The death of Christ was not the end, because he rose from the dead, and his resurrection is the foundation upon which the Christian faith is built. He is the only one who through his resurrection conquered death and defeated Satan. So there is no fear for the believer in Christ of death or Satan, because Jesus is alive.
The New Testament records that when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb in which Jesus was put, the angel of the Lord appear to them and said,
… “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has been raised, just as he said. Come and see the place where he was lying. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead. He is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there.’ Listen, I have told you!” (Matthew 28:5-7)
From the beginning of the Christian church, the resurrection was the primary testimony and the essence and depth of the preaching of the gospel. In the first sermon recorded in the book of Acts (the book that speaks about the origin of Christianity and its quick spreading), Peter addresses his words to the Jews and residents of Jerusalem, confirming that Christ was resurrected from the dead, (Acts 2:23, 24) and he finishes his sermon affirming that
“This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it.”(Acts 2:32)
Did Jesus rise from the dead? Is there a prominent and convincing reason that would make us believe in the resurrection of Christ? Yes, there are many pieces of evidence and proofs that confirm the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The physician and historian Luke, who followed the truth of what he recorded carefully, says:
“To the same apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period…” (Acts 1:3)
What are these proofs that confirmed to the apostles and disciples and proved to them that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead?
I will present to you, my dear reader, the evidence under five headings to simplify understanding them:
- The death of Christ on the cross
- The belief of the disciples of Jesus that he had risen from the dead because he appeared to them many times: a) The appearance of Jesus to many individuals and groups b) The bold preaching of the apostles and followers of Jesus of his resurrection c) The sudden, radical changed life of the apostles and disciples after Jesus appeared to them
- The complete, sudden change that happened to Paul, the former persecutor of the church and Christians, after Jesus appeared to him
- The complete, sudden change that happened to James, the doubter, after Jesus appeared to him.
- The historical fact of the empty tomb.
The only way all these facts can be explained is with the fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is the evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead as he promised, and as the prophets of the Old Testament prophesied hundreds of years before.
First, the death of Jesus on the cross
I have discussed this evidence in the first part of this article and have shown that the death of Christ on the cross is a historical event that had to happen according to the will and promise of God. I showed the evidence that prove that it happened. This event is evidence for the resurrection of Christ, because if the crucifixion of Christ did not happen, followed by his death, this means that there is no historical resurrection. But Jesus (and not another person who resembled him) was crucified and buried in a tomb that is known under strict Roman guard.
Second, the disciples of Jesus believed that Jesus rose from the dead, because he appeared to them many times
a) The appearance of Jesus to many individuals and groups
This truth appeared at a very early point in the history of the early church. The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received– that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.
These verses are clear and strong evidence for the resurrection of Christ from the dead. He appeared to individuals and groups at various times and various places: he appeared to Mary and Peter and the eleven apostles, to one hundred twenty people, to James, and then to five hundred people as we have read above. The testimony of these people was independent of each other, and they were eyewitnesses. In other words, they saw him personally and did not hear about his resurrection from other people. For this reason they would say, “We are witnesses of that.”
Then notice, dear reader, the expression, “Most of whom are still alive”. In other words, the apostle Paul who wrote these verses says, “You can go and ask those people to whom Jesus appeared.” That was because they were still alive and could confirm what Paul said.
Is it reasonable that all those people were hallucinating, as some have claimed? It is impossible that this is what happened, because some of them ate and drank with him. When Jesus appeared to the eleven apostles, he told them,
“Look at my hands and my feet; it’s me! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones like you see I have.” (Luke 24:39)
Then he showed them his hands and feet and took grilled fish and honey with them and ate in front of them. (Verses 40-43)
b) The bold preaching of the apostles and followers of Jesus that he had been resurrected
After Jesus appeared to the apostles and disciples, they began to preach his resurrection with boldness. They had not done so previously. Their preaching began in the city of Jerusalem where Jesus had been crucified. If Jesus had not been raised, the chief priests would have told his disciples, “He has not risen. Here is his body.” They were preaching the resurrection of Jesus in the face of threats of the chief priests and the head of the temple guards, to the extent that they were amazed at the boldness of Peter and John, when they told the chief priest and the elders that God had raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 4:10,13). Thus the followers of Jesus to whom he appeared after his resurrection preached about it without any personal benefit or gain. On the contrary, they received persecution and death as a result of their faith in the resurrection of Christ.
For example, Peter announced:
“but God raised him up on the third day and caused him to be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses God had already chosen, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:40-41)
Thus Peter and the other apostles spoke publicly, “Because we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
The apostle Paul spoke boldly about the resurrection of Christ in front of the chiefs of the Jewish synagogue and the Israelite men, and he described to them what had happened to Jesus, saying,
“When they had accomplished everything that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are now his witnesses to the people.” (Acts 13:29-31)
Notice, dear reader, that what happened to Jesus had been written about and the prophecy of the Old Testament was fulfilled, and that Jesus appeared to groups of his disciples for many days and not just once.
Thus, every time the chief priests threatened the apostles not to preach the resurrection of Christ, the apostles gave testimony to the Lord Jesus by his great power, and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:23)
c) The radical change in the lives of the apostles and disciples after Jesus appeared to them
The apostles and disciples of Jesus, when Jesus was arrested, died, and buried, were fearful, confused, and looking only inward, because they had seen the one on whom they had put their hopes buried. Mark 14:50 in the New Testament says, “They all left him and fled.” Even Peter denied that he knew Christ three times. Fear was controlling them to the extent that
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.” (John 20:19)
But after Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection, their lives were totally changed, and they became bold and initiators, filled with joy and hope as we read in the continuation of the verse above.
“Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)
They had become ready to die to affirm the accuracy of the resurrection of Jesus. They accepted being subjected to persecution, suffering, and death because of their faith and their preaching of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Peter who denied Christ stood in front of the leading Jews and preached the resurrection of Christ. He explained to his hearers how Jesus had appeared to him and to others. Paul, who had been one of the fiercest enemies and persecutors of Christians, preached boldly of the resurrection of Christ and entered the synagogue of the Jews, “explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead, saying,
“This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:3)
What was it that changed all these people’s lives? Was it a lie? Was it deception? Was it a fabricated story? Have you heard, dear reader, of any person who would be ready to die for a lie? No! Their lives had been changed because they had seen Christ alive, resurrected from the dead.
Third, the total and sudden change that happened to Paul, the former persecutor of the Christians, after Jesus appeared to him
Paul was Jew, a Pharisee, and very religious. He believed that the will of God was for him to persecute the Christians as he said in the New Testament:
“For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I was savagely persecuting the church of God and trying to destroy it.” (Galatians 1:13)
Paul continues telling what he did to the followers of Jesus:
“And that is what I did in Jerusalem: Not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons by the authority I received from the chief priests, but I also cast my vote against them when they were sentenced to death. 11 I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to force them to blaspheme. Because I was so furiously enraged at them, I went to persecute them even in foreign cities.” (Acts 26:10-11)
But Paul changed radically because Jesus appeared to him, as he affirmed. After Jesus’ appearance to him, Paul became the greatest preacher of the resurrection of Christ, and the rapid spread of Christianity in the first century owes a lot to him. We read in the New Testament:
“But I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They were only hearing, “The one who once persecuted us is now proclaiming the good news of the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Galatians 1:22-23)
What happened to cause this change? How did one who opposed Christ and persecuted Christians become one of them who preached the faith that he had tried to destroy? There is no other explanation for the change in the life of this person besides that he had seen Christ after his resurrection, when he appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Every gain he had had, as he said, became a loss: “I consider everything loss because of the grace of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
The faith of Paul was so strong and true that, like the apostles and first disciples, he was ready to face death in order to spread the gospel of Christ and preach his resurrection. He was beaten, whipped and stoned because of his faith in the resurrection, yet he continued preaching the resurrection of Christ.
Fourth: The total and complete change that happened to James the doubter after Jesus appeared to him
James was a godly, religious Jew, but he did not believe that Jesus was the expected Messiah (Christ). The New Testament says:
“For even his brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:5)
But a few weeks after the crucifixion of Christ, the brothers of Jesus all became believers in him. They were with the disciples when they were in the upper room, continuing to pray after Jesus had ascended to heaven. (Acts 1:14) After that we find James has become one of the leaders of the church.
What caused this change in the life of James? The only explanation is that Jesus appeared to him on the road after his resurrection from the dead and James believed in Jesus so firmly that he was ready to die for his faith in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Fifth, the fifth piece of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is the historical fact of the empty tomb
The empty tomb is a verified, certain fact for several reasons that I will give in brief. But I must affirm first that after Jesus was confirmed to be dead, a man called Joseph came to the governor Pontius Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Joseph took the body and wrapped it in grave clothes and put it in his own new tomb. Then he rolled a heavy stone over the door of the tomb.
To confirm that the tomb not be disturbed, the chief priests and the Pharisees went and set a guard in front of the door of the tomb and sealed the stone. (The penalty for breaking the seal was execution.) This confirmed the impossibility of stealing the body of Jesus, as some claim.
But at dawn on the first day of the week, the angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled the stone from the door (Matthew 28:2). Thus some women who were carrying spices to embalm the body were able to enter the tomb. But they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. After that, Peter entered
“Then Simon Peter, who had been following him, arrived and went right into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen cloth lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been around Jesus’ head, not lying with the strips of linen cloth but rolled up in a place by itself.” (John 20:6-7)
How can we be sure that the tomb was empty three days after Jesus’ crucifixion? There are at least three reasons:
- The apostles and disciples of Christ proclaimed his resurrection in Jerusalem. This was a big city. If the body of Jesus was still in the tomb, the Jewish authorities could have shown his body to the people and in that way, dealt a death-blow to Christianity in its infancy. But they were not able to do that because the tomb was empty.
- When the guards told the chief priests everything that had happened, the New Testament says, “After they had assembled with the elders and formed a plan, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came at night and stole his body while we were asleep.’ (Matthew 28:12-13) This is an indirect confession that the tomb was empty.
- The testimony of the women: If a writer from the first century wanted to invent a story to deceive people, he would not have written something that would diminish its credibility. Thus when we read the story of the empty tomb in the New Testament, we find that the women were the first and primary witnesses of his resurrection. This seems strange and noteworthy, because in the Jewish and Roman culture, women were considered to be lower and their testimony was doubted. For this reason, we read in the New Testament that when the women informed the apostles about the empty tomb, “But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them.” (Luke 24:11) If the story of the empty tomb was fabricated, it would not have mentioned women, but the names of the women to whom Jesus appeared are mentioned specifically, and they were well-known in Jerusalem.
Nothing explains the fact of the empty tomb except the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Thus, this historical fact is very strong evidence for his resurrection, as he said many times to his disciples.
These pieces of evidence, the five facts, show strongly the resurrection of Christ from the dead. These facts and events of can only be explained by the fact of the resurrection of Jesus.
Finally, to conclude this article, we have seen that the fact of the death of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead are the greatest fact in history and the most important message in all the world It confirms to us the sacrificial, unconditional love of God that Jesus Christ showed when he paid the penalty of our sins, which was death, and that by death on the cross instead of us, and by his resurrection from the dead to give us a guarantee that he is alive. This calls us to faith in him to receive all the blessings that he promised to give to those who believe in him.
What is the importance and necessity of the resurrection according to the New Testament? It proves and affirms to us:
- That what Christ said about himself is correct. He said that he was the way, the truth and the life, and that no one comes to God except through him. (John 14:6) He also said about himself that he is God incarnate and his resurrection from the dead proved that what he said was true., because we read in the New Testament: “who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:4)
- Jesus Christ conquered death and defeated Satan, as we read in the resurrection chapter: “”Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) The believer in Christ has assurance of eternal life and of victory over the temptations of Satan.
- Believers in Jesus will be resurrected just like Christ was resurrected as we read in the New Testament: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) and “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14)
- Jesus Christ is alive, and because he is alive, the New Testament says: “Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
If you believe, dear reader, in Jesus Christ, as he said about himself, that he was resurrected from the dead, in other words, that you put your trust in him, you will receive eternal life and forgiveness of your sins, since God accepts everyone who comes to him through Christ, whatever their religious or denominational or ethnic background is.