Easter: The Evidence for the Historical Resurrection of Jesus Christ

1Corinthians 15:57 “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Two weeks ago, another Easter came and went. Most Christians have gone on with their lives, managing through the COVID-19 lockdown and hoping to return to their jobs. But 1,990 years ago, at this same time, a movement called Christianity erupted onto the scene in Jerusalem and then overtook the Roman Empire.

Alfred Edersheim, in his book ‘The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah’, explains what happened: “On the 19th of December a.d.69, the Roman Capitol was set on fire. Eight months later, the Temple of Jerusalem was given to the flames. Upon the ruins of heathenism and of apostate Judaism was the Church of Christ to be reared.” The world was confronted with the physical appearance of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Dr. Rob Bowman, Executive Director of the Institute for Religious Research and Founder of “Faith Thinkers” ministries, used the letters for EASTER to put together an excellent tool to help Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ as not only the most significant event in Christianity but also the most logical conclusion to reach after examining the evidence. Here are selected quotes from Dr. Bowman on his 6 lines of evidence, all grounded in the 15th chapter of the Paul’s first epistle to the church in Corinth.

“#1) Empty Tomb (1Corinthians 15:4). Jesus was buried in a rock tomb and then a couple of days later that tomb was found empty. The Gospels all report that women, including Mary Magdalene, were the first to discover the empty tomb – not something men were likely to make up. The author of the Gospel of John claims that he personally went to the tomb and saw that the body was gone and that the grave clothes had been left behind (John 20:2-9). Jewish critics of Christianity implicitly have conceded the empty tomb a fact.

#2) Appearances (1Corinthians 15:5-7). Jesus appeared to numerous individuals after the tomb was discovered empty. He appeared to women. He appeared to individuals and to groups. We have very strong evidence that multiple people on multiple occasions did see Jesus alive after the tomb was empty. The Resurrection is the only credible position that accounts for both the empty tomb and the appearances.

#3) Saul’s Conversion (1Corinthians 15:8). Saul of Tarsus was an educated Jew trained as a Pharisee around the time Jesus was teaching His disciples. Within a couple of years after Jesus’s death, he began actively persecuting Christians in the zealous belief that he was defending the truth of the Jewish faith. We have his firsthand testimony that Jesus appeared to him, turning him from a persecutor of Christians to a Christian apostle. It is extremely difficult to explain Paul’s conversion from persecutor (Saul) to apostle (Paul) as anything but the result of his sincere, certain belief that Jesus Christ had appeared to him.

#4) Transformed lives (1Corinthians 15:9-19). Those who saw the risen Jesus changed for the better as a result. The disciples, whom the Gospels admit had been cowardly, became courageous, fearless witnesses for Christ. The early Christians experienced harsh persecution – beatings, imprisonment, and death – for nothing other than proclaiming that Jesus had been vindicated as the Jewish Messiah and Lord by His resurrection from the dead. Faith in Christ continues to transform people’s lives for the past 2,000 years, inspiring sacrificial love, humanitarian aid, reconciliation of enemies, and more.

#5) Early confession (1Corinthians 15:3-5). Our earliest Christian writings, the early epistles of Paul, date from less than 20 years after Jesus’s death. They attest to the fact that belief in Jesus’s resurrection was the hallmark of the Christian movement from its very beginning. Scholars have identified verses 3-5 in 1Corinthians 15 as early Christian confession or creed that Paul had ‘delivered’ to the Corinthians. Paul says that he ‘received’ this creedal statement. From Galatians 1:18-19, we know that Paul would have received this tradition within 4 years after Jesus’s death. That means that the confession dates from within just a few years of Jesus’s death and resurrection. The Resurrection is not a later legend.

#6) Religious devotion to Jesus (1Corinthians 15:57-58). The earliest followers of Jesus were all Jews. In their worldview, only the God of Israel was the proper recipient of spiritual worship, prayer, and devotion. Yet those earliest Christians worshiped Jesus as Lord. According to the New Testament, it was Jesus’s resurrection that convinced them (Matthew 28:16-20; John 20:28; Acts 2:32-36).”

Our prayer at FSE University ministries is that Christians will speak boldly, as our verse this week encourages us, of the victory we have through the achievement of Jesus Christ’s historical resurrection.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance – Article #395

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