Three Real Facts for Jesus’ Resurrection
What makes Christianity different from other religions? It is three main truths that show that Jesus rose from the dead. His resurrection was foretold in the Old Testament, prophesied by Jesus himself, and those who claimed to be eyewitnesses were willing to die for believing in a resurrected Christ. These are three truths which can be shared to explain placing faith in Jesus Christ.
Fact #1: Old Testament Prophecy Predicted Jesus’ Resurrection
Jesus is unique among all people in history in that he is the fulfillment of centuries of Messianic prophecies which are found in the Old Testament of the Bible. These prophecies foretold his place of birth, details of his life, his mission, his nature, his death, and his resurrection. Some scholars estimate that there are more than 300 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to the Messiah (Jesus). One is Psalm 16:10-11:
"You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy. In Your right hand are pleasures forever."
Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost says that this psalm is a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection (see Acts 2:25-28 and 31) − Jesus’ body would not undergo decay. The Apostle Paul, speaking at a synagogue service, also connects Psalm 16 with Jesus’ resurrection:
"Therefore David also says in another psalm:
'You will not let your Holy One see corruption.' For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption" (Acts 13:35-37).
Fact #2: Jesus Prophesied His Own Resurrection
Jesus spoke openly about what would happen to him when he came to Jerusalem:
"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mark 8:31; see also Matt. 17:22; Luke 9:22; and John 2:18-21).
Those who consider the resurrection of Christ unbelievable may conjecture that the early church put these statements in Jesus’ mouth well after his death. But anyone giving an honest reading of the Gospels can come to their own conclusion that Jesus himself often spoke of his resurrection.
Fact #3: The Change in and Commitment of the Eyewitnesses
Up to this point we have seen that the Old Testament predicts the resurrection of the Messiah. Second we see that Jesus makes more than one statement about his own death and resurrection. This now brings us to a quick look at three key facts that cannot be denied. In fact most scholars find these facts hard to refute.
First, it is a historical fact that Jesus was crucified by the Roman government (as seen in Matthew 27:31-56; Mark 15:20-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-30). Secular writers including Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Mara-Bar Serapion, and the Talmud all record his crucifixion as a historical fact.
Second, the disciples went from scared believers to bold eyewitnesses of a resurrected Messiah (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16; Luke 24:1-43; John 2:22; chapter 20; 21:1-23). They also proved their conviction in Christ’s resurrection by being willing to pay with their lives for saying that “Jesus is Lord.” For example, Luke records the martyrdom of James, the Son of Zebedee (Acts 12:1-12), one of the apostles of Jesus. Jewish secular historian, Flavius Josephus confirms the execution of James in his Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20 chapter 9. The eyewitnesses were willing to die for their claim of that Jesus was still alive.
Third, there was a first century religious “terrorist,” known as Saul of Tarsus who persecuted the Christian church. But Paul claims to have encountered the risen Jesus on his way to imprison Christians (Acts 8:1; 9:1-22; 17, 19, 20; 22:6-21; Phil. 2:2-11). Paul was a fanatical Pharisee and a student of the great Jewish rabbi Gamaliel. All these led him against a belief in Jesus’ resurrection. But his conversion, subsequent mission work, and suffering for his faith are a testimony to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and of his appearance to Paul (Acts 9:15-16).
The message about Jesus Christ can be summed up this way. Paul said:
"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..." (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
The resurrection cannot be taken out of the Christian message. IF Jesus is not risen from the dead, Paul himself says that his message is worthless (1 Cor 15:12-19). But if Jesus is risen, then we have victory over our sins and hope beyond the grave.
Reprinted with permission. See more of Rob's apologetics posts at The Real Issue Apologetics Ministry.
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