Why is Resurrection of Christ an important topic? Because, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is foundational to the Christian faith!
“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” – 1 Cor. 15:12.
What if resurrection of Christ never happened? Christianity would collapse! In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul made the Corinthian church know the importance of the gospel and the “resurrection” as an important element of the gospel. The issue can be clearly noticed in verse 12.
I. The Presentation of the Resurrection
A. The presentation of the gospel (v.1)
- I made known to you (γνωριζω) – does not mean “remind.”
- The gospel – the means that Christ uses to bring Salvation; notice δια – through – the means of.
- I preached unto you – it was proclaimed already. Paul was not inventing anything new, nor reminding them, rather, gently rebuking them; “the discussion deals with something already known” (BDAG, 203).
B. The evidence of the presentation (v.1)
- Ye have received (past)
- Wherein ye stand (present)
- Which also ye are saved (present/future)
II. The Primacy of the Resurrection
A. Paul received the message
- The term παραλαμβανω does not mean that Paul was handing over the “tradition” received by men.
- According to Galatians 1:12, Paul received it directly “through” the revelation of Christ.
- The same term/verb, παραλαμβανω is used in 1 Cor. 1:3 and Gal. 1:12.
B. Resurrection was “delivered” as a primary importance
- Paul handed over of what he received “through the revelation of Christ.”
- According to the Scriptures – probably referring to the either OT, or the early church tradition.
- Notice the three redemptive facts:
- Christ died for our sins
- He was buried
- He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures
III. The Proof of Resurrection
A. He appeared to Cephas (Peter)
B. To the twelve
C. To the five hundred at once, of whom some are still “alive” at that time
D. To James
E. To all apostles
F. And to Paul
The evidence is clear that Christ died for our sins, and was buried and rose again according to the Scriptures. BUT, many opponents are attacking this very foundation of Christian faith. They claim that the resurrection of Christ is not historically valid; that this event was not real.
Resurrection of Jesus Christ is “foundational to the Christian faith.” Obliterating the resurrection account is a complete insult to Christianity.
The Proof for Historical View of Resurrection
IV. The Concept of Resurrection in the Old Testament
- Resurrection was an alien thought in the Old Testament times. But to say that it is completely alien is not accurate.
- The Old Testament maintains that life ceases after death, according to Genesis 3:19 and Psalms 90:3.
- The Old Testament did not explicitly deny the concept of resurrection. It is affirmed in a corporate sense in Hosea 6:1–2, “After two days he will revive us, on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”
- Ezekiel 37:1–14 indicates the “national reconstitution of Israel.”
- Job asks a classic question regarding life after death according to Job 14:14: “If a man dies, shall he live again?”
- Job gives a response to Bildad in 19:25–27, saying: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (emphasis added).
- The prophets indicated about the resurrection.
- Isaiah states that God (Yahweh) “swallow up death forever” (25:8).
- Referred by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58.
- Isaiah 26:19 states: “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.”
- Daniel 12:2 refers to resurrection: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (emphasis added).
- The Old Testament thought of resurrection is not completely alien, based on the Scriptural evidence. It communicates little of the resurrection and the issue of life after death. But it is not silent. It becomes explicit in the later periods of history.
V. The Concept of Resurrection in the Early Judaism
- The origin of resurrection in the early Judaism is not clear, and the concept of life after death was a late development in the history.
- Nickelsburg states: “Authors of the exilic period employ the language of death and resurrection or exaltation as a metaphor for Israel’s revival and return from Exile. Although dead in captivity, the people will arise from their Babylonian graves (Ezekiel 37). Kings and nations will view the exaltation of Yahweh’s suffering servant (Isa 52:13–53:12).”
- The First book of Enoch, chapters 24–27 indicate the notion of “resurrection,” especially, verse 13 suggests that sinners shall be “raised” for the judgment.
- The Book of Jubilees suggests the idea of resurrection, though not a “bodily resurrection.”
- The Second Maccabees suggests the idea of “physical” resurrection in 7:9 and 11.
- More explicitly, the resurrection of the body is states in 2 Maccabees 14:46.
- The early Judaism certainly depicted the concept of resurrection than the Old Testament period.
VI. The Concept of Resurrection in the New Testament
- Though the Old Testament did not clearly indicate much of “bodily resurrection,” one can notice a progression in the thought of the resurrection from the Old Testament period to the early Judaism.
- According to Acts 23:8, it is evident that the Sadducees rejected the thought of afterlife, where as the Pharisees “taught a resurrection and eternal reward for Israel in the age to come.”
- Moreover, answering the Sadducees, Jesus answered them about the resurrection: “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (emphasis added).
- He Himself predicted His own resurrection according to Matthew 12:40: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
- Knowing that Jesus Himself spoke about resurrection, how then one claim that “resurrection” is an alien thought to the first century Jews? In fact, are not the writers of the gospels Jews? Were not the crowds that heard Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost, Jews?
VII. A Brief Analysis of the Resurrection Passages
A. 1 Corinthians 15:1–19
- Addressing the Corinthian Church concerning their view on the resurrection of dead (1 Cor. 15:13).
- Paul clearly articulated that fact that Christ was raised from the dead (15:4).
- The opponents of Resurrection states: How would Paul know that Christ rose from the dead? Did Paul see Jesus after resurrection or was this tradition passed on to him? Or did Paul “add” appearances of his “visions” in this passage?
- Clearly the Scripture states that Paul encountered Jesus, the risen Lord, on the Damascus road (Acts 9).
- Paul himself states he had seen (ὁράω) the Lord (1 Cor. 9:1).
- He did not receive the gospel from men (Gal. 1:1–11).
- But he received it through (δία) the revelation (αποκαλυψις) of Jesus Christ.
- In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul used the verb ὤφθη (appeared) four times. But what does he mean by ὤφθη?
- BDAG suggests the meaning as: to perceive by eye, catch sight of, or becoming visible, especially referring to Christ.
- J. Kremer suggests that the “subject of ὁράω in the NT is always a person (or the πνεῦμα [Mark 9:20] or δράκων [Rev 12:13] conceived as persons). Ὁράω is never used in the NT in references to aesthetic qualities.”
- The use of ὤφθη in 1 Corinthians 15 implies “that the crucified Jesus allowed himself to be recognized in a personal way by several persons he knew by name.”
- In 1 Corinthians 9:1, he uses the verb ἑώρακα “includes himself among the Easter witnesses of the resurrected Christ.”
- The same verb is used in Luke 24:34, where the Scripture states: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
- They are not “visions,” but actual events that Jesus made Himself visible to Paul and others.
B. Galatians 1:15–17
- What does the term “revelation” mean? Does it mean Paul “visualized” the “revelation” of Christ? The context suggests that this was speaking of Christ’s appearance on the Damascus road, that is, Christ revealed Himself to Paul.
- The phrase, ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. – ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’ should be understood as objective genetive, in the sense that God Himself revealed His Son to Paul, based on verse 16.
- F. F. Bruce states: ‘that what happened on the Damascus road was no isolated mystical experience.” He further quotes J.D.G. Dunn, that the “revelation” was “no mere ‘flash of insight or intellectual conviction, but a personal encounter, the beginning of a personal relationship which became the dominating passion of his life…. Religious experience for Paul is basically experience of union with Christ.’”
- T. Holtz states: “In Galatians 1 he employs the word group under discussion so as to emphasize more strongly the theological significance of the event, namely, that with the revelation of the crucified one as Son of God the gospel itself is disclosed to him.”
- A clear study of the term does not mean that or imply that Paul had a “vision,” but that God revealed His Son to Paul.
- But, what happened to the “empty tomb” in Paul’s message?
- A careful study suggests that Paul “implied” the empty tomb, even though he did not explicitly mention it in 1 Corinthians 15.
VIII. The Analysis of Empty Tomb
- Who buried Jesus?
- Was it Joseph? If it was Joseph, which Joseph was it? These are the questions of the opponents of resurrection.
- Gospel of Mark says that it was Joseph of Arimathea;
- Matthew states that it was “a rich man from Arimathea,”
- Luke states that it was a man named Joseph;
- John states that it was Joseph Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus. All these different titles to Joseph cause confusion.
- Was it Joseph? If it was Joseph, which Joseph was it? These are the questions of the opponents of resurrection.
- But, is it necessary that all the gospels to “record” the exact events “word to word”? Gospels are the biographies of four authors about one Person, Jesus Christ.
- If a gospel contains exact information as the other, what is the point of the other gospels?
- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John gave adequate information.
- They were written by eyewitnesses: “These eyewitnesses endured persecution and death for the empirical claim that they had seen, heard, and touched the risen Jesus, yet they could have saved themselves by simply denying their testimony.”
- Information maybe perplexing, but according to Luke 23:50–56, it is clear that “Joseph from Arimathea” placed Jesus in his tomb.
IX. Other Witnesses
A. The Twelve Appearances (1 Cor. 15:8)
B. Mary Magdalene (John 20:10–18)
C. The Other Women (Matt. 28:1–10)
D. Peter (1 Cor. 15:5)
E. Ten Disciples (Luke 24:36–49; John 20:19–23)
F. He appeared to the eleven (John 20:24–31);
G. He appeared to the seven disciples (John 21);
H. Jesus commissioned the apostles (Matthew 28:16–20);
I. He appeared to the five hundred (1 Corinthians 15:6);
J. He appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7);
K. He appeared at the ascension (Acts 1:4–8).
Based on the number of evidences found in the Scriptures, how can one claim that Jesus did not raise from dead? If Jesus did not rise from dead, then Christianity itself is a false religion to believe and to accept Christ as one’s Savior. But, on the other hand, the Scriptures clearly indicate that believing in the “resurrection” is absolutely necessary for one to be saved (Romans 10:9). Opponents of Christ’s bodily resurrection seem to approach the Scripture with a notion that: Christ did not rise from the dead. The analytical evidence they provide are not thorough, and it is more subjective. The witnesses did not dream or had visions or were hallucinated. The events occurred in the Bible, especially Jesus appearances were real, and the witnesses that encountered Him were real. If these events were not real and if Jesus did not rise from dead, why would the disciples return back to carry on the mission that Jesus has commissioned them? Why would they put their lives at stake?
J.P Moreland gives five crucial points that support the evidence for resurrection: (1) The disciples died for their beliefs, (2) Conversion of skeptics such as James, (3) Changes in the social structures, that is, thousands of Jews believed in Christ after resurrection, (4) the communion and baptism in the early church, (5) and the emergence of Church.
Believing in resurrection of Christ is not self-deception as opponents claim, rather it gives rise to hope that cannot be found outside of Christ.
Believing in resurrection of Christ is not self-deception as opponents claim, rather it gives rise to hope that cannot be found outside of Christ. Click to tweet
Sources used in order:
Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall, eds., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992, 673-74.
George W. E. Nickelsburg, “Resurrection: Early Judaism and Christianity,” vol. 5 of The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed., David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992, 685.
Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall, eds., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992, 675.
Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, 719.
J. Kremer. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, eds. Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990, 527.
Ronald Y. K. Fung. The Epistle to the Galatians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988, 53.
F. F. Bruce. The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1982, 89.
Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004, 300.
Lee Strobel. The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998, 244-56.