Earlier this week the Life group which my wife and I attend studied “3. The Resurrection of Christ” of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador (PAONL):
Christ did truly rise from the dead and take again His body, with flesh, bones and all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith He ascended into Heaven, and there sits until His second coming.
I told the group that, noticing that unlike most of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the PAONL this Truth is not in the Statement of Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God, I’d asked Pastor Roy King (in person) and Pastor Burton Janes (by e-mail) how it came to be in our Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths. They said that when Bethesda Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland Inc. (now the PAONL) adopted the Statement of Fundamental Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) in 1929, “3. The Resurrection of Christ” was part of it. I asked the group what was so important about the resurrection of Christ that the PAOC (followed by the PAONL) would make it a separate truth in its Statement of Fundamental Truths. We had a good discussion of the question in which some of the points were made that I’d been planning to make in my presentation.
After the discussion of the question I made my presentation, commenting on the importance, proofs, nature, and significance of the resurrection of Christ.
The Importance of the Resurrection of Christ
The importance of the resurrection of Christ is indicated by the number of predictions that Jesus made of it in the Gospels and by the prominent place given to it in the messages recorded in the book of Acts. It stands out from other resurrections in that it was a permanent rather than a temporary restoration to life, Jesus’ rising from the dead not to just this life and destined to die again but forever to the right hand of God. In 1 Corinthians 15:14 Paul even claims, “[I]f Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV).
Proofs of the Resurrection of Christ
The Empty Tomb
The four Gospels agree that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb after his crucifixion and that three days later the tomb was empty. The Gospel of John even records Peter and John’s seeing the linen cloths which had been around Jesus’ body and the face cloth which had been on his head lying folded up separately (20:6-7).
The Post-resurrection Appearances of Jesus
This is a possible arrangement of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, Acts, and 1 Corinthians excluding his appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus.
- To Mary Magdalene outside the tomb (or 2; Mark 16:9; John 20:14-17)
- To some female disciples on the way from the tomb (or 1; Matthew 28:9-10)
- To two disciples on the road to Emmaus (or 4; Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-32)
- To Peter (or 3; Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
- To the Eleven without Thomas in the upper room (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23)
- To them with Thomas in the upper room (Mark 16:14; John 20:24-29; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
- To seven disciples fishing (John 21:1-23)
- To the Eleven on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18)
- To more than five hundred brothers (1 Corinthians 15:6)
- To James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
- To the apostles at his ascension (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:3-9; 1 Corinthians 15:7)
The Christian Church
When the women told the disciples that they had met Jesus alive, “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11). Yet shortly afterwards they risked imprisonment and even death for preaching Jesus and the resurrection. Only seeing the risen Christ could have brought about this transformation. And only the ongoing influence of the risen Christ can account for the Church’s continued existence.
The Absence of Satisfactory Alternatives
Many attempts have been made to explain away the empty tomb and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, including:
- Jesus fainted on the cross, was buried, and in the coolness of the tomb revived.
- The disciples stole Jesus’ body from the tomb and then declared that he had risen.
- The disciples just saw Jesus in hallucinations or subjective visions.
- The resurrection story was derived from pagan myths of gods dying and rising again.
However, there are problems with each of these explanations. (The group suggested problems with the explanations.)
The Nature of Jesus’ Resurrection Body
When Jesus first appeared to the Eleven, they thought that he was a spirit. He demonstrated that he had a physical rather than a spiritual body by inviting them to look at and touch him and by asking for and eating food (Luke 24:36-43). When they told the missing Thomas that they’d seen Jesus, he said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” In Jesus’ next appearance to the Eleven (John 20:26-29), he told Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and put out your hand, and place it in my side,” indicating that he had the same body as he’d had before his resurrection. Bible scholars disagree on whether Jesus’ being able to appear and disappear suddenly (Luke 24:31,36) and to enter a room although the door was shut (John 20:19,26) mean that his body was spiritual as well as physical.
Significance of the Resurrection
- It affirmed that Christ Jesus is who he claimed to be–the Son of God. “[he] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4).
- It ensures our salvation. “[he] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
- It made Christ Jesus our intercessor. “Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).
- It assures us of power for life and service. ”that I may know him and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10).
- It assures us of our future resurrection and immortality. ”knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:14; here “us” refers to Paul).
- It guarantees that there will be a day of judgment. “because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
- It calls for us to obey God in this life. “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; here “therefore” means “because of the resurrection”).
- It calls for us to stop yielding to sin in this life. “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:9-13).