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Theology > Jesus > Resurrection and Ascension > The Fact of Christ's Resurrection         


He is not here;
for He is risen, as He said.
Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
Matt. 28:6

Each of the four Gospels records the resurrection of Christ: Matt. 28:1-8; Mk. 16:1-8; Lu. 24:1-12; Jo. 20:1-10. The same Gospels that related His earthly life and the details of His ministry affirm that He was crucified, buried, and that He arose from the dead on the third day. Within the source materials there is a combination of that which without debate passes for the historical, and also that which is associated with the unusual or supernatural, particularly the resurrection.

The question of the resurrection, therefore, is intricately involved with the question of the nature of the Text, a Text that reports and affirms resurrection from the dead. Can it be trusted; is it reliable; does it accurately report; are the historical accounts indeed history? Did the resurrection occur in space and time?

If the deeds of the life of Christ as recorded in the Scriptures are deemed to be history, then consistency mandates that the resurrection be treated as history. Both the life and the resurrection are known from the same source. Any question regarding the resurrection is a question regarding the reliability of the Text and the normative value of the Text. It is also a question of uniformity in hermeneutics: if the life is historical, then the resurrection is historical; if the resurrection is myth, legend, or some other non-historical category, then the life must also be evaluated as non-historical. If such reasoning be accepted and adopted then the Christian Faith has no anchor in history—it becomes merely imagination.

The Gospels read like history because they are history. Jesus was born in Bethlehem; He was baptized in the Jordan River; His ministry extended from Judah to Galilee; He was tried by the Jews and Romans in Jerusalem; He died on a cross outside the walls of the city; He was buried in someone else’s tomb; and He arose from the dead. It is all history; all of it reads like history. The details of Christ cannot be separated into history and non-history.

The testimony of the angel stands: “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matt. 28:6). The options are succinct and understandable: denial or belief. Either the resurrection of Christ is rejected, or it is accepted as fact.

Christ predicted that He would be put to death, and He also predicted that He would rise from the grave. In rising, therefore, He was validating His entire life and ministry. The point is that Jesus treated His coming resurrection as history, as much as the other details of His life and as the details of past history:

For 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 (Matt. 12:40);

The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up (Matt 17:22-23; Mk. 9:31);

Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again (Matt. 20:18-19; Mk. 10:33-34).

Matthew and Mark reference the fact that Jesus told of His death and resurrection: “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matt. 16:21; Mk. 8:31). To reject the claim of Christ regarding His resurrection is to question the nature of His Person.

As Christ predicted, He died and He rose again; and in His resurrection He was raised with a unity of soul and body, in other words, a living person. The truth is that the resurrected Christ does possess and will have a glorified body forever. It must be stated that wherever He is, He is there with His body (Phil 3:21; Heb. 7: 16, 24). The point is that Jesus foretold exactly what would transpire, and it came to pass—a fact, an event, of history.

On the day of the resurrection a group of women went to the tomb: Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, Salome, Joanna, and possibly other women (Mk. 16:1: Lu. 24:10); these and others saw the risen Lord. And they gave testimony to that fact:

The angel . . . said to the women, “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matt. 28:6; Mk. 16:6-7; Lu. 24:6);

Jesus said, “Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Matt. 28:10); He first appeared to Mary Magdalene . . . she went and told those who had been with Him as they morn and wept (Mk. 16:12);

They rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon” (Lu. 24:33-34; Mk. 16:12-13, He appeared in another form to two of them . . . and they went and told it to the rest);

They returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest (Lu. 24:9).

Later Paul gives testimony that he was a witness to the risen Christ: “Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (I Cor. 15:8; see: Personal Appearances).

While evidence and reasoning alone, or together, cannot convince and do not bring an individual to faith in Christ, it is still vital to make points that are consistent and true to the Scriptures and to rational thinking:

One, the same Scriptures that report His birth and death report His resurrection;

Two, no division can be made between the historical and the non-historical in these reports without being inconsistent and irrational when considering the reports themselves, for they are unified in their testimony;

Three, a denial of the resurrection of Christ is a denial of the plain and simple teaching of the texts, as well as their normative nature;

Four, the texts report numerous witnesses of the resurrection who gave testimony to its occurrence;

Five, the message of the Christian Faith is anchored in the historicity of His resurrection;

Six, for two millennia the Church has believed in the resurrection of Christ;

Seven, to doubt the historical nature of the resurrection while reading the Text is to interpret the Text with a previous mindset that does not allow one to the accept the natural reading of the Text when it reports supernatural events.  

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