It has been said by many that the key component of the Christian Faith is the historical event of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. While the crucifixion provides the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world (John 1:29), the resurrection of Christ vindicates His death as being approved by God. For all of the accusations that Christ sustained both in His earthly life and while hanging on the cross, the very notion that He was raised from the dead and was appearing to many as proof served as the grounds that demanded their silence. Torrey once wrote, “The crucifixion loses its meaning without the resurrection. Without the resurrection, the death of Christ was only the heroic death of a noble martyr. With the resurrection, it is the atoning death of the Son of God. It shows that death to be of sufficient value to cover all our sins, for it was the sacrifice of the Son of God. In it we have an all-sufficient ground for knowing that the blackest sin is atoned for. Disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Christian faith is vain.”
There is no other doctrine in all of Scripture that has withstood more scrutiny from its critics. Without a doubt, it is because of the implications that come with the idea of Jesus Christ being a living Savior, the unmistakable testimony in declaring that He is God, and the fact that He is the living Judge to whom the whole world is accountable. This is stated clearly by Paul when talking with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. He says to them:
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
Where there is no pardon there is only condemnation. Jesus stands as the living Savior, and the living Judge, to administer pardon or judgment, depending on one’s trust or rejection of Him as their Savior. The proof of this awaited judgment is the resurrection.
Is all of this true? Did Jesus really rise from the dead in bodily form? Thankfully, the Word of God provides answers for these questions with undeniable proofs. If we have ears to hear, we will hear it clearly.
Jesus told us it would happen beforehand
Below are ten passages that Jesus made to the fact of His bodily resurrection throughout the four Gospels.
In Matthew 16we find two instances of teaching that are very different from anything that Jesus had taught before. In 16:13-20 we have Jesus speaking of something called the “church” for the first time. The question of “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (v.13b) brings about the corporate conclusion from the disciples through the mouth of Peter that “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v.16). This is the confession of the twelve in concluding that Jesus is the Promised Messiah of the Old Testament.
The second instance that Jesus brings forth is the first reference to His coming persecution, death, and resurrection in 16:21, which incites a rebuke from Peter (16:22). This verse begins with “From this time,” showing us that this was something that was not previously taught (16:21a). With the Jewish leaders rejecting Christ as the Messiah despite the maximum revelation that they had received (Matt 12:24-28), Jesus now turned His attention toward His atoning death and bodily resurrection; both spoken of before they occurred.
After the events of the bodily transfiguration of Christ in the presence of Peter, James, and John (Matt 17:13), Jesus restricts the communication of this event telling them “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead” (17:9), speaking again of His coming resurrection. Later in this same chapter, Jesus refers to His betrayal, death, and resurrection, telling His disciples that He “will be raised on the third day” (17:23b).
With Matthew 20:17-19we find Jesus going up to Jerusalem. Before arriving, He pulls the twelve aside and reveals to them again the events that will soon take place. This time more details are provided by Jesus. He speaks of His betrayal, the verdict of “condemnation” that will be leveled against Him (20:18), that He will be “handed over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him” (20:19a). He then adds that “on the third day He will be raised up” (20:19b). The specifics referred to by Jesus are too accurate to be discredited. Each of these things transpired just as He said that they would.
Matthew records some of the specifics surrounding the Last Supper in Matthew 26:20-30a. After singing a hymn at the conclusion of the meal, Jesus and the eleven journey to the Mount of Olives (26:30b). On the way, Jesus tells the eleven that He will appear to them in Galilee “after I have been raised” (26:32a). This is verified by the angel’s words to Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary” (Matt 28:1, 7b), Jesus’ words to the same women (28:10b), and His appearance to the eleven in Matthew 28:16-17.
Jesus’ prediction of His death and resurrection is also found in the Gospel of Mark. In Mark 9:30-32, Jesus speaks of His betrayal, His death at “the hands of men” (9:31b), and that “He will rise three days later” (9:31c). We are also told that they had no understanding of this matter and were afraid to ask Jesus about it (9:32).
Mark 10:32-34deals with the same scene as found in Matthew 20:17-19, with Jesus and the twelve going up to Jerusalem. As in the Matthew account, Jesus gives greater details of the events that would soon transpire. He would be betrayed to the chief priests and scribes (10:33b), condemned to death and given over to the Gentiles (10:33c), He will be mocked and spit upon (10:34a), scourged and they will “kill Him” (10:34b). Jesus then tells them that “three days later He will rise again” (10:34c).
The Gospel of Luke also contains Jesus’ teachings on His resurrection. In Luke 9:18-22we find a parallel to the Matthew 16 account listed above. In particular, 9:22 finds Jesus telling His disciples that “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” Again in Luke 18:31-34, Jesus speaks of the same sequence of events to come. This time, He adds that “all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished” (Luke 18:31b), giving credence to the Old Testament in predicting His betrayal, persecution, death, and resurrection. He notes that “after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again” (18:33b). We find here, as in Mark 9:32, that the disciples were not able to comprehend all that they were being told.
Moving into John’s Gospel, we find a somewhat veiled reference to the resurrection in Jesus’ words as recorded in 2:18-22. When asked what authority He had for turning over the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple, Jesus responded by saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19b). John’s commentary in 2:21 explains these words. He writes, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” With this in mind, we see an inference to the resurrection; something that the disciples remembered as being said after it had occurred (2:22).
John 12:27-36details an account that would be considered difficult to understand had we not known of the resurrection to come or had been helped by John’s commentary in v.33. Jesus tells His audiencethat He had come for this very hour (v.27), to be lifted up, which John explains as a reference to His death on the cross (v.32-33). And in being “lifted up,” He would draw all men to Himself (v.32). Notice that the comments of the people state that the Christ would remain forever (v.34b), and they would be correct in offering up this objection. How does the Christ suffer death by crucifixion and still “remain forever?”
“Resurrection” is the only sufficient answer.
Was Jesus really dead?
There are some who try to rationalize the bodily resurrection of Jesus by promoting the “swoon theory.” This theory states “that Jesus fainted on the cross and only appeared to be dead. Jesus then awoke and recuperated in the damp coolness of the tomb and subsequently fully recovered.”This theory finds friction on at least two points.
First, the Roman soldier who verified that Jesus had died did so by thrusting a spear in His side. From the height to which Jesus was hanging on the cross, the angle of the spear went under His ribs, protruded through the pericardium, and pierced the heart. We know this to be true because John 19:34records that both blood (from the heart) and water (from the pericardium) came forth. We know the angle of the wound to be accurate because not one of His bones was broken over the process of His persecution or crucifixion, just as it was prophesied (Exod 12:46; Num 9:12; Psalm 34:20; John 19:36).
The second issue would be the lack of strength necessary to roll back such a large stone from the opening of the tomb (Mark 15:46). The torture that Jesus underwent leading up to the cross was excruciating. The very act of “scourging” would be enough to leaveone unable to regain their full strength for weeks. “The Romans used short-handled whips with many leather lashes. On the ends of the lashes were tied small bits of metal or bone to cruelly rip the victim’s flesh. They usually tied the prisoner to a low pillar so that his back was bent forward. This type of punishment would leave deep gashes, often exposing the bones.”
One would need much more than three days to recover in order to move a rock of this magnitude, if they could even move it at all. The difficulty of this conclusion becomes greater when considering the size of the rock used and how the rock was positioned in relation to the tomb. Brooks writes, “Such tombs were usually sealed with a large rock to keep out animals and grave robbers. The rock might be round or flat as available, but fancy tombs often had a disk-shaped rock similar to a millstone which was rolled back and forth in a channel. The channel sloped toward the opening so that it was easy to cover the hole but difficult to remove the stone and uncover it.”
In addition to this, we are told in Matthew 27:62-66that the chief priests and the Pharisees came to Pilate and requested security measures to be taken because they knew that Jesus had promised to rise again. This is damning information, for the chief priests and the Pharisees KNEW His self-prediction and UNDERSTOOD that it entailed a bodily resurrection! They were told to set a guard (which consisted of numerous soldiers made up of the Jewish temple police- Matt 28:4, 11) and place a seal on the tomb to keep it in tact. This seal “was sealed probably in this manner: a cord was passed round the stone that closed the mouth of the sepulchre to the two sides of the entrance; this was sealed with wax or prepared clay in the centre and at the ends, so that the stone could not be removed without breaking the seals or the cord.”
Combining this information with the details of both scourging and crucifixion leaves the “swoon theory” dead in the water. Jesus was physically dead.
You may say, “How could God die if He is God?” This question refers us back to the importance of the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ, which states “When Christ came, a Person came, not just a nature; He took on an additional nature, a human nature—He did not simply dwell in a human person. The result of the union of the two natures is the theanthropic Person (the God-man).”On the cross, Jesus died in His flesh not His deity. He gave up His life, not His God-hood; which corresponds perfectly with the significance of blood being present and atoning for sin. However, He never stopped being God at any point.
Evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ
What we have seen over the past 2,000 years is the growth of a movement that is centered upon the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is entirely distinct from Judaism, seeing that the Jews (by and large) rejected Jesus as being their promised Messiah. While some believed (Matt 16:16; John 12:42; Acts 1:15), many had come to reject Christ beyond the inception of the Church (Rom 9:1-5).
What was the reason for such an explosion of those who believed in Christ, despite living in a time when oppression and persecution was ever-increasing? Was their movement based on a fabrication to further some strange agenda, or was their testimony true? Here aresome points to consider when thinking about the credibility and the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
1. At first, the eleven did not believe that Jesus had been raised.
InMark 16:11, we are told that the disciples heard about Jesus being alive from Mary Magdalene but did not believe her. They also received word in v.12-13from the two men who were walking to Emmaus as recorded in Luke 24:13-35. Yet the eleven did not believe them either.
Looking at the Luke 24 account, we see that the women also engaged the two men (who would later go to Emmaus) while they were with a group, telling them about Jesus’ body being missing and the angel telling them that He had risen from the dead (Luke 24:22-23). This prompted some from that group to go to the tomb where Jesus had been placed to see for themselves, and they found the scene just as the women had said (24:24).
It is notable to see that the knowledge of where Jesus had been buried was not a secret. Many people knew of the tomb’s exact location (See Matt 27:64). It is also worthy to note Jesus’ rebuke of the two men traveling to Emmaus as they related the story to Jesus (though He had hid Himself from being recognized- how, we do not know, but He is God…), (24:25-26). Even though He had spoken about His death and resurrection previous to their occurring, and though the women had brought a sufficient testimony of the vacant tomb and the angel’s message, these men still did not believe.
The significance of the initial unbelief of the eleven may not be readily apparent, but the accusation made by critics for their later attestation of the risen Christ are that of mass hallucination. What they saw was not Jesus Christ in a risen, bodily form, being fully alive and animated before them. It was a hallucination, and this hallucination led them to begin a revolutionary movement in Jerusalem. The idea of “mass hallucination” comes with many problems that are easily dispelled by the Scriptures,but the credible response would be that their initial unbelief was later changed to belief once they encountered the risen Lord for themselves.
This is significant because it corresponds to real life. How would you initially handle the news of someone’s resurrection? Would you immediately believe, or would you need some credible evidence before you would put any stock into the claim being made? While unbelief is clearly rebuked by Jesus (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:25-26; John 20:27), the fact of their initial unbelief remains. In fact, even after having appeared to them in Galilee, just as He said that He would (Matt 26:32; 28:16), some still doubted though Jesus was standing right before them (28:17).
Clearly resurrection is not something that is easily believed. However, Jesus’ disciples came to believe joyously (John 20:20, 25a) and in doing so became different people, who began living with the anticipation of unwavering hope before them. This eventually led to the giving of their lives for the sake of the message of the resurrection.
While someone would be quick to note that many people have given their lives for the “truth” of their religion, these men were very much unlike others who die as martyrs in that they did so gladly, willingly, and without violence or resistance. The death that they endured was always due to persecution being administered to them, and not the other way around. What drives a person to give their lives for a message in such a meek and passive manner? Truth.
1. The difference in the disciples
How does a man go from being an anxious loud-mouth (Matt 14:28; 16:16, 22; 17:4; 18:21), who haphazardly sliced off someone’s ear (Matt 26:51), scurried away for fear of their life (Matt 26:56), and verbally denied their Savior to the point of cursing (Matt 26:69-75), to being someone who preaches a public sermon unashamedly (Acts 2:14-35), calling out the Jews for their rejection of their Promised Messiah, and pinning the death of Christ on them, emphatically declaring them guilty (Acts 2:36)?
The first reason for such a dramatic change was the disciples’ encounters with the risen Christ. We must remember that this was not a one-time thing. Jesus appeared once to ten of the disciples (John 20:19-23) and again eight days later to convince Thomas (20:25-27) and upon seeing the resurrected Christ, he replied “My Lord and My God!” (20:28). On a second occasion, Jesus appeared at the Sea of Tiberias, calling for Peter and the others to cast their net on the opposite side of the boat (John 21:6) after they had gone all night without a bite (John 21:1-3). Upon recognizing that it was Jesus who had commanded this, Peter vacated the struggling craft and swam to the shore to see Him (John 21:7). Jesus also appeared a third time for the purpose of restoring Peter to fellowship with Him (John 21:15-18).
Returning to the two men walking to Emmaus and discussing the events that had transpired regarding Jesus (Luke 24:14), the conclusion that they spoke is revealing as to Jesus’ time with them: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). Not only this, but they were immediately compelled to seek out the eleven and tell them of their encounter with the resurrected Jesus (24:33-35).
We are also told that Jesus “presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). These were not occasional brushes with an apparition, but quality encounters with their Master who took the time necessary (40 days) to speak with them about the Kingdom. This is significant considering the inquiry that is made about therestoration of the Kingdom to Israel (1:6), to which Jesus dismisses this direction (1:7), choosing instead to give them their present marching orders in this evil age (1:8); marching orders that have not changed because it is not the affixed time that the Father has set by His own authority to establish the Kingdom yet (1:7).
Walter Martin writes, “it is no wonder that the cowards who forsook their Master at Gethsemane became the conquerors of Pentecost and the apostolic age. Here were men who dared to die because they had experienced eternal life incarnate and knew that because Christ lived they would live also. Those who saw the risen Savior were never the same again.”
The second reason for the dramatic change of the eleven is the now-indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. While the resurrection of Jesus supplied the message that was emphasized throughout Acts (Acts 2:24, 31, 32; 3:15; 4:2, 10, 33; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30; 17:18, 31; 23:6; 24:21; 26:8, 23), it was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that provided the change and the power that was necessary to fuel the message forward. No work of God is ever done by the flesh (Matt 6:63; Rom 8:8). The works of God are done by God the Holy Spirit Himself through submissive believers (John 15:5; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3; 13:9-11; Rom 8:13; 13:14; Gal 5:16, 22-23).
All of this occurred just as Jesus had promised His disciples. In John 14:16, 26; 15:26-27; 16:16:7-15, we find Jesus’ teaching on the coming Holy Spirit, the Comforter, Who would make their endeavors effective for the Lord’s glory. Peter did not change simply because He interacted with the risen Lord Jesus. This certainly had an effect on him, but it did not give him power. Jesus said, “it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). The “advantage” was not in the presence of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. His appearances that proved His resurrection demonstrated God’sapproval in raising Him from the dead, thus providing them with a message of substance and credibility because they were proclaiming a living Savior. The “advantage” was found in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer for the purpose of providing power, comfort, boldness and wisdom in the message proclaimed, and guidance into all truth. This was the catalyst in transforming a scattered, disheveled throng into a humble, but powerful band of unified preachers.
2. The eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus
One startling point about the initial eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection is that they were women (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55-24:1; John 20:1). Josh McDowell notes the significance of this fact, writing “if one were to fabricate an empty tomb and risen Jesus in first-century Mediterranean culture, one would not cite women as eyewitnesses, given their low status as credible witnesses in the eyes of the people and the courts. It is therefore reasonable to think that what is recorded actually happened… Scripture’s identification of women as the first witnesses of the empty tomb thus supports the historical veracity of the accounts.”The use of women as the first to see Him would actually serve to discredit the account in first-century Israel. So why record this fact in all four Gospels? The only answer can be because it is true.
In the letter of 1 Corinthians, Paul notes that there was a sequence to Jesus appearing to certain people after His bodily resurrection. I have included numbers in parentheses in order to count the sequence of given eyewitnesses. He writes:
“(1) He appeared to Cephas, (2) then to the twelve. After that He appeared to (3) more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then (4) He appeared to James, then (5) to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, (6) He appeared to me also” (1 Cor 15:5b-8).
Note that Paul does not include the women as the first eyewitnesses. Why, we do not know, but it could be because of the social stigma, though that is unlikely, or it could be that the church in Corinth would not have known who these women were, yet they would know “Cephas” (Peter).
He also notes that Jesus appeared to more than 500 believers at one time. Paul is intentional about this, noting that this is not a cumulative number. “This appearance was probably on the mountain (Tabor, according to tradition), in Galilee, when His most solemn and public appearance, according to His special promise, was vouchsafed (Mt 26:32). He ‘appointed’ this place, as one remote from Jerusalem, so that believers might assemble there more freely and securely.”
If one were to hold a trial and begin calling witness who would attest to what they saw, we would have over 500 people take the stand who would corroborate the sighting of Jesus by Mary Magdalene as seen in John 20:16. This would give further credibility to the woman’s account. In any trial, this would be considered an exhaustive and indisputable testimony.
2. Jesus’ resurrection was bodily in form
Some critics has suggested that Jesus only rose “in spirit” and not bodily, thinking it credible that the disciples may have seen a ghost. Clearly, this misses the emphasis of the text of Scripture. We could easily return to Paul’s recollection in 1 Corinthians 15 and see the sequence of witnesses as listed above. When coming to the appearance to over 500 believers at one time (1 Cor 15:6a), we would have to conclude that this appearance was either bodily or scrape and scrounge to add more credibility to the already defunct “mass hallucination” theory. This point should be clear.
When addressing Thomas and his doubts, Jesus invites him to “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side.” He then tells him, “do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27). Such an invitation would be difficult to answer had Jesus been a ghost.
In two separate accounts, we see Jesus being touched by Mary Magdalene and the other Mary in Matthew 28:9 where we are told that “they took hold of His feet and worshiped Him,” and in John 20:17 where we read that Jesus says, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Each instance provides a bodily form of Jesus to which they are clinging.
When the two men walking to Emmaus reported their interaction with the risen Lord to the disciples (Luke 24:33-35), Jesus appeared to them all; the two men and the disciples (24:36). While they stood there in fear, Jesus proved His bodily presence to them. He asks them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:38b-39). Still disbelieving, Jesus asked for a piece of broiled fish and ate it before them (24:43), a task that would prove interesting without a physical body.
Another proof of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the type that He sets for the antitype of the promised, future, bodily resurrection of all believers at the Rapture. Walvoord writes, “The resurrection body of Christ is not only an important aspect of scriptural revelation unfolding the nature of Christ’s resurrection, but is significant of the fact and character of the resurrection which believers in Christ may anticipate. The resurrection of Christ is at once an apologetic for His deity and His substitutionary death on the cross, and at the same time is substantiating evidence of the important place of the future resurrection of saints in the eschatological program of God.”Just as Jesus was bodily raised, so too will the believer in Christ be glorified by the raising of his or her earthly body.
We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:16a-19:
“if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Without the bodily resurrection of Christ, all hope is lost! Paul notes that if the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised. In other words, if its not a bodily resurrection, it doesn’t count. Second, if there is no bodily resurrection, it is pointless to have faith, for there is nothing to have faith in. Jesus Christ is the perfect Object of our faith. Without the resurrection, He is just another dead man. But if He has been raised from the dead bodily, He is a living Savior who is God!
Third, Paul notes that without a bodily resurrection we are still in our sins. Jesus is our Great High Priest (Heb 5:9-10). But the High Priest cannot atone for sin if He is not alive to do so. Notice this point in Hebrews 9:11-12:
“when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”
The blood of Christ was shed on the cross and this blood was the necessary component to atone for the sins of the world (John 1:29; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2). But in order to offer the blood that was shed, our Great High Priest must be alive to do so. If everything would have ended with Jesus shedding His blood and dying on the cross, there would be no one worthy of applying His blood on our behalf for the atonement of our sins! We would be without a High Priest. However, because of His bodily resurrection, we have a Great Hight Priest that can atone for our sins by presenting His own blood personally before the Lord in the heavenly holy place, once for all, to obtain our redemption (Heb 9:11-12).
Fourth, those believers who had already passed away would not presently be with the Lord if Christ has not been raised bodily (1 Cor 15:18). This follows as a consequence to the last point with no one to present the blood. Instead, these poor souls would still have their sins upon their heads because they had not been atoned for, even though the blood had been shed to do so.
Finally, without Jesus’ bodily resurrection, the only hope left for the believer would be found only in this earthly life (1 Cor 15:19). This would be a pitiful estate. This life would be all that there is. The living Savior guarantees the next life and His coming again to receive us unto Himself (John 14:6). Without the resurrection, these promises are lies. Constable writes, “If we have nothing to hope for the other side of the grave, the Christian life would not be worth living.”
Keeping with the idea of bodily resurrection and the theology being unfolded in 1 Corinthians 15, we see that the concept of “bodily resurrection” is the same as the doctrine of the rapture of the saints. In 15:20we are told that Christ is the firstfruits of those who have already passed away. Briefly, “firstfruits” is an initial showing that is offered to God as a “thank you” for His provision and an anticipation of an abundance to come (Num 8:12-13). Mare explains, “By ‘firstfruits’ Paul brings to bear the rich imagery of the OT. The‘firstfruits’—the first sheaf of the harvest offered to the Lord (Lev 23:10–11, 17, 20)—was not only prior to the main harvest but was also an assurance that the rest of the harvest was coming. So with Christ. He preceded his people in his bodily resurrection and he is also the guarantee of their resurrection at his second coming.”
The rapture of the Church will not be a spiritual rapture. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8), and what is “present” before Him at our death but our spirit? It is only at the rapture of the Church that our bodies on earth will be taken up to meet Him in the air (1 Thess 4:17). Whether dead or alive, at the time of the rapture, it is our bodies that will be raised. Paul writes of a mystery, stating that “we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the deadwill be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal(presently living at the time of the rapture) must put on immortality” (1 Cor 15:51-53, emphasis added). The rapture of the saints is bodily, just as the resurrection of Christ is bodily. As He is glorified in His resurrected body, so we too will be glorified bodily with Him (1 John 3:2).
Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was bodily in nature. This has ramifications that pour over into our next point.
3. The “cover-up” scheme was an irrational solution to bodily resurrection
Looking to Matthew 27:62-66again we consider the meeting that took place between the chief priests, the Pharisees, and Pilate. In v.63, notice that the chief priests and the Pharisees understood Jesus to be dead. Also, they were fully aware and completely comprehending that Jesus’ predicted His resurrection to occur after three days. In v.64, their request for security measures until after the third day show that they understood the timing and that the threat of resurrection was bodily in nature. They also reveal that they had thought this issue through, concluding that the only way that a dead person’s body could be considered as “resurrected” would be if His followers were to come and steal the body. If it were to occur, this “theft” would be used to promote the idea of resurrection, creating a great stir among the people. This shows that the death of Jesus was public knowledge and that the ramifications of His bodily resurrection could be severe, costing the chief priests and the Pharisees their authority over the people (See John 11:47-53 to better understand their thinking regarding what Jesus would cost them in Rome’s eyes).
In v. 65, Pilate calls for the chief priests and the Pharisees to supply their own guard on the tomb, which would result in an assignment of the temple police (we know this because they later reported to the chief priests and not to Pilate- Matt 28:11). In v.66, we find that a guard (being many soldiers) was assigned to the tomb and a seal (which we discussed earlier) had been placed on the rock that covered the entrance.
With Jesus rising from the dead, an earthquake occurs and an angel rolls back the stone (Matt 28:2). This causes the guard to fall down “like dead men” (Matt 28:4b). Picking up in v.11, the guards report the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the appearance of the angel to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to the chief priests. A meeting ensues and money is given to the guards in exchange for a story stating that they had fallen asleep and that Jesus’ disciples had come and stolen the body (v.13). This scenario is fraught with problems.
First, a commissioned guard would never fall asleep in the middle of an assignment. “Such a report would not have been well received by the officials for a soldier who fell asleep on guard duty would be putto death.”This was a move that would need some “additional compensation” so as to avoid any official repercussions (Matt 28:14). Second, “If they were asleep they would not know anything about it.”A sleeping person can only talk about their dreams at best. They do not relate the events that were transpiring around them as they slept.
Third, “It was also incredible that the disciples who had abandoned Jesus out of fear would have summoned enough courage to risk opening the guarded tomb.”These men were scared for their lives. Would they really risk their lives in trying to slip past a trained guard and silently unsealing a massive rock in order to uphold Jesus’ story? Fourth, could the eleven disciples move the rock? Not only was it large and on an incline, but it had been sealed (Matt 27:66). Would this be a task that they could complete over the period of one night, much less with an official guard stationed there? Finally, even if the disciples could open the tomb, wouldn’t the noise of such a search and rescue mission wake the sleeping guards?
As has proved true throughout history, lies become “truth” when dollar signs have a say. Plainly, the chief priests and the Pharisees were trying to save face, fabricating a story to counteract the notion that Jesus had been raised from the dead. We can be certain that this story changed dramatically once Jesus appeared to “more than five hundred brethren at one time” (1 Cor 15:6b).
The biblical evidence is more than sufficient to answer the greatest skeptic’s objections to the bodily resurrection of Christ our Lord. The greatest difficulty for such a conversation usually comes in the criticizing party having not read the biblical accounts, or their wish to argue the integrity of the Scriptures themselves. This subject, too, has overwhelming evidence championing their trustworthiness, but again, when one is set on unbelief, dialogue is impossible.
May our prayer be for open hearts and cognizant minds, that the Holy Spirit would “remove the blinders” from the eyes of the unbelieving so that they may believe and be saved (2 Cor 4:3-4). The Lord Jesus Christ is alive, and if He is alive, He is God, triumphant over death, hell, and the grave, and is awaiting the joyous gathering of His brothers and sisters unto Himself (1 Thess 4:17) followed by the judgment of those who did not, or would not, believe (Acts 17:31).
What about the discrepancies between the Gospel accounts?
Below is an excerpt from Johnston Cheney’s book “Jesus Christ: The Greatest Life.” In this book, Cheney has taken all four accounts of the resurrection of Christ from the Gospels and has successfully placed them together in order to give one cohesive account that adds nothing, and leaves nothing out, and is without contradiction. To aid us in understanding how these accounts fit together, the following key has been provided:
1- Matthew 28:1-10
2- Mark 16:1-11
3- Luke 24:1-12
4- John 20:1-18
This feat is truly remarkable when one reads through each separate Gospel account on their own, and yet, being the inspired and infallible Word of the living God, it is astoundingly cogent.
“2When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and 1the other Mary 2(the mother of James) and Salome bought spices which they intended to use to anoint Jesus’ body. 3They and several others with them came at early dawn on the first day of the week 1to see the tomb, 3bringing along the spices they had prepared.
1Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven, came and rolled the stone away from the door, and sat on it. He shone like lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow. The guards were terrified and became like dead men.
2[Now after Jesus rose, early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons]. 4Mary came to the tomb while it was still dark and 3,4saw that the stone had been rolled away from the door. 4Then she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They took away the Lord from the tomb! And we don’t know where they laid Him.”
Then Peter and the other disciple went out and ran toward the tomb. They started out running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped down and saw the linen cloths lying there but didn’t go in. Simon Peter arrived shortly afterward and went into the tomb. 3[Stooping down], 4he saw the linen cloths lying 3[by themselves]. 4The face cloth which had been around His head was lying not with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.
Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed. (They did not yet understand the Scripture, that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) So the disciples returned to their homes, 3[wondering what had happened].
4But Mary kept standing outside near the tomb, weeping. As she was weeping, she stooped down and looked into the tomb, where she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one angel at the head and the other at the feet.“Woman,” they asked her, “why are you weeping?”
“Because they took away my Lord,” she answered, “and I don’t know where they laid Him.” After saying this, she turned and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t know it was Him.
“Woman,” Jesus asked her, “why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”
She thought He was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you carried Him away, please tell me where you laid Him, and I’ll take Him.”
“Mary,” Jesus said.
She turned toward Him and said, “Rabboni!” (which means, “Dear Teacher!”).
“Don’t hold on to Me,” Jesus said to her, “for I haven’t yet ascended to My Father. But go to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”
Mary Magdalene 2went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept, 4that she had seen the Lord and He had told her these things. 2But though they heard He was alive and that she had seen Him, they did not believe it.
3Joanna and Mary, the mother of James, and the other women with them 2came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were discussing with each other, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” (It was very large.) But when they looked up, they saw that the stone was already rolled away.
2When they entered the tomb, 3they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, 2they saw a young man sitting to the right, clothed in a long, white garment. They were startled. 3Then suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes.
The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. 1Then the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid; 2don’t be overcome. 1I know you are looking for Jesus 2of Nazareth, who was crucified. 3Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here because He has risen 1just as He said He would. 3Remember that He said to you while He was still in Galilee, ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’”
Then they remembered what Jesus had said. 1And the angel told them, “Come and see the place where the Lord was lying. But go quickly and 2tell His disciples—and Peter—1that He has risen from the dead, and He is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there 2just as He said you would. 1See, I have told you.”
So they left quickly 2and fled from the tomb, trembling with astonishment. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. Then they ran to tell His disciples.
As they were on their way, Jesus met them and said, “Rejoice!” Then they came and grabbed His feet and worshiped Him.
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus said to them. “Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
3They returned 1with utter joy 3and told all these things to the eleven apostles and to everyone else. But their words sounded like nonsense to them, and they didn’t believe the women.
The living God has perfectly chronicled the historical events of the resurrection of Christ, being free from all contradiction and telling us perfectly of the events as they unfolded in real time. May this confidence spur us on to share the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ with the world.
R. A. Torrey, The Fundamentals: A Testimony of Truth, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), p. 299.
Doug Powell, Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics(Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2006), p. 270.
Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll, eds., KJV Bible Commentary(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), p. 2003.
James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), p. 267.
H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., St. Matthew, vol. 2, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), p. 600.
Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology(Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), p. 227.
See Norman L. Geisler, Christian Apologetics(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), p. 316.
Walter Martin, Essential Christianity: A Handbook of Basic Christian Doctrines(Ventura, CA: Regals Books, 1980), p. 65.
Josh McDowell, Sean McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict: Life-Changing Truth For A Skeptical World(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017), p. 261.
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), p. 292.
John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord(Galaxie Software, 2008), p. 201.
Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible(Galaxie Software, 2003), 1 Co 15:19.
W. Harold Mare, “1 Corinthians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), p. 285.
Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., “Matthew,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), p. 93.
A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament(Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Mt 28:13.
Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible(Galaxie Software, 2003), Mt 28:12.
Johnston M. Cheney and Stanley A. Ellisen, Jesus Christ The Greatest Life: A Unique Blending of the Four Gospels(Eugene, OR: Paradise Publishing Inc., 1999), p. 257–259.