Vol. 5, No. 8
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It is impossible to over emphasize the extreme importance of the triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ to Christianity. Perhaps no hymn better characterizes our Savior's glorious resurrection than Christ Arose.
Christianity is the most unique religion on earth because the tomb of its founder is empty! The corpses of the founders of other world religions lie motionless in tombs across the globe, and their decaying remains offer neither hope regarding this life nor approaching eternity. Jesus Christ, though, resurrected from the grave never there to return and is alive today, whereby he gives us great hope regarding life that now is and eternity to come.
The whole of Christianity depends on the cardinal doctrine of the resurrection of Christ. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there would be no Christianity! Without the resurrection of Christ, the despairing disciples would have long ago abandoned their posts as the apostles of Christ and proponents of Christianity. Without the resurrection of Christ, the New Testament would not have been written and the Old Testament would remain incomplete, unfulfilled and worthless.
Every spiritual promise; the eternal character and nature of God; the deity and authority of Jesus Christ as well as the saving power of the Gospel rests firmly on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the first spiritual promise in Genesis 3:15, including the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 and every promise respecting the establishment of the kingdom of God (Daniel 2; Isaiah 2; Joel 2) would be empty promises without the empty tomb. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our all-knowing, just, merciful God would be a deceitful, fallen idol. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior would be an imposter and liar, not the Son of God and lacking divine authority. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Gospel would not be the glad tidings of good news, but rather it would be a colossal hoax on humanity, completely lacking any power to redeem lost souls.
The biblical doctrines of eternal destiny involving death, the second coming, heaven, hell, the judgment and the authority of God rest or fall on the resurrection. Without the resurrection, there is no eternal destiny of heaven that mortals may pursue by the way in which they live their lives on earth. Without the resurrection, either there is nothing beyond the grave or if there is a heaven, it is inaccessible and all souls who have ever lived will spend forever in hell. Without the resurrection, there would be no Second Coming of Christ. Without the resurrection, there would be no judgment. Without the resurrection, God has nothing to offer mankind whereby men will heed the authority of God.
The saving power of the blood of Jesus Christ, the faithful obedience of countless souls throughout numerous generations, plus every aspect of worship and service would be void (useless) without the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of a crucified Messiah is the cardinal doctrine upon which God-approved religion has always depended! The Old Testament always foretold of a resurrected Messiah. The Gospel records and Acts tell of a resurrected Messiah. The New Testament foretells the return of the resurrected Messiah.
The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ was a primary subject of prophecy. Genesis 3:15 is the first prophecy regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This prophecy was somewhat veiled and remained a mystery throughout Old Testament times. God's plan of redemption remained a mystery until God revealed it through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 3:16). "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began" (Romans 16:25). "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory" (1 Corinthians 2:7).
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:4-9).
Psalm 16:10 is another obvious prophecy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." The apostle Peter, by inspiration, confirmed that Psalm 16:10 pertains to Jesus Christ Acts 2:27. Psalm 16:10 remained a mystery until its exclusive fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ prophesied his own resurrection. Sometimes his prophecy was veiled or misunderstood (initially); some thought Jesus to be able to rebuild the Temple, were it destroyed, in three days when he actually referred to his own resurrection (John 2:18-22). Sometimes the prophecy was clear and unmistakable, but the hearers were shrouded in a veil of disbelief. For instance, Peter rebuffed Jesus when our Lord predicted his death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21-23). However, Jesus routinely continued to foretell his death and resurrection (Matthew 20:17-19; 26:32; Mark 9:9; 14:28).
The apostle Paul said the prophets and Moses had foretold of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:22-23). The summary of the Old Testament prophetic mission pertained to the declaration of the sacrificial Lamb, humanity's Messiah who would undergo death, but resurrect to die no more. Numerous Old Testament passages refer to the resurrection of Jesus Christ indirectly. Verses that refer to the Messiah's triumphant death indirectly refer to the resurrection. Verses that refer to Jesus Christ as the fitting sacrifice for sin involve the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 53:10-12 is representative of Messianic passages that indirectly involve the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a primary teaching of the New Testament. Peter preached the resurrected Lord. The resurrection was the heart of the first recorded Gospel sermon (Acts 2:23-24). The resurrection was the thrust of the second recorded Gospel sermon (Acts 3:14-15). The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the central theme of the apostles' defense before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:9-10). The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the heart of the first recorded Gospel sermon to Gentiles (Acts 10:39-41). Peter also taught the resurrection of Jesus Christ in his first general epistle (1 Peter 1:3; 3:18). The resurrected Lord was the theme of the preaching of all the apostles (Acts 4:33). The evangelist Stephen preached the resurrected Christ for which the enraged Sanhedrin degenerated into a mob that stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:52, 55-60).
The apostle Paul also taught the resurrection. Paul preached the resurrection of Christ in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:30, 33-34, 37). Paul preached the resurrection to the Thessalonian Jews in their synagogue (Acts 17:1-3). Paul wrote to the Roman Christians regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:4; 4:25; 6:4, 9; 10:9). Paul also wrote of the resurrected Christ to the Christians at Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:1-23); there is no more complete biblical discourse on the resurrection of Jesus Christ in a single passage than the context of 1 Corinthians 15. Further, Paul wrote of Christ's resurrection to the Lord's church at Thessalonica, Ephesus, Philippi and to Timothy (1 Thessalonians 4:14; Ephesians 1:20; Philippians 3:10; 2 Timothy 2:8). Paul preached the resurrected Christ before kings and mobs (Acts 22:6-10; 23:6; 24:21; 26:22-23).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the resurrection of power. The power of the resurrection of Christ originated with Jesus Christ himself (John 10:17-18). By his own power, Jesus Christ laid down his life. By his own power, Jesus Christ raised himself. By his own power, Jesus Christ could foretell his death and resurrection. By his own power, Jesus Christ arose, triumphant over death, to die no more!
The power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a cardinal doctrine of the New Testament. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11).
The power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the force that makes the saving Gospel effective (1 Corinthians 15:1-23). The resurrection makes salvation possible (verse 2). The resurrection of Jesus Christ vindicates the Old Testament respecting its prophecies of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus Christ qualified witnesses to proclaim the Gospel (verses 5-8). The resurrection of Jesus Christ makes our own resurrection possible (verse 12). The resurrection of Jesus Christ vindicates the preaching of the Gospel (verses 14-15). The resurrection of Jesus Christ validates the Christian faith (verse 14). The power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ makes the forgiveness of sins possible (verse 17). The power of the resurrection comforts the living regarding dead saints (verse 18). The power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ validates the Christian hope (verse 19). The power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ emboldens Christians regarding the Second Coming and final judgment (verses 24-28).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ causes the Gospel or Word of God to be powerful (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 4:12). The resurrection or the empty tomb is the power of Christianity, without which Christianity would not exist!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a matter of faith and one doctrine that has always been a test of fellowship. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact that must be believed. The Jews on Pentecost believed in the existence of God (Deity) and the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth before the apostles preached. The resurrected Lord was the subject of the first recorded Gospel sermon. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the doctrine at which the Jewish leaders and many other Jews balked. However, about 3,000 that day acknowledged the resurrected Christ and were baptized (Acts 2:40-41).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the chief tenet of both faith and confessing Christ. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9-10). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for acknowledging him as the Son of God (Matthew 10:32; Acts 8:37). There would be no point in professing allegiance to a dead Savior!
Opponents of Christianity have made every effort to discredit the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Opponents of Christianity fully realize that Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Critics counter with the Swoon Theory. This attempt to discredit the resurrection of Jesus Christ says that Jesus merely pretended death while on the cross. In addition, the theory supposes that the coolness of the tomb revived our Lord. Next, the theory supposes that Jesus escaped from the tomb and persuaded his disciples that he had resurrected. In truth, the professional soldiers charged with the executions and verification of death, complete with thrusting a spear into the side of Jesus confirm the death of Christ (John 19:31-33). The Roman Governor, Pilate, also confirmed the death of Jesus before releasing his body to be buried (Mark 15:43-45). Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus prepared the body of Jesus for burial and entombed him, which they would not have done were Jesus alive. The Swoon Theory is a feeble attempt to discredit Christianity.
Some critics assert that the enemies of our Lord stole his body. To the contrary, the enemies of Jesus Christ most of all desired the body of our Lord to remain entombed and had soldiers posted to guard the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). If the enemies of our Lord had stolen his body, they would have presented it at Pentecost or on some other occasion of the preaching of the Gospel to discredit the resurrection. Christianity would have been stopped cold had the enemies of Jesus Christ been able to produce the corpse of Jesus Christ after it was preached he had resurrected.
The oldest theory opposing the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that the disciples stole the body of their crucified Lord. This lie originated with the Jewish leaders who bribed the soldiers to say that the disciples stole the body while they slept (Matthew 28:11-15). The testimony of sleeping witnesses would be inadmissible in any court of law. The disciples did not have enough courage to confront Roman soldiers guarding the tomb; they had fled a living Savior (Matthew 26:56). The day of the resurrection, the disciples were fearfully assembled in hiding (John 20:19). If the disciples had really stolen the body of Jesus, it would not have been necessary to bribe the soldiers to say so. Doubtless, disciples who had stolen the body of Jesus and proceeded to preach falsely that he had resurrected would not have endured grave persecution for a lie. It is obvious that the disciples did not steal the body of our Lord.
One theory states that the women went to the wrong tomb. People do not forget where they have recently buried their loved ones. Surely, Joseph would remember where his own tomb was in which he buried Jesus. Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene took special care in observing the place of the entombment of Jesus Christ (Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55).
Other opponents of Christianity claim that the disciples deliberately deceived the people with lies. Again, Jewish leaders would have produced the unresurrected corpse of Jesus if they could have done so. Disciples of Christ experienced grave persecution and martyrdom, which they would not have done based on what they knew to be a lie (1 Corinthians 4:9-13; see also 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Still another theory is that the disciples were sincerely deceived into believing Jesus Christ had resurrected. However, hundreds saw the resurrected Lord at one time and they could not all have been deceived (1 Corinthians 15:6). Those who knew him the best saw, heard and ate with him, including his mother and the apostles (Luke 24:42-43; John 21). The Lord appeared to his disciples at different times and in different places over a period of 40 days. If the disciples had been deluded into thinking Jesus resurrected, when he had not resurrected, the Jewish leaders could have produced the unresurrected corpse of Jesus.
Hallelujah, the Lord is Risen! The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave, never there to return, is the only conclusion warranted by examination of the evidence.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heartbeat of Christianity, without which Christianity cannot exist. The resurrection of Jesus Christ turned the dejected, fearful disciples of Jesus Christ into bold proclaimers of the Gospel, who were willing to suffer torture and death if need be. The resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week is commemorated each first day of the week by our assembling to worship. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the lifeblood of the church for which Jesus Christ died. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the death nail to atheism, other world religions, worship of nature and every false way.
However, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is in vain for every soul who chooses to ignore the instructions of Jesus respecting salvation. Jesus would have every accountable soul believe in him as the Son of God (John 8:24), repent of sins (Luke 13:3), confess him as Lord (Matthew 10:32) and be baptized for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16). Jesus would have erring Christians repent and pray (Acts 8:22).