Who or what are you going to put your hope in for the afterlife? Jesus Christ said in John 11:25, “I am the Resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”
Consider the fact that all religions claim the idea of “revelation.” Buddhism asserts that it has received insights gained by Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) during his moment of enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree. Hinduism looks to the Vedas passed on to the first man at the beginning of time. Islam claims that the angel Gabriel dictated to the Prophet Muhammad the very words of God.
But Christianity claims something different: a series of events about Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection which are said to have taken place in public, in datable time, recorded by various witnesses. Christianity places itself to be scrutinized and fact-checked by anyone.
The central claims of Christianity are verifiable, testable, and evidence-based. You can apply the normal tests of history and find that we possess exactly the sort of evidence you would expect if the events of Jesus are true and much more evidence than you would expect if the story were fiction.
Consider that every religious leader of history—Confucius, Buddha, Mohammed—are all in the grave. But Jesus Christ isn’t, and his tomb is empty, and Jesus Christ alone possessed the power to overcome the grave.
The Resurrection is not fiction. How do we know this fact? The fact that the accounts of Jesus Christ began before mythology could pollute the reports. We have written material, evidence, and verbal creeds that were part of the church as early as 24 to 36 months after the death of Jesus, such as “Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried. And he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
These accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection go back so early and contradicts the idea that the Resurrection was a product of fiction that came about decades after Jesus’ life. In 1990, archaeologists in Jerusalem uncovered the burial grounds of Caiaphas, Jesus’ chief accuser. Remember that no one has ever found the body of Jesus Christ (and no one will).
History teaches us that Jesus’ body was put in a tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, and the tomb was sealed. An extremely heavy boulder was rolled in front of it, guarded by elite Roman guards. Yet, it was empty on Easter morning. Jesus’ enemies admitted the tomb was empty. The enemies of Jesus bribed the tomb guards to say it was the disciples who stole the body while asleep. The disciples didn’t have the opportunity to do this. Besides, if the guards were sleeping, how did they know it was the disciples who stole the body? Remember that when the disciples declared the tomb was empty, Jesus’ enemies didn’t say that they were wrong. They didn’t try to discredit them by saying they had the wrong tomb. The recorded fact is that they admitted the tomb was empty on Easter.
How did the tomb become empty? The Roman and Jewish authorities wouldn’t have taken the body, and they wanted Jesus dead. The Jews or Romans would have loved to produce the dead body of Jesus Christ, thereby putting an end to the question of Jesus being alive. But they didn’t because they couldn’t.
Would the disciples remove the body? No! If this had been a group conspiracy, one of the disciples would have broken ranks under pain of torture and told the truth. But it never happened. Mary Magdalene and the other women went to the tomb and found it empty. Peter and John came out and checked it out for themselves. They were sure this was the right tomb and that the body of Jesus was gone!
The unanimous testimony is on Easter morning, and the tomb was empty. There was no motive for the Jewish authorities, the Romans, or the disciples to have stolen the body. The only explanation that fits the facts is that Jesus did return from the dead.
During the next 40 days, Jesus appeared a dozen times to more than 515 different individuals. He talked with people, and he ate with people. He even invited Thomas to put his fingers in his hands where the nail holes were and to put his hand in His side where the spear had been thrust into him.
There were 515 eyewitnesses. If we had a trial on the question of whether Jesus returned from the dead, and if we were to call each one of the 515 witnesses to give a first-hand account of their encounter with Jesus for just 15 minutes, this would be 128 hours of eyewitness accounts (6 days) about Jesus appearing.
Were they all hallucinating? As an expert in mental health, I can tell you that this is impossible. Hallucinations are somewhat like dreams, and they are individual events that can’t be shared between people. You cannot share your hallucination with someone! If you think about it, having 515 people all having the same hallucination simultaneously, would this not be a huge miracle in and of itself?
The appearances of Jesus were real historical events that transformed people’s lives. Think about what happened to the disciples. History tells us that before Easter, they were defeated because they thought Jesus was dead. The disciples, after the crucifixion, were hiding, afraid about what would happen next.
But after Easter, the disciples of Jesus were out proclaiming that Jesus Christ was alive! It is a fact that all but one of those disciples suffered violent deaths. Yet not one of them ever denied, renounced, recanted their testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who literally and physically appeared to them.
The evidence is clear and overwhelming: early accounts + empty tomb + eyewitness testimony = the absolute certainty that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. This validates the fact that Jesus Christ is the unique, one and only Son of God.
It is a FACT! He has RISEN! He is ALIVE!