This morning, of course, is Easter Sunday, the day when most Americans distract themselves from the celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ’s momentous resurrection from the dead by inexplicable attention to colored Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. One might ask what colored Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies have to do with a celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead? That is a question missionary Pat Coleman tells me he is frequently asked by the Africans he ministers to. His correct response? Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies have absolutely nothing to do with Christ’s resurrection from the dead or a proper Christian celebration of that great miracle.
Having hopefully dispensed with that distraction, at least for this Easter, let us resume our consideration and celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. God’s Word has a great deal to say about this matter of life being restored after death has occurred, but I will proceed for a while before making direct reference to the Bible. One of the certainties related to the physical raising of Jesus Christ from the dead in a glorified body suited for timeless eternity is that it is what theologians refer to as a cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith. That is, it is one of those foundation truths that defines what a Christian truly is, and anyone who denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not a true Christian in the historical or Biblical sense. This is because the resurrection as I have described it is essential to the gospel message which is the power of God unto salvation. Therefore, to strike at the gospel message, by striking at the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as verifiable facts of history, makes one an enemy of the gospel and an adversary of the Christian faith, even if you choose to co-opt the term Christian and falsely apply it to yourself while denying the resurrection.
Below you will find a diagram taken from Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona’s fine book The Case For The Resurrection of Jesus, published in 2004. The diagram graphically depicts five powerful historical facts that conclusively prove Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead apart reference to the Bible. Drawing on an abundance of archaeological and historical sources, the authors show that among scholars (both Christians and non-Christians) there is no disputing the death of Christ by crucifixion, the early disciple’s conviction that He appeared to them following His resurrection, the conversion of Christianity’s greatest enemy the Apostle Paul as the result of an encounter with the risen Savior, and the conversion of the greatest of all skeptics James the Savior’s half brother after he, too, had seen the risen Savior.
What some scholars seem unable to bring themselves to accept as historical fact (though the great majority do) is the empty tomb in Jerusalem. Yet the preponderance of evidence for an empty tomb following Christ’s resurrection is insurmountable, based upon three powerful historical realities: First, there is the Jerusalem factor. Of all the places on earth to attempt a religious fraud, if that is what one is insisting upon to explain away the resurrection, what city could worse than Jerusalem, with the largest population of scripturally literate men in the world being there, and the means of verifying the physical evidence being a five minute walk from the center of the city. Yet no denial of the empty tomb was heard among the Jewish people for centuries following Christ’s resurrection. Second, there is the enemy’s attestation. In two sides of any conflict, it is granted by all thinking people that when your adversary grants the truth of a fact contrary to his best interest, what your adversary grants as true is true. For example: If your mother claims you are honest, many might doubt. However, if your bitterest enemy admits that you are honest, it is certain that you are honest. Now, take the case of the empty tomb. The Romans were determined to deny the reality of Christ’s resurrection, lest His resurrection lead to an uprising among the people. However, in their effort to deny Christ’s resurrection the Romans unwittingly admitted the tomb was empty when they pretended His body had been stolen by His followers. Argue all you want about it, but when the Romans admitted the tomb was empty it was proof the tomb was empty! Third, there is the testimony of the first witnesses who saw Jesus Christ raised from the dead. If one was fabricating a false story about anything in that first century Jewish culture, I promise you that no one would conjure up the notion of women being the first witnesses. Why not? Women were not then considered reliable witnesses of fact. Therefore, the witness of the women argues favorably for the tomb being empty, because conspirators would never have made use of testimony by women.
I bring these points to your attention so you can do your thinking for yourself with respect to the only matter not endorsed by all scholars without exception, the empty tomb, so you can see for yourself the reasonable and conclusive evidence for insisting the tomb was, indeed, empty. Thus, Christ’s resurrection from the dead is established as historical fact. What, may I bring before you for consideration, are some of the implications of this historical fact of Christ’s resurrection? There are several:
First, THE HISTORICAL FACT OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION IMPLIES DEATH DOES NOT END EXISTENCE
If someone dies and then comes back from the dead, then it is established that death is not the end of existence. If death was the end of one’s existence, then resurrection could not take place and would not be a historically proven fact. Yet it is.
In 2004 two reputable scholars, both of them previously the authors of numerous books, wrote a book titled Beyond Death: Exploring The Evidence For Immortality. In the book they show the results of careful research of numerous near death experiences, establishing that while most so-called near death experiences do not stand up to careful scrutiny, some near death experiences do show irrefutable evidence that there is existence after death.
The point that I seek to make here is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, after being dead for three days, is not the only ground for believing there is existence after death. Understand, my friend, that you will not cease to be when you die.
Next, THE HISTORICAL FACT OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION IMPLIES CHRIST IS NO ORDINARY MAN
While near death experiences resulting from automobile accidents, accidental drug overdoses, or some type of unusual cardiac event, can happen to ordinary people, being brought to life after being undeniably dead for three days shows the Lord Jesus Christ to be no ordinary man.
That He was dead was undeniable, as evidenced by the severity of His torture leading up to the crucifixion, as evidenced by the severity of His blood loss (exsanguination) while on the cross, as evidenced from the spear thrust into His chest cavity as He hung from the cross, and according to the testimonies of those experienced with death who wanted Him dead (Roman soldiers) and those who examined the body who did not want Him dead (Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and the women).
Ordinary people suffer near death experiences, where heartbeat and respiration, as well as brain wave activity, ceases and then some minutes later resumes. Christ’s resurrection was not of that sort. He was completely, literally, totally, undeniably dead, then three days later He was alive again. What does that tell you? At the very least, it separates Him from all other men in some way. One simply cannot discuss Him in the same way other men are discussed; not after His resurrection.
Third, THE HISTORICAL FACT OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION CHALLENGES THE WISDOM OF NON-CHRISTIANS
Non-Christians are universally of the opinion that the Lord Jesus Christ was like other men, only better; that He was an extraordinary man, while all the time being merely a man in the end. His resurrection from the dead challenges that thinking, while also challenging those who think that way.
Buddha was an extraordinary man, yet he did not rise from the dead. Mohammed was an extraordinary man, yet he did not rise from the dead. Alexander the Great was an extraordinary man, yet he did not rise from the dead. Genghis Khan was an extraordinary man, yet he did not rise from the dead. Albert Einstein was an extraordinary man, yet he has not yet risen from the dead. I could list every notable figure in the Bible, from Adam to Abraham, from Joshua to Jehoshaphat, from Moses to David or Solomon, as well as every other notable figure in human history, yet not one of them rose from the dead other than those who Jesus Christ raised from the dead.
How does this challenge the wisdom of non-Christians? Consider, my friend, that there is existence after death, that Jesus Christ having risen from the dead is no ordinary man, yet you have no interest in the only man in human history who has conquered death. Your lack of interest does not reflect on the Christian faith, or on Jesus Christ, but on yourself. How wise can a person be who is so disinterested in so vital an issue that affects the welfare of every human being who has ever lived?
What does it say about you that you have no interest in preparing for existence after you die, in view of the fact that you will die, since everyone eventually dies? Further, what does it say about you that you have no interest in the only person who ever was who has been to the other side and has come back? An objective consideration of your disinterest in preparing for existence after you die, and your disinterest in the only person who ever conquer death by coming back to life, does not reflect well on you at all.
Finally, THE HISTORICAL FACT OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION CHALLENGES THOSE WHO REJECT THE TRUTHFULNESS AND RELIABILITY OF GOD’S WORD
Have you noticed that I have made only incidental use of the Bible in any way so far this morning? I have done so to establish in your understanding that the resurrection stands on its own as a verifiable historic fact, and is fully attested by sources completely unrelated to the Bible.
Thus, anyone who is intellectually honest, with wisdom to prepare for eternity following his death, should be expected to investigate the facts surrounding the only person to ever conquer death. After all, eternity is a long, long time, and there is existence after death. But what kind of existence? Good existence or bad existence? Delight or damnation? That is where the Bible comes into play.
While the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection can be established to the satisfaction of archaeologists and historians without resorting to the Bible, one must resort to the Bible to discover that Christ’s resurrection was predicted, to discover what was His resurrection’s accomplishment, and yes to understand the meaning that lays back of His crucifixion, His death, and His burial before His resurrection. Do you not believe what the Bible says about Christ’s virgin birth, about Christ’s sinless life, about Christ’s substitutionary death, about His justifying resurrection, or about His astonishing ascension to heaven and His predicted return to earth in power and great glory? Be careful.
Not only with respect to the resurrection of Christ, but with respect to every other archaeological and historically verifiable assertion found in the Bible, authenticated history differs from the Bible in no instance. Not one! Therefore, it is reasonable to presume that if the Bible and historically verifiable fact line up whenever the Bible speaks to history (such as with the resurrection), it should also be presumed to be true when its assertions are not verifiable by history.
What do I mean by that? I mean that history can reveal that something happened, but usually not why it happened. The Bible, however, speaks to why Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, why He died in my place on the cross of Calvary, and why He rose from the dead. Therefore, to get the complete story, and Christ’s resurrection challenges those of you who choose to disregard the truthfulness and reliability of God’s Word, you must rely on the integrity of the Bible. Those who are not wise refuse to do this.
I used to live my life contrary to the most important truths available to me. However, there came a day when I recognized that I was wrong. I was mistaken. I wasn’t nearly so clever as I thought I was. It has been almost a month that over forty years ago a foolish young man was brought by God to the place of considering the truth of the Bible, and in response to God’s Word I received Jesus Christ as my Savior.
Since Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, I have never since then had any reason to shy away from the truth, because my Savior has declared that the truth sets men free. May I suggest to you as a starting point the truth that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Christ the Lord is risen. He lives and is not dead. And someday He is coming again, oh happy day. The One Who created this universe and all that herein is, who then died on the cross to salvage sinners who but trust in Him, rose from the dead in victory over death and sin.
However, His victory cannot be your victory until you embrace Him, until you receive Him, until you trust Him. At present, His victory is your defeat. However, if you have grown tired of your sins and long for forgiveness, and life in Christ full and free, then come to Him. Trust Him, and His victory will become your victory, as well.
 See footnote for 1 Corinthians 15.52 from C. I. Scofield, Editor, The First Scofield Reference Bible, (Iowa Falls, Iowa: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1986), page 1228: “Resurrection, Summary : (I) The resurrection of the dead was believed by the patriarchs (Gen. xxii.5 with Heb. xi.19; Job xix.25 -27), and revealed through the prophets (Isa. xxvi.19; Dan. xii.2, 13; Hos. xiii.14), and miracles of the dead restored to life are recorded in the O.T. (2 Ki. iv.32-35; xiii.21). (2) Jesus Christ restored life to the dead (Mt. ix.25; Lk. vii.12-15; John xi.43, 44), and predicted His own resurrection (John x.18; Lk. xxiv.1-8). (3) A resurrection of bodies followed the resurrection of Christ (Mt. xxvii.52, 53); and the apostles raised the dead (Acts ix.36-41; xx.9, 10). (4) Two resurrections are yet future, which are inclusive of “all that are in the graves” (John v.28). These are distinguished as “of life” (1Cor. xv.22, 23; 1 Thes. iv.14-17; Rev. xx.4), and “of judgment” (John v.28, 29; Rev. xx.11-13). They are separated by a period of one thousand years (Rev. xx.5). The “first resurrection,” that “unto life,” will occur at the second coming of Christ (1 Cor. xv.23), the saints of the O.T. and church ages meeting Him in the air (1 Thes. iv.16, 17); while the martyrs of the tribulation, who also have part in the first resurrection (Rev. xx.4), are raised at the end of the great tribulation. (5) The mortal body will be related to the resurrection body as grain sown is related to the harvest (1 Cor. xv.37, 38); that body will be incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual (1 Cor. xv.42-44, 49). (6) The bodies of living believers will, at the same time, be instantaneously changed (1 Cor. xv.50 - 53; Phil. iii.20, 21). This “change “of the living, and resurrection of the dead in Christ, is called the “redemption of the body” (Rom. viii.23; Eph. 1.13, 14). (7) After the thousand years the “resurrection unto judgment” (John v.29) occurs. The resurrection body of the wicked dead is not described. They are judged according to their works, and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. xx.7-15).
 Romans 1.16; 1 Corinthians 15.1-4
 Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004) page 75.
 Ibid., page 71.
 Luke 24.1-11; Mark 16.9; John 20.11-18
 Habermas and Licona, page 72.
 Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland, Beyond Death: Exploring The Evidence For Immortality, (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004)
 Matthew 27.57-61; Mark 15.42-47; Luke 23.50-55; John 19.38-40
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