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Resurrection!

Resurrection! – Fatal Torment

This page considers the central event of Christianity – Jesus’ Resurrection. Some do not believe that Jesus was resurrected; others believe his resurrection was not physical. We will take a look at the topic to seek the truth.

The primary source of this information is the Bible. The evidence for what the Bible says being true is extreme, but here are a few thoughts about the historicity of the Bible for your consideration. First the Bible mentions numerous historical characters that can be validated outside the Bible. The descriptions of some of these are very specific. Consider these examples:

  • “In the year that King Uzziah died…”
  • “This oracle came in the year King Ahaz died…”;
  • “In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon…”;
  • “They served in the days of Joiakim son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest and scribe”.;
  • (“This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria”.);
  • “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar–when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene–…”.

I could continue, but you get the idea. In addition, the archeological evidence, the original transcript evidence and the Messianic prophecy evidence is staggering. The Bible has exponentially more historical evidence than any other book, including Homer’s Iliad. Much more could be said about the evidence favoring the historicity of the Bible, but that is a topic for another day.

During the coming weeks our topic of study will cover four areas listed in the bullets below. My extra-Bible research is primarily from a book called “resurrection” by Hank Hanegraaff. If you wish to learn more about resurrection, the book is available for purchase at http://www.christianbook.com. Hank Hanegraaff heads the Christian Research Council (CCR – see www.equip.org). Thanks to Hank, our topic of study can be neatly arranged and memorized based on the acronym FEAT:

  • Fatal Torment
  • Empty Tomb
  • Appearances of Christ
  • Transformation

Jesus’ Crucifixion was Fatal

When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:35-50)

As we begin to consider resurrection, the first thing to recognize is that Jesus actually died on the cross. The best medical minds have concluded that Jesus actually died on the cross (See “The Crucifixion of Jesus: The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View,” Arizona Medicine, March 1965, pages 183-187 & “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” The Journal of the American Medical Association, March 21, 1986, pages 1455-1463.The torment of Jesus actually began before he was nailed to the cross. It first began on the Mount of Olives, one of Jesus’ favorite places to be alone in prayer. After an emotional last supper where Jesus identified his betrayer, Jesus likely experienced a medical condition known as hematidrosis. Tiny capillaries in Jesus’ sweat glands ruptured and he literally sweated blood.

On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:40-44 NIV)

The same night Jesus was betrayed by Judas, disowned by Peter, arrested by the temple guard, brought before the High Priest, mocked, beaten and spat upon. The Next morning Jesus was stripped and subjected to a Roman flogging. The Romans had perfected torture. Jesus was flogged with a whip made of several strips of leather woven with pieces of bone and metal near the ends of the leather strips (called a “flagrum”). Victims of a Roman flogging were beaten almost to the point of death and often did not survive. After he was flogged, the Romans put a scarlet robe on Jesus (a sign of royalty) and fashioned a crown of thorns for his head (likely made from olive branches – very long thorns). They pressed the thorns into his head and gave him a scepter. They mocked him mercilessly. After they mocked him, they took the scepter out of his hand and repeatedly beat him on the head, commanding him to prophesy about who hit him.

Jesus was undoubtedly in critical condition at this point. A heavy wooden beam (or cross) was placed on Jesus back for him to carry to Golgotha, “the place of the skull”, where he was to be crucified. We had to invent this word crucify and the word excruciating (literally “out of the cross”) to adequately categorize the suffering that occurs in death by crucifixion.

At “the place of the skull”, The Roman soldiers drove thick spikes (about seven inches long) through Jesus’ hands and feet. Jesus, now nailed to a cross, was in excruciating pain as the spikes cut through nerves in his hands and feet. The Roman soldiers then raised Jesus’ cross and dropped it into hole for Jesus to hang there and die. Breathing at this point is becoming extremely painful as Jesus had to raise himself up on his hands and feet to take a breath. For three hours Jesus suffered in this way until finally he uttered the words “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”He then said “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” and he breathed his last breath.

Shortly after Jesus breathed his last, a Roman soldier thrust his spear into Jesus’ side to make sure he was dead. From the wound rushed forth blood and water verifying that Jesus was dead. Blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side was likely caused by medical conditions known as pleural effusion and pericardial effusion. These conditions in Jesus would have been caused by his flogging as well as his crucifixion. What Jesus experienced resulted in a significant loss of body fluids. His heart would have begun to pump rapidly (trying to pump blood that was not there). In addition, his body would have begun to conserve fluids and would have tried to gain more fluids by making him thirsty. Those who suffer from these conditions often pass out and experience extreme thirst; which is probably why Jesus could not carry his cross all the way to Golgotha (a Roman soldier told a man from Cyrene named Simon to carry Jesus’ cross) and why Jesus said “I am thirsty” when he was on the cross.

I think from all this evidence we are very safe in concluding that Jesus actually died a physical death. Next time we will consider the Empty Tomb.

Resurrection! – The Empty Tomb

The Resurrection of Jesus is the central event of Christianity. Without the Resurrection of Jesus, Christianity could not stand. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15:14-19 “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep [metaphor for death] in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”

Some do not believe that Jesus was resurrected; others believe his resurrection was not physical. We will seek the truth as we explore various aspects of resurrection and return to our study of the Gospel of John when we finish this study, unless interested readers lead us in a different direction.

Jesus’ Tomb was EmptyIt was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 15:42-16:8)

The author of “The Case for Christ”, Lee Strobel – who was an atheist until he research Christianity for himself, said “when you understand the role of women in the first century in first century Jewish society, what’s really extraordinary is that the empty tomb story should feature females as the discoverers of the empty tomb.” In fact, “any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discoverers of the empty tomb, Peter or John for example. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that – like it or not – they were the discoverers of the empty tomb! This shows that the gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing.”

The Female Factor

The testimony of women was regarded as so worthless that they could not even testify in a court of law. If a man committed a crime and only women witnessed the crime, he could not be convicted on their testimony. Women were on a low rung of the Jewish social ladder. Prior to the coming of Christ, women were so disparaged that one the early Jewish prayers from the era of Jesus stated “I thank you that I am not a woman”.

If Jesus had been the traditional Rabbi, he would not have allowed women to be his disciples. The biblical record is clear. Jesus not only allowed women to follow him; he encouraged it. There are other examples in the Bible where Jesus broke cultural norms as he encountered women. Consider for example that Jesus invited women to follow him on his journeys and spoke to the Samaritan woman (being a Samaritan [Jews considered Samaritans unworthy because they were not fully Jewish] and a woman, the typical Jew would not have spoken to her at all). Jesus didn’t think that it was odd for Mary to sit at his feet to learn and he encourage Martha to do the same. Jews segregated men and women in both the Temple and in Synagogue, but the early church did not segregate their congregations. The apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). If someone had been trying to fictionally create the Bible, women would have never had a prominent place in the Ministry of Jesus. It is because the account of an empty tomb is true that the story features the women who discovered the empty tomb.

First Response

The first Jewish response to the empty tomb pre-supposes the empty tomb. Instead of denying the empty tomb, Christian antagonists accused the disciples of stealing the body of Jesus. Stories saying that Jesus body was stolen from the tomb continued for centuries. While these stories have no historical merit, they underscore one of the oldest evidences – the empty tomb. In fact, Christianity could not have survived an identifiable tomb with the body of Jesus still in it. If those who denied Jesus could have pointed to a tomb with the body of Jesus in it they could have quickly discredited the disciples and their teachings. Even antagonists of the Christian faith must acknowledge the historicity of the empty tomb!

Resurrection! – The Appearances of Christ

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.

Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “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.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:13-49)

The Eyewitnesses

In U.S. courts, those charged with crimes are either found guilty or not guilty based on the presentation of evidence and the testimony of eyewitnesses. To prove the resurrection of Jesus, Christians could point to the empty tomb and the lack of a body as evidence and to the testimony of a great number of eyewitnesses who had seen the resurrected Jesus.

The apostles spoke with great confidence about the Resurrection of Jesus because they actually saw him. The apostles said that Jesus had appeared hundreds of people who were still alive and could be cross examined about what they had seen. Paul said “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
(1 Cor. 15:3-6)

Why does Paul mention that most of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were still living? Paul was inviting those who did not believe that Jesus had been resurrected to cross examine the eyewitnesses for themselves. There is no ambiguity in what Paul is saying. His testimony is very clear and his testimony can be backed up by more than five hundred other eyewitnesses who could be questioned by those who heard Paul’s testimony.

The Transformation

Further, what could account for Paul’s transformation? Paul was a highly esteemed Rabbi. He had been trained by Gamaliel, a highly regarded Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish council in the first century). Paul was a Pharisee, the largest and most influential religious-political party during New Testament times. Further, Paul persecuted the early Christians severely (Acts 7:51-8:1, Acts 8:3, Acts 9:1-2, Acts 22:3-5). How does a man like Paul (also known as Saul – Acts 13:9) suddenly change from a persecutor of Christians to a proclaimer of Christ? Only one thing could account for such a rapid change – he had seen the risen Jesus (Acts 9:4-5, Acts 22:7-8 and Acts 26:14-18).

The Decision

If you were a jury member in a trial to determine the truth about whether Jesus was resurrected, and you had seen the empty tomb and heard the testimony of over five hundred eyewitnesses who testified that Jesus had been resurrected, what would your verdict be?

Resurrection! – Transformation

The Resurrection of Jesus is the central event of Christianity. Without the Resurrection of Jesus, Christianity could not stand. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15:14-19 “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep [metaphor for death] in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (John 21:15-23)

Some do not believe that Jesus was resurrected; others believe his resurrection was not physical. We will seek the truth as we explore various aspects of resurrection and return to our study of the Gospel of John when we finish this study. After writting this post, I feel there are a few additional resurrection topics we must address, so in next week’s post we will look at the physicality of Jesus’ resurrection.

The primary source of my research is the Bible. The evidence for what the Bible says being true is extreme. The historicity of the Bible is well supported by events and people written about in other historical books, and by a staggering amount of archeological evidence, original transcript evidence and Messianic prophecy evidence. I also researched this topic using a book called “resurrection” by Hank Hanegraaff and other sources referenced in the book “resurrection”. If you wish to learn more about “resurrection”, the book is available for purchase at http://www.christianbook.com. Hank Hanegraaff heads the Christian Research Council. Thanks to Hank, our topic of study can be neatly arranged and memorized based on the acronym FEAT:

Fatal Torment
Empty Tomb
Appearances of Christ
Transformation

Transformation

John 21:15-23

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” John 21:15-23

Acts 2:22-36

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:

‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will live in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ [Psalm 16:8-11]

“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.’ [Psalm 110:1]

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:22-36)

Transformation

The resurrection of Jesus resulted in a few seemingly insignificant believers turning the world upside down in a few hundred years. This type of change in the hearts and minds of men and women is unprecedented in human history. Christians in the first century (and Christians today in certain parts of the world) are so utterly convinced of their eternal salvation based on Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice that they are willing to die horrible deaths rather than deny that Jesus is the Christ. It is inconceivable to think that the disciples of Jesus would be willing to die for what they knew to be a lie. This point is made very eloquently by Dr. Simon Greenleaf, the famous Royall Professor of Law at Harvard who wrote “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence” an excerpt of which follows:

The great truths which the apostles declared, were that Christ had risen from the dead, and that only through repentance from sin, and faith in him, could men hope for salvation. This doctrine they asserted with one voice, everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling terrors that can be presented to the mind of man.

Their master had recently perished as a malefactor, by the sentence of a public tribunal. His religion sought to overthrow the religions of the whole world. The laws of every country were against the teaching of his disciples. The interests and passions of all the rulers and great men in the world were against them. The fashion of the world was against them.

Propagating this new faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, they could expect nothing but contempt, opposition, revilings, bitter persecutions, stripes imprisonments, torments and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propogate; and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay, rejoicing.

As one after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor and resolution. The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience and unblenching courage. They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great facts and truths which they asserted; and these motives were pressed upon their attention with the most melancholy and terrific frequency. It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually rose from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.

If it were morally possible for them to have been deceived in this matter, every human motive operated to lead them to discover and avow their error. To have persisted in so gross a falsehood, after it was known to them, was not only to encounter, for life, all the evils which man could inflict, from without, but to endure also the pangs of inward and conscious guilt; with no hope of future peace, no testimony of a good conscience, no expectation of honor or esteem among men, no hope of happiness in this life, or in the world to come.

Such conduct in the apostles would moreover have been utterly irreconcilable with the fact, that they possessed the ordinary constitution of our common nature. Yet their lives do show them to have been men like all others of our race; swayed by the same motives, animated by the same hopes, affected by the same joys, subdued by the same sorrows, agitated by the same fears, and subject to the same passions, temptations and infirmities, as ourselves. And their writings show them to have been men of vigorous understandings. If then their testimony was not true, there was no possible motive for this fabrication.

The Twelve

As Greenleaf so wonderfully communicates, the Apostles were thoroughly transformed the Resurrection of Jesus. Peter, who denied Christ three times on the night Jesus was betrayed and was once afraid of being exposed as a follower of Jesus, was transformed into a man of great faith who died a martyrs death. According to tradition, Peter was crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same way Christ was crucified.

James, the half brother of Jesus who once hated everything his brother stood for, called himself “a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). James became a leader in the Jerusalem church, but in AD 62 was martyred for his faith. Eusebius of Caesarea describes James as being thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and subsequently stoned.

The Apostle Paul was also transformed as is illustrated by his letter to the Philippians:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11).

Peter, James and Paul were not alone in their transformation. As Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland points out, within weeks of Jesus’ resurrection, an entire community of at least 10,000 Jews were willing to give up the very sociological and theological traditions that had given them their national identity.

Traditions

Many traditions were transformed by Jesus resurrection. Among them were the Sabbath, sacrifices and sacraments. In Genesis, the Sabbath was set apart as a day of remembering and celebrating God’s work in creation (Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:11). After God’s people escaped from Egypt, the Sabbath was expanded as a remembrance of God’s deliverance (Deuteronomy 5:15). After Jesus was resurrected, the Sabbath became a celebration of the “rest” we have in Christ who delivers us from sin and death (Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews 4:1-11). In remembrance of the resurrection of Christ, Christians began to meet on the first day of the week (the day of the week that Jesus was resurrected).

For Jewish believer, the sacrificial system they had followed whereby they repeatedly sacrificed animals as a symbol of there atonement for sin, but after the resurrection of Jesus, followers of Christ stopped sacrificing animals. They recognized that Jesus died once for all and only his perfect sacrifice could save them from eternal torment. They had finally realized that the sacrifice of animals could never remove sin and only served as a frequent reminder of their sin (Hebrews 8-10). After his resurrection, Jesus became for them the “Lamb who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

In addition, the Jewish sacraments of Passover and baptism were transformed. The Passover had previously been a remembrance of God’s deliverance of the Jews from death when the death angel “passed over” their houses in the tenth and final plague that resulted in their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The Egyptian even was remembered with a Passover meal to remind them of the night that God had delivered them. After the resurrection of Jesus, the Passover meal became the Lord’s Supper in which the sacrifice of Jesus body and the shedding of his blood is remembered with a communion of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. Only the resurrection of Jesus can account for the remembrance of his brutal death on the cross. Without the resurrection of Jesus it would be at the least cruel and morbid to remember his brutal suffering on a Roman cross (See Resurrection! – Fatal Torment) with a memorial meal. We would not remember the death of John F. Kennedy that way.

Resurrection! – Jesus was Physically Resurrected

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “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.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24:36-43)

The physical resurrection of Jesus is constantly under attack by the culture and the media because it is central to the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul understood this when he said, “If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1st Cor. 15:32). Even worse, there are aberrant Christians as well as cultists who claim that Jesus was not physically resurrected. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Jesus was raised to life in a spirit body.

Evidence from Scripture

When Jewish leaders asked for a miraculous sign, Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19). Scripture confirms that the temple Jesus was referring to raising was his body (John 2:19-21). Peter declared on the day of Pentecost that Jesus “was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 2:29-32) John was equally emphatic in 1st John 1:1 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” The bodily resurrection of Jesus is so central to the Christian faith that the Bible is replete with similar references to the Physical resurrection of Jesus.

Confessions of the Church

The numerous confessions of early Christians also support the physical resurrection of Jesus. Justin Martyr rebuked those who claimed that Jesus was only spiritually resurrected. He also said, “The resurrection is a resurrection of the flesh which dies.” Cyril of Jerusalem said, “Let no heretic ever persuade thee to speak evil of Resurrection. For to this day the Manichees say, that the resurrection of the Saviour was phantom-wise, and not real.” In the fourth century, Augustine wrote, “Already both the learned and the unlearned have believed in the resurrection of the Flesh and its ascension to the heavenly places.” Likewise, Thomas Aquinas condemns those who “have not believed in the resurrection of the body, and have strained to twist the Holy Scripture to mean a spiritual resurrection.” Christians have also codified their confessions. For example, the Belgic Confession states, “our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, corporally and visibly, as he ascended with great glory and majesty.” Similarly, in the Westminster Confession we read that Christ “was crucified, and died; was buried and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he rose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father.”

Characteristics of Christ’s Body

Finally, the characteristics of Christ’s give testimony to the physicality of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus invited his disciples to examine his resurrected body so that they would know that it was the same body in which Jesus suffered. Jesus invited Thomas to “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” (John 20:27) If Jesus had been resurrected in an immaterial body, the disciples could not have touched it and felt the crucifixion wounds that Jesus bore. Jesus also ate in their presence – evidence that he possessed a physical body. Before Jesus ascended, he ate with his disciples (Acts 1:4-9). Jesus testified convincingly to his owned bodily resurrection when he said, “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 24:39).

Was Christ physically resurrected? Absolutely!

Resurection! Christians to Eternal Life

“But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (1st Corinthians 15:35-44)

Some people believe that death is the cessation of life. Others believe that death is an escape from the body (even some fellow believers I know have believed this). Some who believe in reincarnation think that after we die we come back to this life as someone else (or worse as something else). Still others believe that our bodies are an illusion and the only thing that survives in death is an impersonal cosmic consciousness. Only Christians believe that our physical bodies will be resurrected.

I have often wondered what resurrection will be like. Eternal life for the Christian is described with marvelous imagery. The scenes of heaven are too grand for us to comprehend so God describes them in ways that we can imagine as being spectacular (a city with a foundation of precious gemstones, pearl gates, a street of gold, a crystal sea, a river of life, a tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit and similar imagery).

The Bible gives us a glimpse of what resurrection will be like in passages like 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

The Seed

To inform our thinking about resurrection, Paul uses the imagery of a seed. Most of us can probably remember the days in grade school when we put a bean on a wet paper towel and watered it every day. The bean changed before our eyes. The bean was transformed into something new. The bean was still on that paper towel (it was not a not a “reincarnated” bean or a different bean). The bean had been transformed. The bean “died” and was “resurrected” with a new “body”.

The imagery of the bean’s transformation is helpful to our understanding of how we will be resurrected (see 1st Corinthians 15:35-44 above). “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1st Corinthians 15:42-57).

Spiritual Body

Paul says we will be “raised a spiritual body” (1st Corinthians 15:44). Some have mistaken this as the lack of a physical body. Jesus was resurrected as the “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1st Corinthians 15:20). When Jesus was resurrected, he still bore the scars of his crucifixion. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:27-28). Jesus’ physical body was resurrected and ours will be as well. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

It should also be noted that some the translation of “spiritual body” in 1st Corinthians 15:44 could read “supernatural body” (the footnotes in your Bible may refer to this as an alternate translation). The translation would then read “it is sown a natural body, it is raised a supernatural body” (1st Corinthians 15:44). In its context, the passage is talking about your physical body being transformed not eliminated. The “natural” man is not referring to a physical man, but a man who is controlled by human nature. Similarly, “spiritual” man is not referring to an immaterial man but to a man controlled by the spiritual nature.

Finally, in our resurrected bodies we will no longer be slaves to sin. We will truly be who we are in Christ. Currently we are positionally free from sin because of Christ’s substitutionary death, but we still struggle with sinful desires that we occasionally give in to. After our resurrection we will realize the fullness of our freedom from sin in Christ . (Revelation 21:3-5) In the meantime, we wait eagerly for the day when Jesus returns to take us home. Come Lord Jesus!

Resurrection! Unbelievers to Eternal Torment

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” Matthew 25:41-46.

All people will be in eternity at the end of the age. Those who belong to Christ will share eternal life in Heaven. Those who do not know Christ will share eternal torment in Hell. There are many jokes about Hell in our culture. Few treat the possibility of eternal torment in Hell with any seriousness. More people would be seeking ways to avoid hell if they knew the reality of the torment that awaits those who do not belong to Christ.

The Greek Bible word we translate as Hell is gehenna. The word derives from the Greek word for the Valley of Bin Hinnom in which idolatrous Israelites offered child sacrifices to the idols Molech and Baal (2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6, Jeremiah 7:31-32; Jeremiah 19:2-6). The Greek word gehenna conjures images of burning bodies, bones, fires and birds tearing flesh from rotting bodies. A place where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”. As graphic as this imagery is, it is just a symbol of the fullness of God’s wrath against the unbeliever. “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

Some people think of hell as separation from God. This is comforting to the non-Christian who wants to be separated from God. R.C Sproul says that the problem is that in hell people will not be separated from God, but that in fact God will be present and will carry out the fullness of his wrath against those who reject him. He goes on to conclude that the most horrifying thing about hell is its eternality. We can endure much if we know there is a limit to the suffering. People have endured dreadful things in life knowing that their suffering would eventually end. There is no such hope in hell. Jesus says of hell “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned”. (John 5:28-29)

Christ spoke more about the horrors of hell than the delight of heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his followers more than six times about hell including the use of such hyperbole such as in Mark 9:47-48 where Jesus said “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell”. In the Olivet Discourse Christ repeatedly warned his followers of the judgment that is to come “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:31-34). Jesus goes on to say “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:41, 46).

The concept of choice leads us to believe that there must be a hell. If there were no choice, then some would be dragged off to heaven against their will. Having no choice in the matter would make us like puppets of God doing whatever he willed for us to do. Furthermore, without choice there could be no love. A loving god does not force himself on humanity but rather voluntarily suffers rejection by those he created. Common sense also helps us realize that there must be a difference in eternal consequences. It would not be right for Hitler and Mother Theresa to receive the same eternal outcome.

What about you?

This is my last post on the reality and evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus. If you are still unconvinced of the reality of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, I invite you to comment. If you want a continuing or private dialogue then see my skeptics’ page. If requested, I would be happy to continue one on one dialogues offline. One thing each of us must do is choose whether we believe in Jesus as Savior or not. Our eternal destiny depends on our choice. Will you deny Christ or choose him as your Lord and Savior? “If serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

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