“The resurrection is the keystone of the arch on which our faith is supported,” said D.L. Moody. “If Christ has not risen, we must impeach all those witnesses for lying. If Christ has not risen, we have no proof that the crucifixion of Jesus differed from that of the two thieves who suffered with him. If Christ has not risen, it is impossible to believe his atoning death was accepted.”
Due to the coronavirus, there has been no shortage of talk about Easter being “canceled” this year. What foolishness! Easter can’t be canceled. The way we celebrate may be different, but the grave couldn’t hold our Lord, and neither can a pandemic.
As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, consider these three thoughts.
The Resurrection is Prophetic
Most believers are familiar with the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. Many scholars point out that there are over 300 messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, and some believe there are many more than that. Regardless, the fact that Jesus’ first coming was foretold numerous times thousands of years beforehand is irrefutable.
When it comes to the resurrection being pointed to in the Old Testament however, the references are a bit more vague. In fact, some scholars argue that many of the passages in the Old Testament that point to the resurrection couldn’t be interpreted that way until after Jesus had actually risen from the dead, at which point the predictions became remarkably clear. I believe the Old Testament clearly pointed to the resurrection. Paul said in 1Corinthians 15:4 that Jesus “… was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
You might remember that Jesus rebuked two of His disciples as they walked along the road to Emmaus for not understanding that everything unfolding before them was according to prophecy. Jesus said to them in Luke 24:25-27,
…O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
You are likely familiar with at least a few of the Old Testament passages and typological references to the resurrection. For example, Psalms 16, 22, and 40:1-3. Some of the more notable “types” in the Old Testament that point to the resurrection are the story of Abraham and Isaac, and of course Jonah.
The New Testament writer of Hebrews referred to Abraham and Isaac in Hebrews 11:17, writing,
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac … his only begotten [son] …
because he believed, according to verse 19,
that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead…”
Jesus Himself pointed to the account of Jonah when He said in Matthew 12:40,
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Who can deny the typology found in such verses?
I’d like to share a “type” with you that you may not be aware of – one that has recently blessed my heart.
Few, if any, believers are unfamiliar with the story of Noah and the ark, and most are aware of the parallel of the ark of safety and Jesus. But did you know that the ark also points to the resurrection.
Genesis 8:4 tells us, “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.” Do you know when the “seventh month” and the “seventeenth day” is? The new calendar year for the Jews starts in October, which puts the “seventh month” in April. Now, when is Passover? Scripture tells us that Passover celebration begins on the evening of the 14th (See Exodus 12:6, Numbers 9:1-5, Leviticus 23:4-8, Joshua 5:10). When did the ark rest? The “seventeenth day.” Three days after the future Passover. When did Jesus rise from the grave? The same day – three days after Passover.
Can you see the typology and even prophecy? Do you think it’s mere coincidence that God caused the ark to rest from the flood waters of His judgment on the same day that Jesus would rise victorious over death, hell, and the grave? I think not. Isn’t it amazing that God, even during the first world-wide judgment, points us to the Savior of the World!
The Resurrection is Probable
Don’t accuse me of blasphemy here, but the resurrection is not 100% provable, though it is very probable. I could make the same statement for many historical figures – those whom historians would say were undeniable in their existence. For example, I could claim that the life of Alexander the Great cannot be proven with 100% certainty. I didn’t witness him or his kingdom in the 330’s – 320’s BC. Even today the location of his tomb and body are uncertain, so I have no “proof” that he ever lived. However, if I denied his existence, I’d be the laughing stock of modern-day historians, and rightly so, because though I’ve never seen Alexander the Great, there is overwhelming and undeniable evidence that supports his existence. It’s simply left up to the individual to decide whether or not they believe the evidence.
The same is true with Jesus. We were not there to witness His life, death, and resurrection. However, there is overwhelming and undeniable evidence to support the fact that those things are true.
I’ve had the privilege to have a couple of conversations with Dr. Gary Habermas, one of the world’s foremost scholars of the resurrection. When speaking or debating, Dr. Habermas presents what he calls the “minimal facts” in favor of the resurrection of Jesus. In other words, he presents evidence that is recognized as historical in nature, not only by Christian scholars, but also by liberals, skeptics, agnostics, or even atheists, as long as they are truly specialized in a relevant field of study, such as New Testament. Surprisingly, the list of facts generally admitted is bigger than you may think. Dr. Habermas explains that is because these facts, from a historical standpoint, are virtually undeniable.
Here are the six “minimal facts” that Dr. Habermas most often uses:
- Jesus died by crucifixion.
- Soon after the crucifixion, the followers of Christ had experiences that they thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus.
- As a result of their experiences their lives were transformed, to the point of being willing to die specifically for their faith in the resurrection message.
- Very little time passed between the crucifixion and the teaching of the resurrection.
- Jesus’ unbelieving brother, James, became a Christian due to his own experience with whom he thought was the resurrected Christ
- The Christian persecutor Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) became a believer after an experience with whom he believed was the resurrected Christ.
Keep in mind, these six facts are generally agreed to be historically accurate by scholars and professionals, even those who don’t believe the Bible to be inspired or inerrant, or believe Jesus to be the Son of God.
For example, Dr. Bart Ehrman, a prominent New Testament scholar and self-described agnostic/atheist, who is somewhat of a superstar in the world of skeptics, is an ardent defender of the historicity of Jesus. Though he rejects the deity and resurrection of Jesus, Ehrman uses both the Bible and historical records of the ancient world to provide evidence that Jesus of Nazareth truly lived.
Renowned Christian philosopher and apologist Dr. William Lane Craig, in a debate with Dr. Bart Ehrman about the resurrection said, “… [T]he debate really isn’t over these facts. The question is the best explanation of the facts.” In other words, both Dr. Craig, a Christian, and Dr. Ehrman, an unbeliever, agree on the historical facts, they just explain what those facts mean in entirely different ways.
All of us as individuals must reckon with these facts at some point. Jesus lived. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Jesus died. The tomb is empty. Do we believe the resurrection or not?
Is the resurrection 100% provable? Not really. Is it probable? Highly! I believe it to be so with all my being.
The Resurrection is Powerful
Why is the resurrection so important? Let me answer by quoting my favorite preacher. “The Resurrection is not merely important to the historic Christian faith; without it, there would be no Christianity,” said the late Dr. Adrian Rogers. “It is the singular doctrine that elevates Christianity above all other world religions.”
Paul declared in 1Corinthians 15:14,
And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith [is] also vain.
He stated further that without the resurrection our faith is worthless, we are liars, death is victorious, and we are miserable people.
But the resurrection changes everything. Simply put, if Jesus rose from the grave, we can believe all the claims Jesus made about Himself, and all the promises He has made to us. His resurrection proves that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, and we can be forgiven of our sins, and granted eternal life. It reassures us of the promise of our future resurrection as well.
The story is told of little boy who climbed up into his mother’s lap for fear of a bee nearby. To protect her son the mother swatted the bee and in the process was stung. The bee continued to swarm and the boy remained afraid until the mother drew her son’s attention to her hand. Pointing to the bee’s stinger in her hand she said, “Son, you don’t have to fear that bee anymore. He may buzz around you, but I’ve got his stinger and there is no way for him to sting you.”
Paul said in 1Corinthians 15:54-57,
… Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory? The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law. But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Smile believer. With His resurrection, Jesus took the sting of death for us. It may buzz about, but it can’t harm those secure in Him.
He is not here: for he is risen… (Matthew 28:6).