After 3 days and nights God raised Jesus from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, immortal, incorruptible, to live in the power of an endless life (Hebrews 7:16).
The resurrection of Christ is one of the great fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. There are about 104 references to the resurrection of Christ in the New Testament. The death and resurrection of Christ should never be separated for one preceded the other, and the one completes the other. “A balanced Gospel always includes both His saving death and His saving resurrection life” (Conner, Foundations of Christian Doctrine); “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Rom 4:25 NKJV)
“We are saved first by his death, and then we are saved by His life” (Conner, Foundations of Christian Doctrine); “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Rom 5:10 NKJV)
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ was God’s sign and seal of an accepted atonement of His only begotten Son” (Conner, Foundations). (Romans 1:4)
The importance of the resurrection
The importance of the resurrection cannot be stressed strongly enough. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:
“And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1Cor 15:17 NKJV)
If death had been able to hold Christ it would indicate that He Himself were a sinner like unto any other man. The Bible tell us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Every man receives the reward he deserves for his sinful lifestyle. Had Christ died for His own sins, death would have held Him like all others. Christ however was free from sin, and therefore not subject to sin’s partner in crime, death. Christ was made to be sin for us, He died as our substitute, laying down His life voluntarily. Death, finding no sin in Christ Himself, had no claim upon Him, and was utterly conquered in the resurrection!
Christ’s resurrection was necessary for several reasons:
To fulfil Old Testament prophecy
Isaac, the only begotten son of Abraham was raised from the dead after 3 days journey to Mt. Moriah (Gen. 22; Heb 11:19).
Jonah was raised from the dead, typically, after 3 days and nights in the belly of the fish, and Christ used this sign to shadow forth His own resurrection after 3 days and nights (Jonah 1:17 with Mat 12:39-40).
The Psalms and the Prophets clearly foretold Christ’s resurrection (Psa. 16:8-11; 21:4; 110:1; Psa. 89; Psalm 72; Gen 3:15; Isa 53:10-12).
The Character of Christ necessitated His Resurrection.
“Jesus Christ laid down His life on a voluntary basis; it was not taken from Him (John 10:15-18). Sin and death could lay no claim to Him because He was sinless, uncorrupted and therefore incorruptible. Because of His voluntary sacrifice in taking our sins and our death penalty upon Himself, it necessitated that the Holy One be justified. The resurrection of Christ was God’s justification of His Son (1 Tim. 3:16).” (Connor, Foundations).
Christ Foretold His own Resurrection
Jesus Christ Himself declared He would rise from the dead. The resurrection was necessary to confirm the truth of these statements:
- He spoke of His body being a temple destroyed, and then raised up again after 3 days and nights (John 10:15-18).
- He used the sign of Jonah as a sign of His Resurrection (Mat. 12:39-40).
- He said that He would lay down His life and then take it again in resurrection as His Father had commanded Him to do (John 10:15-18).
- He clearly foretold His death and resurrection to His disciples (Mat 16:21; 17:22-23; 27:62-64; Mark 8:31; 10:45)
The resurrection proved that Christ was who He said He was. He was not a liar or an impostor.
Redemption’s Plan necessitated the Resurrection
“The resurrection of Christ was absolutely necessary in order to complete the redemptive work of Christ. According to 1 Cor. 15:16-20, if Christ is not raised from the dead, then all are yet in their sins. His death alone does not save men. It is His death and His resurrection that brings salvation to mankind (Romans 5:8-10). If He was to be our redeemer then He must conquer sin, sickness, disease and death. Death could only be conquered by resurrection.” Foundations of Christian Doctrine, Kevin J Conner
Proofs of Jesus’ Resurrection
In Luke’s writings in Acts, he refers to ‘infallible proofs’ (Acts 1:3).
None can account for these evidences apart from the fact of Christ’s resurrection. Josh McDowell, in “Evidence that demands a Verdict” lists
a number of evidences, several of which we mention here.
The Empty Tomb
(Mat. 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-45; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-41). Jesus’ body was actually placed in Joseph’s tomb in a garden after being wrapped in spices. When his friends came to the tomb on the first day of the week, it was empty. The disciples were as surprised as anyone. Such would not be the case if any of them had stolen the body, as the soldiers were bribed to say.
The Roman Seal
The tomb was sealed with the official Roman seal, thus making the body of Jesus Roman property. For any one to touch or attempt to break the seal of Rome and to steal the body of Jesus was to come under the danger of death. None dared tamper with seal of Rome.
The Rolled-Away Stone
The tomb was closed by a stone door. Even the women, in their innocence, when they went to wrap the body in more spices, wondered who would roll away the stone. However, when they arrived at the garden tomb, the stone had already been rolled away. The stonewas rolled away, not to let the risen Lord out, but to let the disciples in. The rolled away stone was another resurrection evidence.
The Missing Body
The disciples were fearful of all the events relative to the crucifixion, how then could they muster up enough courage to break the sealed tomb, overpower the guards, and steal the mangled body of Jesus? What would they do with the body if they did steal it but bury it in another place? The disciples themselves were amazed at the disappearance of the body of Jesus.
The Empty Grave Clothes
One of the most startling and convincing evidences of the resurrection was the empty grave clothes of Jesus. The body of Jesus had been wrapped in spices in the linen grave-clothes. Peter and John went into the tomb and saw the grave clothes still there, apparently still in the cocoon shape, but not His body. The peculiar thing was that the napkin which had been around His head was folded in a place by itself.
The Surprised Guard
The Temple Guard was appointed to watch the sealed tomb for the 3 days. This was due to the fear that the disciples would steal away the body of Jesus and propagate a false resurrection story. The guard was surprised and shocked by the earthquake and the Angel of the Lord who rolled the stone away and sat on it. Thus the story that was concocted by the religious leaders for the guards to tell was false and ironical. For, if, as they were taught to say, the disciples came and stole the body of Jesus away while they were asleep, the guard was self condemned. Sleeping on duty was punishable by death. Also, if they were asleep, how did they know for sure that the disciples stole away the body? And why pay the guards large sums of money if the resurrection story was a hoax? The guards knew that something unnatural had happened, and no amount of money or lies could ever alter that fact.
Post-Resurrection Eye Witnesses
Although no-one actually witnessed the resurrection within the tomb, there were numerous witnesses of the resurrected Christ. The post-resurrection appearances of Christ took place at different times and to different persons.
The Transformed Disciples
Added to all the previous evidences we have the amazing transformation of the fearful disciples to bold and courageous men. Also, it is incredible to think that these disciples were willing to live and die to maintain a deliberate lie if the resurrection were not a fact. The disciples hardly believed, let alone understood the resurrection. Hence it was most unlikely that they would concoct a lie and die as martyrs for it. Any court would accept such valid witness of two or three, but here we have over 500 witnesses. It was the fact of the resurrection which changed the timid, fearful and unbelieving disciples into bold men.
The Lord’s Day
Another evidence of the resurrection is the Lord’s Day. No Jew would change the Sabbath Day and make the first day of the week the day of special worship. It was the resurrection of Christ that changed the calendar for the whole world.
The New Testament
There would be no New Testament books apart from the resurrection of Christ
The two messengers in the tomb (Mark 16:6; Mat. 28:6; Heb 2:2; 1 Tim. 3;15-16).
To Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18).
To other woman who told the disciples (Mark 16:1-3 Luke 23:54-56).
To Peter (Mark 16:7).
To two disciples on the Emmaus Road(Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24: 16-24,34).
To ten disciples, Thomas being absent (Luke 24:33,36-48; John 20:19-24; Acts 1:23-26).
To eleven disciples, Thomas now present (John 20:25-28).
To seven disciples at Galilee (John 21:1-24).
To eleven disciples at a mountain in Galilee (Mat.28:16-17).
To over 500 brethren (1 Cor. 15:6).
To James (1 Cor. 15:7).
To disciples at Bethany at the Mount of Ascension (Luke 24:49-50; Acts 1:3-5; Mark 16:9).
To Stephen at his martyrdom (Acts 7:54).
To Paul (Acts 9:1-7; 22:9; 26:16-18; 1 Cor.15:8; Gal. 1:11-18).
To John (Revelation 1:7, 10-16).
The collective witness of these disciples concerning the resurrected Christ is full and complete. It would be incredible to say that all of these hundreds of witnesses were liars who concocted the resurrection story at the risk of their own lives, and did so without any contradiction. Their testimony and evidences would stand up in any court of enquiry today.
Christ’s Resurrection Body
As we draw to a conclusion in our study we will briefly look at the nature of Christ’s resurrection body. It is well worth studying the nature of Christ’s resurrection body because His body is a sample of what all believer’s resurrected bodies will be like (Phil. 3:21).
- A body of flesh and bone, not flesh and blood (Luke 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:50)
- A spiritual body, no longer a natural body.
- A glorified body, no longer veiling the glory inside His flesh (Mat. 17:1-9; Rev. 1:10-16).
- An immortal body.
- A powerful body, no longer subject to sinless infirmities of hunger, thirst, weariness. It could pass through doors, vanish and appear at will (John 20:19; Luke 24:31, 51; Acts1:9).
The resurrection body is able to function in both the natural and spiritual worlds. Christ, after His resurrection, was able to sit and enjoy a meal with His disciples (John 21); appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:31); defy gravity and ascend into the spiritual world (Acts 1:9).
What a glorious hope we, and all of creation, share. A hope rooted in the historicity and awesome truth of the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:18-23)
Or, as the New Living Translation renders these verses:
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” (Rom 8:18-23)