The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the either the biggest evidence of God historically or the biggest man-made sham of history that has bewitched millions upon millions of people over the last 2,000 years! In today’s world there are atheists who mock Christianity, people who claim Jesus never existed and insist that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is simply a fairy tale. There are people who are rational, open minded, and seek to know the truth about Jesus Christ death and resurrection. There are false teachings and whacky bizarre objections that are in opposition to the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Who is right? What is the evidence?
Don Stewart, Bible scholar and Christian apologist states the following concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ: “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central truth of the Christian faith. Without it there is no such thing as the Christian faith…Without His resurrection everything that Jesus said would be subject to doubt.”1 This is a very true statement which gets to the heart of the New Testament. The New Testament is the message of Jesus Christ life, teachings, His death upon the cross as a sacrificial atonement, and His resurrection from the dead defeating death and sin (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-47; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 56-58; Hebrews 7-10; 1 Peter 1:3-12, 18-21, 2:21-25; 1 John 1:1-4, 2:1-2).
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is biblical, historical, and rational. There are 3 evidences that any honest seeker can examine in their search for the truth concerning Jesus’ resurrection. First, the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testament that testify Jesus is the Messiah, and that Jesus is the Son of God who died upon the cross and rose again. Second, the Scriptures record first hand eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ, who saw His crucifixion and His resurrection, and who gave their lives willfully, even unto death, for the gospel message. Thirdly, the empty tomb speaks volumes the any rational person to consider. If anyone wanted to prove that the resurrection of Jesus is false all that they would have needed is to provide the dead body! Here we are 2,000 years later and there has never been a dead body of Jesus produced nor will there ever be.
The Biblical Evidence
The Gospels testify to Jesus’ death upon the cross and His resurrection from the dead being in fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. It has been stated that Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies from the Old Testament: “One scholar, J. Barton Payne, has found as many as 574 verses in the Old Testament that somehow point to or describe or reference the coming Messiah. Alfred Edersheim found 456 Old Testament verses referring to the Messiah or His times. Conservatively, Jesus fulfilled at least 300 prophecies in His earthly ministry.”2 That is an outstanding number of prophecies fulfilled and verses referenced to the coming of the Messiah!
The Messiah was prophesied to suffer, to give His life as atonement for sin, to establish the new covenant, and to be resurrected from the dead (Genesis 3:15; Psalm 16:10-11; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Jeremiah 31:33-34) These prophecies were fulfilled through the Jesus’ shed blood and sacrificial death upon the cross, and through His resurrection from the dead (Matthew 27:43-46; Mark 15:34; Luke 22:14-20, 24:44-46; John 19:24, 30-36; Acts 2:22-36; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Hebrews 10:1-18). Merrill F. Unger states: “The NT or New Covenant is a term describing a portion of the Bible revealed in fulfillment of the OT and dealing with the nativity, ministry, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the predicted Messiah…”3 The evidence from the Scriptures is that Jesus is the Messiah, and this undeniable.
The Historical Evidence
The testimony of the first hand eyewitnesses speaks volumes to the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead. It is very clear in the Gospels that when Jesus was being crucified the disciples were dismayed, confused, and doubted that Jesus was truly the Messiah, the Son of God. But after Jesus was raised from the dead He appeared to His disciples and explained to them what has happened and opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Mark 8:31; Luke 24:44-46; John 2:19-22). However, even when He appeared to His disciples not all them were sure if this was real, and some thought they were seeing a ghost (Luke 24:36-43). When the disciples realized that Jesus was truly alive, that He was resurrected from the dead, they believed. William MacDonald states: “He explained that His resurrection was the fulfillment of His own words to them. Had He not told them that all the OT prophecies concerning Him had to be fulfilled? The Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms were the three main divisions of the OT. Taken together, they signify the entire OT.”4
When Jesus rose again and gave them the Holy Spirit they became alive spiritually, born again, and now their lives changed and they became radical witnesses testifying that Jesus is the Christ and has risen from the dead! Edwin A. Blum states: “Jesus Christ is the central theme of the New Testament and the foundation of its existence as writings. The men who write did so because of their connection with Jesus Christ. Without Him, they would not have written what they did nor would they have written in the manner they did.”5 Not only do we find the testimonies from first hand eyewitnesses that Jesus lived, died and rose again, but we also have sources outside of the Bible that testify to His existence, His death and His resurrection. Sources like the writings of Josephus Flavius, Cornelius Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, the Jewish Babylonian Talmud, Lucian, and other historical records that confirm and validate the gospel of Jesus Christ The historical evidence that Jesus lived, died, and rose again is undeniable.
The Rational Evidence
There are many rational reasons to believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ being true, historical, and believable. One of the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus that is straight forward and simple is the empty tomb. There are many bizarre false objections to the resurrection of Jesus Some of these bizarre objections are: That Jesus never existed; that Jesus never died upon the cross; that the disciples hallucinated the whole thing; that someone else died for Jesus on the cross; that the disciples stole the body; the disciples went to the wrong tomb. There are many whacky false objections that are without facts and pure speculations. In fact, the empty tomb states the obvious because it is simple and profound! For the last 2,000 years there has been no evidence to refute or discredit the first hand eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ who testify that He was resurrected from the dead. Former skeptic and now Christian apologist Josh McDowell states: “The disciples of Christ did not go off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ was raised from the dead. Rather, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were teaching was false, the falsity would be evident. The empty tomb was “too notorious to be denied.”6 Paul Althaus states that the resurrection “could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.” The evidence of the empty tomb is undeniable that Jesus rose again.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed since the first century and His message is true. For the last 2,000 years Jesus Christ’s teachings, His death and resurrection from the dead have been examined by scholars, historians, archeologists, and others who have affirm these things are true. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, Jesus was crucified and Jesus rose again according to the Scriptures: “44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:44-48, NASB).
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- Don Stewart, “How Important is the Resurrection to Christianity,” blueletterbible.org, https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_811.cfm (accessed April 29, 2019).
- “How Many Prophecies Did Jesus Fulfill?”, gotquestions.com, updated November 21, 2019, https://www.gotquestions.org/prophecies-of-Jesus.html, (accessed December 8, 2019).
- Merril F. Unger, The New Ungers Bible Dictionary, (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1988), 920.
- William MacDonald, Believers Bible Commentary, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), 1458.
- Norman Geisler, Inerrancy, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), 39.
- Josh McDowell, “Evidence for the Resurrection”, 1992, leaders.com, http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/josh2.html, (accessed December 8, 2019).
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