|"A GREAT RETURN TO THE BIBLE" |
by Dr Pence Dacus
(Church History Correspondence Course)
THE MESSAGE OF THE EARLY CHURCH -- A RESURRECTED CHRIST
To the Athenian philosophers, Paul said "... he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). To the Corinthian Christians, he stated "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (I Cor. 15:17). These two references, one to infidels and one to Christians, will serve to focus attention upon the study.
"Christianity actually stands or falls with the resurrection. If there is no resurrection the very foundation of Christian faith is swept away, and what remains is not worthy of acceptance. As the apostle Paul said, "if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ" (I Cor. 15:14-15).
"The resurrection is the foundation for belief in all other miracles in the Bible. If Christ could arise from the dead, it is a small matter for Him to heal the sick, the blind, or even calm a storm at sea. Given this one stupendous miracle, all other miracles follow as a matter of course. For this reason we find that the apostles of Christ spent little time trying to prove any one of the many miracles they reported. Rather they saved their testimony for the greatest miracle of all, the resurrection, and let all other miracles rest on this one. Fully one fourth of their gospels in the New Testament is given to a detailed account of the events connected with His death and resurrection, and the final week of His life leading up to the cross." (Carrell).
The Way of the Empty Tomb
Something happened to the body of Jesus Christ when it was taken down from the cross. The New Testament testifies that it was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea and a guard of 20 men placed there. Sunday morning, THAT TOMB WAS EMPTY, as everyone admits, believer, or unbeliever. No one questions the death of Jesus, or that his body was placed in Joseph's tomb, but what happened to his body is a different story. So, THE MOST VITAL EVENT IN HISTORY FOCUSES ON A TOMB IN PALESTINE WHICH WAS SUPPOSED TO CONTAIN THE REMAINS OF ONE WHO CALLED HIMSELF THE SAVIOUR OF MAN. We cannot prove the resurrection by demonstration since it was unique, however we can find the proof for a historical event (the resurrection) in historical evidence. Let us study the historical evidence available to judge the reality of the event, just as though the Bible (though we believe it to be God's inspired word) were any other history book . Now, what does the evidence show?
Consider: Real issue: WHAT BECAME OF THE BODY OF JESUS
* Was it removed by his enemies?
* Was it removed by his friends?
* Or was it raised from the dead by the power of God, as the Bible says in Rom. 1:4 and many other references?
Did His Enemies Remove the Body?
* Did they have a proper motive? No, because it was already within their possession, and every precaution was taken to keep it where it had been placed. THEY WERE ANXIOUS FOR IT TO STAY THERE. (Read Matt. 27:62-66).
* "There are five capital offenses connected with such an act -- all carrying the death penalty.
For breaking the seal
For allowing the seal to be broken
For removing the body
For allowing the body to be removed
For sleeping on duty
But, no guard was ever arrested for sleeping on duty. See Acts 12:19 to learn what happened in those days to guards who lost their prisoners.
* Their attitude on the following Pentecost indicates that they had not removed the body. If they had, they would have produced the body. Instead, no body was produced and some 3000 of them accepted the apostles' statements placing their trust in a risen Lord (Acts 2).
Did His Friends Remove the Body?
* The testimony of the guards was plainly false. (Read Matt. 28:11-15). "What became of the body?" they were asked. "It was stolen", they replied, with no mention of being overpowered. "What were you doing at the time?" No explanation came from the guards, but the Jewish priests suggested sleeping. However, no disciple was ever arrested for stealing the body.
* The disciples lacked a proper motive for stealing it, since they plainly did not expect Christ to be raised from the dead (John 200:11-13; Luke 24:10-24; Mark 16:9-13; John 20:24-25).
* Suppose the disciples had tried to steal the body. The normal population of Jerusalem (about 250,000) swelled to about three million in the Passover season. This was a great crowd in a small area. It would have been difficult to hide a body without being detected.
* The disciples had demonstrated their timidity (Matt. 26:56, 58).
Various Theories of the Resurrection Proposed by Non-believers
Swoon Theory The idea was that Christ did not really die, but only appeared to be dead; later he revived in the tomb, pushed the stone away and came forth. Impossible!!! Evidence shows he was plainly dead at his entombment. He was weak, his side was pierced, and there was found to be no need to break his legs as he was already dead (John 19:31-37). Was he able to push the stone aside? Did he evade the guards? What became of him later? Did he remain in hiding while His followers toiled and suffered and died? If he did not die at this time, WHEN did He die?
Vision Theory This theory holds that Christ appeared to his disciples afterward but only in spiritual visions. But, were the unbelieving disciples ready to believe in visions? Furthermore, this would involve a miracle and a deception on the part of Christ. (See Luke 24:39). Also, what happened to the body? This theory does not attempt to explain anything; it ignores the problem and the facts .
Wrong Tomb Theory The women are supposed to have made a mistake when they went to the tomb on Sunday morning. But, would they have forgotten so soon? Did Peter and John also find the wrong tomb? An angel was there saying, "Come see the place where the Lord lay." Did the angel make a mistake, too? This was a private burial place, and
likely there were no other tombs around to allow them to make such a mistake. The theory is untenable.
Joseph Theory In this theory the tomb's owner is supposed to have taken the body out later, having changed his mind. But, why would Joseph want to remove the body? He had given his own tomb for Jesus' body and in the process had virtually taken his Life in his hands. Why would Joseph later dishonour this body by taking it and hiding it in an obscure place. Furthermore, the Roman soldiers were not told to make an exception of Joseph. Dr. Joseph Klausner, the man who suggested this, did not offer one single reference as evidence -- maybe he just liked the name.
Falsehood Theory The disciples are supposed to have purposely plotted to deceive the people, knowing all along he had not been raised. ABSURD!! They had no motive. Their moral character denies this theory.
Legend Theory Some say that the story arose several years after it happened. But, the time was too short for legends to arise. How could a legend produce a Pentecost? How could it convert Peter and the others, and 3000 on Pentecost? How could it win Paul?
See also below, CHARACTERISTICS OF THE RESURRECTION WHICH DISTINGUISHES BETWEEN IT AND SO-CALLED MODERN DAY MIRACLES.
Consider: A theory is just an opinion until proven. There is no proof for any of the above theories.
Positive Evidences of Christ's Resurrection
* After the resurrection, Christ made 10 or 11 appearances to witnesses. (Read I Cor. 15:4-8).
To the women at the tomb. (Matt. 28:1)
To 11 disciples in assembly. (Mark 16:14)
To 10 disciples. (John 20:19-24)
To 11 disciples in Galilee. (Matt. 28:16-17)
To 7 disciples at the sea of Tiberius. (John 21:1-2)
To 2 disciples on the Emmaus road. (Luke 24:13-15)
To 500 disciples. (I Cor. 15:6)
* The appearances ceased after a certain time -- 40 days and no more. This is not like myths, and legends where appearances increase in number and complexity with time.
A remarkable change took place in the lives of the disciples. (Book of Acts).
Characteristics of the Resurrection which Distinguish Between it and So-called Modern Day Miracles
* His enemies were the first to tell it.
* It was believed from the first day.
* The resurrection was preached in the SAME CITY IN WHICH IT HAPPENED.
Consider: Investigate the origin of the so-called miracles of modern times and compare them with this miracle. They are as spurious as the limited amount of information available about their origins.
Conclusion: The testimony of the empty tomb says:
* To science and philosophy : EXPLAIN THIS EVENT!
* To history: REPRODUCE THIS EVENT!
* To time: BLOT OUT THIS EVENT!
* To faith: RECEIVE THIS EVENT!
The evidence of the resurrection of Christ is overwhelming. There is more proof of His resurrection than there is that Julius Caesar was ever emperor of Rome, or that Alexander the Great conquered the world. His followers believed it and they gave their lives to support their faith. Many will die for things in which they believe right or wrong, but have you ever heard of a person who would die for something he knew to be a lie? The truth is that the resurrection was never seriously questioned until many centuries later. The proofs in favour of it are far too numerous and compelling. It was with this certain fact that the early Christians "turned the world upside down" with the gospel.
Carrell, William, Bible Correspondence Course. ____________, mimeographed Bible Lesson, Author unknown.
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