Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Critics of our faith find it hard to believe. Even Christians sometimes wrestle with doubts regarding His resurrection. Does it matter whether or not our Savior rose from the dead? The apostle Paul certainly thought so. He wrote, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain... and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:14,17).
Let's look at a few theories that attempt to discredit the resurrection and examine the evidence that disproves them.
The swoon theory maintains that Jesus was not really dead but only fainted on the cross. After He was laid in the grave, the cool, damp environment of the cave revived Him.
There are numerous problems with this from both a biblical and practical perspective. The Bible said Jesus was dead. He "yielded up His spirit" (Matthew 27:50). Even the Pharisees wanted the tomb sealed, "otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead'" (Matthew 27:64).
From a practical point of view, those who hold to the swoon theory do not understand the horrors of crucifixion. Even the soldiers who went to break Jesus' legs realized they didn't have to because He was dead. Furthermore, no one just awakened from a swoon could push away the huge stone that sealed the door to the tomb, much less subdue the guards stationed there.
Others claim that Jesus' body was stolen. Two groups of people could have taken it: His friends or His enemies. Many of His disciples went to their graves still claiming Jesus was the Christ and that He rose from the dead. People don't typically die for what they know to be a lie.
His enemies had a better opportunity to steal the body. They could have struck a deal with the soldiers standing guard. Even so, Jesus' enemies had no reason to steal His body. But if they had stolen it, when news of the resurrection surfaced, wouldn't they have produced the body to disprove rumors that Christ was alive? Of course they would. The only reasonable explanation is that He died, was buried, and rose from the dead. After all this, He walked the earth for 40 days.
Some believe that Christ's followers merely imagined seeing Him alive. After Jesus arose, He appeared both to individuals--such as Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18) and Peter (1 Corinthians 15:5)--and to small groups of people--such as the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27) and His disciples (John 20:26-29; Acts 1:3-11). First Corinthians 15:6 tells of five hundred followers seeing Him at once.
When skeptics assert that only a handful of people imagined seeing the Lord Jesus, they have a hard time refuting His appearance to 500 people. It is impossible to think that a crowd this size would imagine the same thing, no matter how grief-stricken they were.
The fact is, He said He would rise, and He did. The disciples' lives were transformed. Many boldly held their faith to the point of martyrdom. Even the day of worship was changed from Saturday to Sunday to celebrate His resurrection.
Why Did Jesus Die?
Jesus died and rose from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins. He died in our place to bring us to God. All who believe in Him are forgiven and have the gift of everlasting life.
"For Christ also died for sins...so that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
How Does the Resurrection Give Us Hope?
When someone we love is taken by death, we grieve. Those who place their trust in Jesus Christ can look forward to a wonderful reunion with all the faithful departed and our Savior, who died--and lives--for us
If Jesus had remained dead, we would have nothing--no hope, no faith, no comfort. But we have a living Savior who transcended the laws of death and crushed them forever. His resurrection assures yours. Because He lives, you will live forever.
Place your trust in Jesus Christ today and receive Him as your Savior.
You can tell Him in a prayer like this: Jesus, I know I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. I believe You died in my place to pay the penalty for my sin and You rose from the dead. I now admit my sin and turn to You, trusting in You alone as my Savior, and receiving Your gift of forgiveness and eternal life.
Charles F. Stanley
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA
and founder of In Touch Ministries