Because He Lives

“The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. Everything else that was said or done by Christ and the apostles is secondary in importance to the resurrection. If the resurrection did not take place then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.” Thus Henry M. Morris, founder of Institute of Creation Research, opened The Resurrection of Christ – The Best-Proved Fact in History.

The apostle Paul made a similar claim when he told the Corinthian believers that it was Jesus’ resurrection from the dead which enabled them to be saved from their sins and to have the hope of eternal life.

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 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…. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV)

Much has been written about the Resurrection. Here I’ll limit myself to summarizing the Resurrection story, stating several explanations that have been made of the story, presenting evidence for one of the explanations (that it actually happened as it is described in the Bible), and considering the significance of the Resurrection.

The Resurrection Story

In early dawn of the day after the Sabbath, some women went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried, taking spices so that they could anoint his body but wondering who would roll the great stone away from the entrance of the tomb (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-3; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). Some time before they arrived at the tomb, there was an earthquake and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled away the stone, and sat upon it. His sudden and glorious appearance frightened the soldiers guarding the tomb and “they trembled and became like dead men”and fled (Matthew 28:2-4).

The women arrived at the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away. One of the women, Mary Magdalene, surmising that Jesus had been taken out of the tomb, ran back to the city and told Peter and John. The other women entered the tomb, saw that Jesus’ body was not there, and then saw the angel sitting on the right side. He told them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you.” They ran from the tomb to tell the disciples. While they were on the way, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” They fell at his feet and worshiped him. Jesus said to them,”Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:5-10; Mark 16:4-8; Luke 24:2-12; John 20:2; Matthew and Mark’s describing the women’s meeting one angel and Luke’s describing them as meeting two angels suggests that they arrived at or at least entered the tomb in two groups, but they may have come together again before meeting Jesus.)

On being told by Mary Magdalene that Jesus had been taken out of the tomb, Peter and John ran to the tomb, followed by Mary. Peter and John saw the linen cloths in which Jesus’ body had been wrapped lying there and saw the face cloth that had been on his head lying separate from them and folded up. Seeing them, John believed. Then the two men returned to their homes. Meanwhile Mary arrived at the tomb and stood weeping outside it. Then stooping to look into the tomb, she saw two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had been. Turning, she saw Jesus. He told her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” She went and told the disciples that she had seen Jesus and what he had said to her. (John 20:3-18; Peter, John, and Mary’s not meeting the other women indicates that they took a different route to the tomb than the women did on returning from it.)

Later on the same day Jesus appeared to two believers on their way from Jerusalem to a village named Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31), to Peter (Luke 24:35), and to the eleven except for Thomas (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23).

(The partial accounts contained in the four Gospels are hard to harmonize and the above account is just one way of doing so.)

Explanations of the Resurrection Story

My older daughter, her husband, my son, and I are currently reading Chapter 2 of J. Warner Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity (David C. Cook, 2013). In it the writer, a homicide detective, illustrates the method of inferring to the most reasonable explanation by evaluating each of these possible explanations of the Resurrection story:
1. The disciples were wrong about Jesus’ death.
2. The disciples lied about the resurrection.
3. The disciples were delusional.
4. THe disciples were fooled by an imposter.
5. THe disciples were influenced by limited spiritual sightings.
6. THe disciples’ observations were distorted later.
7. The disciples were accurately reporting the resurrection of Jesus.
Wallace concludes that the last explanation, although it requires a belief in the supernatural, is the most reasonable explanation of the Resurrection story.
(If any reader other than a member of my family wants a fuller statement of any of the other six explanations and a presentation of the problems in it, just ask.)

Evidence for the Resurrection

My family at home read and the Life group which my wife and I host is now reading Gregory and Edward Boyd’s Letters from a Skeptic (Scripture Press Publications, 1995). In its Correspondence 16, in response to Ed’s asking, “How can you believe that a man rose from the dead?” Greg presents this evidence for the Resurrection:
1. The Resurrection is testified to by five independent sources — Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul.
2. The location of Jesus’ tomb was well known by all and so both his followers and his opponents could easily check to see if his body was still there.
3. The Christian church began in Jerusalem just a few weeks after Jesus’ crucifixion and, although he was a contemporary, exploded in growth.
4. The Resurrection narratives have the characteristics of eye-witness reports and lack the characteristics of legendary narratives.
5. The conversion of Paul is explainable only by his being confronted by the risen Lord.
6. Paul gives us a list of the Resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15, written just 15 to 20 years after the Resurrection, including “to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive” (verse 6).
7. There is no way of accounting for the transformation of the disciples from fearful and hiding to boldly witnessing except on the basis of the Resurrection.
8. There was no motive for the disciples to fabricate the story of the Resurrection.
(If any reader other than a member of my family or of my Life group wants an elaboration of any of the above pieces of evidence, just ask.)
Additionally, the testimony of hundreds of millions of transformed lives through the centuries and Jesus’ living within believers today show the truth of the Resurrection. In fact Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, described these as “the most conclusive proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Why the Resurrection Matters to You).

The Significance of the Resurrection

I observed above that “the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity,” showing that he is the Son of God and enabling us to be saved from our sins and to have the hope of eternal life. It inaugurated a new age in which we can be united with God, by being indwelt by the Holy Spirit sent to us by Jesus after his resurrection and ascension, and points forward to a future age in which we will live with Him.

In reading about Jesus’ resurrection over the past few days, I encountered several lists of ways in which his resurrection was significant. I considered preparing my own list to include in this article. However I decided instead to share again what Wayne Grudem says about the significance of Jesus’ resurrection in his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994). I shared it here last year when my family at home was reading Systematic Theology and I was reporting in Open Theism on what we read.

Here is what I shared then from what Grudem says about the significance of the Resurrection:

Gruden identifies these ways in which the resurrection is doctrinally significant:
1. It ensures our regeneration. Paul says that God “made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him” (Ephesians 2:5-6), and Peter says that He “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
2. It ensures our justification. Paul says that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespass and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
3. It ensures that we will receive perfect resurrection bodies. Paul describes Jesus as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20), implying our resurrection bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrection body.

Grudem identifies these ways in which the resurrection is ethically significant:
1. Because Jesus was raised from the dead and we too shall be raised from the dead, we should continue steadfastly in the Lord’s work. After making a lengthy exposition on the resurrection, Paul says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
2. Because Jesus was raised from the dead and we have been raised to new life with him, we should set our minds on heavenly things. Paul says, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above” (Colossians 1:4).
3. For the same reason and because “the death [Jesus] died he died to sin, once for all,” we should “consider ourselves dead to sin” (Romans 6:11). Paul continues, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6:12).

Because He Lives

God sent His Son, they called him Jesus,
He came to live, die, and forgive;
He lived and died to sign my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because he lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because he lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know he holds the future,
And life is worth the living, just because he lives.

And then one day, I’ll cross the river,
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;
And then, as death gives way to victory,
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know he lives!

Because he lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because he lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know he holds the future,
And life is worth the living, just because he lives.

(Bill and Gloria Gaither, 1971)

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2 thoughts on “Because He Lives

  1. Allison

    Excellent compilation of various sources to create a thorough post about the resurrection. I also appreciated the personal touch, including references to both of your family Bible Studies. The Gaither song makes for a beautiful conclusion. I really like this article!

    Reply

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