Connecticut Shooting Victims’ Stories Begin To Emerge
Most 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:
Speaks At Vigil For Connecticut Shooting Victims… ‘We’re Not Doing
Enough… And We Will Have To Change’… ‘Surely We Can Do Better Than
This’… ‘We Can’t Accept Events Like This As Routine’…
Biographer: ‘His Gettysburg Address’…
of the 27 victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown,
Conn. All victims died of multiple gunshot wounds, medical examiners
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 ..
On Saturday, the Connecticut State Police released a list of the names of the 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
– 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
Ana Marquez–greene 04/04/06
Noah Pozner 11/20/06
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
“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
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,
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
“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
“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,
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
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?
By Steve Wohlberg
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
The Bible forbids all attempts to communicate with dead people (see Deuteronomy 18:11)
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).
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.
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
Absent from the body, present with the Lord? (2 Corinthians 5:8)
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.
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)
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:
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).
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!
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.
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?
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
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)
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:
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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’:
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).
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
Souls under the altar (Revelation 6:9-11)
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)
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.
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