Proofs of the Resurrection

Proofs of the Resurrection

Resurrection Sunday, April 20, 2014

 

I would commend five resources to you for study on the resurrection of Jesus.

 

N.T. Wright. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

 

William Lane Craig. The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus during the Deist Controversy.

Lewiston, ID: Edwin Mellen, 1985.

 

William Lane Craig. Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of

Jesus. Lewiston, ID: Edwin Mellen, 1989.

 

Lee Strobel. The Case for the Real Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007.

 

Edwin Yamauchi. Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History? Christianity Today, March 15, 1974 and March

29, 1974, 4-7, 12-16.

 

Here is a link to Yamauchi’s article: http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/yama.html

 

What is resurrection?

First, resurrection is not revival to life. Understand that the ancient world and the bible itself speak of people who died and came back to life. Dying and coming back to life is revival not resurrection. The hard thing about revival is that the revived person has to die again.

 

When the bible speaks of resurrection it speaks about being resurrected to life that is different and supernatural and life that will never taste death again.

 

Resurrection is unique to Christianity

Resurrection is completely unique to Christianity. Resurrection is not life after death. As Christians we believe that when a person dies as a follower of Jesus Christ having placed their trust in his justifying death in their place for their sin and having repented of their rebellion, and thus by the work of God, and Jesus having exchanged their guilt for his perfection, the believer is ushered directly to be with Christ. This intermediate state is a “spiritual” state in which the person is with Christ while their body decays in the ground. This is life after death. Their body is dead but their soul is alive and well with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

 

If a person dies without having trusted in the rescue and missionary work of Jesus, Christians believe that person’s body will be buried to decay and their soul will go directly to a hell that was created for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

 

As Christians we believe that there will be a resurrection of all men in which followers of Jesus Christ will be reunited with a new body, in a recognizable way (Jesus was resurrected and recognizable), a body that will never die, a supernatural body, an immortal body, and they/we will dwell with Father, Son and Spirit forever in creation regained (See Rev. 20-22).

 

Those not following Jesus will be resurrected, reunited with their non-redeemed body and cast into the Lake of fire with Satan and his angels (Revelation 20:11-15) for an eternal conscious punishment for the rebellion that was started in the Garden in Genesis 3 and inherited from Adam as God warned would happen.

 

Life after death simply states that there is something after a person dies. Resurrection is different. Resurrection states that there is life after life after death.

 

“Resurrection is death’s reversal.”[1]

 

Let me give you some contrast to help us see the uniqueness. Many ancient cultures believed in life after death and sought to prepare the departed loved one with things they would need in the afterlife, but these cultures denied resurrection, life after life after death.

 

According to Wright, “The idea of resurrection is denied in ancient paganism from Homer all the way to the Athenian dramatist Aeschylus, who wrote, ‘Once a man has died, and the dust has soaked up his blood, there is no resurrection.’…Christianity was born into a world where its central claim was known (believed to be)[2] to be false. Many believed that the dead were non-existent; outside Judaism, nobody believed in resurrection.”[3]

 

To take it a step further, the idea that a system of belief’s central figure, particularly Jesus, who claimed to be God, dying and rising to die no more is even more unique. Some have claimed that Christianity borrowed the concept of resurrection from other belief systems. This could not be more inaccurate.

 

According to Edwin Yamauchi, “…there is no possibility that the idea of a resurrection was borrowed because there is no definitive evidence for the teaching of a deity resurrection in any of the mystery religions prior to the second century. In fact, it seems that other religions and spiritualties stole the idea of a resurrection from Christians!”[4]

 

Yet here is what the author’s of Scripture do, they put forward Jesus’ resurrection not only as the climax of his work, but they proclaim the resurrection as a historical fact in time and space with eyewitnesses.

 

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” – Luke 1:1-4

 

The mission is that in offering evidence for the resurrection of Jesus that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

 

Biblical, Circumstantial and Historical Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection[5]

 

1. Jesus’ tomb was not enshrined

The Pharisees would care for the tombs of prophets, and Jesus even rebuked them for their enshrinement of the tombs because they were recognizing them as prophets yet it was their fathers who killed them, thus condemning their father’s actions (See Matthew 23).

 

They would enshrine a tomb because the bones of the prophet were there and the enshrinement would give the burial site religious value.

 

Of the major world’s religions based on a founder, only Christianity claims that the tomb of its founder is empty. Judaism looks back to Abraham who died four thousand years ago and preserves his grave at Hebron. Buddhists visit the tomb of Buddha in India. Millions of Muslims make the Haj to Mecca and also to Medina to visit the tomb of Mohammed.

 

Yet there is no trace of any enshrinement of a tomb for Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is alive!

 

2. Jesus’ predicted his own resurrection (Matt. 12:38-40; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; John 2:18-22)

In Matthew 12:38-40 Jesus is asked for a sign to prove his identity. Jesus tells them no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah was three days and nights in the fish so the Son of Man would be three days and nights in the earth.

 

Note this: Jonah was dead. Jonah was not alive. Why? How could he live? He’s been swallowed by a fish big enough to swallow him. He’s wallowed for three days and nights. At best he drowned. At worst he was chomped to death. Either way, he was revived after three days. It was a miracle. No wonder the Ninevites repented. This strange looking and haggled dude is telling us about judgment. Don’t want to look like him, so they repented.

 

Jesus understands this. So, Jesus draws the parallel between Jonah’s death and revival and his death and superior resurrection. Jonah, a man, dies and is revived to go preach repentance. Jesus, God incarnate, dies and is resurrected in order to send his church to go preach repentance (gospel work in the Old Testament).

 

Jesus predicted this would happen. Heck, he gave us Jonah as a forerunner of what he would do. If Jesus’ predicted his own resurrection and he was not raised, then he would be a false prophet. Yet, the tomb is empty, and Jesus predicted it would be so. Jesus is alive!

 

3. Jesus actually died (John 19:34-35)

“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.”

 

Jesus was dead. Jesus was not “passed out”. There are entire books dedicated to the thesis that Jesus was in a comatose state and that in the coolness of the tomb he revived. Jesus was dead. This Roman insurance of death was the equivalent of a special operator putting a double tap in a down combatant’s chest just to insure he is dispatched and could not further hinder the mission. This soldier was insuring Jesus was dispatched.

 

Not only that, John is claiming here to be the eye witness to this event. Jesus was dead. But Jesus was raised from the dead. John testifies to this as an eyewitness. Jesus is alive!

 

4. Jesus was buried in a tomb that everyone knew of (location) (Matt. 27:57-60)

“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.”

 

Why is this important? A known location of Jesus’ burial is vital because it removes the argument that somehow Jesus’ body was buried in a secret place so that the disciples could claim he was raised when in fact he was not.

 

Jesus was dead and buried in the tomb of a wealthy man, Joseph of Arimathea, where even the Mary’s knew of its location.

 

Therefore, for Jesus’ body to be removed by any other way than the supernatural resurrection would be virtually impossible without someone knowing. Jesus body was not removed. Jesus was resurrected. Jesus is alive!

 

5. Jesus appeared physically, and recognizable, only resurrected (immortal and supernatural) (Matt. 28:9; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:17; John 20:20-28; Acts 1:3; 1 Cor. 15:6; Luke 24:31; John 21:7, 12; John 20:16; John 20:14, 15; 21:12; John 20:19; Luke 24:31, 36; 1 Cor. 15; Col. 1:18)

“And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.” – Luke 24:31

 

“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” – Colossians 1:18

 

This point is important. What if someone came claiming to be Jesus, but was not Jesus, and his argument was that he just looked different now due to the resurrection? This could be deceptive, obviously. But this is not what happened.

 

These eyewitnesses recognize Jesus as Jesus. In other words it was Jesus, who was dead, who was now appearing to his disciples, and Jesus is appearing in such a way that it was astonishing.

 

Jesus resurrected body was real and physical, and it was Jesus, but Jesus’ body was a new kind of no sin, no perishing, immortal and powerful, new heaven and earth kind of flow. You know? It was legit, too legit to quit.

 

Paul affirms for us in Colossians that Jesus’ status in resurrection is the “prototokos” (Col. 1:18), the prototype, of what is to come for all of his elect who will be raised to life after life after death. John affirms in 1 John 3:2 that we will be like him. Jesus is alive!

 

And one day we, as his people, will be raised up to be like him in his resurrection.

 

6. Jesus’ resurrection was recorded soon after the resurrection occurred (1 Tim 5:18 quotes Luke 10:7, showing Luke to be in circulation before AD 70)

 

This is a vital point. Some would argue that the resurrection of Jesus is the folklore created by the early church and that this folklore was captured in the gospels as second century documents. This theologically left position has many problems with it. The most vital flaw is the fact that history just does not lie.

 

Paul quotes Jesus from Luke 10:7 in 1 Timothy 5:18 meaning that at least Luke was in circulation prior to the mid 60’s AD. Paul was executed in the mid 60’s AD. And if Luke is post Mark in his writing and research, then Mark was even earlier. Since these gospel writers did not record the date they wrote, we must locate their writing based on close reading and attention to literary and historical details. For easy numbers, lets say Luke wrote in 60 AD, to be generous, then we are looking at 25-27 years since the event that Luke is writing his history (Luke 1:1-4). If Mark is earlier, and most believe it is, and I would agree that it is, then Mark is earlier than this.

 

You may ask, “What does this mean”? This means that in that span of time, folklore, particularly in the midst of persecution (see Acts 8), is not developing. Survival is happening, and the reason these folks have to survive is that they keep preaching Jesus as the resurrected King of the universe.

 

Jesus’ resurrection was recorded soon after his resurrection because he was raised. Jesus is alive!

 

7. The earliest creeds of the church celebrated the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ dies according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” – 1 Cor. 15:3-4

 

This passage is believed to be the earliest creed of Christianity. It at least dates to 53-54 AD when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. In this creed the church celebrates that Jesus has been raised! Jesus is alive!

 

8. The resurrection convinced Jesus’ unbelieving family to worship him as God (Matt. 12:46 – mother and brothers come to have a word with Jesus in their unbelief; John 7:5; 1 Cor. 15:7; James 1:1; Jude 1:1)

“For not even his brothers believed in him.” – John 7:5

 

On occasion Jesus family would show up and demand a word with him in order to talk some sense into this carpenter claiming to be God. In Matthew 12:46 Jesus mom and brothers come to have a word with him. Jesus makes an astounding statement as he looks around the table telling his disciples that they are his mother and brothers. In other words, those believing and following him are his family.

 

The next thing we notice Jesus’ brother James is an elder at the Jerusalem church, writes a letter in the New Testament bearing his name and is martyred preaching the resurrection of his bro as the Son of God.

 

Jesus’ brother Jude is the same thing. Jude was in the gang trying to talk some sense into Brother Jesus. Next thing you know Jude is writing a book bearing his name and says this, “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” – Jude 5

 

Why would James and Jude do such a thing for a dead brother? They wouldn’t. Jesus was raised and they, along with old doubting Thomas believed and began to proclaim Jesus as the Christ. Jesus is alive!

 

9. Jesus’ resurrection was confirmed by his enemies turned evangelist, like Paul, then affirmed by later by contemporary historians such as Josephus (Phil. 3:4-6; Acts 7:54-60; Acts 9)

Paul spent his life in zealous fury seeking to extinguish the church. We learn in Luke’s history of the early church that it was Saul (Paul) who was in charge of putting Stephen to death (Acts 8:1). This Saul (Paul) heads out to arrest and crush when the resurrected Jesus appears to him, saves him in his elected purpose and glory and sends him to preach the gospel to the gentiles. The enemy of the cross becomes the proclaimer of the cross. Why? Jesus is alive!

 

Josephus, a contemporary of the New Testament writers and Jewish historian writes:

“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 among us, hand 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.”[6]

 

Jesus is alive!

 

Results of the Resurrection[7]

1. A savior who will never die again (Romans 6:9)

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”

 

2. Repentance (Acts 5:31)

“God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

 

3. New Birth (1 Peter 1:3)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,…”

 

4. Forgiveness of sin (1 Cor. 15:17-19)

“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.”

 

 

5. The Holy Spirit (Acts 2:32-33)

“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”

 

6. All things work for our good and a multitude of other graces (Romans 8:28-34)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

 

7. We have Jesus’ personal fellowship and protection (Matt. 28:19-20)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

8. Rescue from the coming wrath of the Father (1 Thess. 1:9-10)

“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

 

9. Our future resurrection from the dead (Romans 6:4; 8:11; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:20; 2 Cor. 4:14; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:4-6)

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

 

Be of good cheer. Jesus is alive!

 

Let’s worship the risen Jesus Christ who is present even now.

 

 

[1] N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 83.

[2] Parenthesis mine to add clarity to Wright’s comment

[3] Ibid. p. 35.

[4] Edwin Yamauchi, “Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History?” Christianity Today, March 15, 1974 and March 29, 1974.

[5] The evidences supplied here are compilations from scriptural evidence and summary from multiple authors over centuries. These are not unique to this sermon and belong to the many scholars and students who have faithfully defended the resurrection since the first century.

[6] Flavius Josephus, “Jewish Antiquities,” in “The New Complete Works of Josephus, Trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1999), 18.63-64.

[7] Adapted from Jonathan Parnell at www.desiringgod.org commentary is the exposition of the author. Points are added by the author and some of Parnell’s are removed. Some are elaborated upon and some are completely the work of the author.

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