Evidence for the Resurrection

What's Your Filter

Date: November 23, 2014
Study: What’s Your Filter? Christian Apologetics and Worldview
Teacher: Small Group Debate Format

Study Thesis: A Christian worldview enables us to look at all of live through scriptural lenses, which in turn equips us to defend the faith, evangelize wisely, critique unbiblical thought that pervades our culture, and bring God glory in all of life.

Christian Apologetics: the discipline of offering a defense of and case for, or offer evidence for, the veracity and reliability of the Christian faith.

The truth of the resurrection is THE fundamental question of Christianity.  What someone believes about Jesus determines how they will answer so many other questions that they deal with.  If Jesus truly is God incarnate, then one will also believe in God.  If Jesus lived and died, then it seems like God could also ordain the contents of the Bible to all point to this one Godman who would save humanity from their sin. And if God could raise Jesus from the dead, then he can transform our lives and give us hope of life with him forever.

If true, the resurrection ensures five things for Christians: 

  1. Ensures our faith is legit
    The entirety of the Christian faith is dependent on the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:12-26). We believe in a living, reigning Savior who is now the exalted head of the church, who is to be trusted, worshiped, and adored, and who will some day return in power and glory to gather His Bride the Church and reign as King over the earth.
  2. Ensures our regeneration
    In His resurrection, Jesus secured for us a new life like His: a human body and spirit perfectly suited for fellowship and obedience to God forever  (1 Peter 1:2-5). We have been “made alive together with Christ and raised up with Him” (Ephesians 2:5-6). The reality of the resurrection gives us the power needed for Christian ministry and obedience to God (Philippians 3:10). This resurrection power also allows us to gain more and more victory over the sin that remains in our lives (Romans 6:14; 1 Corinthians 15:17). In baptism, we see this pictured (Romans 6:4,11).
  3. Ensures our justification
    By raising Jesus from the dead, God declared His approval of Christ’s work of redemption on the cross (Romans 4:25). God was essentially saying there was no penalty left to pay for sin, no more wrath to bear, and no more guilt or punishment. All had been completely paid for by the substitionary, atoning death of Jesus. In saving us, by virtue of our union with Christ, God’s declaration of approval of Jesus is also His declaration of approval of us.
  4. Ensures our future resurrection
    Jesus is the “first fruits” of the new humanity, with bodies that have been made perfect and are no longer subject to weakness, aging, or death (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, 42-44, 53). In fact, Jesus refers to Himself as the “resurrection and the life” in John 11:25-26. The New Testament connects Jesus’ resurrection with our final bodily resurrection several times (1 Corinthians 6:14, 15:12-58; 2 Corinthians 4:14)
  5. Ensures our eternal reward
    Because of the resurrection, everything we do on earth has eternal significance, both for us and for others. Though we may face struggles and trials here on earth, we are promised a heavenly reward where our suffering for Christ will be repaid (Colossians 3:1-4).

In addition to these implications for believers, if true, the resurrection has tremendous implications on non-Christians: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)

Jesus is either alive or not. He either conquered sin and death or he didn’t. We can either have new, transformed lives, or we are living a lie. This is how high the stakes are for both Christians and non-Christians.

The big question then: “Is the resurrection true?” The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said:  “The central question of humanity is whether or not Jesus rose again on Easter morning. How we understand that question determines how we will answer every other question.”

As Christians, we finally surrender to the truth of God’s revelation in the Bible and in history through Jesus – not our own reason.  But we should not be afraid to use the Bible as we explain our worldview to unbelievers, and argue for the veracity and reliability of faith in Jesus.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when having an apologetics conversation:

  1. If questions come up that you can’t answer, remember that there are answers to be found. It’s OK to say, “That’s a good question.  Let me check on how to best answer that for you.”
  2. Don’t assume that your non-Christian friend will accept the Bible as authoritative.
  3. Don’t argue as if the Bible is not authoritative. As you describe your worldview, you are entitled to argue by your own rules – and that includes the authority of the Bible.
  4. Open the Bible with those that you are talking with: it is the Word of God and powerful for explaining human nature and the common experience that we have.

When you read your Bible, read it with confidence. God has spoken, that He has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures, and we read the same Bible that was handed down by the first apostles of Christ’s church.


QUESTION 1A: How do you know Jesus was a real person and not just a legendary character?

ANSWER 1A: There are approximately 20 extra-Biblical references to the Historical Jesus. Almost no serious scholar would deny that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person.

Perhaps the most influential of the accounts we have is from a Jewish historian names Flavius Josephus who was born in AD 37 and became a Pharisee at age 19.  In AD 66 he was the commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee.  After being captured, he was attached to the Roman headquarters. He wrote: “About this time lived Jesus, a wise man…He performed astonishing feats …Pilate sentenced him to the cross, but those who loved him from the very first did not cease to be attached to him… His disciples… reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive.”

We also know that Roman historians noted on the activity of Christians.  Conelius Tacitus – a Roman historian writing about 50 years after Josephus wrote: “Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius…”

Jesus was undeniably a historical figure.

QUESTION 1B: Ok, but what makes Jesus different than any other historical figure. Why celebrate a guy who was killed as a criminal by the Roman Empire?

ANSWER 1B: Christians go one step further than simply saying that Jesus was merely an historical figure: we also believe that the History of Jesus and the words of the Prophets serve as a “show and tell” – and that 4,000 years of history were to prepare us for Jesus.

God started making His argument about who Jesus was at the beginning of time:

  • God was working throughout the history of the Israelites to point them toward a Messiah. Their history was His Story…
  • God took elaborate lengths in the Israelites to create the ultimate analogy – a word-picture on the grandest scale. Not just a parable: God rooted HIS analogy through the lives of the Israelites and their history.
  • The repeated theme in this story is: Someone is coming -> this is why -> this is what He will look like

Here are a few examples of how God worked in the people of Israel:

  • The Fall–> a supernatural deliverer will come
    • Genesis 3:15 – God tells Adam and Eve to look for a deliverer, a human, supernatural that Satan would wound, but ultimately be defeated by
  • Abraham and Isaac–> God will provide the substitute
    • Genesis 22:11-14 – when Abraham is about to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, we see more of how God will deliver his people.  We see that:
      • No higher test of loyalty than to give up one’s only son for another
      • God will preserve the seed of the promise
      • Substitutionary offering is necessary
      • God provides for people’s needs (our greatest need being forgiveness)
  • Egyptian captivity and Passover–> God demands a sacrifice which can only be provided by the death of a perfect lamb
    • In delivering the Israelites form their Egyptian captivity in Exodus 12-15, we see that:
      • God demands a sacrifice
      • Firstborn son represents the family taking on himself the fate of the family
      • Apart from sacrifice – everyone – even the chosen people – deserve death
      • Only substitutionary blood can avert death
      • Blood must be displayed publicly
  • The scapegoat
    • Leviticus 16 – God declares that one day a year will be the Day of Atonement.  And, on that day the people are reminded that:
      • Sins of the people must be forgiven annually – people are always sinful
      • Only a perfect sacrifice is acceptable
      • Once the sacrifice has been accepted, God sends it out from the people – sin is transferred and remembered no more
  • Many others:
    • Nature of man’s plight
    • Sacrifice is needed to deal with man’s sin
    • Suffering must be involved
    • Combination of divinity and humanity required for salvation
    • Divine and self-giving

And so, God was using events to point to and to prepare the Israelites for a Messiah who would rise to deliver them.

QUESTION 1C: I’ve heard of this Messiah concept before, but how do you know Jesus was that guy?

ANSWER 1C: God not only showed the people His plans through their history; He also told them what He was doing through His prophets. God sent Prophets to explain and predict the who, what, when, where and why of Jesus. The Bible contains over 300 prophecies that testify to and were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Here are a few examples:

  • Who: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”     Isaiah 9:6
  • What: “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” Psalm 16:10 (fulfilled Acts 2:31)
  • Where: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.”  Micah 5:2 (fulfilled Matthew 2:1-2)
  • How: “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.”  Isaiah 7:14 (fulfilled in Matthew 1:18)
  • Isaiah 53: And, perhaps the most instrumental Prophecy is found Isaiah 53. The chapter captures so perfectly the message of Christianity. Jesus Christ is clearly the fulfillment of this amazing prophecy and it is worth writing out in full.  Remember, this was written in 680 BC. This chapter is preserved on the Dead Sea scrolls which are dated before the time of Christ.

So we see that God used the prophets before Jesus lived to show His divinity and purpose for coming.


QUESTION 2: So you’re saying that this historical man, who claimed to be the Messiah, was really God? Sounds to me like he was just a student of Jewish history and knew what to do to get people to fall for his claims. Either that or he had his followers rewrite the Old Testament so all the “prophecies” could be “fulfilled.”

ANSWER 2: Jesus’ claims to be divine are corroborated by his life, teaching and miracles.

  • Jesus was a wise teacher
    • Jesus is universally respected as a great moral teacher by all the world’s major religions. His teaching is moral truth exhibited at its purest. It is not wishy-washy idealism, but it is realistic and cogent, the product of a sane mind. Even the opponents of Christianity are quick to point out that they agree with many of Jesus’ moral teachings.
    • Some examples of teachings attributed to Jesus:
      • The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done to you. Love your neighbors as yourself.
      • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
      • Do not judge and you will not be judged. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
  • Jesus helped others through His miracles
    • The New Testament records:
      • 23 healings – (man with leprosy, paralyzed man, boy with a demon, crippled woman, official’s son, man born blind)
      • 9 displays of command over nature (feeding of the 5,000-4,000, calming the storm, walking on the water)
      • 3 instances of bringing the dead back to life (Jairus’ daughter, widow’s son, lazurus)
    • Only a divine being would have the ability to perform so many supernatural acts
  • Jesus made divine claims about Himself
    • There is a paradox about the life of Jesus, which you will capture if you read the Gospels carefully. For all his gentleness and meekness, he made some absolutely outrageous comments about himself:
      • He claimed to be above the law.  He lived in a Jewish society where laws and rituals were strictly kept, but he just announced to everyone that he was above the laws. “No one need fast while I am here,” he said one day. “You have your laws and your rituals but I just do what my Father tells me to do.”
      • He claimed to be able to forgive sin: In Luke Chapter 5. There is a great crowd around Jesus, so some men cut a hole in the roof of the house he was in and lowered a paralytic on a mat. “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
      • He claimed that no one could know God except through Him. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
      • He claimed that he rise from the dead. “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” Matthew 17:23
      • He claimed to be God. “Before Abraham was born ‘I am’.” John 8:58 (‘I am’ was the holy name for God in Hebrew, unutterable by any man. After Jesus said this, the people tried to stone him because he clearly claimed to be God.) “Yes, it is as you say. I am the Son of God, but I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Mt 26:64

Ultimately, Jesus’ life is so remarkable and his claims so clear – that it led CS Lewis to come to his famous Trilemma conclusion.  That Jesus is either a Lord, Liar or Lunatic: “I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make the choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”


QUESTION 3A: I guess all of that could check out, but there’s no way a guy could rise from the dead. Couldn’t you get by without that part? Why is it so essential that you believe that a dead man walked out of a tomb?

ANSWER 3A: Christians believe that what God accomplished three short days after the crucifixion was the final argument that Jesus was God and that only He can make us right with God. Christianity exploded not because of the death of a martyr, but because of the resurrection of a Savior. This is what empowered the disciples. Christianity doesn’t make sense without this. In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul was emphatic that the resurrection is the most foundational doctrine for the Christian faith.

Here’s the evidence that shows why 21st century, cosmopolitan, cynical, capitalist consumers can believe that a real person 2,000 years ago physically got up out of a tomb:

  • Jesus died
    • In reading the account of Jesus’ crucifixion, we notice certain details:
      • Up all night facing trials
      • Whipped with long, leather, glass
      • Crown of thorns on his head
      • Crossbar to Golgotha
      • Nails placed in his hands and feet
      • Spear was placed in his side
      • Really died
  • Jesus was buried in a tomb
    • Placed in the tomb of Josephus of Arimithae’s tomb – member of the Jewish ruling council
    • Large stone – some think 1-2 tons – was placed in front of the tomb
    • Guards were placed in front of the tomb: 4-16 Roman detachment
    • Roman seal was placed on the tomb: confirm and warn
    • Jesus was really placed dead in a sealed tomb
  • Jesus rose again
    • Three days later, the tomb was empty
    • He made at least 10 post-resurrection appearances, including up to 500 people at once (1 Cor. 15:3-7; see also: https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/)
    • The resurrection was never refuted by those alive at the time (Jews, Romans, etc).  The disciples were preaching in the vicinity and near the time.  People could easily have walked to the tomb.  Some, no doubt, did.  But that the tomb was empty was never refuted.  The very fact that this early proclamation of the empty tomb took place in Jerusalem is remarkable.  Silence speaks loudly.

QUESTION 3B: Couldn’t Jesus have passed out or gone into extreme shock from the trauma and not died?

ANSWER 3B: John Stott best refutes the Jesus “passing out or swooning” scenario:  are we to believe “that after the rigors and pains of trial, mockery, flogging and crucifixion He could survive thirty-six hours in a stone sepulcher with neither warmth nor food nor medical care? That He could then rally sufficiently to perform the superhuman feat of shifting the boulder which secured the mouth of the tomb, and this without disturbing the Roman guard? That then, weak and sickly and hungry, He could appear to the disciples in such a way as to give them the impression that He had vanquished death? That He could go on to claim that He had died and risen, could send them into all the world and promise to be with them unto the end of time?”

QUESTION 3C: What if all his disciples were hallucinating or they found a Jesus “look-alike” to imitate him?

ANSWER 3C: Those who saw Jesus weren’t hallucinating. Both the Luke and John gospels emphasize the disciples’ own disbelief at the solidity of what they were seeing, the Luke author for instance, wonderingly reporting ‘…they offered him a piece of fish which he took and ate before their eyes’ (Luke 24:43).

Thomas insisted that he was not prepared to believe unless he was able to put his fingers into the wound in Jesus’ side, and recorded that Thomas was specifically allowed to do this  “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” (Luke 24:38-39) Also, Jesus knew intimate details of the people he appeared to that a “look-alike” wouldn’t have known (Luke 24; John 21). Explaining the resurrection as a hallucination is just not plausible.  Besides, once the Christianity got rolling, the authorities would simply have produced a body to expose the false teaching.

QUESTION 3D: Couldn’t the body have been stolen or misplaced?

ANSWER 3D: It is unlikely the body was stolen by the Romans or Jewish authorities. In Matthew 28:11-15 we read about an idea of how the tomb was empty.  It’s interesting that this highlights the fact that the authorities couldn’t produce the body.  The very fact that they had to suggest that the body had been stolen shows that the tomb where Jesus was known to be lain was also known to be empty. They had little to gain from moving the body – and, even if they had stolen it, why would they have produced it once it was advantageous to do so? Especially since they had spent several years waiting for the perfect moment to capture and kill Jesus to squash his movement.

The disciples couldn’t have stolen the body either. Roman guards continually kept watch over the tomb because Jesus’ claims that he would rise again from the dead were known. Their presence would have made it next to impossible for the disciples to steal the body without attracting attention.  It seems unlikely that some dispirited and discouraged disciples could actually overcome a Roman guard in combat, and then steal the body. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is particularly important because it easily goes back into the first decade after Christ’s death & resurrection.  Paul’s testimony here certainly implies his belief in the empty tomb.  And the people named were alive & many could be talked to, particularly in Jerusalem.  Furthermore, these witnesses had Jesus appear to them, they couldn’t find him.  Doesn’t sound like the way they would have made it up.

The behavior of the apostles after Jesus’ death not only defies the conspiracy theory it also corroborates the Miracle Theory. The day Jesus died, they disowned and rejected him, terrified of Jewish authorities. Later, 11 out of the 12 and countless others died martyr’s deaths testifying to the risen Christ. How do you explain the sudden transformation? What would these men have gained from their deception? Nothing but rejection, contempt, torture, and ultimately their deaths. The apostles were in a position to be sure of the truth, and people don’t die for a lie when they know it’s a lie.

The most plausible explanation for the empty tomb is that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.

QUESTION 3E: Even if Jesus did rise from the dead, that doesn’t really mean anything for my life today. What other evidence shows why the resurrection is such a big deal?

ANSWER 3E: Jesus’ resurrection has massive implications for us today because he has, and continues to, change individual lives:

  • The Church grew immeasurably
    • Christianity had to begin somehow and if you just read the gospels up through the crucifixion, you have a hard time explaining why it would grow so quickly.
    • Jesus Christ didn’t die as the first martyr in a great cause, thus inflaming the masses.  There were no riots, no mass marches when He was killed. His followers were comparatively few and most of them went into hiding. The masses were not inflamed by the noble death of Jesus!
    • It was Christ’s resurrection that got people fired up and excited to share the gospel, that began the explosion that is the Christian church, whose impact continues up to today. Without the resurrection there is no Christianity! (See Acts 5:34-39 for contrast between Jesus’ followers and followers of other leaders at the time)
  • Other historical changes
    • The Sabbath day: the original day of worship for the Jews was switched from Saturday to Sunday. Many scholars who have looked into this suggest that actually, the most weighty argument for the resurrection is the change of day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.  Religious habits are among the slowest of habits to change.  So what can account for this sudden change among some first-century Jews from an observance which was so central to their faith?
    • The introduction of Communion: Had Jesus not been raised from the dead, do you think his followers would have instituted the sacrament of communion? Surely the memory of the meal which led directly to the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus would have been an unbearable pain. What changed the anguish of the Last Supper into a communion of joy the world over?
    • The whole calendar eventually changed: The changes that occurred in the world because of the life of Jesus of Nazareth were colossal.  Malcolm Muggeridge summarizes his impact: “Behind the debris of these civilizations stands the gigantic figure of Jesus Christ, because of whom, in whom, and through whom man can ultimately find the answer for himself and for history.”
  • Jesus has changed lives throughout history and He is still changing them
    • It’s not just these large, worldwide changes that lead to a belief that Jesus rose from the dead; it’s also the many lives of the saints throughout history who have also experienced changed lives.
    • Becoming a Christian drastically changes the desires and direction of your life (see Romans 5-8)

Raised: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection by Jonathan Dodson
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
When Skeptics Ask by Norman Geisler
Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell
The Reason for God by Tim Keller
Apologetics and Worldview, Lesson 11. Capitol Hill Core Seminars



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