13 Concise Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection
By Nathaniel Wall
The resurrection is central to Christianity. One might say it is Christianity’s defining truth. The Apostle Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless…” (1 Corinthians 15:17)
In recognition to the centrality of the resurrection, here are 13 concise reasons why I believe in the resurrection.
- Jesus died! In order to have a resurrection you need to have a dead person. Jesus was executed publicly in Jerusalem, and many eyewitnesses were present due to the Passover holiday being celebrated. His punishment was delivered by soldiers who carried the job title “professional executioner”. Jesus was beaten, whipped, crucified, and stabbed in the heart by these professional executioners. In Jesus’ day, the whipping from the cat-o’-nine tails was enough to kill a person. Yet, Jesus went on to the cross and he was speared in the heart (John 19:34). After Jesus died, he was thrown into a tomb for three days with no medical attention. Point being, he was dead.
- Jesus’ tomb was sealed and guards were placed outside of it. (Matthew 27:64-66) To prevent anyone from tampering with Jesus’ dead body, Pilate had the tomb sealed and guards placed outside of it. To break the seal was punishable by death. If the guards neglected their responsibility of guarding the tomb, it could have lead to their court-martial and death. It would have taken a miracle to see this grave opened.
- Jesus’ grave clothes were folded. (John 20:5-7) If someone happened to have stolen the body of Jesus they would not have taken the extra time to leave his grave clothes. They certainly would not have taken the extra time to fold the grave clothes. What kind of thief leaves items of value behind? It makes no sense apart from a resurrection.
- Women were the first to declare the resurrection. (Matthew 28:1-7) In the first century, the testimony of women would not hold up in the court of law. Yet the first to testify to the resurrection were women. If you were trying to fabricate a resurrection story, then you would aim to make it as credible as possible and use the testimony men to validate the resurrection. However, the Lord sees men and women of equal value, and the Bible proclaims the truth. Therefore, the gospel writers recorded that women were the first to encounter the empty tomb and resurrected Christ.
- Hundreds of eyewitness testimonies. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) Not only is the New Testament written by eyewitness testimony (See 1 John 1:1-4), the resurrected Jesus was experienced by hundreds of people at one time. Jesus’ resurrection appearances also continued over several days. The writers of the New Testament even acknowledged that it was possible to speak to these eyewitnesses and that the resurrection story could be validated.
- The cowards that flee soon boldly lead. Remember, the disciples tucked tail and ran when Jesus was crucified. They were worried about what would happen to them because they followed Jesus. Yet, the disciples went from being cowards to living boldly for Christ. Ten of the twelve original disciples went on to be martyred for their faith. Why? They encountered the resurrected Jesus. It is true that many people give their lives for an ideology. They will even fly planes into buildings. However, the disciples were not martyred for an ideology. They died for a truth claim. They saw a dead man walking and could not deny it.
- Paul. Paul went from persecutor and murderer of Christians to becoming a Christian (Acts 8:1,21). He was the future star of the Jewish people (Philippians 3:4-8), yet he gave it all up and suffered persecution and martyrdom. Why? He saw the resurrected Christ.
- Biblical prophecy. The Bible was written over 1500 years by 40 authors. It is loaded with prophetic words about the coming of a messiah. His lineage, time of birth, details of his life, death and resurrection. People used to argue that the prophecies of Jesus were too accurate and, therefore, must have been written after Jesus’ lifetime. However, in the 1940s and 1950s, the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in the Qumran caves. These scrolls contained biblical manuscripts that predated Jesus by as much as 200 years. In these manuscripts you find these prophecies about Jesus.
- Early creeds. It takes time for a myth to develop. However, before any myth could develop over the resurrection, the early church produced creeds about Jesus’ death and resurrection. You can find these creedal statements in passages like 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Philippians 2:5-10, and Colossians 1:15-17. Scholars teach that these scripture creeds were written just a few years after Jesus’ death and then later recorded in the Bible.
- Extra biblical sources. Not only does the Bible provide eyewitness testimony about the resurrection, history gives us other documents about this event. Individuals like Josephus and Pliny the Younger, as unbelievers, write about the Christian belief in a resurrection. Early pseudo-graphical books write about Jesus and his resurrection (the epistle of Barnabas or the Gospel of Thomas). Early church fathers from the 1st and 2nd Century write about the resurrection (Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Polycarp).
- The rapid growth of Christianity. What other reason but the resurrection would account for Christianity’s rapid growth? The early church was persecuted for 125 years of its first 250 years of existence. It was costly to be a Christian. It would have taken something miraculous to see Christianity multiply. The resurrection was that miracle.
- The change to the day of worship. Jews, like Jesus, originally worshiped on Saturday. This was the Sabbath day. However, Jesus’ followers began to worship on Sunday, even though early Christians were Jewish. What would bring such a change? This was the day of the resurrection.
- No alternate motive for the resurrection other than truth. What did the disciples gain by proclaiming the resurrection? They had no other motive than to share the truth. The path they chose was a difficult one. They walked a martyr’s road because they were compelled by the truth of the resurrection. The early church suffered, but they suffered confidently knowing they would live forever.