WITNESSES OF THE RESURRECTION
The apostle Peter preached the first gospel sermon to Gentiles, and among other things said, “Him God raised up on the third day and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead”(Acts 10:40,41). This statement of Peter speaks of the most important event in the history of the world, and it also tells us how God proved to the world that this event took place. In this message it is my purpose to convince you that one of the most important events in the history of the world, if not the most important event, is the resurrection of Christ. There have been many important events in the history of mankind, but what is there about the resurrection of Christ that possibly takes precedence over every other event that has ever taken place? The resurrection of Christ is the greatest of all events in my judgdment because it has far more significance than any other event that has ever taken place. Its greatness is in its significance.
Consider the significance it has to the Christian religion. The Christian religion is one of the great world religions, and it is the only true religion in the world. It commands the respect of about one-third of the human race. There are some twelve or thirteen other world religions but none of them are connected to the One true triune God. Only the Christian religion has the stamp of God's approval on it. The Bible says there is one church, one Holy Spirit, one hope, one Lord Jesus Christ, one faith, one baptism by immersion, and one God and Father of all.(Ephesians 4:4-6). Those are the seven foundation truths of true religion, and they are found only in the Christian religion. Yet, upon the fact of His resurrection rests the whole system of Christianity. The relgion of Christ stands or falls by His resurrection. The Bible teaches that Christ was both human and divine, both God and man, yet the ultimate proof of all His claims to divinity was His resurrection from the dead. The divinity of Christ finds its greatest proof in His resurrection. The Bible says that Christ, “was declared to be the Son of God with power...by the resurrection from the dead.” All His claims to power and authority depend on the fact of His resurrection. Romans 14:9 says, “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” There is no way He could be Lord of the dead if when He died He remained in the grave just like the rest of us. Jesus said, “Destroy the temple of my body, and in three days I will raise it up”.(John 2:19). Three days after His death Jesus raised up His own body thus fulfilling this
prediction. But if He did not rise, He failed to do what He said He could and would do. I will mention one more thing that shows the significance of His resurrection to the Christian religion. If Christ did not rise from the dead, all gospel preaching is worthless. Paul said in I Cor. 15:14 “And if Christ is not risen then our preaching is vain..” That means it is useless, worth less and of no value. That gives some idea of how significant the resurrection is to the Christian religion. Unless He arose, we have nothing to preach. But Peter in effect said, “From the very beginning of this religion I have preached that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. Do you people think you know more about this subject than I do? If so, where did you get your information? We apostles ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” I know of no other single teaching or event that has more significance to the Christian religion than the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Consider again the significance of His resurrection personally to Christians. In I Cor. 15:17 Paul said, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.” That means we are under the condemnation of sin. Christ's resurrection was necessary to our forgiveness. If He did not rise, there is no pardon, no reconciliation and no justification. Those who doubt the resurrection of Christ, and their own resurrection, seldom see the consequences of the false teaching they embrace. To doubt the resurrection of Christ is to doubt that Jesus is the Savior of the world . In addition he adds that our Christian relatives and friends who have passed away have perished. I Cor. 15:18 says, “Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” To fall asleep in Christ is to die in faith of Christ and in the belief of the Christian religion. If Christ did not rise, they all perished when they died. All the dead in Christ are lost. It is the loss of holiness and happiness forever. They have incurred the fate of those who died in their sins. Some Christians in Corinth chose to place their hope in the wisdom of men than in the wisdom of the apostles of Christ.
Paul made one more statement about the significance of the Lord's resurrection to Christians. I Cor. 15:19 says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” The Old King James says, ”We are of all men the most miserable.” What he means is, if all the good we expect from Christ is to be enjoyed in this life, we are more miserable than those who are not Christians. Christians have always been exposed to persecution, mistreatment, criticism and sufferings, while unbelievers are at their ease. This passage does not teach that Christians are in this life more
miserable than unbelievers. Christians are unspeakably happier than other people. All Paul means to say is that if you take the resurrection of Christ away from Christians you take away their all, their everything. He is the source of their future happiness and their present happiness. If He d id not rise, we are yet in our sins, , unreconciled to God, and having no hope and without God in the world. If Jesus did not rise
Christians have no one to believe in, and the Christian religion would be without verification from God. If Christ did not rise, we cannot believe anything the Christian religion teaches. I know of no other teaching in the Christian religion that has such a significance to Christians.
Moreover, the resurrection of Christ has a profound significance to mankind in general. The resurrection of Christ substantiates and proves beyond all doubt the almost universal belief of mankind in a future state of existence after death. Before Christ was born, lived, died and arose, mankind has had a belief in immortality everywhere and in all ages. Doubtless God imparted this idea to Adam and Eve, but it became corrupted with falsehood, superstition and man-made ideas and traditions. The ancient Egyptians and Romans believed in a life after death. Homer, Cicero, Plato, Aristotle and Socrates all believed in immortality. From the backward tribes of darkest Africa to the Eskimos of the north, to Mexico, Rome, Greece and India, it is one unbroken testimony to the belief in a life after death. For the most part, mankind has never accepted death as a finality.
The significance of the resurrection of Christ to mankind is that it purifies this belief and strips it of all the superstition, falsehood and man-made traditions that have grown up around it for centuries. God did something marvelous to confirm this universal desire of mankind. To clarify this desire God sent the second person of the Godhead to earth, had Him take on the nature of man, let Him die, let Him come back to life, never to die again, and then let Him return to heaven. 2 Tim. 1:10 says, “Christ abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” This means He brought it out of obscurity, darkness and superstition. He made it an indisputable fact and an absolute certainty. All doubts about life after death have been answered and removed. It is now a historical fact. Since Christ arose from the grave, no one has a right to question this belief. Only the disobedient part of the human race now denies the resurrection of Christ. To an unbelieving world death is a leap into the dark, and the belief in the resurrection of Christ is very disturbing to them.
And well it should be, for Revelation 1:7 says, “Behold He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him.” Even those soldiers who crucified Him will see Him some day. They were not among those who saw Him alive, but they and all Israel will see Him when He returns.. The resurrection of Christ is the one greatest evidence that there is a life beyond the grave, and a life that will never end. There are other evidences in the Bible that people were brought back to life after they died, but they all returned to the grave. But Jesus is the only person of whom it can be said, “He is the firstborn from the dead,” that is, never to die again. The resurrection of Christ should draw all races, all nations and all religions to the religion of Christ. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father bu by Me.” In view of all the facts I have presented to you, I have established the truth of my first thought on Peter's sermon.. The resurrection of Christ is one of the most significant events, if not the most significant event, in the history of the world.
My second thought on Peter's sermon that brought the first Gentiles into the Christian religion is that God chose the best and most effective method of proving to the world that He did indeed raise Jesus from the dead on the third day. How did God do this? Peter tells us in Acts 10: 40,41, “Him God raised up on the third day and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” God proved to the world that He raised Jesus from the dead by eye-witness testimony. He used witnesses chosen before by God Himself. The evidence that is most convincing to any jury is eye-witness testimony. No evidence can take the place of those who saw something happen with their own eyes. Peter says God chose the apostles of Jesus to be among the witnesses of this momentous event,
and Peter said they all ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead..
However, critics of the Bible disagree with God on the method. chosen to prove the resurrection. The unbelieving part of the human race raises all kinds of questions and doubts. Why didn't He show the resurrected Christ to all the people of Israel? Why didn't He go into the temple and preach and show Himself alive?. Why didn't He preach all over Palestine again and show the entire nation that He arose from the dead? Why? Becaus it would have done no good. The miracles Jesus performed during His earthly ministry did not move the nation. The religious leaders would have claimed He never did die and deny His resurrection. They bribed the soldiers
who crucified Him to lie and say some of His followers came, took the body away and buried it an unknown location.. Why didn't our Savior show Himself to all the people? Why only to witnesses chosen before by God? The obvious answer is because this was the most effective means of propagating His religion throughout the world. After His resurrection He sent the apostles all over the world. His command was, “Go convert all nations,” and that they did. God knew the best way to prove this event. All Critics and unbelievers simply disagree with God who raised Him from the dead. They disagree with the four inspired gospel writers, and with the hundreds of people who saw Him alive with their own eyes.
Early on that Sunday morning some two thousand years ago, before anyone arrived at the tomb, two angels at the appointed hour descended from the opening doors of heaven and hastened outside the walls of Jerusalem to Calvary. Instantaneous with their coming was an earthquake. When the Roman soldiers saw the angels they were petrified with fear and fell to the ground like dead men. The fearful things they saw froze their blood and paled their cheeks with fear. One of the angels rolled the stone away, not to let Jesus out but to let the disciples in. His soul returned to His body from Hades, and He arose victoriously from the dead. He calmly and neatly folded up His grave clothes and left the tomb. He burst the gates of Hades and came forth out of it to build His church. This fulfilled His promise that He would build His church and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. He meant that even death would not stop the building of His church. When the Lord arose, He showed the world that the grave was only a temporary resting place for man. He became the first human being to arise from the dead never to die again. After His resurrection He lingered on earth for forty days to be seen of men and to be seen in such a manner as to show that He was still the Savior Christ.
He appeared first to Mary Magdalene. The most complete explanation of God's method to prove that He raised Jesus from the dead is presented by the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15:3-11, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day according to the scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over 500 brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that, He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then 6
last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” By combining that account with the accounts in the four gospels, the book of Acts and the book of Revelation, we learn that a group of women saw Him as they were on the way from the tomb to announce His resurrection to the apostles. He also appeared to two men on the way to Emmaus. He made at least five appearances to the apostles. On one occasion He made an appearance to over 500 people. After ascending to heaven, He was seen by Stephen, the first martyr, who died amid a shower of stones by the religious leaders of Israel. Then he was seen by Paul; on the road to Damascus to arrest Christians. That appearance to Paul resulted in his conversion. Christ made His last resurrection appearance to the apostle John when he was a prisoner for Christ on the Isle of Patmos. This account of the many witnesses, chosen by God, who saw Jesus alive after His resurrection is most surely believed by all true Christians. On the fact of Christ's resurrection, we have an accumulation of the most astonishing evidence ever presented in support of any historical fact. We have the testimony of at least 515 eyewitnesses who saw the Lord alive after His resurrection. Furthermore, most of them, if not all of them, knew Him well before, and many of whom had only been separated from him about 36 hours. From this mass of evidence, it is not as certain that Julius Caesar ever existed, as it is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.