“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” –1 Cor. 15:14, 17
The resurrection is absolutely foundational to faith. As Paul said, without the resurrection, faith is pointless and no sins were washed away; without the resurrection, we have no hope. Without considering the available evidence, it might seem crazy, even illogical or superstitious to believe that someone rose from the dead 2,000 years ago. Historical and logical evidence teaches otherwise.
1. I believe in the resurrection because historical evidence supports it.
- Jesus died and was buried.
It is not a widely disputed fact that Jesus died. Scripture records how Christ was crucified (Mat. 27:35), died (Mat. 27:50), and was buried (Mat. 27:59-60), and the writings of Josephus, the Babylonian Talmud, Mara bar Serapion, and Tacitus all record Jesus’ death.
- The tomb was empty.
The empty tomb and the resurrection were recorded in all four Gospel accounts (e.g. Mat. 28:6). Even if they are considered uninspired, four separate historical accounts of an event is substantial evidence that it occurred. The Jews indirectly admitted that the tomb was empty when they bribed soldiers to spread rumors about the disciples stealing Jesus’ body (Mat. 28:11-13). In addition, no early critics of Christianity ever cite the existence of the body as proof against the resurrection. If Jesus’ body had still been in the tomb, wouldn’t Jewish and Roman authorities have presented the body to the public, halting the spread of Christianity? No explanation can viably account for empty tomb—except the resurrection.
2. I believe in the resurrection because “naturalistic” explanations are not viable.
- The Disciples Stole the Body
Could Jesus’ disciples have stolen the body, as was rumored (Mat. 28:13)? After all, if Jesus was exposed as a false teacher, His disciples would have had to sheepishly return to Judaism. Here is the glitch in the theory: if the disciples knowingly lied about Christ’s resurrection, why did so many of them suffer and die on behalf of the Gospel? Surely they would have given up their intentionally-fabricated lie rather than suffer such painful deaths. Additionally, if the apostles lied about the body, how would Paul have been converted to Christianity? As a hater of Christians, he would have been more than skeptical about the resurrection of Christ.
- Someone Else Stole the Body
This theory is not historically or logically probable. From the New Testament accounts of the resurrected Jesus, we understand that the disciples’ faith came not from the fact that the tomb was empty, but from sightings of Jesus after His resurrection. Furthermore, besides the disciples, who else would have stolen the body? The Jews? The Romans? All non-disciples wanted to discredit Christ’s claims. Why would they help jumpstart Christianity by perpetuating a resurrection hoax?
- The Wrong Tomb Theory
Some believe that the apostles simply went to the wrong tomb and, finding it empty, wrongly assumed that Jesus rose from the dead. However, not only is the theory unreasonable (do we really believe every disciple got lost and that the Romans did not point out the correct tomb and body?), but at best, this theory only explains the empty tomb. With the exception of John (Jn. 20:8), the disciples weren’t convinced of Christ’s resurrection by the empty tomb; they were convinced by His appearances after His resurrection (Jn. 20:19-20). There are no sources to support the wrong tomb theory, and this attempted explanation of the empty tomb does nothing to explain Jesus’ appearances.
- The Apparent Death or “Swoon” Theory
Some skeptics of the resurrection claim that Jesus did not actually die and rise again, but that Christ only seemed to be dead. His post-burial appearances were, then, not as a resurrected Savior because He didn’t die to begin with. However, this theory is incredibly inconsistent with historical facts. By the time the crucifixion was over, Jesus had suffered a severe scourging, nail holes in His wrists and feet, been somewhat deprived of oxygen, and had a spear wound in His side. If He had somehow survived, could He truly have independently removed the graveclothes, rolled back the stone, beaten the Roman guard with his bare, pierced hands, walked to meet His disciples, and convinced them that He was the Prince of Life? Clearly, a crucified Jesus could not have been alive, much less had the strength to appear to His disciples.
The resurrection means that Jesus was more than an influential teacher, more than a wise philosopher. It is the ultimate proof of Jesus’ Sonship, the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (Psa. 16:10, Acts 2:22-31), and the reason for our faith and hope. It transformed the apostles from uncertain followers to brave leaders for Christ’s cause, and it continues to transform lives today.