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The Resurrection of Christ

Introduction

The truth or falsehood of the Christian religion depends upon the resurrection, which is either the greatest miracle or the greatest delusion recorded by history. Even the Bible asserts that "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile."[1] Therefore throughout the centuries, the resurrection has been the storm centre of the attack upon the Christian faith.

The subject matter on the resurrection of Christ is usually divided into 1) the fact of the resurrection; 2) the resurrection body of Christ; 3) the meaning of the resurrection.

1. The fact of the resurrection

Whereas the nature of the resurrection body of Jesus may be a mystery and the meaning of the resurrection a theological matter, but the fact of the resurrection is a historical topic. Many people have set out to examine the facts in order to disprove the resurrection, but instead have become convinced of the truth of it. There is such overwhelming evidence for the bodily resurrection of Christ that it simply cannot be explained away or disproved. If it could, the Jews of the first century would have done it.

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Jesus had been crucified and buried, but on the third day His tomb was empty and His body could not be found. Many eyewitnesses recorded this historical event and we can verify its validity through circumstantial evidence.

The day after the crucifixion, the chief priests of the temple requested Pilate to have the tomb secured until the third day, because Jesus had claimed that He would rise from the dead. They also suspected that the disciples might steal the body and claim a resurrection. When they obtained permission to "make the tomb as secure as (they) knew how", they put Caesar's seal on the huge stone that had been rolled against the opening of the tomb. Such a seal could not be broken on pain of death. They also posted two guards of Roman soldiers, who knew that they would be executed if found asleep on duty.[2]

Early in the morning on Sunday, some women went to the tomb to embalm Jesus' body, but found the stone rolled away and an angel sitting on it. He told the women to look into the empty tomb and to go tell the disciples that Jesus had risen, just as He said He would. The two burly and hardened Roman soldiers were so afraid of the angel that they "became like dead men."[3] Later, when they reported to the chief priests, they were assured protection and given a large sum of money to spread the story that the disciples had stolen the body while the guards slept. Mary Magdalene who had stayed behind at the tomb, was the first person the risen Lord appeared to.[4]

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On the evening of that day Jesus appeared to His disciples, and a week later again for the sake of doubting Thomas.[5] He walked with two other disciples to Emmaus, explaining the Messianic prophecies in all the Scriptures.[6] Over the next 40 days He appeared to over 500 people who all could testify that He was indeed the risen Lord.[7] Luke reports that Jesus showed Himself alive to His disciples "by many infallible proofs."[8]Luke uses the word 'tekmerion', which means demonstrable proof. They thus came to their faith "through inescapable empirical evidence available to them, and available to us through their written testimony."[9]

Fifty days after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples as Jesus had promised.[10] They received power to speak in other tongues and to preach the good news with such conviction that 3000 people were saved that day.[11] From a band of miserable cowards hiding behind locked doors,[12] they were transformed into fearless preachers, testifying to the resurrection and performing many signs and wonders. Even when the chief priests threw them into jail and forbade them to speak in the name of Jesus, they boldly continued proclaiming the word of God.[13]

The first Christian church was thus established in Jerusalem and, in obedience to Jesus' commandment, the apostles preached the good news throughout Judea and Samaria and "to the ends of the earth".[14] After Paul's conversion, he went on missionary journeys through Asia and Macedonia (Greece) and as far as Rome, establishing churches all along the way.

2. The resurrection body of Christ

Paul tells us that it is "foolish" to speculate about such things, and the only information he gives us is that the body is "raised imperishable ... in power ... (and) a spiritual body."[15] From the gospel accounts we learn that Jesus had the same body with nail marks in His hands and feet, and a spear mark in His side.[16] He was made of flesh and blood and could eat,[16] but He also could miraculously appear despite locked doors. It was an ordinary human body but it also had different properties, adapted to the conditions of heavenly life. Because of our tendency to unbelief,[17] Jesus graciously condescended to our weakness by His many appearances.

In His state of exaltation, Jesus therefore still possesses the same body, but transformed into a spiritual body, so that He might be called "the first fruits of them that sleep,"[18] and "the firstborn of the dead."[19]

3. The meaning of the resurrection

The resurrection is the vindication of Christ's life, teaching and claims. As such it proves Him to be the Son of God, the Messiah, Lord and Saviour. His obedience unto death was vindicated in that He was proved to be victorious over every hostile power, including death itself.

As the resurrection is the completion of the atoning death of Christ, it gives us assurance of the forgiveness of sin. God has put His stamp of approval upon the work of the suffering Servant by raising Him from the dead, that we might be justified by faith in His blood.[20]

Not only does it certify the saving value of Christ's death, it also certifies the saving value of His life.[21] Our eternal High Priest has entered heaven to intercede for us and to perfect the work of redemption in us,[22] and by His Spirit He lives His life in us to the extent that we surrender our lives to Him.[23] As Christ is our example in everything, the pattern of death-resurrection-exaltation is to be our experience also. In Christ we become "dead to sin" and "alive to God."[24] In Christ we have been "raised up" and "seated in heavenly realms."[25] We must therefore live with "our old selves" crucified [26] and utterly denied,[27] and our hearts set on things above.[28] Christ's resurrection is the sign and pledge of the resurrection of all believers,29] so that our hope in Christ is not only for this life but also in the promise of eternal life.[30]

As surely as Jesus rose from the dead to be the judge of men, so surely shall men rise from the dead to be judged of Him. Each of us will have to give an account of himself to God [31] and appear before the judgement seat of Christ.[32] But for believers, His return is also a blessed hope of reward [33] and of being with Him eternally.[34]

References:

1. 1 Corinthians 15:17
2. Matthew 27:62-66
3. Matthew 28:4
4. John 20:10f
5. John 20:19-28
6. Luke 24:27
7. 1 Corinthians 15:6ff
8. Acts 1:3
9. McDowall, p.194
10. Acts 1:5-6
11. Acts 2:41
12. John 20:19
13. Acts 4:1f
14. Acts 1:7-8
15. 1 Corinthians 15:16, 42-44
16. John 20:27
17. Mark 16:11,13-14; Luke 24:11,38
18. 1 Corinthians 15:20
19. Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5
20. Romans 3:25
21. Romans 5:10
22. Acts 7:25
23. Colossians 1:27-28; John 15:1-17
24. Romans 6:11
25. Ephesians 2:6
26. Romans 6:6
27. Matthew 16:24
28. Colossians 3:1-2
29. 1 Corinthians 15:19-22
30. 1 John 2:25
31. Romans 14:12
32. 2 Corinthians 5:10
33. eg. 1 Peter 5:4
34. John 14:3

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Berkhof, L. A Summary of Christian Doctrine, London, England: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1938.

2. Douglas, J.D. (ed.) New Bible Dictionary, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1962.

3. Hammond, T.C. In Understanding be Men, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968.

4. McDowell, J. Evidence that demands a Verdict, U.S.A.: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972.

5. Pearlman, M. Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible Part 2, Roodepoort, R.S.A.: Gospel Publishing House, 1937.

6. Thompson, F.C. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (N.I.V.), Michigan, U.S.A.: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1983.

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Posted in: Bible by on July 16, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

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