Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | April 4, 2018

History’s One-Two Punch

(4 Minute Read)

We have just finished celebrating Resurrection Day, commonly known as Easter. Sometimes perspective can be improved with hindsight. What is the true significance of the Easter season through which we have just passed?

The original Easter period was a Knockout Punch for everybody!

The greatest knockout of all time smashed into history twenty centuries ago. It was a stunning one-two combination punch of 2 headline events.

Reporting that knockout punch, the Apostle Paul based the Gospel on these two key historical events (1 Corinthians 15:3-8):
1. The Crucifixion – Christ died for our sins. (POW!)
2. The Resurrection – Christ rose from the dead the third day. (BAM!)

The Crucifixion knocked the disciples and friends of Jesus for a loop. The Resurrection knocked everybody off their feet.

The Gospel

Why is the death of Christ essential to the Gospel? It is by Christ’s death that God’s wrath is turned away from sinners who trust Christ (Romans 3:21-26).

Why is the Resurrection essential to the Gospel? Because it vindicated Christ’s claim to be the Son of God. Because it validated the efficacy of His sacrifice for sin. Because it displayed Christ’s victory over death. (Romans 1:4; 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:17,21,22)

Intriguingly, Paul used Genesis to explain why Jesus died and the significance of His resurrection. Paul knew Genesis was a firm foundation for his theological explanation of the Gospel. (See 1 Corinthians 15:21,22,45-49)

Paul’s “died…buried…raised” sequence clearly teaches the Resurrection was literal and physical. The body that died by public execution was the same body that was buried by Joseph and Nicodemus. This same body is what Paul says was raised. This refutes the popular notion that the Resurrection was merely “spiritual” (whatever that means).

Defense

Paul’s apologetic trumpeted 2 irrefutable facts which established the truth of the 2 key events.
1. Jesus was buried.
2. Jesus appeared to many eyewitnesses after the Resurrection.

The significance of the burial is that it proved His actual death. Covered with 100 pounds of aromatic spices and bound head-to-toe in linen wrappings, Jesus was buried by two prominent members of the Jewish Sanhedrin: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, called “the teacher of Israel” by Jesus (John 3:10). Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and other Galilean women witnessed the burial in Joseph’s own tomb. The tomb was closed with a massive stone, officially sealed, and guarded by soldiers.

Jesus’ death was attested by both friends and enemies, including battle-hardened Roman soldiers who knew death when they saw it. In all history, these contemporaries are the people best qualified to evaluate whether Jesus actually died or not. At the time nobody had even the slightest doubt that He was dead. It was an accepted fact confirmed by the burial.

The significance of Jesus’ appearances to eyewitnesses is that they verified the Resurrection. Paul’s defense listed six separate appearances. In all, Scripture records at least 11 different appearances after the Resurrection, in at least nine geographical locations spread over 150 miles. They began three days after the Crucifixion in Jerusalem, where He was crucified and buried. Jesus appeared to individuals, to groups, and even to a crowd of over 500. These were extended daylight interactions, not brief glimpses. Meals were shared, conversations developed, activities enjoyed. From personal encounters with the risen Christ, hundreds of people in all walks of life knew Jesus rose from the dead.

Paul’s widely-circulated letter to the church at Corinth was written only 20 years after the Crucifixion. Thousands were still alive who remembered the events from first-hand experience. They could confirm or dispute Paul’s account of resurrection appearances. Paul could not have effectively made these public statements if they were not true. Remember how rapidly the Swift Boat veterans negated John Kerry’s 30-year-old claims in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Jesus’ tomb was empty. The disciples began preaching the Resurrection right in Jerusalem with the empty tomb. Their message could not have been sustained for even an hour unless all parties accepted the empty tomb as fact. All it would take to extinguish Christianity at its inception would be for the Sanhedrin to look in the tomb and produce the body. How hard could it be to find the body from a public execution, buried by Jewish leaders before witnesses in a government-guarded tomb? This they could not do, because it was not there. What a shock!

The disciples changed from craven cowards evading authorities before the Resurrection to bold witnesses defying government suppression afterwards. Discouraged, dejected, despairing men were suddenly energized to ignite a revolution which encircled the globe; 2,000 years later it still impacts millions.

What so profoundly transformed them? These men, Jesus’ closest confidants, could not have been fooled about the Resurrection. They knew whether Jesus had been raised. Most died for their certainty that Jesus rose from the dead. Men do not die for what they think may be false. Remember how fast the Watergate conspiracy fell apart, everyone scrambling to save his skin.

Why didn’t the Sanhedrin just look in the tomb
and produce the body? That’s all it would take
to extinguish Christianity at its inception.
How hard could it be to find the body from a
public execution, buried by Jewish leaders before
witnesses in a government-guarded tomb?

Is Resurrection Impossible?

Some object, “It’s scientifically impossible to rise from the dead!” Generally, yes, resurrection is highly unlikely. But Jesus was no ordinary man. Consider His words predicting death and resurrection. Consider His claims to be God and to be the Truth. Consider His faultless character and His miracles. Then the presumption switches from “unlikely” to “likely.” The real question is not, “Was it possible for Jesus to rise from the dead?” The real question is, “Was it possible for Jesus to remain dead?” Scripture says, “God raised Him up…since it was“impossible for death to hold Him.” (Acts 2:24)

The reason many think “Impossible!” about the Resurrection instead of “Impossible!” about Non-Resurrection is that people evaluate evidence with sin-clouded minds. Worldview and personal morality determine explanations of Resurrection evidence, just as they determine interpretations of scientific evidence about origins. Resurrection was not what was impossible. Non-Resurrection was impossible.

Conclusion

Paul underscored the essence of the Gospel and laid out an unassailable defense (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). His apologetic was based on historical events that actually happened on earth at specific times. People experienced these events first-hand and testified to their reality. Paul emphasized this eyewitness testimony — the very best type of evidence historically and legally.

The Christian faith is firmly grounded in history, and history makes a difference. Actions and events have consequences which reverberate throughout time. The central events of the Christian faith, Christ’s crucifixion and His bodily resurrection, are well-attested facts of history that happened on this earth in the city of Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. This authenticity is crucial, for if either event did not happen, then Christianity is false and we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

Jesus said, “because I live, you shall live also.” (John 14:19) True hope for the future is grounded on the Resurrection.

The Gospel by which we are saved is bedrocked on actual historical events. Christ solved the sin problem by His death. The Resurrection proved He conquered death.

Pow! Bam! The greatest one-two punch of all time!

Questions to Ponder

1. Which specific piece of evidence for the Resurrection is compelling enough for you to mention it to a friend or colleague today?
2. How will the radical reality of the Resurrection transform your choices today?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday April 4, 2018 A.D.

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, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

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Responses

  1. What a joy to find someone else who thinks this way.

    Like


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