A common greeting of Christians on the day we remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ is “He is risen!” to which one responds, “He is risen, indeed!” Christians have appropriately been referred to as the Easter people.
There is nothing more significant to the Christian faith and life than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul identifies this as a matter of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3-5). Furthermore, Paul captures the heart of the resurrection by responding to those in Corinth who questioned it writing, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (15:17-19).
Without the resurrection, Jesus has not been raised, our faith is futile, we remain in our sins, we have no hope, and we of all people are to be pitied. That is a sad and sorry state.
But this is not the case! Jesus has been raised from the dead. Paul reassures the believers in Corinth, and all Christians subsequently, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:20-22). With the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in contrast to the state of humanity without his resurrection, our faith is certain, our sins are forgiven, we have hope, and we proclaim the good news to others.
Over the course of numerous years, I have taught about the resurrection of Jesus Christ to many including sr. high youth, adult Sunday school classes, leadership training courses, theology refreshers, and others. The notes I have used in outline form are included. I have compiled these notes from several different sources and authors, references which I have not included. This was compiled years ago, and when done at that time I did not include the references. I share this because although I compiled these notes, I have been dependent on many others, for example William Lane Craig, Millard Erickson, Norman L. Geisler, Wayne Grudem, Gary Habermas, Murray J. Harris, J. P. Moreland, N. T. Wright.
Although you will find similar content in most books on apologetics, systematic theologies and the historicity of the resurrection, each will also provide some nuance or aspect that another may not. I stand firmly on the Scriptures, the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and I also stand on the shoulders of giants, those faithful saints, both living and dead who have pondered and written about Jesus’ resurrection, and from whom I have learned a great deal. In these notes you will read about the sources of Jesus existence, the evidence for the resurrection, alternative explanations for the resurrection, the nature of Jesus’ resurrection body, and the theological implications of Jesus’ resurrection.
At the end of the day, the importance is that Jesus has been raised from the dead and he lives! We remember the words of the angel to the women at the tomb on that resurrection morning, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. . . . Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead” (Matt. 28:6-7; cf. Mk. 16:6-7; Lk. 24:6-9). And we also respond as Thomas in worship, as he stood before the resurrected Lord one week later, confessing, “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28). In other words, this is evidence, information, though for us it is not just that. It is information that consists of truth that transforms. Like Thomas, when one learns of the resurrection and encounters the resurrected Christ, the spiritually dead become alive. Might you be encouraged and edified as you read through these notes on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and might it lead to worship.
Jesus’ resurrection vindicated His life and ministry (Rom. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:16), and his resurrection is considered the firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:20) which means that, at the trumpet sound (Matt. 24:30-31; 1 Cor. 15:52), those who are raised in Christ will experience a similar resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23). Christ’s resurrection was bodily (Lk. 24:41-43; Jn. 20:27), yet his resurrected body underwent a transformation. It was raised immortal, incorruptible and imperishable (1 Cor. 15). After Jesus’ resurrection, he ascended to heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father (Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 10:12), known as the ‘session’, interceding for those who believe (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25) and he will one day return to judge both the living and the dead (Matt. 25:31-46; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).
II. Sources of Jesus’ Existence
- Jewish: - The Dead Sea Scrolls (150 B.C.-A.D. 68) - Josephus (A.D. 37 or 38-between 110-120) - The Talmud (c. A.D. 400-500)
- Roman Sources: - Seutonius (c. A.D. 70-c. 160) - Tacitus (c. A.D. 55-c. 117) - Pliny the Younger (A.D. 61 or 62-c. 113)
- Unknown - Thallus (through Christian chronographer, Julius Africanus, c. A.D. 160-240)
- Christian Sources Outside the New Testament - Agrapha - Apocryphal Gospels
B. Canonical (Bible)
- Resurrection in the Old Testament - 1 Sam. 2:6; Job 19:26-27; Ps.16:9-11; 17:15; 49:15; 73:23-26; Isa. 25:8a; 26:19; 53:10b-12; Ezek. 37:1-14; Dan. 12:2-3; 12:13; Hos. 6:1-3; 13:14.
- Passion-Resurrection Predictions - They come in three sections: - Mk. 8:31-33; Matt. 16:21-23; Lk. 9:22; - Mk. 9:30-32; Matt. 17:22-23; Lk. 9:43b-45; - Mk. 10:32-34; Matt. 20:17-19; Lk. 18:31-34.
- Resurrection Narratives - 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Mk. 16:1-8; Matt. 28:1-20; Lk. 24:1- 53; Jn. 20:1-21:23.
- Resurrection Traditions - Acts 2:23-24; 4:10; 5:30-31; 10:39-40; 17:31; Rom. 4:24; 8:34; 14:9; 1 Cor. 6:14; Gal. 1:1; Phil. 2:8-9; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:14 (Motives - apologetic, Christological, missionary, liturgical, evangelistic)
III. Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection
A. The Empty Tomb
- The historical credibility of the burial story supports the empty tomb.
- The tradition of the empty tomb is recorded in all four gospels.
- Paul’s testimony implies the fact of the empty tomb.
- The presence of the empty tomb narrative in the pre-Markan Passion story supports its historical credibility.
- The use of “the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2) instead of “on the third day” points to the primitiveness of the tradition.
- The nature of the narrative itself is theologically unadorned and nonapologetic.
- The empty tomb was discovered by women.
- The investigation of the empty tomb by Peter and John is historically probable.
- It would have been virtually impossible for the disciples to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem had the tomb not been empty.
- The early Christians, as Jews, would have assumed that resurrection shortly after death implied an empty tomb.
- The earliest Jewish apologetic presupposes the empty tomb.
- The fact that Jesus’ tomb was not venerated as a shrine indicates that the tomb was empty.
B. Post-Mortem/Post-Resurrection Appearances
The appearances of Jesus after His resurrection were to several individuals, they took place during a very specific period of forty days, they did not happen just to believers, they were extraordinarily varied.
- The testimony of Paul shows that the disciples saw appearances of Jesus.
- The Gospel accounts of the resurrection appearances are fundamentally reliable historically. - There was not enough time for legends to accrue significantly. - The controlling presence of living eyewitnesses would retard significant accrual of legend. - The authoritative control of the apostles would have helped to keep legendary tendencies in check.
- Particular resurrection appearances have historical credibility. - The appearance to the women. - The appearance to Peter. - The appearance to the Twelve. - The Lake of Tiberias appearance. - The appearance in Galilee. - The appearance to the five hundred believers. - The appearance to James. - The appearance to Paul.
- The resurrection appearances were physical, bodily appearances. - Paul implies that the appearances were physical events. - The Gospels confirm that the appearances were physical and bodily.
The concept of bodily resurrection from the dead was part of Jewish belief and is attested in the Old Testament (see above, II.B.1.). During the time of Jesus belief in the bodily resurrection had become a great hope for the Jews, especially the Pharisees (Matt. 22-23-33). But it must be noted that the Jewish understanding of the resurrection differed from the Christian conclusion of the resurrection (because Jesus rose from the dead) in two important ways: 1) Jewish belief always concerned a resurrection at the end of the world, not a resurrection in the middle of history; and 2) Jewish belief always concerned a general resurrection of the people, not the resurrection of an isolated individual.
C. Other Evidences
- The Origin/Survival and Existence of the Church
- The Transformation (Faith) of the Disciples
- The Early Christian Change from the Sabbath to Sunday as the day of Worship (There were other changes also: 1) sacrifices, 2) keeping the law, 3) non-Trinitarian monotheism, 4) the Messiah was considered to be a human figure.)
- The Testimony of Christian Believers
- The Sacraments of the Early Church
IV. Alternative Explanations of the Resurrection
- Swoon Theory (Empty Tomb)
- Stolen-Body Theory (Empty Tomb)
- Wrong-Tomb Theory (Empty Tomb)
- Myth or Legend Theory (Empty Tomb)
- Subjective Visions (Hallucination) Theory (Appearances)
- Objective Visions Theory (Appearances)
- Conspiracy Theory
V. The Nature of Jesus’ Resurrection Body
Jesus was a human, which meant He had a body. Because of the resurrection, Jesus was raised in a ‘spiritual body’ (to borrow Paul’s terminology). Though certainly is veiled, there are some conclusions that can be made about Jesus’ resurrection body: 1) He appeared bodily; 2) Jesus was no longer bound by material or spatial limitations; 3) it also appears that He could materialize and be localized at will; 4) Jesus could be touched and heard as well as seen; 5) there was a continuity between Christ’s body before the resurrection and after the resurrection, but there was also some discontinuity.
- Passages which stress the material nature of the body - Matt. 28:9; Lk. 24:15, 39, 43, 50-51; Jn. 20:20, 27; Acts 1:4; 10:41.
- Passages which stress the non-material nature of the body - Lk. 24:31, 36, 44; Jn. 20:19, 26; Acts 1:3; 10:40-41a.
- Three main solutions of the Evidence - Jesus’ resurrection body was basically “material” or “fleshly” but either was capable of temporary dematerialization or had nonmaterial properties. - In His resurrected state Jesus possessed a “spiritual body” which could be expressed in an immaterial or a material mode. - His body was in the process of transition from the material to the spiritual during the forty days of appearances.
VI. Theological Implications of Christ’s Resurrection
- The resurrection was God’s vindication of Christ. - The resurrection vindicated the messiahship of Jesus. - The resurrection vindicated and confirmed the sonship of Jesus. - The resurrection vindicated the work of Jesus. - The resurrection of Jesus vindicated His followers and His Father.
- The resurrection was God’s exaltation of Christ.
- The resurrection marked the inauguration of the new covenant, the beginning of the new age, the Holy Spirit was given, and new spiritual power was released in the world
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