4 Evidences for The Resurrection
(Online Course Preview)

In this preview of our online course, we share 4 evidences for the resurrection. How can we know that Jesus rose from the dead? Is it something we can prove?

As we explained in this podcast episode, a lot of our knowledge depends on other people. You and I didn’t see Jesus rise from the dead. But is there any reason to trust the apostles, when they said Jesus rose from the dead?

Here are 4 evidences for the resurrection, straight from our online course!

Enroll in the course now!

Intro: Why Trust the Apostles?

In the last chapter, we argued that Jesus’ resurrection is the central proof of Christianity. But how do we know that the resurrection really happened? If the resurrection is the event that proves Jesus is God, then we need to be able to know that the resurrection historically happened.

Many would scoff at this claim. “What? How can we possibly know that a miracle from 2000 years ago happened?”

Maybe you feel the same way. But before you decide for sure, remember 1 Corinthians 15, which we looked at in the last section. In verses 5–8, Paul builds a list of eyewitnesses. It says that Jesus “appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve,” and then “to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive.” Why would Paul list these names?

If we look at verse 12, we learn that some doubted that the resurrection ever happened. In other words, Paul listed these names to try to get the Corinthians to change their minds. They did not think that Jesus rose from the dead, and Paul is laying out an argument to try to get them to believe that Jesus really did rise. Now, notice his strategy: when some doubted the resurrection, Paul didn’t quote scripture. He listed witnesses. Paul assumed that the doubting Corinthians could look at the historical evidence to know that Jesus had risen from the dead.

This tells us two things. First, it is possible to know that the resurrection took place. Second, this tells us how we can know: through witnesses. This goes back to what we mentioned in the first chapter of this section: a lot of our knowledge comes through other people. You and I never met George Washington. We must rely on what was written about him. But we don’t do so blindly; we know how to tell when other people are telling the truth.

So do we have reason to believe what the Apostles said about Jesus, namely, that He rose from the dead? Yes. There are at least four good reasons to believe this. To help you remember them, we alliterated each reason with E and S. Let’s begin:

Resurrection Evidence #1 – Embarrassing Stories

Imagine that you were making up the story of the resurrection. How would you describe it?

Most likely, you would describe yourself as the hero of the story. Whereas everyone else ran in fear, certainly you would have stayed there steadfast till the end.

The point is this: when we make up a story, we tend to make ourselves sound good. We only make ourselves sound bad if we are telling the truth. For example, if I tell you that I have a 4.0 GPA, you might be a bit skeptical. But if I told you that I had a 2.5 GPA, you would probably believe me. Why? Because if I were going to make up a number, I wouldn’t make up a low score.

In the same way, the disciples show that they are telling the truth by including really embarrassing stories about themselves. Here are a few of them:

  • They worshiped a crucified man. Talk about an embarrassment! This new leader who is supposed to save the world is killed like a common criminal in disgrace.
  • They record multiple instances of Jesus telling them that they were, well, stupid. Jesus once even called Peter, one of the main leaders of the church, Satan (see Matthew 16:23).
  • They record statements that would not have made their fellow Jews very happy. For instance, they tell about how Jesus interacted with a Samaritan woman (John 4) and how He said that a Roman military leader’s faith was greater than those in Israel (Matthew 8:10).
  • When Jesus died, all the men (except John, the youngest of the disciples) fled in fear, and only the women stayed (see John 19:25 and Mark 14:50).
  • Again, when Jesus rose from the dead, it was the women who discovered the tomb, not the men. The male disciples would not have made up this story. For one thing, it’s embarrassing. But even worse, it ruins their credibility. In those days, women’s testimony did not mean nearly as much as men’s testimony. So if you wanted people to believe your made-up story, you would have had it be men who discovered the tomb.

Resurrection Evidence #2 – Empty Sepulcher (Tomb)

We also should believe that the early Apostles were telling the truth about the resurrection because the tomb was empty. Well, how do we know that?

As we just said, we know it was empty because it was the women who discovered the tomb. But there are other reasons to believe the tomb was empty.

First, we ought to think the tomb was empty because of Matthew 28:11–15. Matthew talks about a “story” that “has been spread among the Jews to this day.” This story says that the disciples stole the body. Now, here’s the key thing: if the earliest Jews’ official story is that the disciples stole the body, what is that admitting? It’s an admission that the tomb was truly empty.

Second, if the Romans and Jews wanted to end the early church, all they had to do was parade Jesus’ body in Jerusalem. But they never did. The body was nowhere to be found. Get this: the Apostles preached that a man had been raised from the dead, and they preached this in the very city where He had been killed. And people believed. The fact that the government was not able to stop the spread of Christianity in Jerusalem is very clear evidence that His body was gone.

Some say the disciples stole the body, but that makes no sense in light of the suffering they endured (see below). Why make up a story that you know is going to get you killed?

Resurrection Evidence #3 – Earthly Suffering

The disciples not only devoted their lives to preaching that Jesus had risen from the dead and living lives dedicated to spreading the Kingdom of God on earth – they were willing to suffer and die for it. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:24–29 that he had suffered in the following ways:

  • Whipped by the Jews on five separate occasions.
  • Three times he was beaten with rods.
  • One time he was stoned.
  • Three times he was shipwrecked.

That is only half of his list. And this wasn’t unique to just Paul. Every single one of the early Apostles was willing to be martyred for their faith, and the majority of them were. Countless Christians died at the hands of violent persecution. Why?

Because they had seen Jesus. Chuck Colson explains:

Watergate involved a conspiracy to cover up, perpetuated by the closest aides to the President of the United States – the most powerful men in America, who were intensely loyal to their president. But one of them, John Dean, turned the state’s evidence, that is testified against Nixon, as he put it, ‘to save his own skin’ – and he did so only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on – two weeks! The real cover-up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. Now, the fact is that all those around the president were facing was embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody’s life was at stake.

But what about the disciples? Twelve powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stonings, execution. Every single one of them insisted, to their dying breaths, that they had physically seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead. Don’t you think that one of those Apostles would have cracked before being beheaded or stoned? That one of them would have made a deal with the authorities? None did.[1]

No wonder Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:30–32 that if Jesus has not been raised, then “Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’”

Resurrection Evidence #4 – Eternal Separation

They did not risk only physical pain, but eternal separation from God. How so? They gave up sacred beliefs they held from Judaism. If they were wrong to give these up, they would be abandoning their only hope for eternal life. They risked hell itself, so to speak. What beliefs did they give up?

  • The animal sacrificial system is replaced forever by the one sacrifice of Jesus.
  • The holy Law of Moses is no longer binding because Christ fulfilled it.
  • Their strict monotheism is replaced by belief in God as Trinity; they always held that to worship a man was blasphemy.
  • The Sabbath is replaced by worshipping on a Sunday, even though to break Sabbath deserved death (Exodus 31:14).
  • Their view of the Messiah as a conquering king is replaced by the image of a sacrificial lamb. [2]

It’s crucial that you understand: if the disciples had been wrong about all of this, they were in deep trouble with God. This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:15 that if Jesus has not been raised, then “We are even found to be misrepresenting God.”

Time Travel

Perhaps you are a Christian who has doubts about the resurrection. Imagine being offered a time machine, but you can only use it once. You know the one place you want to go: Jerusalem, right after Jesus died. You want to figure out if this is true. You want to see the risen Jesus. Before you go, you even study your Greek and Aramaic for a few years so can ask the locals where to find Jesus. Finally – finally! – the day comes. You set the date for a few days after Jesus’ crucifixion. This is your moment! You’re going to find the resurrected Jesus.

But then you get there. And you look, and you look, and you look. You look everywhere, but you can’t find Jesus anywhere. You look for another month – still no sign of Him. You go back to the time machine. And to your horror, you realize you got the date slightly wrong; you came back a week after Jesus ascended to heaven.

You scream and curse at the sky. Why did you have to come at the worst time possible? You crouch in a corner and pout. You decide you might as well go home.

Right before you get back in your time machine, you see two men out of the corner of your eye. They wave you down. You hear them shout “Sir, have you heard the good news?”

You involuntarily let out a half smile. You almost say “Yes.” After all, you are a Christian. But you decide to say “No,” just out of curiosity.

They smile and introduce themselves as Peter and Andrew. “It’s two of the Apostles!” you think to yourself. Then they begin to tell you the story: how they met Jesus, how slow they were to learn who He truly was, how patient and loving He was – they tell of His death for sin – they tell of His victorious resurrection – they each describe how crazy it was to see Him alive again. It was like waking up from a nightmare.

As you listen to these men, you find yourself believing what they say. They don’t hold back on the embarrassing stories (“Remember the time Jesus called you Satan?”). And their eyes – they looked bruised, yet full of joy. You notice several scars, and so you ask where they got them from. “We bear in our bodies the suffering of Christ” they gladly announce. They tell you of how some of their own family members have disowned them and told them that they are under God’s curse for rejecting core tenants of Judaism. “Aren’t you at least a little scared that you might be mistaken?” you ask.

“No. We’ve seen Him. We’re willing to make fools of ourselves in the eyes of men, we are willing to suffer torture and be thrown to lions, we are willing to bank our entire eternity on the fact that Jesus has been raised from the dead.”

Just then, you accidentally bump the button on the time machine, and you are whisked back home.

No, you did not see Jesus yourself. But what more proof do you need? If you can’t believe these men, who are willing to risk everything for Christ, then who can you trust?

Your Turn

Write out a short summary of how you would explain the 4 evidences for the resurrection. Imagine someone asks you: “Why do you believe the resurrection happened?” Take five minutes to write down your answer. Leave it in the comments below, or perhaps just write it down on a piece of paper. It’s important to try to internalize this information.

Summary

Key Points:

  • We can know that Jesus rose from the dead through the testimony of the Apostles.
  • The Apostles should be believed because of these 4 evidences for the resurrection:
    • They told embarrassing stories about themselves (Embarrassing Stories).
    • The tomb was empty (Empty Sepulcher).
    • They were willing to die (Earthly Suffering).
    • They were willing to risk hell itself (Eternal Separation).

Enroll in the course now!

Want to see more of our online course? Click here for another preview!

Sources:

[1] Quoted in Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 292–293.
[2] This list was adapted from Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 290–291.

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