Heppner: Resurrection reasoning
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is one of Christianity’s central and distinguishing events: it shows that Christ’s sacrifice for our sin was accepted by His Father, it reveals Christ’s victory over our greatest enemy, and it verifies God’s promises concerning our own future resurrection for eternity.
The resurrection is also a large part of the substance of our faith for salvation: 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 teaches that in order to accept God’s gift of salvation, we must put our faith in His ‘gospel’ – His plan for forgiveness. The ‘gospel’ means that as we turn to God and away from our sin, we put our trust in this: that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead. This is what we affirm to God that we know to be true – the basis of our faith in coming to Him for forgiveness.
The existence of Jesus and His crucifixion is a historical fact and does not require faith; even the fact of the empty tomb is easy to deduce from both Jesus’ followers and His enemies. Jesus’ enemies had to invent excuses why the tomb was empty; if Jesus’ tomb would not have been empty, His body could have simply been produced; as Josh McDowell writes in his book The Resurrection Factor, “The resurrection could not have been maintained for a moment in Jerusalem if the tomb had not been empty.”
The claim of resurrection from death to life, however, does require faith. This is a transcendent event that demands a decision from us in responding to God, and He has made faith logical for us by giving credible evidence that the claim of Christ’s resurrection was not a random event or out of the blue, but it was in fulfillment of God’s plans and prophecies since the beginning of human history.
- Jesus repeatedly predicted He would be raised from the dead. This is why the Roman guards were stationed at His tomb – because even His enemies understood His claims that after three days He would be raised: “The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ (Matthew 27:62,63).
- The resurrection of Lazarus had set the stage for this demonstration. Just days earlier, Jesus had raised Lazarus from his grave in the nearby town of Bethany, and word had spread throughout the country: John 11:45 states that because of this miracle, many of the Jews who saw this believed in Jesus. The New Testament was written during the same generation as the people who lived them. If these things were untrue, it would never have gained traction and would have immediately been dismissed. The early church was started in the very city that Jesus was crucified in – Jerusalem – seven weeks after Jesus was raised. Five thousand people believed in Jesus Christ – people who saw Lazarus, who saw the events at the cross, and who affirmed the credibility of the resurrection. On the other hand, the spread of Christianity would be arduous if the people who were present could disprove the disciples’ accounts.
- The disciples were willing to give their lives for what they believed. Logic would inform us that at least some of the disciples would recant in the face of death or torture if their claims were a fraud or hoax – all of the disciples endured imprisonment or torture or death because of their preaching of the gospel. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is surround by other transcendent events – the prophecies fulfilled at the cross, the cosmic disturbances when Jesus died, the veil of the temple being torn in two – but these are some evidences to show that faith and logic do not have to be in conflict. It seems evident that the tomb was empty – how do we arrive at the empty tomb? How did it get that way? God has revealed His whole plan in His Word and has verified it with these events. Now it is our turn to witness to what we believe to be true – that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Savior for our sin, paying our penalty of death on our behalf. All who believe in Him can ask God for forgiveness and a place in heaven after their own resurrection.