Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out! (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post) (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK)
“He was crucified, died, and was buried, and the third day He arose.’ Although the Gospels have most clearly testified concerning the evident fact of the Lord’s Resurrection, which was further proved a reality by many men, the Apostle preached that the Saviour ‘arose’ from the dead ‘on the third day.’ If He had risen on the same day He died, or in the night which followed, some people would scarcely believe that He truly died. So, you see, the postponement of the Resurrection was a confirmation of His death; conversely, the truth of His death was the authority of reason. Unless you show me that a man has been bent down, you will not convince me that he has been raised up; on the other hand, you will easily prove he was stretched out in sleep, if you show that he has been aroused. ‘And that he appeared to Cephas, and after that to the Eleven; then he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at one time.’ O wonderful, inestimable goodness of the Lord! He thought it would not strengthen the faith of the Church enough if all the Apostles saw Him after the Resurrection unless He would show Himself to the crowds who stood around”
–From a sermon preached by Caesarius of Arles in ~500 A.D.
“Trot out one of those 500 witnesses or give us something that they wrote, and we will accept that as reliable proof or evidence.” 
– Resurrection skeptic and agnostic, Farrell Till
The biblical messenger Paul makes a startling claim in the 15th chapter of his letter to the Corinthians – that claim is, essentially, that all of Christianity hinges on the historical truth of whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. If He did not rise from the dead, “then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain,” Additionally, Paul says that Christians should be the people in the world most looked down on and pitied IF Jesus did NOT rise from the dead. (vs. 19) Here’s the whole passage, please read it, as it is one of the most critically important passages in the entire Bible:
“ For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried,
that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep.7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.11 Therefore, whether it is I or they, so we proclaim and so you have believed. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith. 15 In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ—whom He did not raise up if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-2)
Those are strong words! To Paul, the historical resurrection of Jesus wasn’t merely a belief, or facet of Christianity, it was the basis and foundation of the whole thing! The central and core heart of Christianity is the resurrection. If Jesus rose from the dead, then all humans should follow Him, and devote their lives to Him. If Jesus rose from the dead, then likely all of His other teachings are true, and must be obeyed. If Jesus rose from the dead, then He is unique in all of the history of humanity and is therefore worthy of our highest praise.
If Jesus did NOT rise from the dead, then what are people doing going around and worshipping a teacher who has been dead for almost 2000 years? What an absurdity! A recent survey of British ‘Christians’ conducted by the BBC revealed some startling facts: over thirty percent of those surveyed (who claimed to be Christians) did NOT believe in life after death. Additionally, nearly one-quarter (almost 25 percent) of the surveyed ‘Christians,’ did NOT believe Jesus rose from the dead! What an astounding statistic! I would love to sit down with them, and ask them why in the world they identify as Christians if they don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead – it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Those ‘Christians’ should be reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still dead in your sins.”
Thus it is remarkably important that Paul mentions that over 500 people actually saw Jesus after His death. There were over 500 eyewitnesses! This is not a small claim! Paul is effectively challenging the Corinthians in the chapter by telling them that the historical/factual resurrection of Jesus is the central core of Christianity, and if any of them doubt that it happened, most of the 500 people who witnessed the risen Jesus are still alive and can give testimony of the fact that they saw Jesus after He died and was buried. This demonstrates that Paul is not merely claiming a spiritual resurrection for Jesus; nor does it allow for the idea that Jesus is coming back and somehow symbolically visiting those who were important to Him. No, 1 Corinthians 15 makes it crystal clear Paul believed that Jesus bodily (not metaphorically) rose from the dead and factually appeared to 500+ people, many of whom could still attest to that appearance as eyewitnesses at the time Paul wrote His first letter to the Corinthians.
Additionally, as mentioned by Michael Licona and Gary Habermas, there are at least 42 writers from antiquity (only nine of which are in the Bible), that reference Jesus within 150 years of His life. Almost all those ancient writers show clear evidence of believing in the factual and historical resurrection of Jesus. Here are some examples of believers in the resurrection of Jesus that wrote about it shortly after His death:
- The Epistle of Clement: “Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead.” AND, “The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand.” This letter was written by Clement, probably around 90ad and possibly before the book of Revelation. This is perhaps the earliest extant church letter outside of the Bible, and gives indisputable evidence that the early church not only believed in the resurrection of Jesus, but that they based their future hope AND proclamation of the Good news of Jesus on that hope…
This Chapter is continued in the book.
(Note: This is a partial preview of my book, you can continue reading FREE on Amazon via Kindle Unlimited, or you can purchase the book for a few pennies, OR you can find a friend reading it and take it when he isn’t looking!)
 Gary R. Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, ©2004), 233
 Caesarius of Arles, Saint Caesarius of Arles: Sermons (1–238), ed. Hermigild Dressler and Bernard M. Peebles, trans. Mary Magdeleine Mueller, vol. 1, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press; Consortium Books, 1956–1973), 57–58.
 Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 247.
Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead)