It is an inescapable fact that the New Testament is dominated by the the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. As a result we must give due consideration to its alleged importance.
The apostle Paul is clear - no resurrection - no Christianity:
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 15:1
Consider the facts and piece them together, trying to explain them:
Jesus died as a young man - contrast with other religious founders:
Gautama the Buddha -80
Jesus died at 33, spent only three years in the public eye, never wrote a book, left nothing but a group of demoralised followers who had gone back to their day job - fishing! How do we account for the meteoric rise of the church? The Bible’s answer - Jesus was raised from the dead.
Several people claimed to have seen him over a period of 40 days after he had died.
25 years later, the apostle Paul could write that on one occasion within that 40 day period, 500 people saw him, ‘many of whom are still alive’ (1 Corninthians 15:6) - in other words, he is telling these new believers they can check it out for themselves. The fact that different people, of different temperament, in different situations, claimed to have seen and heard the risen Jesus, rules out that hallucination was at work.
The disciples suffered for proclaiming Jesus as risen from the dead (eg Acts 5:40ff)-no one is willing to suffer and die for a lie, a hoax or for a dead man resuscitated (this rules out the ‘swoon’ theory or that the disciples stole the body-a rumour which was circulated early on-Matthew 28:13 ).The disciples proclaimed boldly that Jesus had risen from the dead-Acts 2:24;3:15;4:10)(eg Acts 5:40ff)-no one is willing to suffer and die for a lie, a hoax or for a dead man resuscitated (this rules out the ‘swoon’ theory or that the disciples stole the body-a rumour which was circulated early on-Matthew 28:13 ).The disciples proclaimed boldly that Jesus had risen from the dead-Acts 2:24;3:15;4:10)
No one produced the body
The easiest way to dispel the belief that Jesus had risen from the dead would have been for the authorities to have produced the body. This was never done.
Just in case we think that it is ‘prejudiced’ Christians who are convinced (and of course many non-Christians become Christians because of the evidence, e.g. the lawyer and sceptic Frank Morrison in his book ‘Who Moved the Stone?’) - here are two Jewish historical scholars:
Geza Vermes- ‘Jesus the Jew’- ‘When every argument has been considered and weighed, the only conclusion acceptable to the historian must be..that the women who set out to pay their last respects to Jesus found to their consternation, not a body but an empty tomb.’Professor Pinchas Lapide-’The Resurrection of Jesus’- ‘When this scared, frightened band of apostles which was just about to throw away everything in order to flee in despair to Galilee; when these peasants, shepherds and fishermen who betrayed and denied their master and then failed him so miserably, suddenly could be changed into a confident mission society, convinced of salvation and able to work with much more success after Easter than before Easter, then no vision or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation.’ He later writes: ‘I accept the resurrection of Jesus not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as a historical event.’
It vindicates the claims of Jesus - who he is - The Son of God, and what he came to do - be our Saviour:It the claims of Jesus - who he is - The Son of God, and what he came to do - be our Saviour:
-- the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is a foretaste of what will happen to believers in the future,death having been defeated by his death-so their is confidence of life after death:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:20
It is a sign that judgment day is coming and Jesus will be our judge:
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."