until many years later that mennumbered the verses to make it easier for us to find them. I’m glad they did. It helps. But they also added commas where they assumed they should go. So let’s remove the comma and look at what Jesus Christ literally said to the thief. His exact words were:
Assuredly I say to you today you will be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).
Now, if you place the comma before the word “today,” which is where most Bibles place it, then Jesus told the thief, “today you will be with Me in Paradise.” But if you place the comma after the word “today,” Christ’s meaning is switched entirely. Then Jesus would have said, “I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” In other words, Christ would be telling the thief, “I tell you today” (right then two thousand years ago) that he would be with Him in the future when He returns.
So which is it? Where should the comma go? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess. Other verses make Christ’s answer clear. First, Jesus didn’t go to Paradise that day. Second, on Sunday morning He had not yet ascended to His Father (see John 20:17). Thirdly, and most importantly, Jesus never contradicted Himself. He plainly promised His followers, “I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3). Martin Luther once said, “Here I stand. So help me God. Amen.” This is where I stand. My hope is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
My uncle Manuel was Jewish. As far as I know, he was not a believer in the Crucified and Risen One. Where did Uncle Manuel go? And if he is lost (I hope this is not the case!), what will finally happen to him? As we continue reading this article on the truth about death, we’ll find out.
Elvis Presley. Marilyn Monroe. Princess Diana. Ronald Reagan. Pope John Paul II – what do they have in common? They’re all famous, and they’re all dead. No matter how large a person’s bank account, or how attractive their physical appearance, or even how close to God they may become in this life, “All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean…after that they go to the dead” (Ecclesiastes 9:2, 3, italics added). “ But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” penned Benjamin Franklin. He was correct.
So far I have built my case that when a human being dies – whether saint or sinner – they are truly dead, that is, they lie unconscious in their graves awaiting the resurrection. To briefly summarize, Solomon said “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) and that “there is no work, or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). David wrote about “the sleep of death” (Psalms 13:3), Daniel said the dead “sleep in the dust of the earth” (Daniel 12:2), and Jesus Christ emphatically declared that someday “all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28, 29). These passages describe man’s condition at death, his sleeping in the grave, and finally – a bodily resurrection back to life.
To repeat what I have written previously, I realize that majority opinion thinks differently. Shortly after Pope John Paul II died at the ripe age of 84, Vatican officials declared that their departed leader was now “looking down from heaven” after being “welcomed into the presence of Jesus.” With all due respect, I don’t think so. If you are Catholic, please don’t take offense. I would say the same thing about my own mother whom I love dearly. Based on my study of the Bible, I believe Pope John Paul II and countless others are not in heaven at this exact moment. Rather, they are silently sleeping in their graves waiting for Resurrection Day.
Earlier in this article on the truth about death, I examined two biblical passages often quoted to support the common view of ‘instant heaven at death’: 1) Paul’s expression about longing to be “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8) and 2) Jesus Christ’s promise to a dying thief about being with Him in Paradise (Luke 23:42, 43). I think these arguments are pretty convincing. It’s time to examine a few more verses that I believe are often misinterpreted to teach ‘instant heaven’ rather than the doctrine of literal death, unconscious sleep, and future bodily resurrection.
Paul’s “desire to depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23)
Paul knew that sometime after he died he would be with Jesus, yet it as an assumption to think that in Philippians 1:23 he meant at the moment of his death. In another letter, Paul clarified that he expected to “always be with the Lord” when Jesus Christ returned to resurrect the dead (read 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). It is significant to note that the very last letter Paul penned was 2 Timothy. In that letter’s concluding chapter, notice carefully Paul’s ‘famous last words’:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8, italics added).
Here again Paul clarified – just like he did in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 – that he looked forward to being with Jesus Christ on “the Day” of “His appearing”.
Souls under the altar (Revelation 6:9-11)
In the book of Revelation, John beheld under a heavenly “altar” “the souls” of many Christian martyrs calling out for vengeance against their persecutors. “There!” some claim, “There are souls alive in heaven after they died!” But look closer. This entire passage is filled with symbolism. In the same chapter John also saw four horses with riders, the fourth rider being “Death” itself, followed by “Hell” (Revelation 6:1-8). Can “Death” literally ride a horse? Are literal souls crammed underneath a physical altar? Not a very pleasant place to hang out, do you think? Biblically speaking, the idea of martyred souls crying out for vengeance is rooted in Genesis 4 when God told Cain after he murdered Abel, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” (Genesis 4:10) Does this mean that Abel’s blood literally muttered syllables through dirt? Obviously not. Again, this is symbolic.
The appearance of Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:28 -32)
Not long before Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, “Moses and Elijah” appeared to comfort the Saviour. This supposedly proves that Moses, Elijah, and all the saints are now alive ‘on the other side’. But it doesn’t. First of all, it was not disembodied ‘souls’ that appeared before Christ and His disciples, but “two men” (Luke 9:30) in physical form. Second, Elijah himself never died, but was translated in Old Testament times without seeing death (see 2 Kings 2:11). Thirdly, Moses did die, but Jude 9 implies that “the body of Moses” was at some point raised back to life. In Luke 9:28-32, Elijah appeared representing all those who shall one day be translated at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, while Moses represented all others who shall be resurrected “at the last day” (see John 11:24). Again, the text says “two men,” not two ghosts. Why did Moses and Elijah appear? To encourage Jesus to go through with His death, burial, and resurrection, and to assure Him that millions of other believers – just like them – would someday be translated or raised from the grave.