“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
(1 Corinthians 15:16-19)
Paul minces no words; the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the bedrock of our faith. If Christ did not rise, then Christianity hardly matters. If He did indeed rise from the dead, then Christianity is the only thing that matters. Those of us who have come into a saving relationship with Christ need no scientific or historical argument to convince us that these things are so. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them,” said the Lord, “and they follow me” (John 10:27). At the beginning of our redemptive histories some faithful minister of the Gospel gave us the good news of God’s love for us. The Good Shepherd Himself not only empowered their message, He also divinely persuaded us to believe it and we placed our trust in Him. Even though we were not “argued into the kingdom” by clever apologetics, we must acknowledge that the Bible’s narratives claim to be rooted in solid, verifiable history. It would be very strange not to find at least some evidence for the Bible’s historical claims, especially with respect to the resurrection of Christ, surely the most fantastic claim of all. In fact, there are three historical facts, acknowledged to be facts by the majority of historical scholars, relating to the resurrection. These are: 1) Christ’s empty tomb, 2) the post-resurrection appearances of Christ, and 3) the birth of Christianity as a new religion with a well-understood, central doctrine of resurrection. That these are real facts of history is not controversial. What is controversial are the proposed explanations of these facts. As a purely historical question, the explanation that God raised Jesus from the dead outstrips rival explanations in every way. Paul understood this. He wrote to the Corinthians, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Here Paul reminds us that he received the resurrection story, which includes Christ’s burial in a tomb, before he ever arrived in Corinth. Moreover, in verses 5-8 Paul lists the names of those who claimed to have seen the Lord alive. Paul not only interviewed these people to verify these claims (Galatians 1-2), he added his own name to the list. He assures us that the risen Christ has become “the firstfruits of them that slept” (15:20); Christians will also be raised to glory just as our Lord was (15:35-49; 51-54). The resurrection of Christ forever stands as the supreme vindication of our Lord’s claims and promises; it is our rock-solid assurance that these things are so. Maranatha!