Dr. Dan Hayden
Jesus Christ never rose from the dead? Would that make any difference
in your faith? Could you still go on being a Christian?
tells the story of a book written in the later part of the 19th
Century entitled When It Was Dark where the author imagined
that a group of atheistic archaeologists had found the body of Jesus
in a Syrian grave. Then the author imagined what would happen if
such a discovery were accepted as true. He suggested that Christians
would lose their faith, Christian churches would close their doors,
and Christian missionaries would be summoned home from the mission
field. He predicted that within half a century, the western world
would be plunged into chaos, defeat, and despair.
goes on to admit that the book was not necessarily a good novel.
He does point out, however, that the author did understand the heartbeat
of the Christian faith. For if the body of Christ were found rotted
in a Palestinian tomb, Christianity would certainly crumble. All
of the blessings and promises and validity of our Christian faith
rests on the firm foundation of an empty grave. That fact is well
understood by all who study it.
agnostic once said "let's not discuss the other miracles; let's
discuss the resurrection. Because if the resurrection is true, then
the other miracles are easily explained; and if the resurrection
is not true, the other miracles do not matter."
we only discuss the resurrection at Easter -- and then we get it
all mixed up with rabbits and chickens and colored eggs. Yet the
resurrection is the foundation of our faith. Without it we are doomed
-- Christ's death on the cross was nothing more than an awful tragedy.
But with it we are saved -- Christ's death was indeed an awesome
triumph. Perhaps we ought to discuss it more than once a year.
Paul put the importance of the resurrection into perspective when
he said, "and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is
worthless; you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). That
is a stirring statement. When it comes to eternal life and forgiveness
of sins, everything is nothing if Christ did not rise from the dead.
Conversely, if the resurrection is true, then salvation in Christ
is a glorious hope.
Reasons for the Resurrection
wrote his statement on the importance of the resurrection, he framed
it in a conditional sentence. He said "...if Christ
has not been raised..." Now we first of all need to observe
that he was not expressing doubt or uncertainty. In the Greek language
there are a variety of ways of expressing conditional thought. Here
it is the second class condition which assumes the falsehood of
what is being said. In other words, "if Christ has not
been raised" is assumed to be false. The truth is quite the
opposite -- He IS risen. A few verses later (1 Cor. 15:20), he confidently
asserts, "But now Christ has been raised from the dead."
So in verse 17, he uses the second class condition to set up a hypothetical
circumstance. Paul is simply pondering the awful alternative, that
if Christ is not risen (and He is), then everything we believe,
and all of our hopes are nothing more than misplaced confidence
in a mirage. He wants us to understand how important the resurrection
is to our faith.
of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead are numerous and
compelling. Many have written on this subject, and Josh McDowell's
Evidence That Demands a Verdict is one of the classics. My
purpose here, however, is only to summarize some of the major arguments
as a means of appreciating Paul's confidence in the subject.
upon which all agreed, both friends and foes alike, was that the
tomb was empty. The whole Jewish community was upset over the matter
and that made the Roman world upset. This was no little private
concern. Great care had been taken to keep Jesus in the tomb --
there was the Roman seal and a guard of Roman soldiers -- but the
grave was empty and they could not deny it. The only thing they
could hope to do was to explain it away.
tells us (Matt. 28:11-15) that the Jewish and Roman authorities
collaborated on an explanation whereby they would blame it on the
disciples of Jesus. So they circulated the story that the disciples
stole the body. Yet that was so obviously false that Matthew doesn't
even try to refute it. Men who had run for their lives at the arrest
of Jesus were now supposed to have overwhelmed professional soldiers,
brazenly broken the seal of Rome, moved the huge stone at the mouth
of the tomb, and would later face the test of torture and martyrdom
without breaking down and confessing to the lie of a contrived resurrection.
That is too much for even the most skeptical mind to believe.
are equally as hollow. For instance, some have said that the Jews
or Romans took the body. They didn't face the same obstacles as
the disciples. But think about it. They, above all, wanted to keep
the body in the grave. Seven weeks later, when Peter caused such
a stir at Pentecost by preaching the resurrection of Christ, all
the authorities had to do was to produce the body and the Christian
movement would have been dead in the water. As others have said,
"the silence of the enemies of Christ on that day was as impressive
as the preaching of Peter."
his defense of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 by appealing
to the fact that there were many eyewitnesses who claimed to have
seen Him alive after His death (1 Cor. 15:4-8). In all, the Bible
records ten distinct appearances of the resurrected Christ with
regard to a variety of times, places, and people. There were appearances
in the early morning, during the day, and at night over a period
of forty days. They took place in various locations -- in the garden
near the tomb, twice in the Upper Room, on the road from Jerusalem
to Emmaus, and far away in Galilee. Three appearances were to individuals
(Mary Magdalene, Peter, and James), several appearances were to
the disciples as a group (John records three), and on one occasion
He appeared to over 500 people at once. The variety of circumstances
defy the possibility of explaining away the eyewitness accounts
as psychological hallucinations. There is every reason to believe
these testimonies as real accounts of actual experiences.
I have shared
here merely a summary of some compelling arguments surrounding the
empty tomb and eyewitness accounts. There are, furthermore, additional
evidences related to the formation of the early church and the momentous
change from Saturday to Sunday as the Christian day of worship.
There is no lack of evidence to substantiate the factuality of Christ's
resurrection. These are things we as Christians need to know, for,
as Paul indicates, they undergird our faith and validate our hope.
what others have said about all of this:
Clark -- a prominent lawyer in Great Britain "As a lawyer,
I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the resurrection
of Jesus Christ. To me, the evidence is conclusive; and over and
over again in the high court, I have secured the verdict on evidence
not nearly so compelling. The Gospel evidence for the resurrection
I accept unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts
that they were able to substantiate."
-- for years a brilliant scholar at Cambridge University
"Indeed, taking all the evidence together, it is not too much
to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously
supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent
assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of
deficiency in the proof of it."
-- Professor of History at Oxford University; author of a 3-volume
history on ancient Rome "I have been used for many years
to study the history of other times, and to examine and weigh the
evidence of those who have written about them; and I know of no
fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller
evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer,
than that Christ died and rose again from the dead."
Ramifications of the Resurrection
Paul was totally convinced that Jesus Christ had risen from the
dead. But he wanted his readers to think about the serious ramifications
of that truth with regard to their eternal welfare. Suppose that
Christ had not risen from the dead. What then? Well, he says that
the consequences of that would be "your faith is worthless"
and "you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). That
would pretty much cancel out any hope we might have for eternal
life. However, since Christ did rise from the dead, let's consider
these two things from the positive point of view. Here, according
to Paul, are the benefits that come to us through the resurrection:
of Personal Faith
the statement in verse 17 in the converse, Paul is saying that because
of the resurrection, "your faith is NOT worthless."
Faith in Christ for salvation is a valid thing. Some people think
of faith as a blind leap in the dark -- simply a wish and a prayer
with lots of hope and no substance. But that is not the Biblical
concept of faith. Faith is "the substance of things
hoped for" and "the evidence of things not seen"
(Heb. 11:1, KJV). Christian faith is built upon the firm evidence
of a risen Savior as a proof of the fact that His sacrificial death
on the cross was effective as the means of our salvation. There's
substance to our faith. It's built upon facts that can be historically
my ministry I went through a time of personal doubts that shook
my faith. I was ministering to students on the campus of the University
of Wisconsin, Madison, and in the context of that radical agnostic
environment, I was running headlong into intellectual skepticism
and scholarly scoffing at the message of the Gospel. I was not a
match for the brilliant minds that tore away at the foundations
of my faith -- my confidence in the Bible as the inspired Word of
God and my commitment to Jesus Christ as the incarnation of deity,
the Savior of the world. It was a suffocating environment, and I
was struggling for survival.
I was forced to go back and examine the evidence for the resurrection
of Christ that substantiates the validity of the Christian faith.
I had to know -- was it true? After hours and hours of study and
reading, the sunlight of joy began to rise once again upon my faith
in Christ as I discovered that the evidence for His resurrection
is exceedingly strong, even compelling, even wonderfully overwhelming!
I went back to the campus with a revitalized faith -- the Gospel
message is true and the resurrection of Christ is the proof. No
longer did I seek to argue about religion and philosophical apologetics.
In every encounter, I made a beeline for Jesus and the undeniable
proof of His deity in the resurrection.
my friend in Christ. What we have in Jesus is not tradition, but
truth; not religion, but reality; not ritual, but a personal relationship
with God. Our faith is not worthless because Jesus IS risen from
of Promised Forgiveness
place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you can be assured
of the fact that you are forgiven of your sins. As Paul would confidently
say it, again in the converse of verse 17, "you are NOT
still in your sins" because Jesus IS risen from the
dead. You see, the bottom line issue in Christianity is not a better
life, but eternal life -- and that is directly related to the forgiveness
of your sins.
I was sitting
on a bus next to a young man who was on his way to join a commune
cult as the follower of a popular guru. As I talked with him about
Christ, I sought to build a bridge by equating Christ with the very
hopes he was seeking in the cult. I shared how Christ would fulfill
his desire to be a better person (a new creation), help him gain
insight into the true self, and lead him to an understanding of
true spiritual values. But I discovered that he didn't need my Christianity
of a better life, for in his mind he already had a better life.
Then I realized my error, and talked with him about his sin before
God. I asked him how his sin was going to be cared for in the teachings
of the guru. And he was silent. There was no provision in the cultic
beliefs for the forgiveness of his sin. There was no Savior, no
incarnate God dying for his sin. There was no resurrection as the
proof of deity and the consequential effectiveness of salvation.
to understand, dear friend, that Christianity is unique. There is
no religious leader that can prove his claims of deity by his resurrection
from the dead. Only Jesus can do that. All religion either ignores
the sin problem or seeks to solve it by self-effort. There is no
provision for forgiveness of sin through the substitutionary atonement
of a Savior, except in Jesus. Jesus Christ is, indeed, the only
hope of the world for forgiveness of sin and eternal life with God
-- for He is the only One who has risen from the dead!
are encouraged by the words of Paul as intended in the force of
his hypothetical second class conditional sentence, "you are
NOT still in your sins" because Jesus IS risen
from the dead.
is not worthless and we are not still in our sins. There is validity
in our faith and there is value in the promise of forgiveness. These
things are true for those who have placed their faith in Christ
for salvation. The Gospel is real and our hope is sure -- all because
"Christ has been raised from the dead" (1 Cor. 15:20).
Easter season, let's rejoice with Paul in the confidence of our
faith as expressed in his final comments on the importance of Christ's
thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus
Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil
is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor. 15:57, 58)