ADVANCED BIBLE COURSE - LESSON 7

"A GREAT RETURN TO THE BIBLE"
by Dr Pence Dacus
(Church History Correspondence Course)

LESSON 7
THE MESSAGE OF THE EARLY CHURCH -- A RESURRECTED CHRIST


CONTENTS
  • Introduction
  • The Way of the Empty Tomb
  • Various Theories of the Resurrection Proposed by Non-believers
  • Positive Evidences of Christ's Resurrection
  • Characteristics of the Resurrection which Distinguish Between it and So-called Modern Day Miracles
  • Student Instructions


  • Introduction

    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.



    BIBLlOGRAPHY
    Carrell, William, Bible Correspondence Course. ____________, mimeographed Bible Lesson, Author unknown.


    Student Instructions
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    Questions
    Please answer the following questions by typing your answers into the spaces provided or, where a choice of answers is given, click against the button for the correct answer.

    You will find answers to the questions in the lesson material as well as the Scripture references that are cited.

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    I. Put TRUE or FALSE before each of the following statements. (Example: True -- A theory is an opinion until proven.)

    1. Evidence shows that the guards at Jesus' tomb were honest men.

    2. Guards who allowed prisoners to escape were usually dismissed.

    3. Jesus arose from the dead upon the first day of the week (John 20: 1).

    4. On one occasion Jesus appeared to more than 11 people after His resurrection.

    5. Men will not usually die for that which they know to be a lie.

    6. Christ was probably a party to deception in connection with the resurrection.

    7. The apostles were deceivers themselves.

    8. It usually takes a short time for myths and legends to develop.

    9. Only about one-tenth of the four gospels tells about the final week of Christ's life and His death.

    10. The weakness of most so-called modern miracles is the limited amount of facts about their origins.

    II. Complete the following statements by choosing the proper word or phrase. (Example: The testimony of the empty tomb says to faith: receive this event; explain this event; blot out this event.)

    11. The resurrection of Christ is important because:
    everyone believes it
    if Christ was not raised, there is no assurance that we can be raised
    it tells of Christ's love

    12. The body of Christ was missing from the tomb after the third day because
    His friends had removed it
    His enemies had removed it
    God had raised Him from the dead.

    13. A guard was placed at Jesus' tomb because:
    Joseph requested it
    the Romans wanted it placed there
    the Jews requested it

    14. The doctrine of the resurrection was not seriously challenged for many centuries because:
    nearly everyone believed and accepted it;
    skeptics had little chance to study the matter
    it was not serious enough to merit attention.

    15. The miracle of the resurrection differs noticeably from so-called modern miracles in that:
    it required someone's faith in order for it to happen
    it was believed from the first day
    modern miracle workers don't claim to be able to raise the dead, or heal the sick

    16. The Bible account of the resurrection of Christ is true because:
    the evidence as to its accuracy is overwhelming
    men naturally want to believe it
    good men wrote the record

    17. God has given assurance to all men that He will judge the world one day by Christ because:
    we have to be iudged by someone anyway
    Satan admits that it is true
    He raised Him from the dead

    18. The greatest miracle of all is:
    the feeding of the 5000
    Christ's walking on water; the resurrection of Christ
    turning water to wine at Cana

    19. We know that Jesus' resurrection was not just a myth or a legend because:
    the Bible says so
    the resurrection was preached in the same city where it happened
    within days of its occurrence; it would be better if we would just accept it as true, whether there is any evidence or not

    20. If Christ was not raised:
    we can still live a happy and good life
    we are still lost in sin
    the Bible record is still fairly accurate anyway

    III. Match the theories of non-believers concerning the resurrection of Christ below with the correct descriptions by placing the proper letter in the blank to the left.
    A. Swoon theory
    B. Joseph theory
    C. Wrong tomb theory
    D. Vision theory
    E. Legend theory
    F. Falsehood theory

    21. The story started a long while after the event actually occurred

    22. The moral character of the witness proves this theory wrong

    23. The owner of the tomb placed the body elsewhere

    24. This theory involves deception

    25. Christ only seemed to die, but later was revived

    26. The women went to another tomb on Sunday morning

    IV. Match the appearances of Christ after the resurrection below with the correct Bible reference by placing the proper letter in the blank to the left.
    A. Women at the tomb
    B. Two disciples on road to Emmaus
    C. 500 disciples at once
    D. 11 disciples in Galilee
    E. 7 disciples at the sea of Tiberius
    F. 10 disciples
    G. 11 disciples in assembly

    27. John 21:1-2

    28. Matt. 28:16-17

    29. Luke 24:13-15

    30. John 20:19-24

    31. Matt. 28:1

    32. 1 Cor. 15:6

    33. Mark 16:14

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