by Eric Barger
This article is taken from Eric Barger’s live seminar teaching and video presentation
“The PROOF and the POWER of the RESURRECTION.”
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins…If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
I Corinthians 15:12, 17, 19
Today, the life and deeds of Jesus Christ are perhaps under more skeptical scrutiny than at any time since His earthly life some 2000 years ago. Along with the virgin birth, the nature of the miraculous in His ministry and of course His very deity have long been the target of many skeptical claims and theories. However, no facet of Jesus’ life is as contested as is His bodily resurrection from the dead.
The resurrection is certainly one of the most debated and perhaps the most critical of the major doctrines that comprise the bedrock of Christianity itself. Though each of the so-called “central” or “essential” doctrines relating to Jesus’ godhood are equally important, the physical resurrection from the tomb stands as the very lynchpin of the Christian faith. That is, all other claims about Jesus find overwhelming validation and completion in His triumph over the grave. It proved His deity as the Son of God whom the Scriptures foretold and it gave those who would place their trust in Him the greatest hope of all – the assurance of eternal life (I Corinthians 15: 12-19, 51-57). My hope is that in this reading your faith will increase and that you will gain more awareness of the utter necessity for Christians to be ready “to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” (I Peter 3:15).
24 / 7 / 365
I hope it is evident that the resurrection of the Lord is a pivotal event, the scope of which goes far beyond the yearly commemoration of Passion Week. In fact, it is no overstatement to conclude that the resurrection of Jesus is an event on which the very existence of the Church depends. I often comment that if the events ofJesus’ earthly life accomplished the fulfillment of the other 323 Messianic prophecies concerning the Jewish Messiah – yet had He remained lifeless in the grave – then, regardless of the sum of His great works, example and teaching, He was NOT the Savior. Thus, without a physical resurrection from death, He couldNOT have been the Messiah and we are then still hopelessly lost in our sins and destined for eternal separation from God.
In our day, when doctrine is undermined, ignored and replaced by feelings, flesh and sloppy exegesis, I find myself often embroiled in discussions with those who want to claim the title of “Christian” yet do not hold to the essential teaching that actually allows one to use the term. Bluntly put, one cannot be an authentic “Christian” and at the same time deny essential doctrines such as the virgin birth, sinless life, deity and resurrection of Jesus. While they may be sincere, devout and very religious, those who deny these and other essentials (see The Apostles Creed) are also sincerely deceived, horribly mistaken and lost.
RESURRECTION FACT? – THREE SOURCES
There are three sources to consider when examining the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.
1 – Eyewitness Accounts
2 – Scriptural Evidence
3 – Statistical Evidence
So with that, let’s examine the evidence for the resurrection.
1 – Eyewitness Accounts
After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
The Apostle Paul, 55 AD (I Corinthians 15:6)
Skeptics enjoy pointing out that the only known eyewitnesses that lend credence to Christ’s resurrection are those mentioned in the New Testament. While this is true, when one understands the reliability of the Bible as a history book it actually adds to our contention that Jesus came out of the tomb alive. We only have miniscule recorded data from ancient times as opposed to the veritable overflow of information being created today…not everyone blogged on the Internet or surfed through hundreds of cable channels back then!
The above statement by Paul holds tremendous weight. Five Hundred Eyewitnesses? Think of that. Paul is chiding the Corinthians, rebuking them for entertaining any thought that Jesus could still be in the tomb. If five hundred people witnessed any event today we can rest assured that it would be recorded as a bonafide historical event! The fact that this account is found in the Bible should be of no controversy to us either.
The Bible is the best kept record in the history of mankind. No other book (actually 66 different unique letters and accounts) has been so well guarded. The Old Testament stands as the longest kept record in the history of mankind. It is a common argument of the skeptics that the text is inaccurate because of language translations and the passing of time itself. This idea is dismissed for several reasons but becomes nearly laughable when one examines the fact that we have manuscripts dating back thousands of years that were copied meticulously by scribes who knew that if they changed anything (i.e. “one jot or tittle”) from one copy to another it would cost them their very lives. The New Testament was carefully recorded and maintained with the same standards as was the Old Testament.
So, when the New Testament speaks of or records information concerning the direct encounters people had with the risen, glorified Christ, can it not be trusted for pure historical content? Of course – providing one’s skepticism doesn’t outweigh one’s quest for truth.
2 – Scriptural Evidence
Obviously, we have plenty of biblical evidence for the resurrection. Here are just a few instances:
– The resurrected Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18).
– He appeared to other women (Matthew 28:8-10).
– The longest such event took place as Jesus walked up to seven miles with Cleopas and his unnamed companion (perhaps his wife?) on the road to Emmaus. As they walked, Jesus unfolded a “prophetic apologetic” concerning Himself (Luke 24:13-32).
– Jesus appeared to eleven disciples as well as others (Luke 24:33-49).
– He appeared to ten of the apostles and others (John 20:19-23).
– The famous “He is Lord and God” encounter with Thomas and the other apostles (John 20:26-30).
– Saul (soon to be Paul) encountered the risen Lord in Acts 9:3-9 as well.
3 – Statistical Evidence
There is no doubt that to reach the most intellectual around us a statistic or two may get their attention. As a good friend of mine says, “Bait the hook with what the fish are biting on.” So let’s examine a couple of interesting, make that mind-blowing, facts.
In the 1950’s a statistician named Peter Stoner wrote a book entitled Science Speaks. In the book he examined the mathematical odds for any person perfectly fulfilling just 8 of the 324 Messianic prophecies and yet not being the Messiah.
Prophecies such as: Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), Messiah is to be preceded by a Messenger (John the Baptist) (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1), Messiah is to enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9), Messiah is to be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7) and four other documented events prophesied in the Old Testament and completely fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ.
Stoner states that the statistical probability of any man fulfilling just these eight prophecies as Jesus did and yet not have been the Messiah is 1 in 10 to the 17thpower. Friend, that’s 100,000,000,000,000,000 to 1 !!!
Stoner illustrates this number by supposing that we take 10 to the 17th power the amount of silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover theentire state of Texas in stacks two feet deep. He then says, to take one silver dollar and mark it and stir the whole mass thoroughly.
Now blindfold a man and tell him he can travel the entire state – roughly 850 miles east to west and 900 miles north to south – but instruct the man that he must then pick up one silver dollar on the first try and show that it is the right one, which has been marked. What are his chances? 1 in 10 to the 17th power.
If one investigates just 48 of the O.T. prophecies fulfilled in Jesus’ life, the number is 1 in 10 to the 152nd power, or roughly double the amount of electrons in the entire Universe! Truly, if a person is honest, statistical probability of fulfilled prophesy destroys skepticism!
SO WHY DOESN’T EVERYBODY BELIEVE?
To allow themselves to feel better about sin and to remain firmly planted as their own “god,” men have devised many theories concerning the resurrection. After all, if He didn’t rise from the dead, then all bets on Christianity are off and we’re free to live any old way that we so choose.
Concerning theories, my vicarious mentor, the late Dr. Walter Martin, said: “A theory is a magnificently developed idea ganged up on by a brutal bunch of facts.”How true. In my seminar presentation we examine each of these theories and several others to see if there is any possibility of truth lurking about in them. Limited space allows just a mention of them here.
The Wrong Tomb Theory – The women went to the wrong tomb and thus led Peter and the others there as well and nobody figured it out. Hummm, I can think of one group who would have corrected such as error – the Pharisees! As soon as Peter began raising havoc by proclaiming the Gospel they would have directed everyone to the “right” tomb – if Jesus had still been there!
The Swoon Theory – This theory espouses that Jesus never died on the cross but merely passed out and was mistakenly considered dead. Then, after three days He revived, muscled his way out of the grave clothes, rolled away a stone weighing approximately 2000 lbs, exited the tomb and overwhelmed a group of Roman soldiers single-handedly and appeared to His disciples unscathed who believed He had risen from the dead.
Dr. Hugh J. Sconfield’s book The Passover Plot taught this. German apostate Frederick Schlermocher did also. If you believe this could be true, may I suggest that, regardless of any theological disagreements you may have with Mel Gibson, you see the movie “The Passion of the Christ” and tell me if you believe that a man could survive without food, water and medical attention for three days and then come strolling out of the tomb ready to assume His duties as the Savior of the world! This theory also makes Jesus into a LIAR.
The Replacement Theory -Taught by Islam in the Koran and believed by many non-Muslims, the replacement theory suggests that someone took Jesus’ place at the foot of the Cross and died in His place allowing Him to slip away without anyone noticing!!?
The Stolen Body Theory – Depending on who is espousing this theory, the ideas are in direct conflict. First, one theory states that the Jews/Romans removed the body for “safe keeping.” If the Romans or Jews had the body, they could have brought it out and, as Dr. Martin taught, “paraded the rotting corpse down the streets of Jerusalem” and simply destroyed Christianity on the spot.
This theory goes up in smoke because of the Biblical record and because of logic as well.
This particular Stolen Body theory is in direct conflict with the one mentioned in Matthew 28. If the Jews or Romans had the body, why did they need to accuse the disciples of stealing it and in doing so give healthy bribes to the soldiers who were standing watch at the tomb? (Matt. 28:11-15 records this.) This leads us to the other “stolen body” theory.
If the disciples had the body and were merely attempting to fake Christ’s resurrection, then we’re faced with accusing the disciples of being completely lunatic.
Wouldn’t the idea of the disciples possessing the non-resurrected body of Jesus put a damper on every one of them preaching a bold faced lie that would eventually cost them their own lives and also the lives of dozens, if not hundreds of their family and friends?
Somebody would have cracked and eventually admitted that the resurrection was actually a hoax. Considering that all of the disciples except John died of martyrdom (and John’s exile to the island of Patmos wasn’t a vacation!), the supposition that they stole the body of Jesus is so far out that no further comment is needed. (Matthew didn’t comment on it either in Matthew 28.)
So if the body of Jesus wasn’t taken from the tomb by the Jews, the Romans or the disciples as the soldiers watched, our next theory needs examination…it is“The Sleeping Soldiers Theory.”
The Sleeping Soldier Theory – First, Roman guards were not likely to fall asleep with such an important duty. But if the soldiers were sleeping, how did they “know” it was the disciples who stole the body? It could have been someone else!
Second, it seems physically impossible for the disciples to sneak past the sleeping soldiers and then move a two-ton stone up an incline in absolute silence, unwrap the body, rewrap it in grave clothes they brought with them, and finish by carefully folding the head piece neatly next to the linen? PLEASE…give it a rest!!! Certainly the guards would have heard something.
Third, the tomb was secured with a Roman seal. Anyone who moved the stone would break the seal, an offense punishable by death. Do you think the disciples were ready for that after watching their leader’s horrible death? Not yet…not without RESURRECTION POWER!
RESURRECTION POWER !!!
You see, the world can have their theories as to why they think Christ didn’tresurrect and we Christians can have our evidences as to why we know that Hedid. But when it comes down to it, the real proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is in the fact that after 2000 years that same power that brought forth the King of Kings from the dead is still rescuing sinners from spiritual death; still healing sickness and disease and still setting captives free from the bondage of Satan’s grip!
What could have possibly motivated Peter to boldly preach “Christ and Him crucified” just 40 days after denying that he even knew Him? It was RESURRECTION POWER!
It is this same power that has driven Christians worldwide to proclaim “He is Risen” for 2000 years – even if in doing so it meant torture or death.
I encourage you to use the facts surrounding His resurrection as you dialog with the lost following the biblical command to “defend the faith” (Jude 3) and give men answers for the hope that lies within you” (I Peter 3:15). But I encourage you to celebrate, walk in and magnify the power of the resurrected Christ in every facet of your life. There is an unspeakable reward for those who will diligently seek Him on “resurrection day” and also the subsequent 364 days of the year.