All Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus based on faith that the biblical records are indeed true, but are there other reasons to believe besides faith? Yes, faith should be enough, however, the skeptics always want historical and reasonable facts.
The resurrection and empty tomb of Christ is the cornerstone of the entire Christian faith. Without it, there is no structure or standing to our faith. Those are not my thoughts, those are the thoughts of Paul.
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15: 13-19
The resurrection is the linchpin of the Christian faith. Paul says if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. Without the resurrection of Jesus there would be nothing of any substance to what we preach, sing about, have faith in and believe. In other words, without the resurrection there is no gospel. The foundational belief of the Christian Church for 2,000 years is Jesus Christ as dead, buried and raised from the grave.
The resurrection is the cornerstone belief of the Christian church. It is the doctrinal belief that holds together all other doctrinal beliefs.Tweet
Without the resurrection, the Bible would be untrustworthy, the deity of Christ would be in question, his claims would have been invalid, we would still be in our sin and what a pitiful state of affairs we would all find ourselves in. The resurrection of Christ is critical to our belief system. So one must KNOW that it is true and continue believing its validity. Is the resurrection made up non-sense, mystical fantasy or is it really true? Are there valid reasonable evidences that back the truth of the empty tomb?
As early as 20-25 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Paul writes these words to the Corinthians, many of which would have been alive when these events actually occurred and may have been counted among the 500:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7
Dr. William Laine Craig and other scholars suggest that Paul’s words in these verses make up one of the earliest creeds in the Christian church. The creed was quoted by early Christians and would have been familiar to the Corinthians. Notice Paul says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.” Thus, giving us indication that this was a creed or statement of faith which was passed on, memorized and quoted. It is likely that Paul first delivered this creed to the Corinthians within two years after the death of Christ. Paul’s statements are the center of the Gospel itself. For more than 2,000 years the central focus of our belief remains essentially unchanged. What was handed down to Paul has been handed to us.
Let’s treat this article as we would a research paper: We will start with a hypothesis: Jesus Christ died on a Roman cross, was buried in an enclosed tomb and the Father rose him from the grave as alive and he appeared to more than 500 people after his resurrection. Dr. Gary Habermas, found that there have been 2,200 research studies regarding this hypothesis since 1975 and 75% of those studies concluded that the empty tomb of Jesus was historical fact.
Here are Ten evidences that support the truth of our hypothesis:
- The body of Christ was not in the tomb on Sunday morning. The Bible tells us in all four gospels that a group of women first visited the tomb at or before sunrise on Sunday morning. As they approached the tomb they found it empty. Could they have gone to the wrong tomb? Highly unlikely when you consider that the location of the tomb would have been well known to both the Jews, Christians and Romans because all three were present when he was buried.
- The disciples preached of the resurrected Christ only weeks after the event occurred and very near the empty tomb. Peter preached the famous Acts 2 Pentecost message only a few blocks away from the location of the empty tomb. The main focus of that message which saw 3,000 saved could be summed up in Acts 2:32, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” If Jesus’ body was still in the tomb only a few blocks away from where this message was preached, how could Peter had made such a claim? One of the strongest evidences of the fact of the resurrection was the fact that Christianity spread rapidly in the very same town in which the cross and resurrection took place and the rapid spread began only a few weeks after the events occurred.
- The lack of dispute from the Jews or non-Christians regarding the authenticity of the resurrection. Matthew states that the Jewish leaders devised a plan to pay off the soldiers guarding the tomb to say that the disciples stole the body. Mathew writes, “So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day” Matt. 28:15. This remark reveals that the author was concerned to refute a widespread rumor which the Jews spread showing that they did not dispute the fact, they only misrepresented it. The Jewish leaders were constantly battling the authenticity of the risen Christ, even hiring hit men like, Saul of Tarsus to prevent the spread of the news!
- The events of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ are reliable because they are written by eyewitness testimony. Each of the gospel writers either witnessed the whole event in person, or received their account from those who did.
- Mark’s gospel is generally considered to be the earliest of the Gospels and it was likely written as early as 55 AD which would have been less than 25 years after the events of which he wrote, including the resurrection. In the genre of historical writing this is unheard of. Most ancient historical records date at least 200 years after the events of which they are writing. For example the earliest historical record we have of the conquest of Alexander the Great was 200 years after his death yet few scholars doubt the accuracy of the accounts. Here in Mark we have a historical record of less than 25 years after the events. On my bookshelf you will find Stephen Ambrose’s classic work on the events of Normandy entitled, D-DAY. The book was written in 1994 upon the 50 year anniversary of the event. The facts in the book are not questioned even though 50 years passed before the first word was typed. Why? Because Ambrose interviewed eye witnesses to the events of D-Day so his content is considered reliable. If this be true of Ambrose’s New York Times bestseller, why could it not be true of the NT writer’s versions of the events of the life of Christ? They too were either eye witnesses of the events or received their information from eye witnesses and their writing dates to as early as 20 years after the events! Again the early creed of the church found in 1 Corinthians 15 was already being stated, quoted and recited as a statement of praise in the first century churches.
- The death, burial and resurrection events lack the usual details to be found in legendary tales. Some have stated that the story of the resurrection was simply a tale made up by a few Jewish men who wanted to give Jesus legendary status. Was the story made up? What would be the purpose for making up such a story? Why do it? Each of the original disciples would either die for the truth of the resurrection or suffer great persecution. It is hard to imagine one or two men dying for a lie, but to imagine multiple men dying or being persecuted for a lie and yet never recanting, it is not likely. Plus, notice the immediate life change that took place in the disciple after seeing the resurrected Christ. Immediately following His crucifixion, they hid in fear for their lives. Following the resurrection they took to the streets, boldly proclaiming the resurrection despite intensifying persecution. What accounts for their sudden and dramatic change? It certainly was not financial gain, they became less financially stable as a result. It certainly was not for popularity, they became less popular as a result of their claims. They were motivated because of what they had seen. John and Peter said to the Sanhedrin, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” Acts 4:20.
- The use of women as the first to arrive at the empty tomb. If these men were writing a story which they hoped would become legendary they would have never of used women as the first witnesses of the resurrected Lord. In Jewish society women were not regarded as credible witnesses. Jewish historian Josephus writes, “Let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.” Judaism was very much a patriarchal society in the first century. If this was a legendary tale the men would have been the first arrivals to the tomb that day as they would have been seen as the heroes or people of privilege. If you were making up a tale why would you use women as the first witnesses when in your own culture the testimony of a woman was disregarded?
- The unflattering view of the disciples in the narrative. Remember that the disciples were seen as cowards in the post resurrection narratives in which they have enclosed themselves in a room fearing for their lives. In the narrative Thomas is a doubter, Peter is seen as a hypocrite and coward, the rest of the disciples were deserters abandoning their Lord at the most critical point. Hardly flattering.
- The absence of the guards at the tomb on Sunday morning. Matthew records that Pilate ordered soldiers to guard the tomb and secure it by placing a seal on the stone. 27: 62-65. The soldiers had an order in which their life depended and the seal of the governor was forbidden to be broken punishable by death. The fact is that something cataclysmic had to have taken place in order for a guard to abandon his post and for the seal to be broken. Matthew explains why a soldier would have abandoned his posts, “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it…the guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men” Matt 28: 2-4.
- The appearances of Jesus after His resurrection. Each of the Gospels tell of the appearance of Jesus for a span of 4 days after Easter Sunday. 1 Corinthians 15: 5-7. Jesus appeared to the Disciples: Luke 24 and John 20 both record that the disciples were shut in a room when Jesus appeared to them. Of importance is that fact that he not only appeared but showed them the evidence of his wounds and even ate breakfast with them. This shows that Jesus was not only raised in Spirit but in Body. They recognized him. William Lane Craig states, “There can be little doubt that such an appearance too place, for it is attested in the old Christian tradition, vouched for by Paul, who had personal contact with the twelve, and is independently described by both John and Luke.” Jesus appeared to the 500 brethren: “He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers many of which are still alive though some have fallen asleep” 1 Corinthians 15:6. Though this is the only time we see this mentioned in scripture, it is fully trustworthy not only because of the inerrancy of scripture but because of what Paul says, “many of which are still alive though some have fallen asleep.” In other words, Paul must have spoken to these people to have known their status and he is essentially saying, “if you don’t believe me, go ask them.” Jesus appeared to James. This appearance if perhaps even more amazing than the appearance to the 500. He appeared to his half-brother James. The Gospels record in Mark 3:21 and John 7 that James nor Jesus’ other brothers believed He was the Messiah. This fact is quite embarrassing for Jesus on a historical scale because while he had thousands of followers, his own family refused to believe. After the resurrection his own brothers are listed among those gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem. When Paul visited the church in in Jerusalem he reported that there were 3 pillars of the church: Peter, James and John. (Galatians 2:9). In Acts 21:18 James is the head of the Jerusalem church and council of elders. He would later be stoned to death for his belief in the resurrected Christ. What could turn a man from being an unbeliever to a devoted follower (James the Just) and eventual martyr? Only the visual proof of the resurrected Jesus! Finally, Jesus appeared to the Apostle Paul: The appearance of the resurrected Lord to Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9 is a remarkable story indeed. Saul was on his way to Damascus to bring back prisoners of THE WAY and on his way he was arrested by Jesus, saved and called to the point that by the time he reached Damascus he was preaching of the risen Christ. “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” Acts 9:20. “Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and battled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ” 9:22
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