TOP TEN SOLID REASONS TO BELIEVE THAT JESUS ACTUALLY ROSE FROM THE DEAD!!
Recently during the message time at our church, I told the congregation that Good Friday and Easter (Resurrection Sunday) were the two most important holidays that Christians have. Now, don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas like a child, and look forward to it every year with deep anticipation. The celebration of the birth of Christ is wonderful and amazing. But…without the death of Jesus on the Cross (Good Friday) to pay the price for our sins – there would be no way for any person to have eternal life in Heaven. As Paul writes in Romans , “ALL have sinned and fall way short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Without the Resurrection of Jesus – there would be no resurrection for people – death would be final, the end. Therefore – as important as Christmas is…Good Friday and Easter Sunday are actually more important because they represent deliverance from eternal punishment and eternal life in Heaven for the believer. I had a young child (10?) come up to me after church apparently bewildered about what I said. He challenged me (respectfully) and asked how I could say that Easter was more important than Christmas, since Easter was just about a bunny and chocolate eggs and stuff, and Christmas was about the birth of Jesus. From that point, my friend Tamara and I were able to explain how Jesus was crucified on Friday – paying the price for our sins – and was gloriously raised from the dead on the original Easter Sunday morning. Does that sound too good to be true? Does it sound like typical religious clap-trap? Keep reading to find out TEN SOLID REASONS to believe that Jesus really did rise from the dead!
Think about it: If true, what are the implications of The Resurrection of Jesus? If Jesus of Nazareth factually and historically rose from the dead, then He would be the first to overcome or conquer death itself. If The Resurrection of Jesus factually happened, then skepticism of Jesus and His teachings is unfounded and unwarranted, because anybody with the power and authority to defeat death is somebody with great wisdom, intelligence and knowledge than the rest of us. If Jesus really rose from the dead, then His claim (written in the Bible’s book of Matthew, chapter 28,) to having ALL authority in Heaven and on earth rings true. All of humanity is winless against death. As is often said, Father Time is undefeated – death itself is undefeated. The collective win loss record of humanity is somewhere between 0-20 billion and 0-100 billion against death, which is a lot of losses stacked up against ZERO victories. The Bible claims that Jesus, on the other hand, is 1-0 – undefeated against death. If the resurrection is factual and historical. If Jesus won where nobody else has – then He has ALL authority. If not – If Jesus Did NOT ACTUALLY and historically rise from the dead, then Christianity is the greatest time waste and false hope and deception in the history of the world, and it is not even close. (See 1 Corinthians 15:17)
Read this from New York author and pastor Tim Keller: “The resurrection of Jesus is a major historical problem, no matter how you look at it. Most modern historians make the philosophical assumption that miracles simply cannot happen, and that makes the claim of the resurrection highly problematic. However, if you disbelieve the resurrection you now have the difficulty of explaining how the Christian church got started at all. “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” That is how the first hearers felt who heard reports of the resurrection. They knew that, if it was true, it meant that we can’t live our lives any way we want. It also meant we don’t have to be afraid of anything, not Roman swords, not cancer, nothing. If Jesus rose from the dead, it changes everything. Most people think that, when it comes to Jesus’s resurrection, the burden of proof is on believers to give evidence that it happened. That is not completely the case. The resurrection also puts a burden of proof on those who don’t believe. It is not enough to simply believe Jesus did not rise from the dead. You must then come up with a historically feasible alternate explanation for the birth of the church. You have to provide some other plausible account for how things began. -Tim Keller”
The resurrection is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. It is the hinge that everything hangs on – the key doctrine. Reasonable men may not disagree here. It is THE key doctrine of the Christian faith. If there is no resurrection, there is no Christian faith.
I ask people that are reading this who identify as Christians – If a friend, family member or college professor asked you the question: HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT JESUS REALLY ROSE FROM THE DEAD? What would your answer be? I am afraid that most Christians don’t have a great answer for that question. Would you say, “I believe Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible says it!” Or, “I believe that Jesus rose from the dead because the preacher taught us that in church.” Or even, “I believe in the resurrection because my parents raised me to be a Christian!” Well, if I can write this gently but firmly – that’s NOT enough! No skeptic or questioner would be convinced by such an answer! Christians should have better reasons for believing that Jesus rose from the dead beyond merely stating that the Bible says so, or that a church pastor said so. One must explain why the testimony of the Bible is actually reliable…and we will attempt to do that below:
I believe there are two ways that a professing Christian can answer questions about The Resurrection of Jesus that are persuasive:
1. Displaying the power of Jesus in your life that evidentially and beyond question shows the presence of God’s supernatural power. Such as – supernatural power to love. Supernatural power to serve joyfully. Supernatural power to forgive when wounded beyond measure. Supernatural power to endure hardship. Supernatural power to do good works.
A. 1 Cor 3:3 3 “For you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (The Word of God calls Christians beyond mere humanity…and the Holy Spirit enables Christians to go beyond that) ALSO: The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but power. 1 Cor 4:20
2. Giving a GOOD (persuasive) answer: An Apt answer…a convincing answer.
A. 1st Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness
What I am writing about lays the groundwork for the beginnings of a good/persuasive/convincing answer. You might say that this kind of teaching is unnecessary, for it is God that opens the heart to receive the Gospel – not good teaching/preaching arguments. You’d be right, in a sense…but you’d also be IGNORING 1st Peter 3:15. One of the ways Christians honor Christ is by making a defense for our hope! The Greek word there is apologia and it means to have an argument, defense, A legal term – to answer an accusation, essentially.
Think of the old hymn, He Lives – “You ask me how I know He lives…He lives within my heart.” This is NOT the good news – that Jesus merely lives within my heart. There are reasons to believe, beyond mere subjective feelings, that Jesus actually was resurrected on the first Easter morning. I contend, and the Word of God contends, that Jesus bodily and historically rose from the dead and ascended to the Father – it is not a merely a personal religious thing to experience, but a factual happening in history to believe in.
Note – as a critic of this post recently noted on Twitter, – the below list of reasons aren’t necessarily “facts” in the normal sense of the word. There is no video of Jesus rising from the dead, just as there is no video of Washington crossing the Delaware or most other historical events. Events in ancient history are established via eyewitness reports and other such means. In a certain manner of speaking – there is no factual way to prove that a historical event happened. For instance, historically speaking, there is very little doubt whatsoever that the Carthaginian General Hannibal defeated the Roman Consuls Lucius Paullus and Gaius Varro at the battle of Cannae in 216 BC. The vast majority of historians accept that the Battle of Cannae happened and that Hannibal was victorious – but how can this be FACTUALLY proven? We don’t have video (even if we did – video can be doctored!), and there are no living witnesses! However, it is possible to know and understand history without video and without irrefutable scientific factual truth. Eyewitness testimonies that are written down are important. Archaeological evidence is important. The bottom line is that there is enough evidence available to historians to convince them that Hannibal won the Battle of Cannae. Similarly, when the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is examined – the eyewitness testimonies, the archaeological evidence, the sociological impact of the early church – it becomes clear that there are abundant solid reasons to believe that Jesus factually rose from the dead.
TOP TEN REASONS TO BELIEVE JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD! (Part 1)
No single one of these reasons will likely convince a skeptic that Jesus truly rose from the dead. Taken as a whole, however, these ten points give ten powerful reasons to believe that Jesus historically rose from the dead. Read, consider and believe!
#1 THE NEW TESTAMENT TEXTS ARE RELIABLE: TOO EARLY TO BE MYTHICAL It is not enough to say to a skeptic that we know that Jesus lives because the Bible says so. While that is true, a skeptic needs to see and hear reasons WHY the Bible is reliable. Reason #1 is that the Biblical texts were written EARLY – within a few short years of the death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus. This is historically very significant, especially when you consider that the earliest writings we have about major historical figures like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and other unquestioned figures of antiquity date from decades and sometimes centuries after their death. Consider Paul’s information in 1 Corinthians 15: 3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” Most scholars agree – even critical scholars – that this creed dates back to 35 AD. Within two years of Jesus’ claimed resurrection. Richard Bauckham of Cambridge – calls this the “consensus New Testament opinion.” Even Bart Ehrman – a skeptic on his way to atheism by his own words says that this passage dates to within one or two years of the cross. Written evidence from the ancient world that is recorded within a few short years of the event in question is far too early for widespread legend/myths to develop.
#2 WOMEN AS THE FIRST WITNESSES IN ALL FOUR GOSPELS. While it is not exactly true that women couldn’t testify in court in the Ancient Roman world, but it was rare, only under certain circumstances, and considered lesser quality testimony than the testimony of men – often it would take the testimony of two women to override the testimony of one man. In fact, some Pharisees would begin their prayers by thanking God that they weren’t gentile pagans or women. The only possible reason to have women as the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus (and prominent witnesses at His crucifixion) is that it factually happened. This stands strongly against the Resurrection as myth or exaggeration theory. Women discover the tomb, and are listed in all four Gospels as the first witnesses of the risen Jesus, despite the fact that women’s testimony was considered inferior in the first century. Why manufacture women as the first witnesses if the resurrection was a myth or intentional deception? Note: Josephus, a non-Christian Jewish man writing in the first century, wrote: “Let not the testimony of women be admitted because of the levity and boldness of their sex,” Similarly, the non-Biblical Jewish Mishnah (from the first centuries) did not admit the testimony of women in most cases, claiming that their menstrual cycles made them unreliable. Witness this excerpt from the Jewish Encyclopedia,“A particularly painful issue of difference between males and females (in the first century) is that of reliability in testimony. Women are not considered reliable witnesses when two kosher witnesses are needed, for example on monetary issues, capital crimes and sexual crimes; “ Here is an extremely high level scholarly treatment of this question by Cambridge professor Richard Bauckham, And a sermon treatment by N.T. Wright: http://ntwrightpage.com/sermons/Easter06.htm
#3 THE NEW TESTAMENT IS RELIABLE: PRINCIPLE OF EMBARRASSMENT. Peter is rebuked as Satan by Jesus. The disciples are bumblers. Peter denies Jesus. Thomas doubts. Other disciples doubt. The bumbling male disciples that wrote most of the New Testament rarely fully understand what Jesus is saying and doing, but women like the Syro-Phoenician woman and Mary of Bethany immediately grasp important teachings. Paul was an executioner and tremendous enemy of Christians, until he encountered Jesus. There are lots of little details in the New Testament accounts that are hard to explain if you accept the theory that the disciples made up the ministry of Jesus – or exaggerated it. While Jesus appeared to the women first, and His brother and Peter and 500 other believers. None of them are important! Why not Herod? Why not Pilate? Why didn’t Jesus seek revenge on His executioners? Wouldn’t that have been a better story? Heck – the first witness…Mary Magdalene had recently been possessed by seven demons, and was known in the ancient world as a significant sinner before meeting Jesus. The fact is that the writings of the New Testament do not often shine a positive light on the leaders of the early church. If these books are doctored or manufactured – why not make the disciples appear more heroic and less foolish? Why not “doctor” the evidence a bit to eliminate female witnesses, and have Jesus do more dramatic things after His resurrection?
#4 THE NEW TESTAMENT IS RELIABLE: EVEN THE TEXTUAL VARIANTS SHOW THAT THE BIBLE IS TRUSTWORTHY! .Yes, there are 200000 variants found in the existing handwritten Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. That is a very large number on the surface. Bart Ehrman has become a best selling author by attacking the credibility of the Bible. He points out that, among the Greek manuscripts of the Bible we have – the earliest and best texts – there are 200000 variant readings, and then makes the case that because of the variants, we can’t be sure in knowing what the word of God really says. Well…even though that number is high, it is easily explainable, and not particularly troubling when you understand the transmission of the biblical text. First – the New Testament is the best ancient document we have in terms of reliability, closeness to its composition date, and number of manuscripts. Yes there are variants…all texts at the time were hand copied – some by professional scribes, some by blokes like you and me. But – since we have thousands of texts, we can determine the accurate/original reading of nearly every Bible text there is – with maybe three major exceptions, and a handful of minor ones (John 7:53-8:11, Mark 16:9-20 and 1st John 5:7-8 – the Comma Johanneum) I mention those particular texts because they are easy targets for college professors and good skeptics – but honestly, they are the big three. NO important doctrine or teaching of the New Testament is in doubt. Even Bart Ehrman acknowledges that. For an academic treatment of this subject, read this from noted New Testament scholar Gary Habermas. Consider this: The best biography historians have of Alexander the Great was written by Plutarch. It was composed approximately 400 YEARS after Alexander’s lifetime. The earliest information we have on Alexander the Great dates to roughly 300 years after his death.Further, the earliest extant manuscripts of Plutarch date to roughly 800ad – more than 1000 years AFTER Alexander lived. The Bible manuscripts are much older than that – and were written much closer to the time of Jesus than Plutarch’s book was to the time of Alexander. From a manuscript/textual critical point of view – the New Testament is quite simply the best attested, most numerous and most reliable document of ancient history (pre-1000ad)
#5 THE LITHUANIAN ARGUMENT: Can anybody name (without Googling) which countries border Lithuania? What about the Capital of Lithuania? Most Americans know very, very little about Lithuania, even though it is approximately 3 times larger than the country of Israel. Consider this: The Roman Empire during the time of Jesus was approximately 60 percent the size of America. Therefore, Lithuania to America in 2016 very roughly corresponds to the size and influence of Israel to the Roman Empire in the first century. Therefore to get a vague understanding of how Romans in the the Roman Empire viewed Israel – we can consider how Americans in the U.S. view the country of Lithuania. Imagine then that a teacher of a new and radically different religion rose up in Lithuania from 1910-1915 – about 100 years ago. Imagine that this particular teacher had no television shows, no books, nothing, but within 100 years of his ignominious death, his followers would be well on their way to dominating the religious landscape of America. This is what Jesus and His followers did. Historically and factually – a teacher and His followers from a largely unknown, small country came to dominate an entire empire within a short time after the death of that teacher. People MUST have a rational theory to explain how Christianity spread so far and wide in such a short amount of time without military power or economic riches! Such a thing has never happened before ( Remember that there were many, many messiah claimants before Jesus and after) I propose that a public, bodily resurrection of Jesus is a plausible answer to how Christianity came to dominate the greatest civilization in world history. Skeptical theories (i.e. that Jesus never existed – which no almost no peer reviewed scholar, atheist or otherwise, believes…or that an impostor took His place, or that the resurrection was invented by His followers, or that they hallucinated Him) don’t account very well for the explosion of Jesus’ followers all across the world – permeating multiple cultures and languages. FYI, the countries that border Lithuania are: Latvia, Poland, and Belarus. The capital city of Lithuania is Vilnius.