CHRIST AROSE: FACT OR FICTION?
Acts 10 records the conversion of the first Gentile to the Christian religion. After presenting the details of Christ's wonderful life and crucifixion, Peter added these enlightening words in verses 40,41, “Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” Peter makes the interesting comment that after God raised Him from the dead, He showed the risen Christ openly, not to all people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God. Luke affirms this same truth in the very first words in the book of Acts saying, “To the apostles whom He had chosen He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdm of God”(Acts 1:3). Jesus did not show himself openly to all the nation of Israel, but only to chosen witnesses, chiefly His immediate followers because this was the most effective means of propagating His religion in the world. After His resurrection, He said to the apostles, “Go convert all nations,” and they have done a remarkable job of convincing the world of the Lord's resurrection. Peter was successful in convincing Cornelius that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day after His death. I would like to investigate more closely this statment of Peter, “Him God raised up on the third day and showed Him openly, not to all people, but witnesses chosen before byGod, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.”
My first comment on this passage is that it contains the two greatest evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The greatest evidence of all is the revealed fact that God raised Him up from the dead. Not only did the inspired writers of the Bible make this statement, but God Himself made this statement. The apostle Paul stated that when Jesus arose on the third day, God said, “You are My Son. Today I have begotten You.” On the day of His resurrection God begot or brought Jesus back into existence from the dead. It was predicted in Psalm 2:7 that on the day of His resurrection God would say, “Today”, that is the day of the resurrection, “you are my son I have begotten you.”(Acts 13:33). When God says He raised Jesus from the dead, that settles the matter forevermore.
No other evidence is necessary, but we have other evidence. In addition to the apostles and close disciples, 500 other disciples saw Him
alive at one gathering. The second greatest evidence is eyewitness evidence
as used in the courts of law. We have more evidence to prove the resurrection of Christ than any other historical event in human history. The resurrection of Christ is a fact, not fiction. The resurrection is truth, not assumption. The opponents of the Christian faith say, “The resurrection of Christ is an assumption; life after death is an assumption; a universal resurrection of the dead is an assumption, and the existence of heaven is an assumption. We do not assume Christ arose or that we will also ariise. We know Christ arose. The Bible says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.(Hebrews 11:1). Bible faith is said to be evidence because to believe what the Bible says is to believe God's testimony, and that is stronger evidence than even eyewitness evidence. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Whatever God says in the Bible is truth, not assumption. Even if we had no historical evidence we would believe in the resurrection simply because God affirms it in the Bible The Bible says He raised Jesus from the dead., and the Bible contains God's communications with mankind.
Before I leave this point, I want to say one more thing about the fact of Christ's resurrection. That Jesus arose from the dead is one of the elementary tachings of the Christian religion. It belongs to the A,B.C's of Christian kowledge. If you have any doubts or uncertainty about Jesus being alive and in heaven, you need to go back and study the first principles of the Christian religion. Such are still in the first grade of religious knowledge. Where does the Bible say this? Writing to Christians Paul said, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God...Therefore leaving the principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith toward God, the doctrine of baptisms, laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead and faith toward God”(Hebrews 5:12 and 6:1,2). The resurrection of the dead, including Christ's, is here said to be one of the elementary doctrines of the Christian religion. Christians should grow in knowledge and acquire more advanced knowleddge of the Christian religion. The fact that Jesus arose from the dead is a proven historical fact, and people who do not believe it are woefully lacking in knowledge in general, and religious knowledge in particular. . It was widely believed in the first century and has been widely believed in all centuries that have followed. The resurrection of Christ has endured the investigations of the past 2,000 years, and today about one third of the human race believe that on that thrid day Jesus arose from the dead. It is high time that the human race accepts this historical fact and looks into to the eternal blessings it can bring them. There is no
excuse for the people of the world in the 21st century, or any future century, to go through life unaware of what the resurrection of Christ means to their eternal welfare. There is much more to the resurrection of Christ than the mere fact that God raised Him from the dead and restored His life. There is more to the Lord's resurrection than just a dead man coming back to life. The resurrection of Christ is more than just another miracle in the Bible. His resurrection has a multifold significance to mankind. In the rest of this message I want to present a few advanced thoughts on His resurrection. that have a profound significance to Christians and the entire human race
One of the most profound mysteries about His resurrection is that when God raised Him from the dead, Christ became the beginning and source of new humanity, a new human race. God did not call His Son out of the grave just for the glory and honor of His Son. He also called Jesus back into existence for the sake of the human race. It was for you and me that God raised Him up. This truth is set forth several times in scripture. Colossians 1:18 says of Christ, “He is the Head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. In Revelation 1:5 theApostdle John called Jesus, “The faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.” Romans 8:29 says of Christians whom God promised to save, “He also predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” I Corinthians 15:20 says, “Now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
How shall we understand this title given to Jesus, “The firstborn from the dead? Anyone who has any knowledge of the Bible knows that Jesus was not the first person to die and come back from the grave. The Bible contains many examples of people who died and came back to life. The meaning is that Jesus was the furst human bein to die and come back to life, never to die again.. Jesus was the first human being to die, arise from the grave and be given eternal life, a new life that shall never end. He was the first person to come from the grave and become an immortal being. At his resurrection He received eternal life, immortal life, everlasting life. From the moment He awoke in Josleph's new tomb, life for Him would never end.
Just how did God give Jesus eternal and everlasting life? Jesus received immortality by a new birth. Jesus was born twice. His first birth was in Bethlehem, and His second birth occurred at His resurrection.
Please remember He was very much a human being as you and me. He was the God-Man, both man and God.. One of His wonderfujl titles is, “The firstborn from the dead or the first bgotten from the dead. Both titles mean one and the same thing. His resurrection was called a birth, the first one ever born from the dead never to die again. In what sense could a resurrection be called a birth?. This is metaphorical language, meaning that in some sense it was comparable to a birth. To be the first begotten from the dead by God means that God gave His very existence back to Him. To give people existence is comparable to giving birth. He was dead three days and no longer existed as Jesus of Nazareth. His life was taken from Him, and He ceased to exist. God begot Him or brought Him into existdence by a miracle. He gave the first man Adam his existence by a miracle, and speaking metaphorically, Adam was born of God. He did the same thing for Jesus by means of a miracle. To raise a human being from the grave reqiires a miracle, and what He did for Jesus was the equivalent of giving Him a new birth..
God performed this great miracle on Jesus, raising Him up from death to eternal life as an example or type of what He will do for all the saved people of earth at the general resurrection of the dead. By this great event God assures us that the Christian future is not just rest but life, eternal life, life that will never end. That is what the resurrection of Christ is all about. Eternal life will begin fresh with a new birth, a new birth from the grave. By the resurrection Christ a new order of life was introduced to the human race by God. Jesus is the new Adam, the new first man. I Cor. 15:45 says, “The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” He became a giver of eternal life. Christ was the second Adam. and He repesented a new line of human beings, created to live for ever. Mankind began its old life in the garden of Eden; it began its new life in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea. It was in Joseph's tomb that God begot Jesus from the dead, and the first of a new race of human beings came into existence.
It should be pointed out that Jesus was God's only begotten Son in Bethlehem, the only human being ever born like He was. But at the resurrection Jesus is called the Firstborn, not the only begotten from the dead. Moreover, Romans 8:29 says that He was “the firstborn among many brethren.” The historical fact of the resurrection of Christ demonstrates in a most convincing way that death does not necessarily end all, and indicates the possibility of a similar birth for the human race to a new life after death. Let us pray that God in His providence will bring the
people of the world to a realization of this new life God made known by the resurrection of Christ. The work and character of Christ teaches us that He is not content to enjoy His resurrection life by Himself, but is intent on bringing many sons and daughters to glory with Him.
I will mention one more momentous meaning of Christ's resurrection. The first and greatest significance is that the risen life of Christ is the type and pattern of the future life all will enjoy in heaven, and the second is like unto it. It is that the resurrection of Christ proves with absolute certainty that all mankind will appear before the Judgment seat of Christ to receive for the things done in the body, whether they be good or bad. This truth was revealed by Paul when preaching the gospel in Athens, Greece, the very center of the Gentile world. In Acts 17:30,31, Paul said, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, , but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Two soul-stirring facts are revealed in this passage. The first is that a day has been fixed by God in which the entire world will be judged. in righteusnsess. The doctrine of the day of eternal judgment is is one of the elementary truths of the Christian religion. On this appointed day the people of Athens would be judged also. The second surprising fact is that God has appointed a man, a member of the human race, to be the judge of all mankind. on that great day; and that Man is none other than Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian religion and the Head of the church. Furthermore, the certainty that Christ will be the judge of all mankind was made apparent by the fact Jesus was raised from the dead. How ironic! Two thirds of the human race refuse to believe in the resurrection of Christ, and yet that fact is the assurance God has given to mankind that Jesus is the Judge that has been appointed by God to judge the world. That fact gives one and all some idea of the imortance of the Lord's resurrection. The very truth about Him which the world will not believe is the truth that will make Him their Judge at the final day.
I close with this statement in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart thatGod has raised Him from the dead, youwill be saved.” This means it is not necessary to see Jesus in person with your own eyes to believe in His resurrectoion. If you believe the testimony of the Bible about Him, that is all that is necessary. It means if you believe this fact and are willing to obey the other commands requisred to become a C hristian, you can enter the earthly kingdom, of Christ, and begin your journey to heaven.