If you are a Biblically founded Christian, a more accurate term for you might be “Resurrectionist”. The world tries to invalidate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even many so called Christians dismiss the resurrection and claim Jesus’ teachings about love is all that matters. As we’ll see, the the resurrection is not only true, but foundational to Christianity. As Paul said:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)
Interesting side note: How important is the literal, physical resurrection of Christ? Here’s how many times these Christian websites make reference to the resurrection: Got Questions, 1,570 results; Grace to You (John MacArthur), 2,760 results; Answers In Genesis (Creation Museum) a ministry who’s name alone indicates a focus on the fist book of the Bible: 2,390 results.
That is the message of the Gospel. He’s not dead anymore; He arose. And that basically is the heart of the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. And just as the heart pumps lifeblood to the body, so the resurrection is the very heart of the Gospel, pumping life into every other area of truth. The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns. Take away the resurrection, Christianity comes out as wishful thinking and just another useless human philosophy.
And because that is true, the most fierce blows struck at Christianity, in its history, have been struck at the point of the resurrection. Because if you wipe out the resurrection, you get rid of everything: you eliminate salvation; you eliminate the deity of Christ; you eliminate eternal life; you eliminate the consequence of death. You just wipe it all out. And so, the resurrection is always under attack.
So, people who deny the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ may call themselves Christian; they are not. They may say they reflect a Christian tradition or the Christian position; they do not. They could not be Christians and deny the resurrection. According to Romans 10:9, “You are saved by confessing that God has raised Jesus from the dead.”
H. D. A. Major, from Ripon Hall at Oxford, writes in his book The Mission and Message of Jesus, “Had the crucifixion of Jesus ended His disciples’ experience of Him, it is hard to see how the Christian church could have come into existence. That Church was founded on faith in the Messiahship of Jesus. A crucified messiah was no messiah at all. He was one rejected by Judaism and accursed of God. It was the resurrection of Jesus, as St. Paul declares in Romans 1:4, which proclaimed Him to be the Son of God with power.” End quote.
He’s right. He’s saying if there was no resurrection, the Church would have died right there, because the whole thing was predicated on that.
Kenneth Latourette, great historian, writing in The History of Expansion of Christianity says, “It was the conviction of the resurrection of Jesus which lifted His followers out of the despair into which His death had cast them and which led to the perpetuation of a movement begun by Him. But for their profound belief that the crucified had risen from the dead, and they had seen Him and talked with Him, the death of Jesus, and even Jesus Himself, would probably have been all but forgotten.”
Why is it then that they preached the resurrection all the way to the death? Why is it that they preached the risen Christ against hatred, opposition, and eventually gave their lives as martyrs for the gospel of the resurrection? Anyone who denies the resurrection would have to come up with some other supernatural, inexplicable, massive event that transformed them from frightened, coward, disappointed disciples into bold, relentless, fearless preachers of Jesus Christ. If it wasn’t a resurrection what was it? No other possible miracle has ever been suggested, especially when we recognize that they preached the resurrection.
Throughout history, the various theories to explain away the resurrection of Jesus Christ have been catalogued under just really a very few sort of general concepts. There is the swoon theory or the semi-coma theory that says Christ never really died. On the cross, He was sufficiently traumatized to have gone into shock and, therefore, into a semi-comatose state. They assumed He was dead. They put Him in the grave, but the spices with which His body was wrapped and the coolness of the tomb revived Him. And when He came out of the tomb, the disciples merely assumed that He had risen from the dead.
That theory, in whatever form it comes in, doesn’t work well. First of all, it took sixteen hundred years to think it up. A man named Venturini first postulated it. Furthermore, all the early records are emphatic about His being dead, and everybody knows that the Romans were very proficient at execution, and they had no question that He was dead – thus, they did not break His legs.
It furthermore would mean that Jesus successfully survived severe lacerations to His body, crucifixion, a spear thrust into His side, entombment with about 75 pounds of spices wrapped into His body, three days with no food and water, woke up then, without any medical assistance, having lost most of His blood, walked over, pushed the stone away, overpowered the Roman guard, and announced Himself as alive from the dead. And then, just to make the point, He walked seven miles to Emmaus on feet that only a matter of hours before had been pierced through with great large nails. Ridiculous.
Then there is the no-burial theory. There’s some through history who have said Christ was never put in the tomb, so you shouldn’t be surprised they didn’t find Him there. He was thrown into a pit for executed criminals, He never was in the tomb. He wasn’t there on Sunday because they didn’t put Him there on Friday. That theory doesn’t work, either. You have to answer the question, Why did the leaders seal a tomb with nobody in it? And why did they put a guard over the tomb with nobody in it? And then why would they invent the lie that the body was stolen if they had thrown it on a heap of bodies?
And then there is the hallucination theory that says all the appearances of Jesus were not real, they were only hallucinations. The disciples wanted to see Him so badly that they thought they saw Him. That theory doesn’t work, either. Would they have died as martyrs for that hallucination? How could the church be built on hallucinations and last? And did 500 people who all saw Him at the same moment in time all have the same hallucination? Five hundred hallucinating the same thing in one moment?
Furthermore, since the disciples didn’t expect the resurrection and were sad and unbelieving, how could they be pathologically prepared to hallucinate one? And by the way, where was the corpse? If it was a hallucination, the body should have still been in the grave.
Then there is the telepathy theory that there was no physical resurrection, but God sent back mental messages to the disciples so they would think that Jesus had risen from the dead. This theory doesn’t work. It makes God a liar and a deceiver. It founds Christianity on deceit, makes liars out of the disciples for claiming to have touched and held Jesus, and it must have been not just a telepathic still picture, but it must have been a telepathic movie because it lasted for seven miles to Emmaus, and then that telepathic movie held a conversation all the way along with the disciples and ate.
And furthermore, where was the body? If it was just telepathy, the body should have still been there. And by the way, at first the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. Does that mean God wasn’t very good at making pictures that they could really understand?
And then there is the séance theory that says that a medium conjured up the spirit of the dead Jesus by occult power. That doesn’t work, either. How was the tomb empty and where was the corpse and how could they touch Him?
And then there was the mistaken identity theory, another effort to explain away the resurrection. Somebody impersonated Jesus. Well, that somebody was a very, very dedicated guy because he must have pounded nails through his feet and his hands, put a spear in his side because that’s exactly what Thomas saw. That’s a pretty high price for a false impersonation. And how do you explain Him walking through a closed door? How do you explain Him creating breakfast by the Sea of Galilee?
How do you explain Him appearing and vanishing and how do you explain Him ascending into heaven in a cloud with everybody watching? Furthermore, the disciples knew Jesus well enough not to be fooled. And where was the body?
There’s one more that is really the best of the bad. We’ll call it the theft theory. It’s been the most popular one through the centuries and that is that the body of Jesus was stolen.
Now you have to ask the question, then, who stole the body? Somebody might say the Jews stole the body. No, the Jews would never do that. The Jews were not about to fabricate a resurrection of Jesus Christ, for sure. They were the ones that had the tomb sealed and the Roman guards set there. You say, “Well, then it must have been the Romans who stole the body?” No, the Romans had nothing to gain by stealing the body. In fact, the Roman soldiers were afraid for their life when the body was gone because they knew the penalty for a Roman soldier losing someone he is responsible to guard.
Well, that leaves only the disciples, and that’s the popular view, that the disciples stole the body. The first question you have to ask is, would they steal the body? They didn’t really believe Jesus was going to rise, they were disoriented, doubting, struggling, fearful, confused. They had been scattered when Jesus was captured. Even their leader was a denier of Christ, vociferously. And when the women heard of the resurrection, according to Luke 24:11, it sounded to them, it says, like a fairy tale. They didn’t really expect it, so why would they feel they needed to pull it off?
Furthermore, would they then steal the body, go out and die as martyrs for a deceit? I mean give them a little credit. They may have been from Galilee, but they were a little bit intelligent. You don’t steal a body, fabricate a resurrection, and then die as a martyr for it. Now, even if they would have stolen the body, how could they have stolen the body? Are they going to be able to overpower the Roman soldiers? Are they going to be able to defeat them or deceive them? And then are they going to be able to roll the stone away?
When men have given their best shot to disproving the resurrection, they look like fools. It offends reason. It offends logic. It offends faith. And thus does Matthew prove the resurrection from the lips of his lying enemies. It is the most convincing evidence I know of.
In 1959, G. D. Yarnold described a fanciful hypothesis in his book Risen Indeed. According to Yarnold, “the material body of the Lord ceased to exist, or was annihilated.”3 This view has gained very little support for obvious reasons.
Finally, the annihilation view cannot account for three of the five key evidences—the reported appearances to the disciples, the conversion of James, and the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. At best, this position only gives an outlandish justification for the empty tomb, but it must rely on one or more of the other flawed views to explain the appearances.
Aliens Stole the Body
The greatest proof of the Resurrection available today is the Bible, which consists of historical documents inspired by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16). His infallible Word tells us in no uncertain terms that Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:6). As such, we can have complete confidence in this fact.
If someone rejects the Bible’s authority, that person must still contend with the fact that multiple, reliable historical documents make these amazing claims. And based on evidence within the Bible itself, there is no reason to reject those claims. Even most secular historians have come to accept the evidence used in defense of Christ’s Resurrection, though they strive to reach a different conclusion about its significance.
Modern historians recognize another fact that helps to authenticate the biblical accounts of the Resurrection: the “principle of embarrassment.” Why would writers of history invent details that do not seem to help their cause? For example, the first eyewitness of the risen Savior was not an important dignitary like Caiaphas, Pilate, or King Herod; nor was it a leading disciple like Peter or John. Instead, it was a woman. And not just any woman, but Mary Magdalene, a woman from whom Jesus had cast seven demons (Luke 8:2).
Principle of Embarrassment
Why would the Gospels claim that Mary was the first witness when a woman’s testimony, let alone a former demoniac, was not highly valued in first-century Israel? Either the writers were quite foolish or exceedingly clever, or they wrote precisely what happened.
The alternate theories often account for one or two of these details, but none can account for all five of them, let alone the dozens of other evidences presented in Scripture for the Resurrection.
The Nazareth Inscription
An interesting archaeological discovery lends early support to the biblical accounts of the Resurrection. The Nazareth Inscription is a marble tablet with Greek writing that has been dated to approximately AD 41. The inscription is likely an abbreviated form of an edict (called a rescript) from Emperor Claudius.
The wording of this particular find indicates that the message of the Resurrection, or at least the Jewish response to it, had been brought to the emperor’s attention within about ten years of the event. In just fourteen brief lines this rescript explains a new law carrying capital punishment for anyone who would move a body from graves or tombs to another place with wicked intent. That is, no one was permitted to move an entombed body for fraudulent reasons.
Why is this so intriguing? Think about the response of the Jewish leaders to the Resurrection reports. They bribed the Roman soldiers to say, “His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept” (Matthew 28:13). Why would the Roman emperor issue an edict forbidding the moving of a body with fraudulent intent? Sure, there were grave robbers at that time, but grave robbers weren’t interested in stealing bodies—they wanted the valuables occasionally buried with the body. Interestingly enough, there is no mention of valuables in the edict, but there is a comment forbidding the moving of sepulcher-sealing stones. These types of stones were only used in Israel, so the wording of this edict pinpoints the reason for its issuance. Something had happened in Israel concerning the reported moving of a body that had caused enough ripples throughout the empire to merit the attention of the emperor.
The Nazareth Inscription does not prove that Jesus rose from the dead, but it is consistent with the biblical accounts. It also gives extra-biblical testimony to the growing impact of the church and its central message of the Resurrection soon after Christ’s death.
The reliability of the Bible as a historical document has been demonstrated over and over. Historians and archaeologists continually affirm the accuracy of the Bible in matters of history. Further, the number of ancient manuscripts of the Bible far exceeds that of other ancient documents. Thus, if we can gain knowledge about ancient events from sources for which there are relatively few manuscripts, then why should we not use a source for which there is far greater documentation?
Beyond the Bible, we can find information from several other sources. The non-Christian writers Josephus, Lucian, and Tacitus, among others, wrote of Christ’s Crucifixion and the early days of Christianity. Much can be learned from investigating the works of these men.
Did Christ Really Die?
Further, the Roman historian Tacitus, writing in the late first century, records, “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite punishments on a class hated for their disgraceful acts, called Christians by the populace. Christ, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.” Therefore, the testimony many decades later is that Christ did indeed die from this “extreme penalty.” Any believable report to the contrary would surely have surfaced by the time of Tacitus’s writings, but there was none.
The Writings of Josephus
Josephus was a first century Jewish military leader-turned-historian when captured by the Romans. His works have provided much eyewitness information about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Further, his writings have given us some insight into the early days of Christianity, including an extra-biblical account of Christ:
Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.
Incidentally, we can consider Josephus a “hostile witness” since he was not a Christian.
Why Is the Resurrection Important?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3–4).
Do we really need to understand that Christ’s Resurrection was physical and not merely spiritual? Is this much ado about nothing? Can’t we just love Jesus and let it go at that? Can we not just acknowledge that Christ took the punishment we deserved, regardless of whether He rose physically or spiritually? The answer is no.
Put simply, without the physical Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, there is no Christianity.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only the supreme validation of His deity; it also validates the Old Testament prophecies that foretold of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection (see Acts 17:2–3). Christ’s resurrection also authenticated His own claims that He would be raised on the third day (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). If Jesus Christ is not resurrected, then we have no hope that we will be, either. In fact, apart from Christ’s resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life.
It is a fairly well-established fact that Jesus Christ was publicly executed in Judea in the 1st Century A.D., under Pontius Pilate, by means of crucifixion, at the behest of the Jewish Sanhedrin. The non-Christian historical accounts of Flavius Josephus, Cornelius Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Maimonides and even the Jewish Sanhedrin corroborate the early Christian eyewitness accounts of these important historical aspects of the death of Jesus Christ.
Earlier in this second chapter we have the marvelous, wonderful coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. If Christ hasn’t ascended, He can’t send the Spirit. He can’t ascend if He didn’t rise. But He did rise; He did ascend. He sent the Spirit. The Spirit brought power, established the church on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit regenerates, gives life. The Spirit leads, guides, gifts, cares for, edifies, comforts, strengthens, empowers the church. You have no church without the Holy Spirit; you have no Holy Spirit without the resurrection.
So you can see that to pull the resurrection out of Christianity, all of it collapses – and it collapses at the divine level, and we’re pitiful who are Christians. If God, Christ, and even the Holy Spirit lied to us, and there is no resurrection, and there is no salvation, and there is no hope, we’re a pitiful bunch of deluded religionists. But, Christ is risen from the dead.
What is at stake in the resurrection is the veracity of Scripture, the truthfulness of the Word of God. Secondly, the deity of the Son of God. In Romans chapter 1, it tells us concerning the Son of God, verse 4, that “He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” Resurrection is proof of His deity.
Jesus said, “The Son is come to seek and save the lost.” He came to save. He didn’t come to be a good teacher, didn’t come to make a moral impact on the world, He came to save sinners. To save them from what? Save them from God, to save them from the wrath of God, to save them from eternal hell and punishment.
How important is the resurrection of Jesus Christ? It vindicates the truthfulness of the Word of God, the deity of the Son of God, the completion of the salvation of God, and the establishment of the church of God. There’s another reality that is tied inextricably to the resurrection: the inevitability of the judgment of God. Jesus rose not only to be Lord of His church, Jesus rose not only to be the life of His church, but Jesus rose to be the Judge of the world.
The Bible Is Confirmed by Archaeology
Second, the Bible accurately reveals historical people, events, and places. Consider the following items described in our article, “Archaeological Finds.”
Dr. Nelson Glueck was the president of Hebrew Union College and a highly respected archaeologist whose reliance upon the historical accuracy of Scripture led to the discovery of 1,500 ancient sites. Regarding the Bible and archaeology, he stated the following:
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of biblical description has often led to amazing discoveries.
However, the abundance of finds matching Scripture perfectly that have already been found show that the Bible was not just “made up.”5
Compare the Bible’s accuracy with the miserable archaeological record of the Mormon religion. The Mormon “holy books” teach that Native Americans are really Jews who fled Jerusalem, but DNA studies have falsified this claim. Furthermore, despite millions of dollars spent on excavations in the Americas, archaeologists have not uncovered a shred of evidence to support Mormon claims, and the early Americans did not wield scimitars or ride horses and elephants.6
Did Jesus Exist?
There are over 42 sources within 150 years after Jesus’ death that mention his existence and record many events of his life.
- Nine Traditional New Testament Authors
- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Author of Hebrews, James, Peter, and Jude.
- Twenty Early Christian Writers Outside the New Testament
- Clement of Rome, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Didache, Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Fragments of Papias, Justin Martyr, Aristides, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Quadratus, Aristo of Pella, Melito of Sardis, Diognetus, Gospel of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter, and Epistula Apostolorum.
- Four Heretical Writings
- Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, Apocryphon of John, and Treatise on Resurrection.
- Nine Secular Sources
- Josephus (Jewish historian), Tacitus (Roman historian), Pliny the Younger (Roman politician), Phlegon (freed slave who wrote histories), Lucian (Greek satirist), Celsus (Roman philosopher), Mara Bar Serapion (prisoner awaiting execution), Suetonius, and Thallus.
Bonus, Bonus material
Confirmed: Resurrection Was Complex April Fool’s Day Joke That Got Disciples Tortured, Killed
ISRAEL—New documents released by the Society of Biblical Scholars confirm that the Resurrection of Christ was merely a complex April Fool’s Day joke that got the disciples who pulled the prank off tortured or martyred or both.
Peter, James, John, Mary, and Martha all reportedly put their heads together and came up with the classic gag, which would end up getting most of them killed for refusing to admit it was all an April Fool’s Day joke that went too far.
The newly discovered and confirmed gospel fragments revealed by the Society record the disciples talking about the prank idea:
“You know what would be great?” Peter said unto the other disciples. “If we like, pretended Jesus came back from the dead. We could steal the body and tell everybody He came back, and then when they threaten to throw us in jail, we’ll never recant.”
The other disciples said, “Yes, verily, let us do as you say. It will be a really great prank, the best the world has ever seen.”
John stood and addressed the disciples, saying, “I don’t know how I’m gonna keep a straight face when they threaten to banish me for the rest of my life. Totally classic, bros! High five!”
The document goes on to describe how Jesus’s followers sneaked by Roman guards, rolled away the stone, stole Jesus’s body, and slipped away again unnoticed. The “epic prank” went on for thousands of years undiscovered, until these new documents confirmed the whole thing was a big, complicated hoax that got everybody involved in it slaughtered.
Talk about a classic gag—great job, guys!