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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

Why Should We Believe in the Resurrection?

by William Boekestein posted July 1, 2021

Though age would be rapidly catching up with him, some people believe that Elvis Presley is still alive. Despite certified death certificates, a very public, photographed funeral, and no verified appearances after the date of his death, fans insist: Elvis lives.

How many people view the resurrection of Christ similarly to conspiracy theories about Elvis? Is there compelling evidence that Christ actually rose from the dead? Or, is the story repeated simply because people wish him to not be dead? The stakes are high. Without the resurrection of Jesus, Christianity is empty and those who adhere to the faith “are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:14, 19).

Here are seven reasons to believe in the resurrection, not as a wish, but as a historical event:

1. Astonishing things happen.

Those who dismiss all things supernatural “naturally” oppose the plausibility of Christ’s resurrection. But honesty compels us to admit that our world, at many points, resists naturalistic explanation. Ruling out the possibility of supernatural phenomena is not a scientific exercise; it’s an act of faith. Unless we begin with closed minds that dismiss the supernatural and resist the power of evidence, we’ll have no constraining reason to doubt the resurrection. Paul’s question to the Roman skeptic Agrippa, is worth pondering: “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8).

2. Scripture is accurate.

If the Bible were a religious fable designed to persuade readers to trust in a made-up God, then why are certain (many!) events included? Why would the Bible record the utterly despicable actions of Jacob’s son Judah with his daughter-in-law Tamar (Gen. 38)? Why would Moses (Num. 20), Jonah (Jonah 1:3), and John (John 20:9) write about their own moral failures? God included these events in the Bible because they actually happened and played a meaningful role in the story of God’s redemption. The Bible was written by eyewitnesses, historians, and recipients of reliable oral tradition (cf. Luke 1:1–4), all inspired by God’s Spirit, to accurately summarize God’s rescue work (John 20:30–31).

3. Something altered the apostles’ lives.

The powerful change in the lives of Jesus’ closest associates is totally inexplicable apart from his resurrection. After Christ’s death, the disciples’ dreams were dashed. When the women explained that they’d seen Jesus alive, post-crucifixion, “their words seemed to [the eleven] like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11). Before Christ’s death, the disciples scattered. After seeing the death-wounds on Jesus’ living body, most of the disciples sealed their faith in Christ with martyrs’ deaths. Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter lacked the courage to speak about Christ, even to a servant girl (John 18:15–18). Afterward he boldly preached Christ before thousands of critics (see Acts 2; cf. 1 Cor. 15:9–10). During his earthly ministry, Jesus’ own brothers “did not believe in him” (John 7:5). Yet two of them—James and Jude—later authored Bible books promoting the glory of the risen Jesus. Only the resurrection explains this change.

4. The tomb was abandoned.

Critics have never solved the riddle of the empty tomb. By piercing his side with a sword, the Roman soldiers guaranteed that Jesus was dead when they placed him in the tomb. Later, rumors that this Jesus was alive and well would have been extremely simple to disprove; Pilate could have ordered the body exhumed and shown it to witnesses. Christianity would have become a historical footnote. But Jesus’ dead body was no more.

Did the disciples steal the body as the Jews claimed (Matt. 27:62–66, 28:11–15)? Did a handful of fearful, doubtful, disloyal fishermen overpower war-hardened Roman guards, dislodge the huge stone from tomb’s mouth, and steal a dead body without leaving any evidence? Even if so, it would have done no good. Jesus promised to rise from the dead as Jonah emerged from the whale; visibly and bodily. He never promised he would escape the tomb to remain forever incognito.

5. Jesus appeared to eyewitnesses.

Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances debunk the theory of the stolen body. The Bible records seven different resurrection appearances in several locations over the course of forty days. Jesus appeared to over 500 eyewitnesses at one event. During Paul’s day, half of these witnesses were still alive (1 Cor. 15:6). Paul reminds us that the things concerning Jesus were “not done in a corner” (v. 26). Hundreds of witnesses know what they saw.

6. The church advanced.

Jesus promised that he would rise from the dead, ascend into heaven, and pour out his Spirit; and that this would change people’s lives. This prophesy is still being fulfilled. Each day, hundreds of people worldwide experience resurrection power for the first time. They become “raised with Christ” and start seeking “those things which are above” (Col. 3:1). It’s impossible to explain—apart from the power of the living Christ—how the church has survived and grown despite frequent persecution and internal faithlessness.

7. The Holy Spirit affirms it.

A blind friend once challenged me to explain the concept of colors. I tried. But I couldn’t cause him to see. Some people, by the practice of faith, believe God’s testimony. Others do not, regardless of what they’re told.

In the end, believers don’t need to test God’s words. The Spirit proves them in our hearts. As Calvin wrote, “For as God alone can properly bear witness to his own words, so these words will not obtain full credit in the hearts of men, until they are sealed with the inward testimony of the Spirit… Enlightened by [God], we no longer believe, either on our own judgment or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human judgment, feel perfectly assured…that [Scripture] came to us…from God’s very mouth.”[1]

We have every reason to believe that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20).

[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.7.4, 5.

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