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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Case for Christianity

Don Stewart :: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Chapter 10 – The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

He Is the Only One Who Has Conquered Death

The cornerstone of the Christian is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This chapter looks at this crucial subject in some detail.

Our first section looks at the importance of the resurrection. We will discover that without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. According to Scripture, the truth of the Christian faith stands or fall on the resurrection of Jesus.

After we determine that the resurrection is central to the Christian faith, we then weigh the direct evidence for it. We will find that the main reason the people believed that Jesus came back from the dead is that He appeared to them after His crucifixion and burial.

Our next section looks at some of the indirect, or circumstantial, evidence for the resurrection. There are about ten lines of circumstantial evidence which give further testimony to the resurrection of Christ.

We then move on to answering some common objections which are made about the resurrection. In doing so, we will discover that it takes much more faith to believe in these alternative theories than to believe in the resurrection itself.

Our last section looks at the meaning of the resurrection to the individual. If Jesus did come back from the dead, then what does it mean to us as individuals as well as to the human race? We will find that it means everything.

This section concludes our evidence for the truth of Jesus’ claims. When all the facts are weighed and evaluated the verdict becomes clear; Jesus is the One whom He claimed to be.

The big question, that sooner or later every human being has to face, was asked long ago by a man named Job. He said,

“If mortals die, can they live again?” (Job 14:14a NLT)

This same question remains to this day, “Is this life all that there is? Or is there life beyond the grave? Is it possible for anyone to know the answer to this question?”

Our third line of evidence is the Christian’s answer to Job’s question—the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Part 1 – The Importance of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: What It Means to the Christian Faith

The message of the early Christians, and the focal point of the New Testament, was stated in this simple truth by the Apostle Paul:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead... (2 Timothy 2:8a NASB)

This is the central truth of the Christian faith. The importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be overemphasized. Without the resurrection there is no Christianity.

Why the Resurrection Is Important

Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ so important? The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and declared the following:

Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without foundation, and so is your faith. In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ—whom He did not raise up if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Therefore those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have placed our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19 HCSB)

Notice how clearly Paul stated the matter—no resurrection, no Christianity. According to Paul, if Christ has not been raised, then the following things would be true:

  1. Christian preaching is empty and so in anyone’s faith because the object of the faith, Jesus Christ, is not whom He said He was.
  2. The apostles are liars for testifying to a resurrection that did not occur.
  3. No forgiveness has been granted for anybody’s sin.
  4. Those who have died believing in Christ have no hope.

If hope in Christ is limited to this life, Christians are to be pitied above all people.

Christianity Has No Meaning for Humanity without a Resurrection

Without the resurrection, Christianity has no meaning for humanity—its founder would have been a liar and a failure, and its followers are men and women who have no hope. Thus the importance of the resurrection to the Christian faith cannot be overestimated.

There are those who say that even without the resurrection, Christianity has significance. They hold that Christ’s teachings provide ethical guidelines for humanity. The New Testament, however, testifies that this is not the case. Without the resurrection there is no meaningful Christianity.

There Are Other Areas of Importance

We add further areas of importance of Christ’s resurrection—to His identity, ministry and message.

The Resurrection Is Important to His Identity

If Christ did not rise then He was a liar, for He predicted He would come back from the dead (Matthew 20:19). The resurrection authenticates Him as a true prophet. Without His resurrection everything that Jesus said would be subject to doubt.

The Resurrection Is Important to His Ministry

If Jesus did not rise, then His ministry would have ended in defeat. Believers would not have a High Priest to intercede for them to God the Father. There would be no one to the Head the church and no Holy Spirit to indwell believers and give them power to live godly lives.

The Resurrection Is Important to His Message

According to the Apostle Paul, the resurrection of Jesus is one of the four pillars of the gospel message. He wrote to the Corinthians:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared... (1 Corinthians 15:3-5a NRSV)

These four pillars are:

  1. Christ died.
  2. Christ was buried.
  3. Christ was raised.
  4. Christ appeared.

Without the resurrection there is no gospel message. Its importance to the Christian faith cannot be overestimated.

The Resurrection Is Unique to Christianity

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is unique to the Christian faith—no other religious figure has ever predicted his own resurrection, then accomplished it.

All other world religions are based upon a founder who lived in the past and whose religion is his only legacy. Muhammad died at age 61 on June 8, A.D. 632 in Medina. He is still dead. Confucius died and Buddha also died. They also remain dead—Jesus Christ is alive.

The Resurrection Was in God’s Eternal Plan

The death and resurrection of Christ is part of the eternal plan of God. Fifty days after Jesus’ death, the Apostle Peter declared the following on the day of Pentecost:

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24 HCSB)

Peter makes it clear that the death and resurrection of Christ was by God’s deliberate intention and foreknowledge. It was all part of God’s plan. Indeed, it is a crucial element in God’s eternal plan to save humanity from their sins. Therefore, the resurrection was not an isolated event.

The Resurrection Is Not beyond God’s Power

The resurrection of Jesus is not greater than any other miracle recorded in Scripture. Once a person grants the possibility of God performing miracles, then the testimony for the resurrection has to be evaluated like any other miracle that is recorded. The first verse of the Bible declares,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 KJV)

This verse is the basis of all miracles. If a person can believe the truth of this verse—that God spoke and the universe came into existence from nothing—then what is too hard for Him to do? That is why the Apostle Paul declared,

“Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8 NLT)

Nothing is too difficult for the God of the Bible. Nothing!

Other passages also testify to God’s miraculous power. We read in Jeremiah,

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27 KJV)

And of course, the answer is, “No;” there is nothing too difficult for God. Therefore, the idea that the God of the Bible has the ability to raise the dead is certainly consistent with what Scripture teaches about His mighty power.

The Resurrection Was Foretold by Jesus

The resurrection was not only in the eternal plan of God; it was also predicted beforehand by Jesus. The fact that He would rise from the dead was central to Jesus’ ministry and message. As we have said, the resurrection must not be seen as an isolated event in the life of Christ.

Jesus Made Many Predictions

As one reads the four gospels, they are struck by the fact that Jesus predicted, over and over again, His betrayal, death, and resurrection. Three years before He was raised from the dead, the following exchange between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders occurred:

So the Jews replied to Him, “What sign of authority will You show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days.” Therefore the Jews said, “This sanctuary took 46 years to build, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking about the sanctuary of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. And they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made. (John 2:18-22 HCSB)

Jesus predicted that His body would be raised from the dead.

The Resurrection Was the Sign That Jesus Gave to Prove His Identity

The resurrection was to be the sign that demonstrated Jesus as the one whom He claimed to be. When asked for a specific sign from the religious leaders, Jesus said,

“An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:39-40 NRSV)

Especially during the last six months of His earthly life, Jesus emphasized the importance and necessity of His upcoming crucifixion as well as the triumph of His resurrection. Matthew records,

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. (Matthew 16:21 NKJV)

The resurrection would demonstrate Jesus is the One whom He claimed to be.

Jesus Had the Ability to Raise Himself

Jesus also made the amazing claim that He had the authority to accomplish the resurrection Himself: We read the following in John’s gospel,

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” (John 10:17, 18 NRSV)

Jesus claimed that He could bring Himself back from the dead.

Jesus’ Predictions Were Common Knowledge

The predictions by Jesus of His resurrection were of such common knowledge that it led the religious rulers to ask Pontius Pilate to secure the tomb. We read the following in Matthew’s gospel:

The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive, He said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come, steal Him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ Then the last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:62-64 HCSB)

From these predictions, it can be readily seen that the resurrection was a central part of the message and ministry of Jesus.

Setting the Scene before the Resurrection

As we examine the events leading up to Easter Sunday, we discover that certain precautions taken by Jesus’ enemies actually give circumstantial evidence to His resurrection.

The Precautions: A Stone, Seal, and Guard

The precautions taken at the tomb consisted of three things—the large stone, the Roman seal, and the guard.

The Stone

The Bible says that a large stone was rolled in front of the tomb of Jesus. This stone, not only sealed the tomb, it also would have made it difficult for someone to come right in and steal the body.

The Roman Seal

The Roman seal was a sign of authentication that the tomb was occupied and the power and authority of Rome stood behind the seal. Anyone breaking the Roman seal would suffer the punishment of an unpleasant death.

The Guard

A guard, either the Roman guard or the Jewish temple police, watched Jesus’ tomb. There is a question as to which one of the two groups was watching over it. The context seems to favor the Roman guard. The Roman guard was a sixteen-man unit that was governed by some very strict rules. Each member was responsible for six square feet of space. The guard members could not sit down or lean against anything while they were on duty.

If a guard member fell asleep, he was beaten and burned with his own clothes. But he was not the only one executed; the entire sixteen-man guard unit was executed if only one of the members fell asleep while on duty.

The Religious Leaders Felt Secure

These precautions made the religious rulers feel secure that the excitement around Jesus would soon go away. Jesus lay dead in the tomb, and His frightened disciples had scattered and gone into hiding. They thought that they had won.

The Event That Changed the World

But the story was not over. The Bible says that early Sunday morning certain women came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. The stone had been removed, the seal had been broken, and the body was gone. An angel at the tomb asked,

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee...” (Luke 24:5b, 6 NRSV)

They went back to tell the other disciples, who at first did not believe their report. Luke records,

But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. (Luke 24:11 HCSB)

However, they were persuaded to look for themselves, and they also found the tomb empty. This caused them confusion. The confusion vanished as the resurrected Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene, then to some other women, and finally to the disciples. After being with the disciples for forty days, Jesus ascended into heaven. Ten days later, the disciples publicly proclaimed to all Jerusalem, and to all of the world, the fact that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead.

Part 2 – The Case for the Resurrection: Weighing the Evidence

We will now begin with our presentation of the case for the resurrection. The evidence will be weighed and evaluated.

Things We Know for Certain

As we begin to look at the case for the resurrection, we will start by examining certain undisputed facts that both believers and unbelievers can agree upon. They include the following.

Jesus Existed

Jesus was a historical figure who lived two thousand years ago. The primary source for His life and ministry is the New Testament, which, as we have already seen, was written by eyewitnesses, or people who recorded eyewitness testimony. There is no doubt that Jesus existed.

Jesus Performed Miracles

Another historical fact about Jesus is that He was a miracle worker. In the first five centuries of the Christian era, every report that has come down to us about Jesus, whether from friend or foe, has Him working miracles. There is no doubt that miracles were a central part of His ministry.

There Was No Dying and Rising Redeemer in First Century Judaism

Another fact beyond dispute is that the disciples of Jesus were not prepared for His death. First-century Judaism had no concept of the Messiah dying and then coming back from the dead. The disciples were not expecting the resurrection of Jesus because they were not expecting Him to die.

Jesus Died on a Cross in Jerusalem

Another fact that is beyond dispute is the manner of death of Jesus—He died on a cross. All four gospels make it clear that Christ was crucified in Jerusalem. The testimony of the Book of Acts concurs as do the writings of Paul. Jesus was executed by means of crucifixion in the city of Jerusalem.

Jesus Was Buried in Jerusalem

The New Testament also states that Jesus was buried in Jerusalem after His death. All four gospels testify to this fact as well as Paul’s statement. He said,

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures... (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4 ESV)

The tomb did not contain Jesus’ body.

The Tomb Was Empty on Easter Sunday

A further fact is that the tomb of Jesus was empty on Easter Sunday morning. Had the body of Jesus remained in the tomb it would have been a simple thing for the authorities to remove the stone and produce it.

The Sanhedrin itself testifies that the tomb was empty. They concocted a story in which they commanded the soldiers to repeat thereafter to explain how the tomb became empty—the body was stolen by the disciples.

Jesus Was Reported to Have Risen

The New Testament is unanimous in the fact that Jesus’ disciples saw Him after His death. This was the message they brought to the world—Jesus Christ has risen from the dead!

The Message Was Immediately Preached in the City Where the Events Took Place

When the account of the resurrection was first proclaimed, it occurred in Jerusalem—the same city where Jesus was buried. This took place less than two months after Jesus was crucified. The disciples did not go away to some distant place where it would have been hard to check out the facts. They began in the very city where all the events took place. If their testimony were not true, then their enemies would have promptly corrected them.

The New Testament Writers Believed Jesus Had Risen from the Dead

When the New Testament was committed to writing, it was from the perspective that Jesus had risen from the dead. All of the New Testament writers believed the resurrection occurred. Obviously something led them to that belief. The question, of course, is, “What made them believe?”

These Are Facts beyond Dispute

These facts are not in dispute. Jesus existed; during His earthly ministry He reportedly worked miracles; His disciples were not prepared for His death and were not looking for a resurrection; Jesus was dead and buried; yet the tomb was empty on Easter morning; the disciples testified they saw Him alive after His death and they proclaimed the resurrection message in Jerusalem less than two months after Jesus’ death. Finally, all the New Testament writers believed the resurrection was a reality.

Weighing the Evidence

We will now weigh the evidence for Christ’s resurrection and see if it meets a legal standard of proof. This means we will be looking at the facts and determining what is the most likely thing that happened. Therefore we should let the evidence speak for itself.

Jesus Appeared Alive to People after His Death

The main reason the disciples believed in the resurrection of Jesus is that they saw Him alive after He was dead. Thus we see them testifying, time and time again, to the fact they were eyewitnesses of His resurrection. This firsthand evidence of the disciples is a powerful argument for the resurrection of Christ. The disciples knew that He had risen because they saw Him with their own eyes.

The Various Appearances Listed

After the resurrection many different people saw Jesus. Some of the appearances include the following.

Mary Magdalene

The first appearance of Jesus was to Mary Magdalene. The gospel of John puts it this way:

When she [Mary] had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). (John 20:14-16 NASB)

This appearance was totally unexpected.

Mary the Mother of James, Salome, and Joanna

Jesus also appeared to these three women. This happened after the appearance to Mary Magdalene. After an angel told them Jesus had risen, they were on their way to tell Jesus’ disciples when they met the risen Christ. The Bible says,

Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. (Matthew 28:9 TNIV)

Again, we have another unexpected appearance. As was true with Mary Magdalene, these women touched the body of Jesus.

Peter

Peter is the first person mentioned in Paul’s list of witnesses, and is the first of the apostles to see the risen Christ. This was a private appearance to reassure him, since he had just denied his Lord. The gospels are completely silent as to the details of this meeting. Luke merely wrote,

“The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter!” (Luke 24:34 NLT)

We only know that Jesus appeared to Peter; nothing else.

Two Disciples on the Emmaus Road

Later on Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke wrote,

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16 NRSV)

As was true with the women, these two disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise. In fact, they were leaving Jerusalem because they had lost hope in Him.

The Eleven Disciples – Thomas Absent

This is the last of the five appearances of Jesus on Easter Sunday. It took place in the evening, probably in the upper room in which Jesus had instituted the Lord’s Supper. It is recorded in both Luke’s and John’s gospel, giving us two independent accounts as to what happened. John wrote,

That evening, on the first day of the week, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he held out his hands for them to see, and he showed them his side. They were filled with joy when they saw their Lord!...One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. (John 20:19, 20, 24 NLT)

As we mentioned, this is the last of the five recorded appearances of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

The Eleven Disciples – Thomas Present

Eight days later, He appeared again—this time with Thomas present. The Bible says,

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28 NASB)

On this occasion, doubting Thomas believed in the resurrected Christ.

Seven Disciples on the Sea of Galilee

Another appearance was to seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee. John writes,

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. (John 21:1, 2 NRSV)

This particular appearance is described in some detail in John 21.

To the Eleven Disciples on a Mountain in Galilee

There is also the account of Jesus appearing before His eleven disciples in Galilee. Matthew records the following:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16, 17 NKJV)

Here Jesus meets His disciples in Galilee.

Jesus Appeared to over Five Hundred People at One Time

On another occasion, Jesus appeared to over five hundred people at one time. Paul wrote,

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. (1 Corinthians 15:6 NRSV)

We know nothing about when or where this happened.

Saul of Tarsus

After Jesus’ ascension He appeared again—this time to Saul of Tarsus:

As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting...” (Acts 9:3-5 NASB)

These are some the appearances of Jesus that the New Testament records. They caused His disciples to believe that He had risen from the dead.

Observations about the Appearances of Jesus Christ

As we examine the New Testament account of the appearances of Christ after His death, we can make the following observations.

The Appearances of Jesus Were Convincing

The different appearances of Jesus convinced His disciples that He had truly risen from the dead. The first chapter of the Book of Acts makes this statement about Jesus’ appearances:

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3 NRSV)

When describing Jesus’ appearances, Luke uses a Greek word translated as “convincing proof.” This term refers to the strongest type of legal proof imaginable. The case for Jesus’ resurrection would stand up in a court of law.

Jesus Appeared to Many Different People

We note that Jesus appeared to a number of different people after His death. The multiple appearances that are recorded in the New Testament range in size from one individual (Peter), to over five hundred people (1 Corinthians 15). These various appearances to different numbers of people testify to the fact that He did indeed come back from the dead.

Jesus Appeared at Different Times and Places

There was no specific time or place when the resurrected Jesus appeared. His appearances include: in a locked room, on the road to Emmaus, on a mountain in Galilee, on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and at the empty tomb. Jesus was able to appear wherever He wished, He was not limited to one geographical area.

Jesus’ appearances consisted of brief encounters with people (the women returning from the tomb) to long periods of time (the two disciples on the road to Emmaus).

He also appeared at different times of day—morning (to Mary Magdalene at the tomb), afternoon (the two disciples on the road to Emmaus), and night (the disciples in the locked upper room).

The People Were Not Expecting Jesus to Appear

Jesus’ followers were surprised by the events that occurred in those few short days. Beginning with His betrayal by one of their own—Judas Iscariot—to the arrest, trial and crucifixion, these rapidly occurring events shocked the disciples. They were not expecting any of this to happen. However, the one thing that surprised them most was seeing Christ alive after His death.

The women who arrived at the tomb were not expecting Jesus to have risen. Their intention was to embalm His dead body. They went to the tomb expecting to find someone there. This shows they did not expect a resurrection.

When the disciples were first told of the empty tomb, and the reports that Jesus was alive, they did not believe them. They thought the women who were making these reports were mad.

When Thomas first heard that Jesus had risen, he did not believe it. Until he saw Jesus for himself, and touched the scars of His wounds, he would not believe.

All of these facts testify to the state of mind of the disciples—they were not looking for Him to appear.

Jesus’ Appearances Suddenly Stopped after He Ascended into Heaven

The New Testament says it was for only forty days that Jesus showed Himself after His resurrection before ascending into heaven. After His ascension, Jesus did not appear any longer to His disciples—except for one episode on the isle of Patmos to John. In that instance He appeared as the glorified Christ.

The Character of the Witnesses

We also need to consider the character of the witnesses who testified that Christ had risen. The following observations need to be made concerning them.

They Were in a Position to Testify

The ones who saw Jesus after His death were in a position to give testimony to whether or not Jesus had risen from the dead. First, they would have been able to testify if He had died. We are told that John and certain others were there at the cross when Jesus died—they observed His death. Others saw where He was buried.

Finally, the same Jesus they had seen dead and buried appeared to them alive. They saw the scars that were on His body from the cross. They knew Jesus intimately and would not have been fooled by some impostor. Therefore those who testified that Jesus had risen could certainly certify that Jesus had been dead, and that they saw Him again alive.

There Was a Sufficient Number of Them

The number of witnesses to the resurrection was sufficient for us to believe their account. We are dealing with the twelve disciples of Jesus (minus Judas), other disciples apart from the twelve, and certain women who knew Him well. One appearance was before over five hundred people at one time. The different number of people who saw the risen Christ is sufficient to cause belief.

They Exhibited an Honest Character

Next, we consider the honesty of the witnesses. We are told they were not expecting Him to rise, they were all surprised by His appearance and, in the case of Jesus’ disciples, they were the first unbelievers of the resurrection story. There is no effort to make the disciples into some type of “super believers.” Their faults are listed—Peter denying knowing Jesus on the night of His betrayal as well as all of the other disciples fleeing the scene.

They Had No Motivation for Lying

When all the facts are considered, we find no motivation for them to lie about what happened. There was no financial gain or greed that motivated the witnesses to tell the story that Jesus had risen. To the contrary, they suffered mightily from their fellow countrymen by proclaiming the resurrection. Their status in society was certainly not elevated for believing in Jesus—they were considered members of a sect or cult. When everything is considered, lying about Jesus’ resurrection caused them no direct benefit but rather only grief.

Their Story Was Always Consistent

The ones who had seen Him alive after His death consistently told the same story—Jesus had risen from the dead and they had seen Him alive. As we read through the sermons in the book of Acts, we find them always telling the same account. Their story was consistently told as long as they lived.

They Did Not Embellish the Story with Excessive Details

The account surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection is told in a straightforward manner without excessive details. Many things we would like to know are not told us. The account is sober and restrained—something we would not expect from a made up story. There are no elements in the account that are mythical. For example, if the account of the resurrection were legendary, we would expect some explanation of what occurred the moment Jesus rose from the dead, yet the New Testament gives us no such explanation of what happened the moment He left the tomb.

Summary to the Character of the Witnesses

The character of those who saw the resurrected Christ is sufficient for us to believe their testimony. There is nothing that would cause us to be suspicious of their account. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to accept their report that Jesus had risen.

The Nature of the Resurrection: It Was Bodily

It is very important to understand the form that the resurrected Jesus took upon Himself, for the New Testament teaches that when we are resurrected, we shall have a form similar to His. John wrote,

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. (1 John 3:2 NRSV)

The resurrected Christ had a body. Someday, we too will have a body like His.

He Was Not Merely a Spirit

There are some who believe that Jesus did not have a resurrected body, but was only a spirit. However, the Scripture is very clear on the issue—the resurrection of Jesus was in bodily form. Early in His ministry, Jesus predicted that He would come back from the dead in a body. The Bible says,

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. (John 2:19-22 NASB)

This passage shows that Jesus predicted His bodily resurrection.

His Previous Body Is Linked with His Resurrected Body

Jesus refuted the idea that He was some disembodied spirit when He appeared to His disciples after His death. The Scripture shows that Christ’s resurrection body had links to His non-resurrected body.

The Similarities to His Earthly Body

First, we look at the similarities between Christ’s earthly body and His resurrected body. They are as follows.

People Recognized Him after His Resurrection

Jesus was recognizable after His resurrection. John explains what happened when Jesus first appeared to His disciples:

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20 NRSV)

It was the same Jesus who had been crucified on the cross.

Jesus Talked with People

Jesus talked to people after His resurrection. Luke records the following episode:

And as they were saying these things, He Himself stood among them. He said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. “Why are you troubled?” He asked them. “And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:36-38 HCSB)

The resurrected Christ could talk.

Jesus Invited People to Touch Him

The disciples were frightened with Jesus’ appearance, since they assumed they had seen a spirit. Therefore He invited them to touch His body to see if it were real. Scripture says,

“Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do!” As he spoke, he held out his hands for them to see, and he showed them his feet. (Luke 24:39, 40 NLT)

His body was real; people could touch it.

Jesus Showed His Scars

When Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room Thomas was not among them. Thomas told the other disciples that He would not believe in the resurrection until he could see Jesus with his own eyes and touch His wounds. The Gospel of John records what happened after that:

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28 NASB)

On this occasion Thomas was challenged by Jesus to see if He were indeed real. The doubter immediately realized that Jesus had come back from the dead in a resurrected body.

Jesus Ate Food with His Resurrected Body

He had the capacity, though not the need, to eat. Luke writes,

But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence. (Luke 24:41-43 NKJV)

Simon Peter later told a group of Gentiles about how he and the other disciples ate and drank with Jesus after His resurrection from the dead:

“We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:39-41 NRSV)

He ate food in their presence, showing that His resurrection was indeed bodily.

He Was Able to Breathe Out

Scripture also records that Jesus breathed out. John records the following:

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22 NKJV)

All of these above facts show that it was the same Jesus who was placed in the tomb that came back from the dead.

There Were Differences Between His Body Before And After His Resurrection

Though it was the same Jesus who was placed in the tomb on Good Friday, and rose on Easter Sunday, His resurrection body was also different in some respects.

Jesus Entered Closed Rooms

The Bible says He could enter closed rooms without opening the doors. John records the following episode:

So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19 NASB)

Jesus had the supernatural ability to enter a room when the door was closed.

He Was Able to Disappear

He was also able to disappear. Luke explains what happened when Jesus was with two disciples on the road to Emmaus:

It was as He reclined at the table with them that He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him; but He disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31 HCSB)

This is another unique ability of His resurrected body.

Jesus Never Needed Rest

As far as we are able to tell, Jesus’ resurrected body did not need any rest or food. Every account of Jesus after His resurrection has Him busy with ministry. We read,

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3 NRSV)

During the forty days after His resurrection, but before His ascension, Jesus was busy with ministry.

Jesus Ascended into Heaven

Jesus’ resurrected body was able to ascend into heaven. We read the following account in the Book of Acts:

It was not long after he said this that he was taken up into the sky while they were watching, and he disappeared into a cloud. As they were straining their eyes to see him, two white-robed men suddenly stood there among them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!” (Acts 1:9-11 NLT)

Finally, Jesus left the earth by way of the ascension into heaven.

The Glorified Christ Appeared to John

The most detailed description of the risen and ascended Christ is found in Revelation 1:12-16. Here John records the vision of the glorified Christ. He was like the Son of Man, which links Him to His former earthly appearance, but He also radiated glory from His eyes, feet, voice, and face. This is the way that believers will someday see Him.

Summary to Jesus’ Bodily Resurrection

From these accounts we can see that Jesus’ resurrection was bodily.

  1. His own testimony; He made it clear that He was not a disembodied spirit.
  2. He did things only a person having a body can do: He walked, He showed them the prints of the crucifixion on His body, He breathed out (John 20:22), and ate (Luke 24:41-43).

All of these acts are possible because Jesus had a body. The body He possessed, however, though like His pre-resurrection body was, in some aspects, different. His new body was no longer subject to the laws of nature. He could suddenly appear and disappear. His new body had abilities the previous one either did not have, or did not demonstrate.

What the Resurrection Body Is Not

Now that we understand what did happen with Jesus’ resurrection body, we can refute some inadequate concepts of the resurrection.

It Is Not a Soul Released from Prison

The Greeks thought the soul was in prison until the body died, the soul was then released from bondage and went into heaven. This idea is foreign to the biblical concept of resurrection.

It Is Not Reincarnation

Reincarnation means a human comes back in the next life as another human being. Resurrection, however, means eternal life for that individual, not reincarnation.

It Is Not Resuscitation

The biblical idea of resurrection is the raising to a new body that will never die again. Paul wrote to the church at Rome,

Because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, no longer dies. Death no longer rules over Him. (Romans 6:9 HCSB)

To the Corinthians, he wrote,

It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:44 NKJV)

In the New Testament there are a number of examples of resuscitations or reanimations. They include: the son of the widow at Nain, Dorcas, Eutychus, Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus. Though they were brought back to life, they all died again. This is not the same as what happened to Jesus. He was raised immortal in a new body—never to die again.

Conclusion: Jesus Was Raised in an Actual Body

We conclude that Jesus was raised in a genuine body—not a spirit resurrection. The bodies that believers will someday possess will be like His.

Indirect Evidence for the Resurrection: Circumstantial Evidence That Jesus Has Risen

Apart from the direct evidence, there is also circumstantial testimony that Jesus has risen. This includes the following.

The Changed Lives of the Disciples

The changed lives of the disciples give indirect testimony to Christ’s resurrection. Something changed the disciples of Jesus from cowards to martyrs, from frightened individuals to bold proclaimers of the resurrection. It had to be something more powerful than a delusion or a lie. They said their lives were changed because they had seen the risen Christ.

The Order of Events

We find the New Testament chronicling the events that led to the changed lives of Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus was betrayed, the Bible says that His disciples scattered:

But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:56 NRSV)

Simon Peter, who had promised to die for Jesus, denied that he ever knew Him. Matthew also writes:

Meanwhile, as Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, a servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said. Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. A little later some other bystanders came over to him and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter said, “I swear by God, I don’t know the man” And immediately the rooster crowed. (Matthew 26:69-74 NLT)

At Jesus’ crucifixion, His disciples were nowhere to be found. Matthew records the following:

Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and given him support were also there, watching from a distance. (Matthew 27:55 NET)

The picture we get of the disciples at the time of Jesus’ trial and death is of a frightened band of individuals who denied their Lord and went into hiding.

The Bravery of the Disciples on the Day of Pentecost

Some fifty days later, however, we find these same disciples standing up bravely proclaiming, in the city of Jerusalem, that Christ has risen from the dead (Acts 2). Something had immediately changed these cowards into bold preachers of Christ’s resurrection.

The Disciples Were Arrested for Preaching Jesus

Soon thereafter the boldness of the disciples caused the religious leaders to arrest them. We read about this in the Book of Acts:

As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. (Acts 4:1-3 NASB)

The religious leaders then resorted to threats. They said to one another,

But perhaps we can stop them from spreading their propaganda. We’ll warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again. So they called the apostles back in and told them never again to speak or teach about Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard.” The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God. (Acts 4:17-21 NLT)

These former cowards were now fearlessly proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Obviously, something happened to change the lives of these men. The disciples attributed their bravery to seeing Christ risen. If Christ had not risen, then some other explanation for their changed lives must be in order.

The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus

A second line of indirect evidence that can be offered for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Apostle Paul. Saul of Tarsus, the greatest antagonist of the Christian faith, was converted and became the Apostle Paul—the greatest proclaimer of the faith. According to his own testimony, Saul persecuted the believers in Christ. He said,

“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9-11 NASB)

Saul had believers jailed and consented to their death sentence. In doing all of this, he believed he was serving God. However, something happened to Saul to change his way of thinking. He explained it in this manner:

“Under these circumstances I was traveling to Damascus with authority and a commission from the chief priests. At midday, while on the road, O king, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ But I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of things you have seen, and of things in which I will appear to you.’” (Acts 26:12-16 HCSB)

Saul obeyed the heavenly vision and became the Apostle Paul—the mighty defender of the faith. He wrote a number of books that became part of the New Testament. The greatest antagonist to the faith became its greatest champion. What was it that changed this man’s life? He said it was meeting the risen Christ.

Saul Went from Unbeliever to Believer

Here we have an example of a man who was not a believer during Jesus’ earthly life, who became a believer after Christ had risen. This is in contrast to Jesus’ disciples—who believed in Him during His earthly ministry. Saul’s testimony is another in the line of circumstantial evidence that Christ rose from the dead.

Eighteenth century author George Lyttleton wrote the following concerning the conversion of Saul of Tarsus:

I thought the conversion and the Apostleship of St. Paul alone, duly considered, was of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity as a Divine Revelation. (George Lord Lyttleton, Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of St. Paul in a letter to Gilbert West, London, 1814)

Saul’s conversion must have some explanation. The only explanation that fits all the facts is the one which he himself gives; he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.

The Rise of the Christian Church

The New Testament church came into existence as a result of the resurrection faith of the believers. In every sermon, the substance of the preaching of the apostles was that Christ had risen from the dead. Multitudes soon believed their message (Acts 2:41; 6:7). It is an historical fact that Christianity spread faster than any other religion or philosophy in the ancient world. By the early part of the fourth century, the Roman Empire became “Christianized.” Something had to account for this unprecedented growth—something at least as compelling as a resurrected Christ.

The fact of Christianity’s rapid expansion gives a further witness to the truth of its resurrection message. People embraced Christianity because they were convinced that Jesus Christ has conquered death and could offer them eternal life.

The Change in the Day of Worship

A further line of circumstantial evidence for the resurrection concerns the changing of the day of worship. The Jewish worship was on the Sabbath (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown). However the early Christians observed Sunday as their day of worship to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection. This was no small thing to the first believers who were Jews. The day of worship, the Sabbath, was something that no Jew would dare break or change. Yet Jesus’ disciples preferred to worship on the first day of the week—the day He came back from the dead (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Revelation 1:10). Something monumental had to happen to make them change the day of worship—something like a resurrection.

The Letter of Barnabas, an early Christian document, stated the following:

Therefore we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day on which Jesus rose from the dead.

The early Christians celebrated the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Women Testifying First

According to the New Testament, the first person who saw the resurrected Christ was Mary Magdalene. She thought Jesus was the gardener. Jesus then appeared to another group of women. If one were to make up the story of Christ’s resurrection, they certainly would not have Him first appearing to women. In that culture, at the time of Christ, the witness of a woman was not as readily accepted as a man’s. Their testimony would not have been admissible as legal proof except in a few specific situations.

If the story had been made up, then Jesus would have first appeared to a man—either one of His disciples or perhaps one of His enemies such as Herod, Pilate, or Caiaphas the High Priest. Yet the New Testament says that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to other women. This is not what one would expect in a made up story. The special privilege of seeing the risen Christ would not have been given to women. Again, this is another indication the story is reliable.

The Christians Buried Their Dead

Another indirect line of evidence concerns Christians burying their dead. Unbelievers cremated their dead. However, from the beginning, the Christians buried theirs in underground cemeteries and catacombs. Six hundred miles of catacombs stretch around Rome. In these catacombs about four million Christians from the first three centuries are buried. Each one of these buried believers testifies to their faith in the resurrection of Jesus and faith in their own ultimate resurrection.

The Events on the Day of Pentecost

On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit supernaturally fell upon the disciples of Jesus. They were able to speak in languages they had not previously learned. This caused amazement to those who heard. The Bible says,

“What are we to do with these men? Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign was done through them, and we cannot deny it.” (Acts 4:16)

What caused the supernatural ability of Jesus’ disciples to speak in languages they had not previously learned? Peter stood up and told them the reason for this miracle—the resurrection of Christ. Three thousand people converted to Christ on that day. The reason for their conversion, according to the Scripture, was the truth of the resurrection.

The Miracles in the Book of Acts

The miracles in the Book of Acts give further circumstantial testimony to Jesus’ resurrection. The fact that the disciples of Jesus were able to perform similar miracles as He performed demonstrated that Jesus’ power was still working after His death, resurrection and ascension.

Acts 3

Peter and John performed a miracle—healing a lame man at the temple. They testified that the ability to perform this miracle was granted to them by the risen Christ. They emphasized again that they were eyewitnesses of His resurrection. The Scripture says,

“But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:14, 15 NRSV)

They had seen the risen Christ.

Acts 4

When Peter spoke before the council he testified that it was the power of the risen Christ which healed this sick man. The Bible says,

Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders: If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man—by what means he was healed—let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by Him this man is standing here before you healthy.” (Acts 4:8-10 HCSB)

The enemies could not deny this healing. Scripture says,

“What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny they have done a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it.” (Acts 4:16 NLT)

This miracle was undeniable.

Therefore, the miracles of the apostles, as recorded in the Book of Acts, were all based on the power of resurrected Christ. The message of the early church was that Christ had risen from the dead and His disciples were witnesses to that event. Their testimony was evidenced by these miracles.

The Grave Clothes Were Undisturbed

Another bit of circumstantial evidence is the undisturbed and folded grave clothes. John reported,

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. (John 20:6, 7 NRSV)

If the body of Jesus had been taken from the tomb by Jesus’ disciples, they certainly would not have taken the time to remove and unwind the grave clothes and then fold them again. Thus, the position of the grave clothes at Jesus’ tomb is another circumstantial indication of His resurrection.

The Nazareth Decree

In 1930, a Frenchman named Franz Cumont published an inscription of a text from the city of Nazareth. Though the inscription is in Greek, it is probably a translation of a Latin original. The inscription records the decree of the Emperor Claudius, who ruled from A.D. 41 to 54. This decree ordered the death penalty for anyone disturbing tombs. The inscription reads as follows:

It is my pleasure that sepulchers and tombs, which have been erected as solemn memorial of ancestors or children or relatives, shall remain undisturbed in perpetuity. If it be shown that anyone has either destroyed them or otherwise thrown out bodies which have been buried there or removed them with malicious intent to another place, thus committing a crime against those buried there, or removed the headstones or other stones, I command that against such person the same sentence be passed in respect to solemn memorials of men as is laid down in respect of the gods. Much rather one must pay respect to those who are buried. Let no one disturb them on any account. Otherwise it is my will that capital sentence be passed upon such person for the crime of tomb-spoilation.

Obviously something led to this decree. Why would the Roman Emperor give his attention to body snatching in this remote part of the Roman Empire? Why did Claudius institute the death penalty for robbing tombs only in this one particular geographic area—the area where Jesus came from? The decree of Claudius seems to support the early Jewish contention that the body of Jesus was stolen—which is an admission that the tomb was empty.

Jesus Christ Can Still Change Lives

The final testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that He is still in the business of changing lives. Millions of people throughout history, as well as millions today, personally testify to a changed life. This power to live a new life is based on the belief in the resurrected Christ.

Summary on Circumstantial Evidence

Apart from the direct testimony of the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection, we also have much circumstantial evidence that it actually occurred. We have listed eleven different lines of circumstantial evidence. They are as follows:

  1. The changed lives of the disciples can only be explained by the risen Christ.
  2. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Apostle Paul makes no sense without the resurrection.
  3. Some power had to have given rise to the Christian church.
  4. According to the New Testament, women were the first to see the risen Jesus. This is not to be expected in a made up story.
  5. The change of the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday had to have been occasioned by some great event.
  6. The Christians buried their dead expecting them to eventually rise.
  7. The miraculous events on the Day of Pentecost have to have some explanation.
  8. The miracles in the Book of Acts testify to the resurrection power of Jesus.
  9. The grave clothes were undisturbed in Jesus’ tomb.
  10. The Nazareth Decree testifies that the first century Jews were concerned about empty tombs.
  11. Jesus Christ has changed lives and can still change lives today.

The evidence, both direct and circumstantial testifies to the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead three days after He was crucified on Calvary’s cross.

Part 4 – Objections to the Resurrection: Some Common Objections Answered

If Jesus did not come back from the dead, as the New Testament plainly says He did, then some alternative explanation must be offered to explain what happened. The problem is that other explanations take as much faith to believe as the New Testament’s account. These alternative theories leave more questions unanswered than they explain.

How to Falsify the Resurrection

First, we do want to make it clear that it is theoretically possible to falsify the resurrection account. It can be done in one of two ways. They are as follows:

  1. Produce the body.
  2. Have a reasonable theory that explains all the evidence.

Since the body has not been produced, we will examine some of the major theories that attempt to explain away the New Testament account. These include:

  1. The Real Story Was Suppressed
  2. The Story about Jesus Became Embellished
  3. Jesus Did Not Actually Die on the Cross
  4. The Body Was Stolen
  5. The Women Went to the Wrong Tomb on Easter Sunday
  6. The Disciples Merely Had Hallucinations about Seeing the Risen Christ
  7. Jesus Appeared to Believers Only – Those Expecting a Resurrection
  8. The Reports about His Resurrection Are Hopelessly Contradictory
  9. It Doesn’t Matter What Happened

We will now take a look at each of these objections and evaluate them in light of all the evidence.

Objection 1: The Real Story Was Suppressed

There are many people who question the accuracy of the New Testament account of the resurrection. They contend that the true story was never told because the facts had been suppressed by those later in power. Any evidence to the contrary would have been burned or destroyed. The answer to this view is simple—there were unbelievers who gave alternative theories to the resurrection, their writings were not suppressed. We do have writings from unbelievers who all argue that the body was stolen—they all admit the body was gone the third day.

They Had No Better Explanation

However, they had no better explanation than Jesus’ disciples stole His body. The Christians certainly did not suppress this popular theory. To the contrary, Matthew records this theory in his gospel as the official explanation given by unbelievers.

Objection 2: The Story Became Embellished

One of the most popular explanations has been to say the stories about Jesus have been embellished. The problem with this theory is that there is not enough time for this to happen. Paul’s earliest letter, First Thessalonians, refutes that. The fact that Christ was killed is stated in First Thessalonians 2:15 and 4:14. The fact that He was raised is stated in First Thessalonians 4:14. This was written about A.D. 51, some twenty short years after the resurrection.

Objection 3: Jesus Did Not Die on the Cross

A favorite objection is that Jesus did not die on the cross, but rather He fainted from exhaustion. When He appeared to His disciples, it was not as the resurrected Lord but rather as one who had been resuscitated. Therefore, what we have is resuscitation, not a resurrection. Like the other objections to the resurrection, there are many problems with this theory.

The Romans Did Their Job Well

Crucifixion was common in Jesus’ time and the Roman soldiers had become experts at it. They had reduced it to a science with a set of rules to be followed. There is no possible way Jesus could have survived the crucifixion, scourging, and lance thrust.

Since the governor had personally condemned Jesus to death, it is highly unlikely the soldiers would make a mistake and not finish the job. Furthermore, we have Pilate cross-examining the centurion to make certain that Jesus had died. Mark records the following:

When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. (Mark 15:42-45 NASB)

Jesus was dead; there is no doubt about this.

The Breaking of Jesus’ Legs Was Not Necessary

Crucifixion was a slow, painful way to die, with the person usually dying of asphyxiation. The victim had to push his body up in order to breathe.

Therefore, breaking of the legs would hasten the death of the victim. The legs of the two robbers that were crucified next to Jesus were broken because the Passover was drawing near.

Passover began at sunset, and according to Jewish law, bodies could not be left on the cross on that Holy Day. Jesus’ legs were not broken because He was obviously dead. In addition, Pilate would not have given permission for Joseph to take Jesus’ body for burial if He were not already dead.

Blood And Water Came Out from His Side – A Sign of Death

We are told that at Jesus’ death, blood and water came out from His side when it was pierced with a spear. John writes,

But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. (John 19:34 NKJV)

The purpose of the spear thrust was to ensure that Jesus was dead. This is eyewitness detail—which shows that death did indeed occur. The blood and water coming out is an outward sign that someone has died.

How Did Jesus Get Out of the Tomb?

Another question that needs to be addressed is, “How did Jesus get out of the tomb in the first place?” He had been wrapped in grave clothes and the spices would have hardened around Him in a few hours. This would make His escape difficult, if not impossible—assuming He was still alive. There was also a large stone rolled in front of the tomb that is virtually impossible to move from the inside. In addition, the guards had to have been conveniently asleep for Jesus to get by them.

Jesus Would Have Been Perpetrating a Deliberate Hoax

If this theory is correct, then Jesus would have been guilty of perpetrating a deliberate hoax by passing Himself off as one who had risen from the dead. He did not tell His disciples that He narrowly escaped death, He told them He had risen. This would make Jesus a liar—contrary to everything we know about Him and His character.

Would This Convince the Disciples?

If Jesus had survived His crucifixion, He would have been in an extremely weak condition. It is not possible to believe that a man who was half-dead, crawling around weak and needing immediate medical treatment, could have given His disciples the impression that He had just conquered death. This type of appearance of Jesus would not have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, and caused them to worship Him as risen from the dead.

When Did He Die?

If it were a mere resuscitation, then we are faced with the question of when did He die? Where, if anywhere, was He buried? Why wasn’t His other tomb venerated?

Summary to the Claim “Jesus Did Not Die on the Cross”

The evidence is clear—Jesus died on Calvary’s cross. Therefore, any theory that attempts to explain away the resurrection must take this fact into account.

Objection 4: The Stolen Body Theory

Many argue the body of Jesus was removed from the tomb before Easter Sunday morning. Since the evidence proves the tomb was empty the question is, “What caused it to be empty?” The empty tomb means two possibilities: the body of Jesus was removed by either: (1) human hands or (2) supernatural power.

Did Human Hands Steal Jesus’ Body?

If the body of Jesus was removed by human hands, then we have four basic possibilities as to who did it. The suspects include:

  1. The Jews
  2. The Romans
  3. Joseph of Arimathea
  4. Jesus’ disciples

Two questions immediately arise about the stolen body theory. First, concerning His enemies and Joseph of Arimathea, “Would they have stolen the body?” Next we ask this question of His disciples, “Could they have stolen the body?”

The Jews

The Jews could have had the body of Jesus removed from the tomb, yet they had no motivation for such an act. Some have argued they may have removed the body to keep the site from becoming a place of pilgrimage for Jesus’ disciples. Yet this would have caused the sort of problem they were trying to avoid—rumors that Jesus had risen.

The Jewish religious rulers are the ones who asked for the guard because they were afraid His disciples would come and steal the body. If they had taken the body, then certainly they would have produced it fifty days later when Peter, in the same city of Jerusalem, proclaimed that Jesus had risen. The fact that they did not produce the body of Jesus shows they did not remove it.

The Romans

A second possible group, that could have removed Jesus’ body, was the Romans. Since they were in charge of keeping law and order, it is possible that they could have taken the body from the tomb. The problem with them is also lack of a motivation. Why would they do such a thing? They wanted to keep the peace. Stealing the body of an executed religious leader would only add to the rumors about Him. It would stir up greater conflict. Consequently, there is no motivation for them to steal the body.

Furthermore, when the Christian faith began to grow, they could have easily stopped it by producing the body. But they did not do this.

Joseph of Arimathea

He obviously had access to Christ’s body since He is the one who requested it from Pilate. It is argued that he may have had second thoughts about placing the body of Jesus in his family tomb. Thus he could have removed Jesus’ body after the initial burial and placed it elsewhere—possibly in an unmarked grave.

Again, we have no motivation for him to do such a thing—especially since he and Nicodemus took the time and expense to prepare Jesus for burial. If he removed the body, then why didn’t he tell anyone? However, there is another problem. It was not the empty tomb that caused the other disciples to believe in Jesus—it was seeing the risen Christ.

Did Jesus’ Disciples Steal His Body?

The oldest alternative explanation to the resurrection is that His disciples stole the body of Jesus while the guard was sleeping. Matthew tells us this was the story the bribed Roman guard was to tell, even though they knew it was false. He wrote,

As they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders and agreed on a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money and told them, “Say this, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole Him while we were sleeping.’ If this reaches the governor’s ears, we will deal with him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been spread among Jewish people to this day. (Matthew 28:11-15 HCSB)

The idea that the disciples stole the body is inadequate for the following reasons.

Could They Get Past the Guards?

To begin with, the disciples would have had to get by the guards at the tomb. This theory has the guard members conveniently asleep. The disciples would have had to move the large stone away from the tomb without waking any of them. While this is not impossible, it certainly is inconsistent with the facts as we know them.

Why Leave the Grave Clothes Behind?

If the Roman guard was asleep you need to move fast. The position of the grave clothes shows the impossibility of the theft of the body. Why take the time to remove the grave clothes and leave them behind? It would have been much easier to remove the body, grave clothes and all, especially if time were a factor. The explanation that the Roman guard was asleep does not help solve this problem.

How Could the Guard Testify?

Furthermore, the guard story doesn’t stand up to cross-examination. What does anyone know about what is occurring when they are asleep? If the Roman guard were sleeping, how did they know the disciples stole the body? How can you determine anything that’s going on while you are asleep? Couldn’t Jesus, just as easily, have risen from the dead while they were asleep without the guards knowing it?

The Disciples Would Have Been Liars

The stolen body theory would make the disciples deliberate liars. These are the same disciples who gave us the New Testament; the same New Testament where they reported Jesus was sinless. They testified He never lied—rather He always told the truth. Yet this theory wants people to believe that His disciples, while spreading the message of the truth-telling Jesus, lied and continued to lie about the most important event in His life! On the one hand, they proclaimed to the world the story of the most perfect man who ever lived; on the other hand, according to the stolen body theory; they pulled off this gigantic deception. Their character testifies against this idea.

Even if they could have gotten past the Roman guard to get to the body, they would have had to live with that lie for the rest of their lives, proclaiming it, suffering for it, and dying for it. They would have been preaching the resurrection in direct contradiction to their own knowledge of the truth.

They Had No Motivation for Lying

Assuming the disciples could have stolen the body, another question arises, “What motivated them to do it?” By proclaiming Christ had risen, they subjected themselves to beatings and jail. They eventually died for their testimony. If they had stolen the body, they would have been liars as well as thieves. They would not only have lied for the cause, they would have died for their lie. What advantage would there have been for doing this? Their Lord’s body received a proper burial. They had nothing to gain and everything to lose by stealing His body.

Thus we can find no motivation for the disciples stealing the body. Their leader was buried with loving hands in a tomb of a rich man. Since they were not expecting Him to rise from the dead, this would have been the best end to Jesus’ life—all things considered.

There Was No Time to Steal the Body

There is also the problem of time. Jesus was betrayed on Thursday night and brought to trial Friday morning. His crucifixion took place from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Friday. At sundown on Friday the Sabbath began and the disciples, as observant Jews, would rest. The end of the Sabbath was on Saturday night. The first visit to the tomb realistically would have been on Sunday morning. By then Jesus had risen. There was simply no time to steal the body.

The Mental State of the Disciples Needs to Be Considered

The mental state of Jesus’ disciples also needs to be considered. They were now leaderless for the first time in three years. All the disciples left Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane. Later Peter denied Jesus and John was looking after Jesus’ mother. Being afraid and leaderless, did they suddenly become brave? After the surprise betrayal and crucifixion, is it really possible to think they concocted a plan late Friday afternoon to have the body removed by Sunday morning? No, it does not seem possible.

The Transformed Lives of the Disciples Has to Be Explained

The mere removal of Jesus’ body from the tomb could not have transformed their sadness into gladness. In less than thirty-six hours, they went from the depths of despair to the heights of joy. They had lost hope when Christ died, but they immediately went from hopelessness to certainty, from cowards to eventual martyrs. Something gave them the power to sustain their preaching during persecution and martyrdom. A stolen body would not have changed their lives in this manner.

Liars Are Usually Caught

There is another important point—liars are usually caught in their lies. This is especially true when a number of different people are lying. Cover-ups have a way of becoming public, yet none of the disciples ever denied the resurrection. If Jesus had not risen, one would have expected the eventual confession of at least some of them. But they all went to their deaths proclaiming Christ had risen. Why?

Why Weren’t the Disciples Prosecuted?

According to Roman law, the body of a condemned criminal belonged to the state. That is why Joseph of Arimathea had to ask for Jesus’ body. To steal a body was a serious offense and it is odd that neither the Romans nor Jews did anything to substantiate the charges if the body had been stolen. The disciples were never prosecuted for this alleged crime. Why?

Jesus Would Also Have Been a Liar

If Jesus did not rise, that would make Him a liar because He predicted His resurrection. As we have seen, lying is totally contrary to everything we know about His character.

Why Was There No Veneration of His Burial Place?

The Jews venerated the graves of their religious leaders. If Christ were not buried in Joseph’s tomb, then He must have been buried elsewhere, yet there is no trace of any burial place in Jerusalem for the body of Jesus. No tradition exists anywhere that Jesus remained buried.

Why Were They Martyred?

Finally, there is the ultimate question, “Why did they die for their testimony of Jesus?” If they had stolen the body, they would have died for a lie knowing that it was a lie. The disciples who would have “died for a lie” included Simon Peter (crucified); Andrew (crucified); James, son of Alphaeus (crucified); Philip (crucified); Simon (crucified); Thaddaeus (killed with arrows); Thomas (died by a spear thrust); Bartholomew (crucified); and James, the son of Zebedee (killed with the sword). Jesus’ disciples were transformed from cowards to martyrs. Why?

It is one thing to lie; it is quite another thing to die for a lie if you know that it is a lie. The disciples sealed their testimony in their own blood. To save their own life they would only have had to confess to lying, yet they never recanted their testimony.

They Died Separately

Furthermore, they died separately. It is one thing to die as a member of a group—strength could be gained from each other as you are awaiting death. However, each of the disciples died separately, apart from one another, apart from any type of moral support. Again, we ask the question, “Why?”

The Stolen Body Theory Is Inadequate

These different factors make the popular stolen body theory inadequate at best. The disciples were no longer capable of raiding the tomb and the other possible culprits had no motivation for stealing Jesus’ body.

Objection 5: The Women Went to the Wrong Tomb on Easter Sunday

Kirsopp Lake, the great textual scholar, came up with this ridiculous theory. Simply stated, the women were not certain where Jesus was buried. Thus they went in the semi-darkness to an empty tomb thinking it was the tomb where Jesus was actually buried. When they found the tomb empty they assumed He had risen.

Supposedly the young man they saw that dark morning confirmed that they were at the wrong tomb. Mark 16:6 says,

And he [the young man] said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.” (Mark 16:6 NASB)

Professor Lake omits the words “he has risen” from the text. Therefore the young man is saying to the women, “He is not here, He is over there. Come see where they have placed Him.”

Let’s consider the problems with this theory.

The Body Would Have Still Been in the Tomb

There are so many problems with this theory—not the least of which is that the body would still have been in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. When Peter preached the resurrection on the Day of Pentecost, it would have been a simple thing to go to the correct tomb and produce the body.

It Would Have Been Too Dark for the Gardener

In addition, if it were too dark for the women to find the right tomb, it would have been too dark for a gardener or caretaker to be working.

There Is No Reason to Omit the Words He Has Risen

Furthermore, to argue for this theory, you have to omit from the text the words, “He has risen.” There is no justification for this omission for every manuscript we possess has these crucial words.

The Empty Tomb Did Not Cause Belief

Finally, it was not the empty tomb that convinced the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. On the contrary, it was the fact they saw Him after His death. No one really takes this theory seriously.

Objection 6: The Disciples Experienced Hallucinations

Another objection to the resurrection is the contention that His disciples experienced hallucinations. This does not make them liars as much as fools. The disciples only thought they saw Jesus, for He had not really risen. Hallucinations often occur when someone wishes for something so much. This theory holds the disciples saw exactly what they wanted to see.

We respond to this theory as follows.

The Body of Jesus Would Still Have Been in the Tomb

The hallucination theory does not explain how the tomb became empty, or why the authorities failed to produce a body. Since they did not produce a body, it leaves open the question what happened to Jesus. The authorities could have produced the body, ending any testimony that Jesus had risen. The hallucination theory does not explain the missing body.

Hallucinations Are Not Collective

Furthermore, hallucinations are not collective; individuals experience them. Five hundred people at one time do not have the same hallucination!

Hallucinations Do Not Just Come and Go

Hallucinations tend to increase in intensity and occur on a regular basis over a long period. They become worse not better. According to Scripture, it was after forty days that the appearances of Jesus stopped and He did not appear again. This is inconsistent with the nature of hallucinations.

Who Gave Them the Power to Work Miracles?

If the disciples were only hallucinating about seeing the risen Christ, then how were they able to perform miracles? Who gave the disciples the power to heal the sick and raise the dead?

What Happened to Saul?

Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul, was converted as an unbeliever. Are we to assume that he had the same hallucination?

They Did Not Expect Jesus to Rise

According to the New Testament, the disciples did not expect Jesus to rise because they had not expected Him to die. When Jesus appeared to them it was unexpected, they were not ready for it. The disciples did not convince themselves that Jesus was alive, it was Jesus Himself who convinced them. This was the exact opposite of what they were expecting.

He Was Not Who They Originally Thought

For example, Mary Magdalene did not see a gardener near the empty tomb and think it was Jesus, she saw Jesus and thought at first it was a gardener. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not talk with a stranger and then assume they were conversing with Jesus. They talked with Jesus and thought they were conversing with a stranger. Finally, in the upper room, the disciples of Jesus did not see a ghost and believe it was Jesus; they saw Jesus and thought they had seen a ghost.

Only Certain Types of People Suffer Hallucinations

Usually it is highly imaginative people who suffer hallucinations. The appearances of Jesus were to a diverse group of people of different psychological makeup. This included: fishermen, a tax collector, and a Rabbi.

He Appeared at Different Times and Places

The appearances of Christ occurred at different times and places: early in the morning, late afternoon, in the evening, at the garden tomb, in a crowded room, at the Sea of Galilee, on top of a mountain, and on the Emmaus road. This is not consistent with hallucinations.

Summary to the Hallucination Theory

Again, we have a theory that just does not fit all the facts. Jesus’ disciples saw much more than mere hallucinations—they saw the risen Savior.

Objection 7: Jesus Only Appeared to Believers

One of the objections is that Jesus appeared only to believers—people who already had a desire to believe the marvelous stories about Him. Again, the facts say otherwise.

The Disciples Were the First Unbelievers of the Resurrection

We are told that the first unbelievers of the resurrection story were none other than the disciples themselves. Luke writes,

...but the story sounded like nonsense, so they didn’t believe it. (Luke 24:11 NLT)

The disciples were not expecting a resurrection. Not only were the disciples not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, they did not believe the story of His resurrection when it was first told to them!

Doubting Thomas Did Not Believe at First

Thomas did not believe—even when the other disciples told him they had seen the risen Christ. John writes,

The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25 NKJV)

Eventually, Thomas did see and believe.

Others Doubted His Resurrection

We are even told that when Jesus met His disciples in Galilee, there were some who doubted. Matthew writes,

When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. (Matthew 28:17 HCSB)

There were still some who had doubts.

Paul Was an Unbeliever When Jesus Appeared to Him

Saul of Tarsus was not a believer when the resurrected Christ appeared to Him. He had to be convinced from his position of unbelief.

Therefore, it is clear that Jesus appeared to more than merely believers.

Objection 8: The Resurrection Reports Are Contradictory

Often it is charged that the accounts of the resurrection, as contained in the four gospels, are so contradictory that they cannot be reconciled. However, a reasonable reconciliation of the resurrection accounts is as follows:

  1. After the resurrection, but before dawn on Easter Sunday, an earthquake occurred, an angel rolled away the stone from the entrance to the tomb and then sat upon it (Matthew 28:2-4).
  2. As Sunday morning was beginning to dawn three women approached the tomb (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome). Their intent was to anoint the body of Jesus with perfumed oil. The oil was to be brought by a second group of women who set out later to the tomb (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-4; John 20:1). The first group was amazed to find the stone rolled away when they arrived.
  3. At least one of the women entered into the tomb and announced that the body of Jesus was not there. This is an inference from John 20:2.
  4. Mary Magdalene immediately returned to inform Peter and John that someone had removed Jesus’ body (John 20:2).
  5. Mary, the mother of James and Joses, along with Salome saw an angel inside the tomb. The angel had the appearance of a young man. The angel announced that Jesus had risen and that they should go tell Jesus’ disciples that He would meet them in the Galilee (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:5-7).
  6. These two women returned to the city without greeting anyone along the way. They were left speechless by the events which transpired (Matthew 28:8; Mark 16:8).
  7. Another group of women from the Galilee, along with Joanna (see Luke 8:3), arrived at the tomb carrying perfumed oil to anoint the body of Jesus. They met the angel, along with another angel (Luke 24:4, 23). They then returned to report the angel’s message of the resurrection to the eleven as well as to other disciples that had gathered together (Matthew 26:56; Luke 24:1-9; 22:23).
  8. Having been informed by Mary Magdalene that the body was gone, Peter and John (and possibly others Luke 24:24) ran to the tomb without encountering Mary and Salome. They saw the grave clothes and then went back home (John 20:3-10; Luke 24:12). The grave clothes caused John to believe that something had happened.
  9. Mary Magdalene followed Peter and John to the tomb. She saw two angels inside, and then met Jesus after supposing Him to be the gardener (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-17).
  10. Mary Magdalene then returned to inform the disciples that Jesus had risen (Mark 16:10, 11; John 20:18).
  11. Mary, the mother of James and Joses, along with Salome meet Jesus on their way back from the tomb. Jesus commands them to tell His disciples that He will meet them in Galilee.
  12. The disciples, who had reports of the empty tomb and resurrection from three sources—Mary Magdalene, Joanna and the women from Galilee, and Mary and Salome, still refused to believe these witnesses (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:11).
  13. During that same afternoon, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the way to Emmaus. They returned to Jerusalem to report the appearance to the eleven and the other disciples (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35).
  14. Jesus appeared to Peter sometime before these two disciples returned to speak to the eleven.
  15. That evening Jesus appeared to ten disciples—Judas was dead and Thomas was absent (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:33; 36-43; John 20:19-23; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
  16. Eight days later, Jesus appeared to the eleven with Thomas being present (John 20:26-29).
  17. Sometime later, seven disciples encountered Jesus on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-22).
  18. Still later, the eleven met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18).
  19. Jesus appeared to more than five hundred people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6).
  20. Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7).
  21. Before His ascension, He appeared to the eleven near Bethany (Mark 16:9-20; Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Corinthians 15:7).
  22. Finally, Jesus appeared to the Apostle Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9; 22; 26)

This is a reasonable scenario of the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. The fact that we are not exactly certain of their order only goes to prove there was no collusion between the various authors. If the story would have been made up, the different writers would have made certain that the stories matched detail for detail. However, when four different people tell any story, they will all give the same basic account, but there will always be slight differences in the details. The differences only point to the independence of each author.

Objection 9: We Will Never Know What Happened and It Does Not Matter

Finally, there is the argument that we will never know what happened to the body of Jesus. It is a mystery that does not have an explanation. Furthermore, it does not really matter what happened.

This argument ignores the facts. It does matter what happened and we can know, if we are willing to look at the evidence.

Conclusion to the Objections of the Resurrection

In the last two thousand years many theories have been presented that attempt to give an alternative explanation to the one given in Scripture—Christ rose from the dead. As we have seen, none of them are adequate, for they do not fully explain all the different lines of evidence.

The theory that best fits all the facts is that Jesus Christ was alive three days after His death and that He is Lord of all!

Part 5 – The Significance of the Resurrection: So What If He Did Rise?

If we concur that the resurrection did take place, then so what? What does it mean? There are a number of important observations to make.

The Resurrection Validates Jesus’ Claims

First, the resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is the One whom He claimed to be. Paul wrote the following to the Romans:

This letter is from Paul, Jesus Christ’s slave, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. This Good News was promised long ago by God through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. It is the Good News about his Son, Jesus, who came as a man, born into King David’s royal family line. And Jesus Christ our Lord was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from the dead by means of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 1:1-4 NLT)

The resurrection validates Jesus’ claims to be a prophet (Matthew 26:8), Lord, and Messiah (Acts 2:36). Everything He claimed to be has been validated by the resurrection.

The Resurrection Demonstrates the Truth of the Christian Faith

The resurrection also proves the truth of the Christian faith. At the beginning of this book we looked at the various options that humans have about believing if God or gods exist. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead settles the matter as to which of these beliefs is true. It is the Christian faith! Therefore, there is only one God who exists, and only one way to reach the one God, through Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates this to be true.

The Resurrection of Christ Gives Purpose for Life

Therefore, the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, gives humanity the answers to the three basic questions about life, “Who am I? Why am I alive? What will happen to me when I die?”

It Provides Us with an Identity

The resurrection of Jesus solves our identity problem. Humans need no longer wonder who we are. We now realize that we are created in the image of God. This means we have the ability to think, love and communicate. We have the chance to know the one true God because He has given us these abilities. We now know that human beings are special.

It Gives Us a Purpose for Living

Along with identity comes a genuine purpose for living. Instead of living life without any real purpose, we can now know the reason we have been created—to love God and enjoy Him forever. Jesus Christ, and His resurrection from the dead, has provided the answer to what our purpose is here upon the earth. We not only know who we are, we also know why we are here.

It Tells Us of Our Destiny

Finally, the truth of the resurrection of Jesus provides us with an answer about our future destiny. We now know that this life is not all that there is. We are beings made for eternity, and belief in Jesus allows us to spend eternity in the presence of God. Thus, the grave has no ultimate terror for us because we know that there is a better existence beyond this life. Belief in Jesus gives us a destiny to which we can look forward.

It Provides Everlasting Life for the Believer

The resurrection of Jesus is the factual basis for everlasting life for those who believe in Him If a person believes in Jesus Christ, then one of the provisions is eternal life. Jesus said,

“In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19 NRSV)

This everlasting life is based upon His resurrection. Jesus made this astounding claim:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” (John 11:25 NRSV)

He Himself is the resurrection and the life.

Jesus Is the First of Many to Be Raised

Christ’s resurrection is the first in a long line of resurrections of those who believe in Him. Paul wrote,

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. (1 Corinthians 15:20 NRSV)

His resurrection also serves as a prototype of the resurrection of believers. Twice Christ is referred to as the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5). This means that He was the first to have an eternal resurrected body. Our resurrection bodies, like His, will be different from our earthly bodies. Paul says our resurrection bodies will be related to our former ones (1 Corinthians 15:35-41).

In eternity, we will be like Him. John wrote,

Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2 HCSB)

Someday we will have a new body; a body like His.

The Resurrection Brings Comfort to Believers

The realization that Christ has risen provides comfort to the believer. After writing to the church at Thessalonica on the matter of the resurrection of Christ and the eventual resurrection of the believer, the Apostle Paul exhorted the church to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). The knowledge that this life is not all that there is brings comfort to the believer.

Because of this, we do not fear death in the same way as unbelievers do. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church,

“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NKJV)

The resurrection is comfort for believers.

The Resurrection Gives Hope to Those Who Are Alive

Because Christ has risen from the dead and granted eternal life to those who put their trust in Him, there is hope for the future.

One of the simplest prayers and earliest creeds of the church were the Aramaic words maran atha “our Lord come” (1 Corinthians 16:22). The hope of the church is the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.

We All Need Hope

It has been said that a human being can live about five minutes without air, three days without water, and about thirty days without food, but a person cannot live one second without hope. We all need to hope for something better than what this life offers. The resurrection of Christ provides the basis for that hope.

The Resurrection Provides the Basis for a Satisfying Life

Another benefit of the resurrection is that it provides the believer with the basis to live a satisfying life. Paul wrote that believers could now experience this life. He said,

I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:19, 20 NLT)

Abundant life is available right now because Christ has risen. The power of the resurrected Christ is experienced in the life of the believer.

The Resurrection Is More than a Simple Historical Event

Therefore, we conclude that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is more than a historical event. It does the following things:

  1. It validates Jesus’ claims.
  2. The resurrection proves the truth of the Christian faith.
  3. It gives humanity a purpose for living.
  4. It provides the basis for eternal life.
  5. It gives the believer comfort.
  6. The resurrection offers a genuine hope for the future.
  7. All these things result in a satisfying life right now.

The Evidence Is Loud and Clear

The evidence testifies that Jesus Christ has risen! The only rational explanation for these historical facts is that God raised Jesus in bodily form, forever triumphant over sin and death.

Lord Darling, the former chief law officer in England, has said it well:

We as Christians are asked to take a very great deal on trust; the teachings, for example, and the miracles of Jesus. If we had to take all on trust, I, for one, should be skeptical. The crux of the problem of whether Jesus was, or was not, what he proclaimed himself to be, must surely depend upon the truth or otherwise of the resurrection. On that greatest point we are not merely asked to have faith. In its favour as a living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world can fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true. (Lord Darling cited by Michael Green, The Day Death Died, Intervarsity Press, 1982, p. 15)

As we examine the totality of the evidence we render the following verdict:

Jesus Christ is risen indeed!

We have seen the overwhelming evidence for Jesus’ claims—miracles, fulfilled prophecy, and Jesus’ resurrection. Taken together they present an irrefutable case for Jesus as the One whom He claimed to be—God’s Son.

Next, we will look at how Jesus viewed Scripture. How did He view the Old Testament? What did He think about His own teachings? Did He make any promises regarding the writings of the New Testament?

Our last part of the book will discover that the entire Bible is the Word of God because Jesus says so.

Predictive Prophecy ← Prior Section
Jesus' View of the Old Testament Next Section →
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