Reason # 8: Be the first among the resurrected
My stepdad told me an interesting story the other day. He worked many years in various hospitals. One day he was catching a ride in an elevator along with a doctor. He asked the doctor “Have you saved any lives or cured any diseases today?” The doctor’s response: “No, all I have done is prolong death.” In the previous reason, we saw that man has a serious problem called death, yet Jesus conquered it. Today’s discussion is really just a continuation or natural outflowing of Jesus’ victory over death, for the way in which Jesus proved his victory was to rise again from the dead.
You may recall that Lazarus was another guy that was able to come back to life after being dead several days. Yet there are two major differences between Lazarus’ resurrection and Jesus’: 1) Lazarus died again, and 2) Lazarus did not resurrect himself on his own power. So the fact that Jesus had the power to save himself and that his tomb is the only empty tomb on earth proves that he is God and has ultimate authority over all things, even death!
After he arose from the dead, he had a new body, a glorified one. He appeared to the disciples and others and then shortly after ascended directly into heaven. From that day on, he has been in the business of changing lives, even though he cannot be seen physically.
Athanasius points out keenly that Jesus’ ability to work in the hearts of people proves that he is still alive:
“Dead men cannot take effective action; their power of influence on others lasts only till the grave. Deeds and actions that energize others belong only to the living. Well, then, look at the facts in this case. The Savior is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching. Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life? Does a dead man prick the consciences of men?”
Jesus, who was the first among the resurrected, serves as an ultimate source of hope for those that believe in Him. Paul, in Philippians 3:20 states “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Two key observations regarding this passage are 1) That God will resurrect our bodies, and 2) Our bodies will be different in the resurrected state.
Paul again gives us assurance of being resurrected in 1 Corinthians 6:14: “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” And again, in Romans 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
The resurrection did not come cheap, it came at the expense of Jesus’ death. In other words, there would have been no resurrection without Jesus first living his life and suffering for us first. Being resurrected and obtaining a place in heaven is not for everyone. Those that “bear the cross” of Jesus will be those who are resurrected with him. Many people want to receive the benefits of heaven without being a disciple of Jesus, but there are no short-cuts.
There are some who deny the resurrection of Christ all together. Perhaps they do this because they know that if the resurrection did happen, then Christianity must be true. Dr. Gary Habermas, one of the leading historical apologists, has written a great deal on the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. He gives a list of 12 historical facts surrounding the resurrection of Jesus that even skeptical scholars adhere to, the 12 facts include:
1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion. 2. He was buried, most likely in a private tomb. 3. Soon afterwards the disciples were discouraged, bereaved and despondent, having lost hope. 4. Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after his interment. 5. The disciples had experiences that they believed were the actual appearances of the risen Christ. 6. Due to these experiences, the disciples’ lives were thoroughly transformed. They were even willing to die for their belief. 7. The proclamation of the Resurrection took place very early, from the beginning of church history. 8. The disciples’ public testimony and preaching of the Resurrection took place in the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified and buried shortly before. 9. The gospel message centered on the preaching of the death and resurrection of Jesus. 10. Sunday was the primary day of worshiping and gathering. 11. James, the brother of Jesus and a skeptic before this time, became a follower of Jesus when he believed he also saw the risen Jesus. 12. Just a few years later, Paul became a believer, due to an experience that he also believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.1
Point number six is in my opinion a very powerful point. All of the disciples were not just willing to die for their belief that Jesus arose again, but the great majority of them did die in a gruesome manner at the hands of their opponents. It is a fact that some people may risk their lives for something that is not true, but it is not logical for people to die for something they know did not happen. This point, along with the others mentioned by Habermas makes any argument against Christ’s resurrection very weak and improbable.
Even though these argument points and others may help you believe that the resurrection is true, that is not my main goal here. I don’t want to defend the resurrection over celebrating the resurrection. It is to be celebrated like nothing before or after. There are many songs which celebrate our Risen Lord, one of my favorites is “In Christ alone.” The lyrics are below. Additionally, you may celebrate by singing along with a recorded version. Two of my favorites are these by Lauren Daigle and a recording from the Together for the Gospel Conference by Sovereign Grace Music.
In Christ alone, my hope is found He is my light, my strength, my song This cornerstone, this solid ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, When fears are stilled, when strivings cease! My comforter, my all in all Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh, Fullness of God in helpless babe! This gift of love and righteousness, Scorned by the ones He came to save. 'Til on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied For ev'ry sin on Him was laid Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain Then bursting forth in glorious day, Up from the grave He rose again! And as He stands in victory, Sin's curse has lost its grip on me For I am His and He is mine Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death This is the pow'r of Christ in me From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand 'Til He returns or calls me home Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.
Questions to consider:
Are you sure that you will be resurrected? How can you be sure?
What “costs” are you paying now as a follower of Christ?
For further reading:
Read 1 Corinthians 15, which has been titled “The Resurrection Chapter” of the Bible.
Watch a video of Gary Habermus discussing the reliability of the resurrection of Jesus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5znVUFHqO4Q
Notes – 1: From Gary R. Habermas, “Evidence for the Historical Jesus: Is the Jesus of History the Christ of Faith?” - available free of charge from www.garyhabermas.com/evidence