– By Rev. Clete Hux
Faith is only as credible as its foundation. Faith in Christ is no exception. For the Christian faith to be credible it must have essential truth at its core. Its foundational truth is the Gospel of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without Christ there is no Christianity and without His bodily resurrection from the dead there is no validity to Christianity. Without the resurrection, Christianity would be no more true or false than any other religion.
The Apostle Paul stated 1 Corinthians 15:12-19: “Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without foundation, and so is your faith. In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ whom He did not raise up if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have placed our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.”
Simply put, without Christ’s resurrection faith in Him as the promised Messiah is a worthless faith – one not worth having! However, if Christ is raised from the dead then the resurrection is the most important event in human history.
The Messiah’s life, death, and resurrection were predicted in the Old Testament. The fulfillment of these many prophecies in Christ uniquely demonstrates the continuity of the Old Testament to the New Testament, confirming the Bible as the very Word of God. Christ’s resurrection becomes the hinge that connects prediction to fulfillment.
Prophecy and Fulfillment
Consider these Old Testament messianic prophecies:
(1) He would be born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2)
(2) We preceded by a messenger (Mal 3:1)
(3) Will come into Jerusalem riding on a colt (Zch 9:9)
(4) Will be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zch 11:2)
(5) Betrayer will try to return the thirty pieces of silver, but these will be refused.
The betrayer will throw the pieces of silver on the floor of the temple (Zch 11:13)
(6) The Messiah will not speak in His own defense (Is 53:7)
(7) The Messiah’s hands and feet will be pierced (Ps 22:16)
Now consider each of the preceding prophecies’ corresponding fulfillment’s by Christ in the New Testament:
(1) (Mt 2:1; Lk 2:15; Jn 7:24)
(2) (Mt 3:1-13; Mk 1:1-11; Lk 3:1-22; Jn 1:6-36)
(3) (Mt 21:1-11; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:28-38; Jn 12:14-16)
(4) Mt 26:15
(5) Mt 27:3-5
(6) (Mt 26:57- 27:22; Mk 14:55-15:15; Lk 22:54-23:24; Jn 18:13-19:16)
(7) Mt 27:35; Mk 15:25; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:18)
These are but a small fraction of many more prophecies fulfilled by Christ. Most scholars believe that Christ fulfilled nearly one hundred Old Testament prophecies, others believe as many as three hundred.
In his book, Science Speaks, mathematician Peter Stoner records a calculation study that he and others did over a ten year period. They found by taking just eight prophecies, that the odds that these would be fulfilled by one man who lived between the writing of the prophecies (no later than 400 BC) and today is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (or 100 quadrillion, or as 1017).
To illustrate, Stoner said if you take 10 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas, they would cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of the silver dollars and stir the whole mass very thoroughly all over the state. Then blindfold someone and tell that person that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say it is the right one. What probability would he have of getting the right one? The same that the prophets would have had when writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote using their own wisdom.
As mentioned before, there are many other prophecies fulfilled in Christ and each one has its own importance; none should be taken lightly. However, there is a distinct importance related to the resurrection.
The prophets foretold the Messiah’s death (Dan 9:26-27; Ps 22:16; Is 52:14; Is 53:5), but they also anticipated His resurrection. After defining the Messiah’s death, the prophet Isaiah promised that the Lord would “prolong the Messiah’s days” (Is 53:10) and that He would see life again (v.11). In Ps 16:10, David expresses confidence that he himself will be delivered from Sheol by God and gives a prophetic application to the coming Messiah (“Faithful One”). Peter quoted these same words in reference to Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2:8-31) and Paul preached it as well (Acts 13:25).
Evidence Produces Changed Lives
How important is Christ’s resurrection? Again, without it there is no Christianity. So, if His resurrection can be refuted, Christianity can be refuted. Many attempts have been made to explain away the resurrection. Yet they all fail, because the accounts we have are some of the best attested histories ever written. We have more solid evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Christ then any other ancient event.
There have been many skeptics who investigated the resurrection intending to confirm it as a hoax. A partial list would include such people as Josh McDowell, Simon Greenleaf, Frank Morison, and C. S. Lewis. These and others came to the exact opposite conclusion. Through a careful analysis they came to accept the resurrection as historical fact and committed their lives to Christ. As attorneys, both Greenleaf and Morison wrote books about their discovery. Greenleaf’s book is entitled The Testimony of the Evangelist: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidences and Morison’s is Who Moved the Stone?
Most scholars who have studied the resurrection have accepted three lines of evidence. The first is that Jesus’ tomb was empty on the Sunday after his crucifixion. There have been many theories given as to why the tomb was empty, such as Jesus fainting instead of dying, the women going to the wrong tomb, the disciples stealing the body, or the Jews stealing the body. All of these are very weak arguments in light of the evidence. Besides, if the religious authorities (who had the idea of the body being stolen, Mt. 28:11-15) wanted to stop the disciples’ stories of the resurrection, they could simply have produced the body to stop the stories from circulating. It is also just as unlikely that the disciples stole the body. When Jesus was buried, Roman soldiers were stationed at His tomb (Mt. 14:50). Jesus’ disciples were in no position to overpower heavily armed Roman guards, and the soldiers did not dare fall asleep, as they would incur a stiff penalty.
The second line of evidence is eyewitness accounts of seeing Jesus alive after His death. Paul records in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 that Christ was seen on one occasion by over 500 people many of whom were still alive when Paul wrote about the accounts. These could be verified and it was highly unlikely that this many people were all suffering from identical hallucinations at the same time.
Last, we have the evidence of the disciples’ changed lives. They came to believe in the resurrection despite having every predisposition to the contrary. The most powerful argument is that it cost them their lives. If they knew Jesus’ resurrection was a lie, why would they knowingly and willingly die for it? Their horrible deaths could have been avoided had they just renounced the whole thing. But to do so would have been a renunciation not only of the truth of the historical facts but also of the change in their lives that Christ and the resurrection made.
It should be no different for us. Our lives have been changed by the truth of the resurrection. Because of it, we know Jesus is who He said He was, the actual Son of God. We know that our sins are forgiven. We know that we will be resurrected to eternal life with Him. Finally, a very sobering question: Are we willing to risk everything for Him as the early disciples did?