On The Resurrection

On The Resurrection

Paul, one of the most important figures in the early church wrote that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV) The bodily, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ cements the remaining tenants of Christianity together. It is the linchpin of the faith. Fortunately, there are plenty of evidences for the resurrection. One can first look at the historical evidences for the resurrection from both Christian and non-Christian sources. Next, there is the claim of several hundred eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus. The accounts of these witnesses are not the only evidence from them, the changed lives and attitudes speak volumes. Finally, you have Christ’s claim that He would rise from the dead. The resurrection of Christ not only provides tremendous evidence to His deity, but it gives Christians today a great deal of hope.

History records the existence of Jesus in texts along with the New Testament. Today it is possible to know about important, and unimportant, people in history because various events in their lives were recorded. Alexander the Great’s life was written about, Plato’s writings and ideas survive, and Jesus is no different. His life was written about, and His words recorded. One of the great historians alive during the generation of Jesus was Josephus, a Jew. Josephus mentions Jesus in his Antiquities of the Jews. He records Jesus’ death by crucifixion, and he goes on to state “those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day.” (Josephus, 576) The historical evidence for Jesus existence seems fairly solid, but Gary Habermas takes it a step further when he says “even by using only the strongest historical facts that are also accepted as such by critical scholars, an especially strong case for the resurrection of Jesus can be constructed.” (Habermas, 7) Where did all of these writers glean the information for writing about the resurrection? Many of them likely recorded events as recounted to them from the eyewitnesses to Jesus resurrected body.

 These eyewitnesses are a vital source of information both for the writers of the time and for modern readers today. C.S. Lewis is cited in Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict as stating “The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who have seen the resurrection. If they had died without making anyone else believe this ‘gospel’ no gospels would ever have been written.” (McDowell, 248) How very true. These eyewitnesses shared their experiences with those around them who in turn believed. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians that “[Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive” (1 Corinthians 15:6 ESV). Paul’s claim of over 500 people, many still alive, having witnessed the risen Christ could very easily have been refuted if it hadn’t happened. These eyewitnesses were men and women alike, and many of whom “gave the world the highest ethical teaching if has ever known, and who even on the word of their enemies lived it out in their lives.” (McDowell, 249) These accounts of the resurrection couldn’t have been fabricated and had the adherents living out the life that lead many to death, it wasn’t in their character.

 Imagine telling a lie today, living life according to that lie, and in ten years being burned at the stake for that lie. Is it truly possible to imagine? Of course not. Who would be willing to go so far as to lay down their life for a lie? That’s exactly what happened to many of the early Christians. James is recorded in Acts 12 as being the first of the Apostles to die by the sword. However, just a short time before, Stephen was stoned outside of the city gates for his faith in the resurrected Jesus (Acts 7). JD Chatraw wrote “it is difficult to see why Jesus’ earliest followers would have been willing to endure such persecution if they knew themselves to be suffering for a hoax.” (Chatraw, 314) It is entirely counterintuitive to claim that the disciples were lying about the resurrection when history shows the torment and pain that they suffered at the hands of others. Their faith rested in their belief that they had experienced the resurrected Christ, and His resurrection solidified in their hearts that He was God.

The claims of Jesus that He would go into Jerusalem and subsequently die, while prophetic, aren’t all that surprising. Jesus had been going against the grain of the culture and the Pharisees. The Jews from early in Jesus’ ministry had plotted to kill Him. (John 5:18,10:30) He wasn’t exactly on their guest list for parties. However, Jesus went further to claim that He would rise again on the third day. This fact says Wilbur Smith as cited by McDowell, “only a fool would dare say, if he expected longer the devotion of any disciples—unless He was sure He was going to rise. No founder of any world religion known to men ever dared say a thing like that!” (McDowell, 209) Jesus claim that He would on the third day rise again, while not fully understood by the disciples until after the fact, was a clear indicator of His deity. Paul in the beginning of his letter to the Romans wrote “[Jesus] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4 ESV) Jesus, as the Son of God, could make a claim that no other person in history could or ever will. He knew that the plan was for Him to rise again giving hope to the nations.

 As stated in opening, the resurrection is the central, core of Christianity. Without it everything falls apart. Smith again is cited as stating that “if you lifted every passage in which a reference is made to the resurrection, you would have a collection of writings so mutilated that what remained could not be understood.” (McDowell, 207) Christianity rises above all others or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians that because Jesus is resurrected “in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22 ESV) and “at his coming those who belong to Christ [will be raised from the dead]” (1 Corinthians 15:23b) Our hope rests in the resurrected Christ that we too will be raised and live forevermore.

Sources

Chatraw, JD. Apologetics at the Cross. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

Habermas, Gary R. “Changing Attitudes Toward The Resurrection Of Jesus.” Christian Research Journal 40, no. 4 (2017), Retrieved from http://www.equip.org/PDF/JAF2404.pdf.

Josephus, Flavius, The Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998.

McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1999.

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