Category Archives: Easter Topic/Theme

7 Questions to See if Easter Really Matters to You

Yesterday, we gathered with our churches and families on Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. I trust you had a great day. What Easter really means to us, though, is not determined by what we did yesterday; it’s how we live every other day. Use these questions to decide how much the resurrection really means to you:

  1. Do you so believe that Jesus is alive that you’ve chosen to follow Him by trusting Him and turning from your wrong? If you haven’t taken this step yet, the resurrection doesn’t mean much to you.  If you do want to follow Jesus, check out this site for information on how to do so.  Contact me so I can pray for you.
  2. Does a relationship with God affect your everyday life? Do you seek Him everyday through His Word and prayer? Do you make choices with the desire to please Him? If you focus on God only a few days each year, you may have celebrated something yesterday that really doesn’t matter to you.
  3. Do you believe that you can turn away from sins that seem to control you? Easter reminds us that God can overcome anything – including death – so He can surely empower us to break our bondages to sin. If you think you’re just “stuck” and can never win, you need to let the truth of the resurrection sink in some more.
  4. Do you trust that God can restore broken relationships? The resurrection is about renewal – about life that arises out of death. It’s a reminder that God can take the most broken situation and put it together again. If you’ve quit trying to restore a relationship, you may have forgotten about resurrection power.
  5. Have you given up? Even followers of Jesus struggle with discouragement and depression. Even we reach the proverbial “end of our rope” at times. If you’re there and have decided there’s no hope, I plead with you to go back to the resurrection story again. It’s filled with hope . . . and expectation . . . and possibility . . . and power . . . and victory.
  6. Do you tell others about Jesus? The sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Jesus make Christianity unique. We have hope that no one else has. If we can keep that good news to ourselves, though, it must not mean much to us. Genuine belief in resurrection victory cannot be silenced.
  7. Do you fear death? I don’t particularly want to die today, and I certainly don’t want it to hurt when I do die, but I don’t fear death for a second. That’s what a strong belief in the resurrection and heaven can do for you. Unwarranted fear of death shows you haven’t rested in the resurrection yet.

Be honest. Does the resurrection story really affect your life beyond yesterday? 

Source: 7 Questions to See if Easter Really Matters to You

How Easter Killed My Faith in Atheism

One by one, my objections evaporated. I read books by skeptics, but their counter-arguments crumbled under the weight of the historical data. No wonder atheists so often come up short in scholarly debates over the resurrection. In the end, after I had thoroughly investigated the matter, I reached an unexpected conclusion: it would actually take more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a follower of Jesus.

 

Earlier this week, humorist Ricky Gervais presented his arguments for atheism and why he thought he was a better Christian than many Christians. In this follow-up essay, writer Lee Strobel offers his defense of Easter.

It was the worst news I could get as an atheist: my agnostic wife had decided to become a Christian. Two words shot through my mind. The first was an expletive; the second was “divorce.”

I thought she was going to turn into a self-righteous holy roller. But over the following months, I was intrigued by the positive changes in her character and values. Finally, I decided to take my journalism and legal training (I was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune) and systematically investigate whether there was any credibility to Christianity.

Maybe, I figured, I could extricate her from this cult.

I quickly determined that the alleged resurrection of Jesus was the key. Anyone can claim to be divine, but if Jesus backed up his claim by returning from the dead, then that was awfully good evidence he was telling the truth.

For nearly two years, I explored the minutia of the historical data on whether Easter was myth or reality. I didn’t merely accept the New Testament at face value; I was determined only to consider facts that were well-supported historically. As my investigation unfolded, my atheism began to buckle.

Was Jesus really executed? In my opinion, the evidence is so strong that even atheist historian Gerd Lüdemann said his death by crucifixion was “indisputable.”

Was Jesus’ tomb empty? Scholar William Lane Craig points out that its location was known to Christians and non-Christians alike. So if it hadn’t been empty, it would have been impossible for a movement founded on the resurrection to have exploded into existence in the same city where Jesus had been publicly executed just a few weeks before.

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Historical Evidence for the Resurrection

The Bible says that Christ’s resurrection is the pattern that those who believe in Him will follow. In other words, those who believe in Christ will one day be resurrected by God just as He was. The resurrection proves that those who trust in Christ will not be subject in eternity to a half-human existence in just their souls. It proves that our bodies will be resurrected one day. Because of the resurrection of Christ, believers will one day experience, forever, the freedom of having a glorified soul and body.

 

The historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ is very good. Scholars such as William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Gary Habermas, and others have done an especially good job of detailing that evidence.1 It is the aim of this article to offer a sort of synthesis of some of their key points and show the strength of the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ.

A method commonly used today to determine the historicity of an event is “inference to the best explanation.” William Lane Craig describes this as an approach where we “begin with the evidence available to us and then infer what would, if true, provide the best explanation of that evidence.” In other words, we ought to accept an event as historical if it gives the best explanation for the evidence surrounding it.

When we look at the evidence, the truth of the resurrection emerges very clearly as the best explanation. There is no other theory that even come close to accounting for the evidence. Therefore, there is solid historical grounds for the truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

It is worth pointing out that in establishing the historicity of the resurrection, we do not need to assume that the New Testament is inspired by God or even trustworthy. While I do believe these things, we are going to focus here on three truths that even critical scholars admit. In other words, these three truths are so strong that they are accepted by serious historians of all stripes. Therefore, any theory must be able to adequately account for these data.

The three truths are:

  1. The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion.
  2. Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ.
  3. As a result of the preaching of these disciples, which had the resurrection at its center, the Christian church was established and grew.

Virtually all scholars who deal with the resurrection, whatever their school of thought, assent to these three truths. We will see that the resurrection of Christ is the best explanation for each of them individually. But then we will see, even more significantly, that when these facts are taken together we have an even more powerful case for the resurrection–because the skeptic will not have to explain away just one historical fact, but three. These three truths create a strongly woven, three chord rope that cannot be broken.

The Empty Tomb

To begin, what is the evidence that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion?

First, the resurrection was preached in the same city where Jesus had been buried shortly before. Jesus’ disciples did not go to some obscure place where no one had heard of Jesus to begin preaching about the resurrection, but instead began preaching in Jerusalem, the very city where Jesus had died and been buried. They could not have done this if Jesus was still in his tomb–no one would have believed them. No one would be foolish enough to believe a man had raised from the dead when his body lay dead in the tomb for all to see. As Paul Althaus writes, the resurrection proclamation “could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.”

Second, the earliest Jewish arguments against Christianity admit the empty tomb. InMatthew 28:11-15, there is a reference made to the Jew’s attempt to refute Christianity be saying that the disciples stole the body. This is significant because it shows that the Jews did not deny the empty tomb. Instead, their “stolen body” theory admitted the significant truth that the tomb was in fact empty. The Toledoth Jesu, a compilation of early Jewish writings, is another source acknowledging this. It acknowledges that the tomb was empty, and attempts to explain it away. Further, we have a record of a second century debate between a Christian and a Jew, in which a reference is made to the fact that the Jews claim the body was stolen. So it is pretty well established that the early Jews admitted the empty tomb.

Why is this important? Remember that the Jewish leaders were opposed to Christianity. They were hostile witnesses. In acknowledging the empty tomb, they were admitting the reality of a fact that was certainly not in their favor. So why would they admit that the tomb was empty unless the evidence was too strong to be denied? Dr. Paul Maier calls this “positive evidence from a hostile source. In essence, if a source admits a fact that is decidedly not in its favor, the fact is genuine.”

Third, the empty tomb account in the gospel of Mark is based upon a source that originated within seven years of the event it narrates. This places the evidence for the empty tomb too early to be legendary, and makes it much more likely that it is accurate. What is the evidence for this? I will list two pieces. A German commentator on Mark, Rudolf Pesch, points out that this pre-Markan source never mentions the high priest by name. “This implies that Caiaphas, who we know was high priest at that time, was still high priest when the story began circulating.” For “if it had been written after Caiaphas’ term of office, his name would have had to have been used to distinguish him from the next high priest. But since Caiaphas was high priest from A.D. 18 to 37, this story began circulating no later than A.D. 37, within the first seven years after the events,” as Michael Horton has summarized it. Furthermore, Pesch argues “that since Paul’s traditions concerning the Last Supper [written in 56] (1 Cor 11) presuppose the Markan account, that implies that the Markan source goes right back to the early years” of Christianity (Craig). So the early source Mark used puts the testimony of the empty tomb too early to be legendary.

Fourth, the empty tomb is supported by the historical reliability of the burial story. NT scholars agree that he burial story is one of the best established facts about Jesus. One reason for this is because of the inclusion of Joseph of Arimethea as the one who buried Christ. Joseph was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrein, a sort of Jewish supreme court. People on this ruling class were simply too well known for fictitious stories about them to be pulled off in this way. This would have exposed the Christians as frauds. So they couldn’t have circulated a story about him burying Jesus unless it was true. Also, if the burial account was legendary, one would expect to find conflicting traditions–which we don’t have.

But how does the reliability of Jesus’ burial argue that the tomb was empty? Because the burial account and empty tomb account have grammatical and linguistic ties, indicating that they are one continuous account. Therefore, if the burial account is accurate the empty tomb is likely to be accurate as well. Further, if the burial account is accurate then everyone knew where Jesus was buried. This would have been decisive evidence to refute the early Christians who were preaching the resurrection–for if the tomb had not been empty, it would have been evident to all and the disciples would have been exposed as frauds at worst, or insane at best.

Fifth, Jesus’ tomb was never venerated as a shrine. This is striking because it was the 1st century custom to set up a shrine at the site of a holy man’s bones. There were at least 50 such cites in Jesus’ day. Since there was no such shrine for Jesus, it suggests that his bones weren’t there.

Sixth, Mark’s account of the empty tomb is simple and shows no signs of legendary development. This is very apparent when we compare it with the gospel of Peter, a forgery from about 125. This legend has all of the Jewish leaders, Roman guards, and many people from the countryside gathered to watch the resurrection. Then three men come out of the tomb, with their heads reaching up to the clouds. Then a talking cross comes out of the tomb! This is what legend looks like, and we see none of that in Mark’s account of the empty tomb–or anywhere else in the gospels for that matter!

Seventh, the tomb was discovered empty by women. Why is this important? Because the testimony of women in 1st century Jewish culture was considered worthless. As Craig says, “if the empty tomb story were a legend, then it is most likely that the male disciples would have been made the first to discover the empty tomb. The fact that despised women, whose testimony was deemed worthless, were the chief witnesses to the fact of the empty tomb can only be plausibly explained if, like it or not, they actually were the discoverers of the empty tomb.”

Because of the strong evidence for the empty tomb, most recent scholars do not deny it. D.H. Van Daalen has said, “It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.” Jacob Kremer, who has specialized in the study of the resurrection and is a NT critic, has said “By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb” and he lists twenty-eight scholars to back up his fantastic claim.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the various theories used to explain away the empty tomb, such as that the body was stolen. But those theories are laughed at today by all serious scholars. In fact, they have been considered dead and refuted for almost a hundred years. For example, the Jews or Romans had no motive to steal the body–they wanted to suppress Christianity, not encourage it by providing it with an empty tomb. The disciples would have had no motive, either. Because of their preaching on the resurrection, they were beaten, killed, and persecuted. Why would they go through all of this for a deliberate lie? No serious scholars hold to any of these theories today. What explanation, then, do the critics offer, you may ask? Craig tells us that “they are self-confessedly without any explanation to offer. There is simply no plausible natural explanation today to account for Jesus’ tomb being empty. If we deny the resurrection of Jesus, we are left with an inexplicable mystery.” The resurrection of Jesus is not just the best explanation for the empty tomb, it is the only explanation in town!

The Resurrection Appearances

Next, there is the evidence that Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ. This is not commonly disputed today because we have the testimony of the original disciples themselves that they saw Jesus alive again. And you don’t need to believe in the reliability of the gospels to believe this. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul records an ancient creed concerning Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection appearances that is much earlier than the letter in which Paul is recording it:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time…

It is generally agreed by critical scholars that Paul receive this creed from Peter and James between 3-5 years after the crucifixion. Now, Peter and James are listed in this creed as having seen the risen Christ. Since they are the ones who gave this creed to Paul, this is therefore a statement of their own testimony. As the Jewish Scholar Pinchahs Lapide has said, this creed “may be considered the statement of eyewitnesses.”

Now, I recognize that just because the disciples think they saw Jesus doesn’t automatically mean that they really did. There are three possible alternatives:

  1. They were lying
  2. They hallucinated
  3. They really saw the risen Christ

Which of these is most likely? Were they lying? On this view, the disciples knew that Jesus had not really risen, but they made up this story about the resurrection. But then why did 10 of the disciples willingly die as martyrs for their belief in the resurrection? People will often die for a lie that they believe is the truth. But if Jesus did not rise, the disciples knew it. Thus, they wouldn’t have just been dying for a lie that they mistakenly believed was true. They would have been dying for a lie that they knew was a lie. Ten people would not all give their lives for something they know to be a lie. Furthermore, after witnessing events such as Watergate, can we reasonably believe that the disciples could have covered up such a lie?

Because of the absurdity of the theory that the disciples were lying, we can see why almost all scholars today admit that, if nothing else, the disciples at least believed that Jesus appeared to them. But we know that just believing something to be true doesn’t make it true. Perhaps the disciples were wrong and had been deceived by a hallucination?

The hallucination theory is untenable because it cannot explain the physical nature of the appearances. The disciples record eating and drinking with Jesus, as well as touching him. This cannot be done with hallucinations. Second, it is highly unlikely that they would all have had the same hallucination. Hallucinations are highly individual, and not group projections. Imagine if I came in here and said to you, “wasn’t that a great dream I had last night?” Hallucinations, like dreams, generally don’t transfer like that. Further, the hallucination theory cannot explain the conversion of Paul, three years later. Was Paul, the persecutor of Christians, so hoping to see the resurrected Jesus that his mind invented an appearance as well? And perhaps most significantly, the hallucination theory cannot even deal with the evidence for the empty tomb.

Since the disciples could not have been lying or hallucinating, we have only one possible explanation left: the disciples believed that they had seen the risen Jesus because theyreally had seen the risen Jesus. So, the resurrection appearances alone demonstrate the resurrection. Thus, if we reject the resurrection, we are left with a second inexplicable mystery–first the empty tomb and now the appearances.

The Origin of the Christian Faith

Finally, the existence of the Christian church is strong proof for the resurrection. Why is this? Because even the most skeptical NT scholars admit that the disciples at least believed that Jesus was raised from the grave. But how can we explain the origin of that belief? William Lane Craig points out that there are three possible causes: Christian influences, pagan influences, or Jewish influences.

Could it have been Christian influences? Craig writes, “Since the belief in the resurrection was itself the foundation for Christianity, it cannot be explained as the later product of Christianity.” Further, as we saw, if the disciples made it up, then they were frauds and liars–alternatives we have shown to be false. We have also shown the unlikeliness that they hallucinated this belief.

But what about pagan influences? Isn’t it often pointed out that there were many myths of dying and rising savior gods at the time of Christianity? Couldn’t the disciples have been deluded by those myths and copied them into their own teaching on the resurrection of Christ? In reality, serious scholars have almost universally rejected this theory since WWII, for several reasons. First, it has been shown that these mystery religious had no major influence in Palestine in the 1st century. Second, most of the sources which contain parallels originated after Christianity was established. Third, most of the similarities are often apparent and not real–a result of sloppy terminology on the part of those who explain them. For example, one critic tried to argue that a ceremony of killing a bull and letting the blood drip all over the participants was parallel to holy communion. Fourth, the early disciples were Jews, and it would have been unthinkable for a Jew to borrow from another religion. For they were zealous in their belief that the pagan religions were abhorrent to God.

Jewish influences cannot explain the belief in the resurrection, either. 1st century Judaism had no conception of a single individual rising from the dead in the middle of history. Their concept was always that everybody would be raised together at the end of time. So the idea of one individual rising in the middle of history was foreign to them. Thus, Judaism of that day could have never produced the resurrection hypothesis. This is also another good argument against the theory that the disciples were hallucinating. Psychologists will tell you that hallucinations cannot contain anything new–that is, they cannot contain any idea that isn’t already somehow in your mind. Since the early disciples were Jews, they had no conception of the messiah rising from the dead in the middle of history. Thus, they would have never hallucinated about a resurrection of Christ. At best, they would have hallucinated that he had been transported directly to heaven, as Elijah had been in the OT, but they would have never hallucinated a resurrection.

So we see that if the resurrection did not happen, there is no plausible way to account for the origin of the Christian faith. We would be left with a third inexplicable mystery.

Three Independent Facts

These are three independently established facts that we have established. If we deny the resurrection, we are left with at least three inexplicable mysteries. But there is a much, much better explanation than a wimpy appeal to mystery or a far-fetched appeal to a stolen body, hallucination, and mystery religion. The best explanation is that Christ in fact rose from the dead! Even if we take each fact by itself, we have good enough evidence. But taken together, we see that the evidence becomes even stronger. For example, even if two of these facts were to be explained away, there would still be the third truth to establishes the fact of the resurrection.

These three independently established facts also make alternative explanations less plausible. It is generally agreed that the explanation with the best explanatory scope should be accepted. That is, the theory that explains the most of the evidence is more likely to be true. The resurrection is the only hypothesis that explains all of the evidence. If we deny the resurrection, we must come up with three independent natural explanations, not just one. For example, you would have to propose that the Jews stole the body, then the disciples hallucinated, and then somehow the pagan mystery religions influenced their beliefs to make them think of a resurrection. But we have already seen the implausibility of such theories. And trying to combine them will only make matters worse. As Gary Habermas has said, “Combining three improbable theories will not produce a probable explanation. It will actually increase the degree of improbability. Its like putting leaking buckets inside each other, hoping each one will help stop up the leaks in the others. All you will get is a watery mess.”

Legend?

Before examining, briefly, the implications of the resurrection, I wish to take a quick look at perhaps the most popular theory today against the resurrection–that it was a legend that developed over time. The facts we have established so far are enough to put to rest any idea of a legend.

First, we have seen that the testimony of the resurrection goes back to the original experiences. Remember the eyewitness creed of 1 Corinthians 15:3-5? That is the first-hand testimony of Peter and James. So it is not the case that the resurrection belief evolved over time. Instead, we have testimony from the very people who claimed to have experienced it. Second, how can the myth theory explain the evidence for the empty tomb? Third, the myth theory cannot explain the origin of the Christian faith–for we have already seen that the real resurrection of Christ is the only adequate cause for the resurrection belief. Fourth, the myth theory cannot explain the conversion of Paul. Would he be convinced by a myth? His conversion was in fact too early for any myth to have developed by then. How then can we explain his conversion? Do we dare accuse him of lying when he said he saw the risen Christ?

Fifth, we have seen the evidence that the empty tomb story in Mark was very early–within seven years of the events. That is not long enough for legends. Sixth, we have seen that the empty tomb narrative lacks the classic traits of legendary development. Seventh, critical scholars agree that the resurrection message was the foundation of the preaching of the early church. Thus, it could not have been the product of the later church. Ninth, there is very good evidence that the gospels and Acts were written very early. For example, the book of Acts never records the death of Paul, which occurred in about 64, or the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70.

Since both Jerusalem and Paul are key players in the book of Acts, it seems strange that their demises would be omitted. The best explanation seems to be that Paul’s death and Jerusalem’s destruction are omitted because the book of Acts had been completed before they happened. This means that Acts was written before 64, when Paul died. Since Acts is volume 2 of Luke’s writings, the book of Luke being the first, then the Gospel of Luke was even earlier, perhaps 62. And since most scholars agree that Mark was the first gospel written, that gospel would have been composed even earlier, perhaps in the late 50s. This brings us within twenty years of the events, which is not enough time for legends to develop. So the legend theory is not very plausible.

On the basis of the evidence we have seen, it appears to me that the resurrection is the best explanation. It explains the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the existence of the Christian church. No other competing theory can explain all three of these facts. In fact, none of these competing theories can even give a satisfying explanation for even one of these facts. So it seems like the rational person will accept that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

The Importance of the Resurrection

But, in conclusion, don’t we have to ask ourselves what implications this has? Why does it matter? Or is this some dry, dusty old piece of history that has no relevance to our lives? I believe that the resurrection is the most important truth in the world. It has far reaching implications on our lives.

First, the resurrection proves that the claims Jesus made about himself are true. What did Jesus claim? He claimed to be God. One might say, “I don’t believe that He claimed to be God, because I don’t believe the Bible.” But the fact is that even if we take only the passages which skeptical scholars admit as authentic, it can still be shown that Jesus claimed to be God. I have written a paper elsewhere to demonstrate this. So it is impossible to get around the fact that Jesus claimed to be God. Now, if Jesus had stayed dead in the tomb, it would be foolish to believe this claim. But since He rose from the dead, it would be foolish not to believe it. The resurrection proves that what Jesus said about Himself is true–He is fully God and fully man.

Second, have you ever wondered what reasons there are to believe in the Bible? Is there good reason to believe that it was inspired by God, or is it simply a bunch of interesting myths and legends? The resurrection of Jesus answers the question. If Jesus rose from the dead, then we have seen this validates His claim to be God. If He is God, He speaks with absolute certainty and final authority. Therefore, what Jesus said about the Bible must be true. Surely you are going to accept the testimony of one who rose from the dead over the testimony of a skeptical scholar who will one day die himself–without being able to raise himself on the third day. What did Jesus say about the Bible? He said that it was inspired by God and that it cannot error. I will accept the testimony of Jesus over what I would like to be true and over the opinions of other men and women. Therefore I believe that the Bible is inspired by God, without error. Don’t get misled by the numerous skeptical and unbelieving theories about the Bible. Trust Jesus–He rose from the dead.

Third, many people are confused by the many different religions in the world. Are they all from God? But on a closer examination we see that they cannot all be from God, because they all contradict each other. They cannot all be true any more than 2+2 can equal both 4 and 5 at the same time. For example, Christianity is the only religion that believes Jesus Christ is both God and man. All other religions say that he was a good man only-and not God. Clearly, both claims cannot be right! Somebody is wrong. How are we to know which religion is correct? By a simple test: which religion gives the best evidence for its truth? In light of Christ’s resurrection, I think that Christianity has the best reasons behind it.

Jesus is the only religious leader who has risen from the dead. All other religious leaders are still in their tombs. Who would you believe? I think the answer is clear: Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates that what He said was true. Therefore, we must accept his statement to be the only way to God: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6).

Fourth, the resurrection of Christ proves that God will judge the world one day. The apostle Paul said, “God is now declaring to men that all 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.” The resurrection of Christ proves something very personal and significant to each of us–we will have to give an account of ourselves to a holy God. And if we are honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that we do not measure up to his standard. We are sinful, and therefore deserve to be condemned at His judgment.

Which leads to our fifth point. The resurrection of Christ provides genuine hope for eternal life. Why? Because Jesus says that by trusting in Him, we will be forgiven of our sins and thereby escape being condemned at the judgment. The NT doesn’t just tell us that Christ rose from the dead and leave us wondering why He did this. It answers that He did this because we are sinners. And because we have sinned, we are deserving of God’s judgment. Since God is just, He cannot simply let our sins go. The penalty for our sins must be paid.

The good news is that God, out of His love, became man in Jesus Christ in order to pay the penalty for sinners. On the cross, Jesus died in the place of those who would come to believe in Him. He took upon Himself the very death that we deserve. The apostle Paul says “He was delivered up because of our sins.” But the apostle Paul goes on to say “He was raised to life because of our justification.” Paul is saying that Christ’s resurrection proves that His mission to conquer sin was successful. His resurrection proves that He is a Savior who is not only willing, but also able, to deliver us from the wrath of God that is coming on the day of judgment. The forgiveness that Jesus died and rose to provide is given to those who trust in Him for salvation and a happy future.

Let me close with the sixth reason the resurrection is significant. The Bible says that Christ’s resurrection is the pattern that those who believe in Him will follow. In other words, those who believe in Christ will one day be resurrected by God just as He was. The resurrection proves that those who trust in Christ will not be subject in eternity to a half-human existence in just their souls. It proves that our bodies will be resurrected one day. Because of the resurrection of Christ, believers will one day experience, forever, the freedom of having a glorified soul and body.
1 See William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith and The Son Rises, J.P. Moreland’s Scaling the Secular City, and Gary Habermas’ The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus and Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, a debate with then-atheist Anthony Flew.

This article appeared on the Desiring God web site and is used with permission.

OF THE RIGHT KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST CRUCIFIED

Regeneration, Repentance and Reformation

Taken and adapted into modern English from, “Knowing Christ Crucified”
Written by, William Ames, 1576-1633

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IT is the most excellent worthy part of divine wisdom to know Christ crucified….

The Prophet Isaiah says; The knowledge of my righteous servant: that is, Christ crucified, shall justify many. And Christ himself says; This is life eternal, to know thee the only God, and whom you have sent, Jesus Christ. And Paul says; I have decreed to know nothing among you, but Jesus Christ and him crucified. Again, God forbid that I should rejoice in anything, but in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Again, I think all things but loss, for the excellent knowledge sake of Christ Jesus my Lord, and do judge them but dung, that I might win Christ.

In the right way of knowing Christ crucified, two points must be considered: one, how Man for his part is to know Christ:…

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What Is the Importance of the Empty Tomb?

From the earliest apostolic period, the reality of the empty tomb—the biblical truth that the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth was found empty by His disciples—has been at the center of the Christian proclamation. All four Gospels describe, to varying degrees, the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1–6; Mark 16:1–7; Luke 24:1–12; John 20:1–12). But are there any good reasons to think that these claims are historically accurate? Could a fair-minded investigator conclude that, in all probability, Jesus’ tomb was found empty on that first Easter morning? There are several arguments that have convinced a good many historians that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was indeed found empty on the Sunday following His crucifixion.

First, the location of Jesus’ tomb would have been known to Christians and non-Christians alike. While it is true that most victims of crucifixion were either thrown in a graveyard reserved for common criminals or simply left on the cross for birds and other scavengers to feed upon, the case of Jesus appears to have been different. The historical record indicates that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, the very group that had orchestrated Jesus’ execution. Many skeptical New Testament scholars have been convinced that Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to have been a Christian fabrication. Given the understandable hostility of the earliest Christians toward the Sanhedrin, whom they felt were largely responsible for their Master’s death, it is unlikely that Jesus’ followers would have invented a tradition about a member of the Sanhedrin using his own tomb to provide Jesus with a respectable burial.

In addition, recent archaeological discoveries have demonstrated that the style of tomb described in the burial accounts in the Gospels (an acrosolia or bench tomb) was largely used by the wealthy and other people of prominence. Such a description fits nicely with what we know of Joseph of Arimathea. Moreover, when we couple these considerations with the fact that Arimathea was a town of little importance that lacked any type of scriptural symbolism and that no competing burial tradition exists, any serious doubt that Jesus was buried in Joseph’s tomb is eliminated.

The significance of these facts should not be overlooked as the Sanhedrin would then have certainly known the location of Joseph’s tomb, and thus, where Jesus had been interred. And if the location of Jesus’ tomb was known to the Jewish authorities, it would have been nearly impossible for the Christian movement to have gained any traction in Jerusalem, the very city where Jesus was known to have been buried. Would not any of the Jewish religious leaders have taken the short walk to Joseph’s tomb to verify this claim? Did not the Sanhedrin have every motivation to produce Jesus’ corpse (if it were available) and put an end to these rumors of a resurrected Jesus once and for all? The fact that Christianity began to gain converts in Jerusalem tells us that no corpse had been produced despite the Jewish religious leadership having every motivation to produce one. If Jesus’ crucified body had been produced, the Christian movement, with its emphasis on a resurrected Jesus, would have been dealt a lethal blow.

Second, the empty tomb is implied in the early oral formula quoted by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. While all four Gospels attest to the vacancy of Jesus’ tomb, our earliest hint at the empty tomb comes from the Apostle Paul. Writing to the church at Corinth in approximately AD 55, Paul quotes an oral formula (or creed) that most scholars believe he received from the apostles Peter and James just five years after Jesus’ crucifixion (Galatians 1:18–19). Paul states, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:3–5). When Paul writes “… that he was buried, that he was raised …” it is strongly implied (given Paul’s Pharisaical background) that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was empty. For a Pharisee like Paul, what goes down in burial comes up in resurrection. Given that Paul’s source for this creed was most likely the Jerusalem apostles and their proximity to the events in question, Paul’s citation of this oral formula provides strong evidence that Jesus’ tomb had been found empty and that this fact was widely known in the early Christian community. The oft-repeated objection that Paul was unaware of an empty tomb is answered when we see that elsewhere Paul taught that Jesus’ resurrection was bodily in nature (Romans 8:11; Philippians 3:21). For Paul, a resurrection that did not produce a vacant tomb would have been a contradiction in terms.

Third, there appears to be strong enemy attestation of the existence of an empty tomb. The first of these comes from within the pages of the Gospel of Matthew itself where Matthew reports that there was an acknowledgment of the empty tomb by the Jewish leaders themselves (Matthew 28:13–15). They were claiming that the disciples had come and stolen away Jesus’ body. Given the proximity of the writing of Matthew’s Gospel to the event in question, such a claim would have been easy to disprove if untrue. For if Matthew were lying, his report of the Jewish response to the empty tomb proclamation could have easily been discredited as many of the contemporaries of the events in question would still have been alive when Matthew’s Gospel was initially circulating. But why would they accuse the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body if the tomb still contained the dead body of Jesus? The counter-accusation made by the Jews presupposes that the tomb was empty.

That the Jews accused the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body is corroborated by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century (Dialogue with Trypho, 108) and then again around AD 200 by the church father Tertullian (De Spectaculis, 30). Both Justin and Tertullian were interacting with the Jewish debaters of their day and were in a position to know what it was their Jewish opponents were saying. They were not simply relying on Matthew’s Gospel for their information. For both Justin and Tertullian mention specific details not found in the Gospel of Matthew. In fact, all three of these writers cite details not mentioned by the others. Based on these considerations, it appears that there was an early Jewish acknowledgement of an empty tomb.

Fourth, all four Gospels report that the tomb of Jesus was discovered empty by women. This point is especially significant given the patriarchal nature of first-century Palestine. While it is true that, under very limited circumstances, women were allowed to testify in a court of law, it is also the case that, in first-century Jewish society, a woman’s testimony was worth far less than that of a man. If you were making up a story in an attempt to persuade others that Jesus had been resurrected, you would never have used women as your primary witnesses. Any made-up story would have featured male disciples like Peter, John, or Andrew as the discoverers of the empty tomb, as the testimony of men would have provided much-needed credibility to the story.

Yet the Gospels report that, while Jesus’ male disciples were cowering in fear, hiding from the authorities, it was women who were the earliest witnesses of the empty tomb. There would simply be no reason for the early church to concoct such a scenario unless it was true. Why would the early Christians portray their male leadership as cowards and place females in the role of primary witnesses? One of these named female witnesses (Mary Magdalene) was said to have been possessed of seven devils earlier in her life, thus making her an even less reliable witness in the eyes of many. And yet, despite these evidential handicaps, the earliest Christians insisted that the first witnesses to the empty tomb were, in fact, women. The most likely explanation of this insistence is that these women were the initial witness of the empty tomb and that the earliest Christians were unwilling to lie about it despite its potentially embarrassing nature.

All four of these arguments help to provide cumulative proof that the tomb of Jesus Christ was empty on the first Easter. Particularly telling is the conclusion of historian Michael Grant, himself a skeptic of Jesus’ resurrection, “… if we apply the same sort of criteria that we would apply to any other ancient literary sources, then the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was, indeed, found empty.”

Of course, there is more to the story than merely an empty tomb. The reason the tomb was found empty was that the man who was buried there had risen from the dead. Jesus would not only vacate His grave but appear to numerous people individually (Luke 24:34) and in groups (Matthew 28:9; John 20:26–30; 21:1–14; Acts 1:3–6; 1 Corinthians 15:3–7). And His resurrection from the dead would be the sure proof that He was who He claimed to be (Matthew 12:38–40; 16:1–4)—the risen Son of God, our only hope of salvation.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2002–2013). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Crucifixion Death Like Jesus Experienced Is ‘Medical Catastrophe,’ Says Physician

Crucifixion Death Like Jesus Experienced Is 'Medical Catastrophe,' Says Physician

Posted on March 25, 2016 by Gospel Herald

Crucifixion, a method of slow and painful fatal execution in which a victim is tied or nailed to a large wooden beam and left to hang for several days until eventual death from exhaustion and asphyxiation, was thought to be invented by the Persians in 300 B.C., and perfected by the Romans in 100 BC. Millions of Christians this Easter weekend will be thinking about the pain to Jesus Christ from dying on the Cross.

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What are the historical arguments for the empty tomb story?

WINTERY KNIGHT

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going to take a look at the data

I wanted to go over this article by William Lane Craig which includes a discussion of the empty tomb, along with the other minimal facts that support the resurrection.

The word resurrection means bodily resurrection

The concept of resurrection in use among the first converts to Christianity was a Jewish concept of resurrection. And that concept of resurrection is unequivocally in favor of a bodily resurrection. The body (soma) that went into the grave is the body (soma) that came out.

Craig explains what this means with respect to the fast start of Christian belief:

For a first century Jew the idea that a man might be raised from the dead while his body remained in the tomb was simply a contradiction in terms. In the words of E. E. Ellis, “It is very unlikely…

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Albert Mohler Blog: “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Reality of the Gospel”

In this essay, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. reflects on the significance of the resurrection for the life and mission of the church. Mohler writes:

“The Church does not have mere permission to celebrate the Resurrection, it has a mandate to proclaim the truth that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrected Lord gave the Church a sacred commission to take the gospel throughout the world. As Paul made clear, the resurrection of Christ also comes as a comfort to the believer, for His defeat of death is a foretaste and promise of our own resurrection by His power. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” [1 Corinthians 15:53].”

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The Victim’s Victory

John 10:18; John 18:2; John 19:10-11; Hebrews 7:23-25

Code: B160325

by Cameron Buettel

Imagery is a powerful force when it’s the only source of information. As a child, I perceived Jesus Christ as a weak victim of bullies who were stronger than Him. Without any biblical influences in my life, my knowledge was limited to creepy Catholic pictures in the house of my best friend, and stained-glass windows on the local Anglican church. In my mind, Jesus was nothing more than an unfortunate victim and a personal reminder of what happens to kind people in a mean world.

When The Passion of the Christ hit the screen, it certainly devastated any remaining notions of Jesus being a wimp. Nonetheless it still reinforced the victim motif over His life. While it was effective in assaulting my senses with the unbelievable physical brutality of Christ’s crucifixion, it was almost impossible to leave the cinema without feeling sorry for Jesus, the victim of such an evil conspiracy.

But is that how we should think of Christ’s death? While He suffered excruciating physical pain and spiritual separation from the Father, was He actually anyone’s victim?

Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the Sanhedrin worked together to arrest, condemn, and crucify Christ. But Scripture is clear that the Lord’s death was not a result of their scheme:

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. (Acts 4:27–28 emphasis added)

Christ was not the victim of a Jewish and Roman conspiracy. The purpose of His life was the promise of His death. He was born to die in our place, fulfilling His role as the only acceptable sacrifice for our sins.

And as Lord of all creation, He had authority over every detail of His arrest, trial, and death.

Christ Was in Charge of His Arrest

Judas managed to blend in among the rest of the disciples, but Jesus knew all along who he really was (John 6:70–71). Even as Judas plotted to betray Christ, the Lord was in control (John 13:2-3).

In the hours before Christ’s arrest, in the intimacy of the upper room, Jesus washed Judas’ feet along with the rest of His disciples’, even though He knew what was in Judas’ heart (John 13:11). And when the Lord dismissed His treacherous disciple, it was with full knowledge of what he was about to do (John 13:21-30).

Once Christ and His disciples had finished celebrating the Passover, Jesus went to His usual place to pray: “And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him” (Luke 22:39, emphasis added). In spite of His forthcoming arrest, Jesus wasn’t hiding—He went to a place where Judas could easily find Him (John 18:2).

Even in the moment of His arrest, Christ was undaunted: “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’” (John 18:4 ESV, emphasis added). There was no reason to run or hide—this was the fulfillment of His plan.

Judas and his co-conspirators never operated outside of Christ’s sovereign authority. From the moment Jesus welcomed him into His ministry, to Judas’ kiss of betrayal, Christ’s authority was always on display.

Christ Was in Charge of His Trial

Pontius Pilate was the long arm of the law in Judaea. He wielded Caesar’s authority with an iron fist, and was the final arbiter of life and death for everyone under his jurisdiction. But during Christ’s mock trial, his temporal authority was no threat to the Lord.

So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:10–11)

Christ was completely unmoved and unshaken by Pilate and his vast army. He knew they were in a position of power over Him because of God’s pre-ordained plan. And He submitted to the death sentence in order to execute that plan.

Pilate was still culpable for passing sentence on the spotless Lamb, even though he was operating under God’s sovereign will. John MacArthur explains how the Lord used Pilate’s sin to bring about His plan of redemption.

Although he was a responsible moral agent and accountable for his actions, Pilate did not have ultimate control over events related to the Son of God. Nothing that happens—even the death of Jesus Christ—is outside the sovereignty of God. [1]John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: John 12-21 (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008) 341.

For the disciples, the cross represented the tragic end to their soaring messianic hopes. But for Jesus, that same cross was His destiny, and He marched toward it with unwavering purpose. Not only did He embrace His crucifixion, He also orchestrated every single detail.

Christ Was in Charge of His Death

There were plenty of people who were powerfully motivated to murder the Lord. His preaching of the truth threatened the livelihood of the Pharisees and their false religion. His heavenly kingdom threatened the Herodian king. His righteous rule threatened the Roman ruler. And His saving power threatened Satan’s grand scheme. They all wanted Jesus dead.

But Jesus was never bothered by the fact that people—many people—wanted Him dead. Death was not a threat to the Lord of life. In fact, it was the purpose of His life. Pointing ahead to His sacrificial death, Christ told His disciples, “No one has taken [my life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).

That authority was evident in what He said while He was on the cross.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:28-30)

Crucifixion was designed by the Romans as the most painful way for a human to die—it’s where the word “excruciating” comes from. And yet amid unbelievable physical pain, God incarnate displayed amazing composure and presence of mind. He understood that one prophecy remained to be fulfilled—David’s words in Psalm 69:21 that the Messiah would be given vinegar (sour wine) in response to His thirst. With that done, the Lord demonstrated His authority over His death by proclaiming, “It is finished.” John MacArthur adds:

Actually, the Lord shouted those words with a loud cry (Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37). It was a shout of triumph; the proclamation of a victor. The work of redemption that the Father had given Him was accomplished: sin was atoned for (Hebrews 9:12; 10:12), and Satan was defeated and rendered powerless (Hebrews 2:14; cf. 1 Peter 1:18–20; 1 John 3:8). Every requirement of God’s righteous law had been satisfied; God’s holy wrath against sin had been appeased (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10); every prophecy had been fulfilled. Christ’s completion of the work of redemption means that nothing needs to be nor can be added to it. [2]MacArthur, John 12-21, 356.

Christ divinely orchestrated the events surrounding His arrest, His trial, and His death. Nothing would stop Him from going to the cross as our righteous, sin-bearing substitute.

And the grave couldn’t hold onto the One who had the power to take His life up again. Moreover, His resurrection was not the end of the exercise of His authority, but the beginning of His ministry as our legal representative before the Father.

Christ Is in Charge of Your Eternity

First John 2:1 describes Christ as our “Advocate with the Father.” The author of Hebrews describes that work by saying:

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:23–25)

In his commentary on that passage, John MacArthur explains how Christ’s intercessory work secures our salvation for eternity:

He always lives to make intercession for us. The security of our salvation is Jesus’ perpetual intercession for us. We can no more keep ourselves saved than we can save ourselves in the first place. But just as Jesus has power to save us, He has power to keep us. Constantly, eternally, perpetually Jesus Christ intercedes for us before His Father. Whenever we sin He says to the Father, “Put that on My account. My sacrifice has already paid for it.” Through Jesus Christ, we are able to “stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). In His Son we are now blameless in the Father’s sight. When we are glorified we will be blameless in His presence. [3]John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1983) 201.

Christ was no one’s victim. He perfectly executed God’s plan from eternity past, exercising total authority over all the events leading up to His death. Under that same authority, He rose victorious from the grave, and now stands at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf and crediting us with His righteousness.

This weekend, as we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord, we ought to make sure we’re portraying Him accurately. Christ was not a victim of the cross; it was His ultimate victory.


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B160325
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Investigating Easter: Were The Disciples Accurately Reporting the Resurrection of Jesus?

Resources to Help You Defend the Deity of JesusI’ve investigated a number of cold-case homicides over the years, and these cases eventually ended up in front of a jury. As I’ve watched prosecutors and defense attorneys make their respective cases, I’ve noticed something important: every case has both strengths and weaknesses. When I began to examine the claims of Christianity, especially the varied explanations for the resurrection, I realized every explanation also had strengths and weaknesses. In Cold-Case Christianity, I examined several explanations for the Resurrection offered by unbelievers. While these explanations did have the limited ability to account for one or more pieces of the Resurrection evidence, all of them possessed a fatal flaw that eliminated them from reasonable consideration (click the links for the extended explanations):

Were the Disciples Mistaken About the Death of Jesus?
No. Many first-century and early second-century unfriendly Roman sources affirmed and acknowledged that Jesus was crucified and died. The Roman guards faced death if they allowed a prisoner to survive crucifixion. Jesus displayed wounds following the resurrection but was never observed to behave as though He was wounded. Jesus disappeared from the historical record following His reported resurrection and ascension and was never sighted again.

Did The Disciples Lie About the Resurrection?
No. The Jewish authorities took many precautions to make sure the tomb was guarded and sealed. The people local to the event would have known it was a lie. The disciples lacked the motive to create such a lie. The disciples’ transformation following the alleged resurrection is inconsistent with the claim that the appearances were only a lie.

Did the Disciples Imagine the Resurrection?
No. While individuals have hallucinations, there are no examples of large groups of people having the exact same hallucination. While a short, momentary group hallucination may seem reasonable, long, sustained, and detailed hallucinations are unsupported historically and intuitively unreasonable. The risen Christ was reported seen on more than one occasion and by a number of different groups (and subsets of groups). The absence of the body is unexplainable under this scenario.

Were the Disciples Fooled By An Imposter?
No. The disciples knew the topic of the con better than anyone who might con them. Many of the disciples were skeptical and displayed none of the necessary naïveté that would be required for the con artist to succeed. This explanation also fails to account for the empty tomb or missing body of Jesus. The impersonator would need to possess miraculous powers.

Investigating Easter: Were the Disciples Simply Influenced by Limited “Spiritual” Sightings?
No. The theory fails to account for the numerous, divergent, and separate group sightings of Jesus that are recorded in the Gospels. As many as five hundred people were said to be available to testify to their observations of the risen Christ (1 Cor. 15:3–8) It’s not reasonable to believe that a persuader equally persuaded all these disciples even though they didn’t actually see anything that was recorded. This explanation also fails to account for the empty tomb or the missing corpse.

Is The Resurrection A Late Legend?
No. In the earliest accounts of the disciples’ activity after the crucifixion, they are seen citing the resurrection of Jesus as their primary piece of evidence that Jesus was God. The students of the disciples also recorded that the resurrection was a key component of the disciples’ eyewitness testimony. The earliest known Christian creed or oral record (as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15) includes the resurrection as a key component.

Each of these explanations is unreasonable, given the many fatal flaws I’ve described here. There is, of course, another explanation offered by Christians: Jesus truly rose from the dead, and the Gospels are accurate eyewitness accounts of this event. This explanation accounts for the empty tomb, the resurrection observations, and the transformation of the apostles. It would be naive, however, to accept this explanation without recognizing the fact that it also has a liability that has been examined and voiced by skeptics and nonbelievers. The claim that Jesus truly rose from the dead presents the following concern and objection:

  1. This explanation requires a belief in the supernatural: a belief that Jesus had the supernatural power to rise from the dead in the first place.

The Christian explanation (although it is a miraculous, supernatural explanation) suffers from the least number of liabilities and deficiencies. If we simply enter into the investigation without a preexisting bias against anything supernatural, the Christian explanation accounts for all of the evidence without any difficulty. The conclusion that Jesus was resurrected (as reported in the Gospels) can be sensibly inferred from the available evidence. The resurrection is reasonable. This brief review of the issues related to the resurrection is excerpted from Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. For more information, please refer to Chapter Two – Learn How to Infer. A complete assessment of the evidence for the Resurrection can also be obtained as an accessible Easter “tract” called ALIVE.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene. He appears in God’s Not Dead 2 as an expert witness, making a case for the reliability of the New Testament.

Source: Investigating Easter: Were The Disciples Accurately Reporting the Resurrection of Jesus?