If Jesus was not raised from the dead, Christianity isn’t true, no one makes it to heaven, and this life is all there is. It’s every man for himself. Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 1 Corinthians 15:14-17
Fortunately for us, there’s good news today: it’s all true! Christianity had extremely humble beginnings along with massive opposition.
The first believers and disciples had very little money, there were no proven leaders, and no technological tools for promoting their message – the gospel. The faith was brand new. It taught bold truths that were incredible, and it was subject to the most intense hatred and persecution.
So why have so many followers of Christ and martyrs through the centuries die for their faith instead of deny Jesus? They were convinced the resurrection was true.
Anyone living at that time could have publicly examined the empty tomb for themselves, and many probably did. Both believers, seekers, and nonbelievers traveled for miles if necessary to the tomb of Jesus to look for His body. What happened?
Enemies of God simply had to produce the corpse of Jesus to stop the story from spreading. That would have done away with Christianity, but they could not do it. Why? Because the resurrection is true.
For those who want more proof Jesus existed or that events in the Bible happened, let’s look at some extra-biblical sources.
- According to Thallus, one of several non-biblical, pagan historians writing about that time, there was a darkness during the day followed by an earthquake that occurred at the point of Jesus’ crucifixion.
- Roman historian, Suetonius wrote about the new levels of punishment Nero inflicted on Christians, and described the fact Jesus had an immediate impact on His followers, empowering them to die courageously for what they knew to be true.
- Jewish historian, Josephus lived in the first century and writes about Jesus in more detail than any other non-biblical source.
- The second-century Roman historian Tacitus confirms that Christianity was founded by a man named Christus, whom he said was “put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius.”
Jesus was on trial before the high priest Caiaphas, and then was taken to Pilate. The tomb of the Caiaphas family was discovered in 1990 in Jerusalem. Inside were the very bones of the infamous high priest mentioned in the Gospels!
As for Pontius Pilate, a first-century inscription discovered at Caesarea in 1961, confirming that he was indeed procurator of Judea from 26-36 A.D.
Too many believers were alive at the time. Hundreds if not thousands of eyewitnesses saw miracles Jesus did and most importantly, saw the risen Christ after the resurrection!
Let’s look at the good news in 1 Corinthians, a letter that was written sometime around 50 A.D. which is less than twenty years after Jesus’ resurrection.
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered 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… 5 He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; (1 Corinthians 15:1-7)
Wait just a minute! The Bible reveals that James didn’t believe in Jesus just weeks prior to His arrest and crucifixion.
Out of all the people who saw the living, resurrected Messiah, Jesus made a point to appear to his half-brother, James. And Paul made a point to mention James by name.
Jewish historian, Josephus also testifies that James, the brother of Jesus, and leader of the Jerusalem council, was executed. What then could explain such a sudden, radical conversion and transformation in James?
A known skeptic, this Jewish man somehow became willing to die for his faith. How do you explain this turnaround and historical fact? The resurrection is true, and Jesus showed Himself to James (1 Cor. 15:7).
Furthermore, to give you an idea why the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Romans could not refute the facts, too many eyewitnesses were involved in the story:
- At the cross – (Jesus’ mother, His aunt, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene, and the Apostle John)
- At the tomb of Jesus – (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus) before the soldiers closed and sealed it up; Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of JOSES saw where He was laid. Mark 15:47
- Resurrection Sunday – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of JAMES, and Salome brought spices to anoint Him for burial. Mark 16:1
- Upper Room, at least twice (Thomas touched Jesus’ side)
- On the road to Emmaus (two disciples, Cleopas mentioned by name)
- While they were eating with Him
- While six of the disciples were fishing including Didymus and Nathaniel
- A large group at Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:9-11).
Luke 24 mentions Mary, Joanna, and the OTHER women and the fact they returned from the tomb to tell the Apostles they saw Jesus alive! What a blessing to have Luke’s detailed, inspiring, meticulous, journalistic account of Jesus.
The Book of Luke often points to the Old Testament. He proclaims the things foretold by the prophets God has fulfilled – including the suffering of Christ, the Messiah (Acts 3:18).
Why believe? Here’s the beginning of Luke’s second detailed account, the Book of Acts:
The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:1-3)
Powerful words: many infallible proofs.
The risen Jesus stayed on earth for over a month to visit believers, establish in their hearts the truth of the resurrection, and to teach them about what Moses and the prophets had written about Him.
As signs of the times and Bible prophecy indicate, His promised return is getting closer and closer. The Book of Acts provides a pretty big clue about that Day.
Luke continues in the first chapter of Acts about Jesus,
He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
Did you catch that. Jesus ascended to glory from the Mount of Olives just east of Jerusalem, and God’s messenger said He will return in the same way. Wow.
Moreover, Old Testament prophet, Zechariah provides a few more clues about the return of Messiah, stating:
And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,
Which faces Jerusalem on the east… ( Zec. 14:4a)
At the return of Jesus Christ, He will enter the city through the now cemented and sealed Eastern Gate, also known as the Golden Gate. (Ezekiel 44:1-3; Nehemiah 3:29).
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes:
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52)
This is the truth. We can have very real hope! in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and promise of His return!
The best-selling book of all time, the Bible, is a masterpiece combining thousands of years of historical events, written by over 40 different authors on three different continents, including prophecies in perfect and specific detail.
Who could have successfully carried out such an elaborate plan? Through the centuries, Scripture has been confirmed again and again by archaeology, strengthened by eyewitness testimony, manuscript evidence, reinforced by hundreds of fulfilled prophecies, and has radically changed millions of hearts and lives.
Before His death on the cross, Jesus told His followers exactly what He came to accomplish and how it had to happen. After His resurrection, Jesus said:
“…These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:44-48
The resurrection guarantees that as believers, we will live forever, appear before Christ, be like Him, and be filled with joy in His presence forever. There is no other name under heaven by which mankind can be saved (Acts 4:12).
True believers in Christ will always be with the Lord! So share the gospel, be confident in its truth, look forward to the rapture, and encourage others with these words.