What if Jesus did not Rise from the Dead?

What if Jesus did not Rise from the Dead?

The resurrection of Jesus ChristThe resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of Christianity. Everything in the Christian faith rests on the historical truth that Jesus was raised from the dead. But what if this was all a lie? What if Jesus did not rise from the dead?

When the apostle Paul came to Corinth, an integral part of the gospel message that he preached was the fact of Christ’s resurrection. After all, a dead Savior cannot save anybody. The believers at Corinth received the Word, trusted Christ, been saved, and their faith had transformed their lives.

But then again, what if Jesus did not really rise from the dead? What if this was just a myth that the apostle Paul made up to gain a number of followers? It is interesting to note that Islam, one of the three major world religions, has held on to this theory up until today.

Evidences for the Resurrection

Before laying out the evidences of the resurrection, it must first be established that Jesus really died. After all, a resurrection can only be authentic if the person really died. In other words, only a dead person can actually come back to life.

The gospel authors record that Jesus was beaten and scourged terribly by the Roman soldiers before finally nailing him to the cross. Killing was an expertise of the Roman soldiers, their job was to kill and to make sure that the victim was really dead or they themselves will lose their lives.

It’s also inconceivable to believe that Jesus survived the crucifixion, considering that the physicians who studied closely the historical events of the crucifixion unanimously concluded that Christ died from this process. Furthermore, the Roman historian Tacitus and Jewish historian Josephus confirmed in their writings that Jesus indeed, died from the crucifixion.

A. The empty tomb

1) The Bible tells us that Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty by the women who first visited it very early on the first day of the week (John 20:1-2; Matthew 28:1-2; Mark 16:1-4 & Luke 24:1-3).

Did you know that the testimony of women in the first century Jewish culture was regarded as so worthless that they were not even permitted to serve as legal witnesses in a court of law? Yet, the gospel authors unanimously recorded that women, whose testimony was worthless, rather than men, are the chief witnesses to the empty tomb.

2) The historical reliability of the burial story because of the inclusion of Joseph of Arimathea as the one who buried Christ in his own tomb (Mark 15:43; John 19:38), strongly supports the empty tomb.

Joseph was a prominent member of the Jewish Council, which means that the burial site was well-known to both the Jews and Gentiles. This means that no one would have believed that Jesus had risen, neither the disciples, nor the thousands of others who did believe, unless that tomb was really empty.

Jesus’ resurrection was preached by His disciples in the same city where Jesus had died and been buried. They could not have done this if Jesus was still in His tomb because no one would be foolish enough to believe that a man had raised from the dead when his body lay dead in the tomb for all to see.

3) In Matthew 28:11-15, the Jews made an attempt to refute the fact of Jesus’ resurrection by saying that the disciples stole the body. Why is this significant? Because this shows that the Jews did not deny the empty tomb. By making up a story about the stolen body of Jesus, they were admitting that the tomb was in fact empty.

“He is not here; for He is risen!”

B. The post-mortem appearances of Jesus

There is enough evidence that the disciples and followers of Jesus had real encounters with the one whom they believed was the risen Christ. In the table below is a chronology of the appearances of the resurrected Christ.

1) Mary Magdalene          John 20:11-18
2) The women returning from the tomb Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1 & Luke 24:10
3) Simon Peter Luke 24:34 & 1 Corinthians 15:5
4) The two disciples on the road to Emmaus Luke 24:13-16
5) To the eleven disciples with Thomas absent Luke 24:36-43
6) To the eleven disciples with Thomas present John 20:26-29
7) To the seven disciples at Lake Tiberius John 21: 1-23
8) To the disciples and a large gathering on a mountain in Galilee Matthew 28:16-17
9) James 1 Corinthians 15:7
10) To the disciples at the ascension Luke 24:49-53 & Acts 1:3-11

 

1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is a record of an ancient creed concerning Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection appearances that is much earlier than the letter in which the apostle Paul is recording it. Critical scholars generally agree that Paul received this creed from Peter (Cephas) and James (the Lord’s brother) between 3-5 years after the crucifixion.

Peter and James are listed in this creed as having seen the risen Christ. Paul also appealed to his audience’s knowledge of the fact that more than five hundred people had seen the resurrected Christ at one time; the majority of which were still alive and could be questioned.

C. The transformation of Jesus’ disciples, skeptics and enemies

1) Jesus’ disciples and followers

When Jesus was crucified, His disciples were devastated and defeated. Most of them even ran away because they thought that was the end of their glorious years with Jesus. But after seeing the resurrected Christ, they were transformed from being discouraged, despondent and frightened to being bold, courageous and outspoken.

Peter, who denied Jesus three times, stood up a few weeks later in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost to deliver probably the most powerful Gospel sermon that resulted in the 3,000 souls that were saved and added to the church (Acts 2:14-39).

Peter’s Sermon on Pentecost Day

Thomas who was a doubter and a skeptic did not believe that Jesus has risen from the dead until he saw for himself the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and had put his fingers in them (John 20:24-29).

2) James and Jesus’ other brothers

Jesus’ brothers did not believe Jesus was the Lord during His lifetime (John 7:5). But they later believed. And James not only believed, but became the leader of the Jerusalem Church (Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13). According to tradition, James was martyred for his faith in Christ by being thrown off the pinnacle of the temple and was beaten to death by a club.

3) Saul of Tarsus

Before he became the apostle Paul, Saul of Tarsus was the chief persecutor of the early Christians. But after encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, he was totally transformed from Saul, the number one persecutor of Christianity, to Paul, the number one propagator of Christianity.

Paul gave up the prestige and comforts of being a respected rabbi and took on the life of a traveling missionary who has gone through incredible hardships and persecutions, all for the sake of the gospel.

Saul encounters the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus

*** The transformation of Jesus’ disciples, brothers and Saul of Tarsus are inexplicable apart from a real resurrection. The only sufficient explanation for the dramatic change in these people’s lives is the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.

D. The origin of the Christian faith

The fact that the Christian Church remained strong and continued to flourish despite suffering intense persecution at the hands of both Jews and Romans during its early years is strong proof of the resurrection.

Many of the first missionaries of the Christian faith died as martyrs. They were willing to die for their belief in Jesus Christ because they were convinced of the historical facts of the resurrection. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity could have never come into existence.

Conclusion

What if Jesus did not rise from the dead? Then we are still in our sins and our faith is futile. It means we are not forgiven of our sins and are bound to suffer eternally in hell. And not only us but also those who have fallen asleep (died) in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:17-18). There is no salvation without the resurrection!

But Christ is risen from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact, not just a theological myth or some philosophical idea which began circulating 30 years later among the followers of Jesus Christ.

Josh McDowell in his book “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” wrote:

“The resurrection of Christ is therefore emphatically a test question upon which depends the truth or falsehood of the Christian religion. It is either the greatest miracle or the greatest delusion which history records.”


Recommended Resource:

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

By Gary R. Habermas & Michael R. Licona

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, along with an interactive CD, will prepare you to make a compelling argument for the historicity of Christ’s resurrection, even to those who do not accept the Bible as divinely inspired. The authors first develop principles by which a historical event can be accepted as true, then apply them to belief in Christ’s rising from the dead, and finally offer sample scenarios illustrating the use of these principles.

8 Replies to “What if Jesus did not Rise from the Dead?”

  1. When a Christian starts using complex mathematical formulas and philosophical theories to defend his belief in first century corpse reanimation-transformation (aka: resurrections)…I yawn.

    I yawn because it is soooo silly.

    I know for a fact that if a Muslim attempted to use these same ploys to defend the veracity of Islam’s claim that Mohammad flew to heaven on a winged horse, the very same Christians would snicker and hand-wave away these arguments without giving them a second thought, believing that these tactics are nothing more than an obvious, desperate attempt to dress up a superstition as believable reality.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Are you a Christian? Based on your email add, I would assume that you’re a Lutheran, and as far as I know, Lutherans are Christians, with Martin Luther being the founder. Am I right? Correct me if I’m wrong here, but you cannot be a Christian if you do not believe in the resurrection. And mind you, there are many scientists who are Christians. So how can a scientist be a Christian when science cannot prove the resurrection?

      Here’s what IAN HUTCHINSON, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, has to say:

      “Science cannot and does not disprove the resurrection. Natural science describes the normal reproducible working of the world of nature. Indeed, the key meaning of ‘nature’, as Boyle emphasized, is ‘the normal course of events.’ Miracles like the resurrection are inherently abnormal. It does not take modern science to tell us that humans don’t rise from the dead. People knew that perfectly well in the first century; just as they knew that the blind from birth don’t as adults regain their sight, or water doesn’t instantly turn into wine.”

      It’s not silly telling people, including Muslims, that Jesus rose from the dead. And by the way, a former devout Muslim converted to Christianity because of the strong evidence for the Christian faith. If you know what it means for a Muslim to turn his back on Islam to embrace Christianity, you would certainly understand that the resurrection is not just some kind of ploy that Christians use in order to trick Muslims into believing that Christianity is true.

      I am not an expert with regards to the resurrection and that is why I would like to refer you to those who are. You can check out the book: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona.

      https://www.christianbook.com/the-case-for-the-resurrection-jesus/gary-habermas/9780825427886/pd/427886?event=PRCBD1#CBD-PD-Description

      You may also want to watch this video.

      https://youtu.be/ay_Db4RwZ_M

      As Frank Turek said, the greatest miracle already happened in the very first chapter and verse of Genesis, so why is the resurrection a BIG DEAL? If God can create the heavens and the earth from nothing, why is it impossible for Him to become a man, die and resurrect?

      God bless you Gary!

  2. I love this blog post. Our entire existence hinges on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection! When I started my blog, I considered doing it in the niche of religion, but figured there would be so much backlash I didn’t do it. But one of my blogs I am now considering changing to Coffee and Jesus or some variation of that because Jesus is very important to me regardless of the “bad” comments I may get. Preach on!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      You’re absolutely right; if Jesus did not live a perfect life of obedience to the Father, did not die and resurrect, life would be meaningless. How truly amazing is the love of God that He reached down to us from His throne in heaven in order to give us hope, the hope of eternal life. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we are of all people the most to be pitied as what Paul said.

      Having a platform to share about God, Jesus and Christianity has been my desire even before I knew how to build and manage a website. I just hope that more and more fellow believers in Christ will be bold enough to share the love of God through their blog, regardless of the criticisms and negative comments. “Coffee and Jesus” sounds like a cool site to share Jesus.

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. So true. I also just watched The case For Christ in my women’s life group at church. It was a good movie and one I want my husband to see because he is on the fence about things, mainly the bible. He says it is man made and how do we know over the years how much of it is still true and how much has been changed, added, or made up.

    1. The Case for Christ book and movie are great Christian apologetic materials, considering that the author was a journalist who used to be a hard-core atheist. I was just sharing with one of my superiors who is a Muslim how the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact and cannot be denied. I added that Christianity hinges on the fact of Jesus’ resurrection, which means if you can disprove that Jesus rose from the dead then Christianity falls. I even challenged him that if he can show me enough evidence of Islam, one that is stronger than the case for Christianity, I would become a Muslim. On the other hand, if I can prove to him that Christianity is true then he must become a Christian.

      Based on his response, I figured he’s not open-minded enough to look at the evidence. So I ended our conversation. I just hope I was able to plant a seed in his heart that will eventually sprout and grow.

      By the way, there’s also one book that is a good material in proving that Christianity is true. It’s the book by J. Warner Wallace “Cold Case Christianity.”

      Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels
      By J. Warner Wallace

      A riveting journey through Christianity using the analytical lenses of a former atheist and L.A. County homicide detective!

      Christianity, with all of its claims could easily be described as a “cold-case”; a case for which insufficient hard evidence exists to make any sound conclusions about its truth claims. However, in Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally acclaimed skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs. He includes gripping stories from his career and the visual and interrogation techniques he developed while a police officer. Along the way, he uses analogy and anecdotes to examine the powerful evidence that validates the claims of Christianity.

      Cold-Case Christianity is a unique apologetic that speaks to readers’ intense interest in detective stories, and inspires readers to have confidence in Christ as it prepares them to articulate the case for Christianity.

  4. There would be no hope for the after life. He would have been just a another man.

    You mention Josh McDowel at the end. A good movie That I have watch was the evidence of The Case for Christ. It’s actually from the true story of a Chicago reporter who tried to prove that Jesu was a myth after he saw his wife becoming so attached to Him.

    After all his investigation and research, he was forced to admit that, historical facts were proving not only the evidence of jesus life, but also his death and resurrection.

    Our faith as Christians rely on those 3 facts: Christ life, death and resurrection.

    Without these 3 elements there would be no possible living relationship with God. Just faith in a dead prophet.

    1. That’s exactly right Guy! The salvation of mankind not only rests on the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ but also on His resurrection. 

      I’m glad you mentioned the movie The Case for Christ. I’ve watched it too right after reading the book of the same title. I was in tears while reading the book because I could never imagine the suffering that Christ had to go through in order to pay for my sins. Although I’ve watched the movie Passion of the Christ, I never truly understood how a Roman crucifixion is done until I heard it explained in Lee Strobel’s book. It’s terrible!

      Yes, the Christian faith rests on the historical facts of the suffering, death and crucifixion of Christ. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then we’re all lost and are bound to suffer in hell. But Christ rose from the dead which means He has defeated death and hell and has emerged victorious, hallelujah!

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