“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15.17-19)
Christianity is not just a philosophy or a moral system; the entirety of the Christian faith depends on certain incredible historical facts. If certain things did not actually happen, then the whole religion is useless.
One of the most important is the real, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection of Christ confirmed Christ’s identity as the Son of God and his defeat over Satan, sin, and death. Everything hinges on this miracle.
So did it really happen? Here are 3 historical facts about the resurrection that all skeptics must reckon with:
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1) The Body Is Nowhere to Be Found
The easiest way someone in the 1st century (or even today) could prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead would be to simply produce the body.
After his death on the cross, Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb, a giant stone was rolled in front of the entrance, the stone was sealed, and Roman guards were placed there to protect it. And yet his body vanished without a trace.
2) There Were Hundreds of Eye-Witnesses to the Risen Jesus
Christians don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus merely because his body disappeared. No, the risen Jesus actually appeared to people. And we’re not talking about just his inner circle of Apostles – perhaps to those most “fanatically” devoted to him – we’re talking about hundreds of people.
St. Paul records in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Cor 15.4-8)
Scholars believe St. Paul wrote this letter somewhere around A.D. 54, which explains why he says “most of whom are still living.” In other words, if he wasn’t telling the truth, he could have easily be proven wrong.
3) Those Witnesses Were Willing to Die Terrible Deaths for What They Knew to Be the Truth
Some skeptics argue that Jesus’ followers somehow stole his body and then lied about having seen the risen Christ. But if that’s the case, then why would they be willing to leave behind their religious communities, families, friends, livelihoods, and – for many – their lives in gruesome ways, all for a lie?
The answer of course is that they didn’t: they really had seen the risen Christ, and they knew that this changed everything – so much so that they were willing to abandon everything for him.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
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