“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins”—1 Corinthians 15:17
Islam and Judaism swear the resurrection of Jesus Christ never happened. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim Jesus’ physical body was discarded, destroyed, or dissolved into gasses. Jesus Seminar fellows laugh it off as mere wishful thinking. What if they are right? What if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead?
If that’s the case, there is no Christianity…no hope…no future. But if Christianity is factually reliable, then Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest feat in human history. There is no middle ground.
So how can we know today what actually happened 2,000 years ago?
For one, there were witnesses.
Jesus gave his disciples many convincing proofs that he had risen from the dead. Luke wrote in Acts 1:3, “He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God .” Likewise, the apostle Peter made a powerful proclamation confidently stating that many credible eyewitnesses could confirm the fact of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact”
(Acts 2:32 ). The apostle Paul also points out that Christ “died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day….and 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 Corinthians 15:3–6).
It would have been one thing for Paul to attribute these supernatural experiences to people who had already died. It was quite another to attribute them to multitudes who were still alive. As the famed New Testament scholar of Cambridge University C. H. Dodd points out, “There can hardly be any purpose in mentioning the fact that most of the five hundred are still alive, unless Paul is saying in effect, ‘The witnesses are there to be questioned.’”
Point two…the effect.
What happened as a result of the resurrection is unprecedented in human history. In the span of a few hundred years, a small band of seemingly insignificant believers succeeded in turning an entire empire upside down. While it is conceivable that they would have faced torture, vilification, and even cruel deaths for what they fervently believed to be true, it is inconceivable that they would have been willing to die for what they knew to be a lie. As Dr. Simon Greenleaf, the famous Royall Professor of Law at Harvard, put it:
“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….
If then their testimony was not true, there was no possible motive for this fabrication.” Peter, who was once afraid of being exposed as a follower of Christ, after the resurrection was transformed into a lion of the faith and suffered a martyr’s death. James, the half-brother of Jesus, who once hated everything his brother stood for, after the resurrection calls himself “a bond-servant… of the Lord Jesus Christ”
(James 1:1 nasb). He not only became the leader of the Jerusalem church but in a.d. 62 was martyred for his faith. The apostle Paul, likewise, was transformed. Once a ceaseless persecutor of the growing church, Paul became the chief proselytizer of the Gentiles. And these men were not alone. Within weeks of the resurrection, not just one, but an entire community of at least ten thousand Jews gave up the very traditions of their national and religious identity.
So, what about you?
Each day, people of every tongue and tribe and nation are baptized in the name of the risen Christ. They have come to realize that Christ cloaked himself in human flesh to restore the relationship with God broken by our sin, that Christ lived the perfect life we could never live, and that he died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day rose again from the dead. When they believe that this is no mere fantasy, but a well-attested fact of ancient history, they take the final step and personally experience the resurrected Christ.
Recognizing that they are sinners, they repent of their sins and receive Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord of their lives. Today Christians everywhere not only know Christ evidentially but experientially as well. Christ is more real to them than the very flesh on their bones.
Are you ready to embrace the truth of the Resurrection?
In essence, becoming a follower of Jesus Christ involves realizing that you are a sinner, being willing to repent of your sins, and then receiving Christ as the Savior and Lord of your life.
Realize that you are a sinner.
Sin is not just murder, rape, or robbery. Sin is failing to do the things you should and doing those things you should not. In short, sin is a word that describes anything that fails to meet God’s standard of moral perfection. As such, sin is the barrier between you and a satisfying relationship with God. As the Bible puts it, “Your iniquities [sins] have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2) and “God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 5:6).
Repent of your sin.
Repentance is an old English word that describes a willingness to turn away from sin and turn toward Jesus Christ. It literally means a complete U-turn on the road of life—a change of heart and a change of mind. It means a willingness to follow Jesus Christ and receive Him as Savior and Lord. In the words of Christ, “The time has come….The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15 ).
Receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
True saving faith entails not only knowledge and agreement, but trust. You can know about Jesus Christ and you can agree that he has saved others, but until you personally place your trust in Him, you will not be saved. As the Lord Jesus proclaims, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24). Put another way, “Whoever believes in [Jesus Christ] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).
Even now you can receive the resurrected Christ as your personal Savior and Lord. One way to do so is simply to pray a prayer like this one—and remember, there is no magic in the words; God is looking at the intent of your heart.
I thank You that You have provided a way for me to have a relationship with You; I realize that I am a sinner; I thank You that You are my perfect Father; I thank You for sending Jesus to be my Savior and Lord; I repent and receive His perfection in exchange for my sin. Amen.