At the end of this article is a golden nugget. But first, consider some of the following events. Their impact on the world was monumental and life changing. All were pivotal moments in human history.
a) Domestication of animals – for food and service.
b) Invention of the wheel – for machines and transportation
c) Development of agriculture – allowing the creation of communities
d) Development of sea-worthy ships – allowing oceans to be crossed, new lands to be discovered
e) Writing and language – for communication
f) Weaponry, such as the bow, the spear, and later the gun and gunpowder – for hunting, defense, and warfare
g) Signing of the Magna Carta – a clarification of human rights
h) Invention of the printing press – enhanced communication
i) Invention of modern day electronics such as television, radio, and computers – enhanced communication
j) Appearance of the world’s political and religious philosophies – to try and give a logical foundation for governmental systems
k) The steam and internal combustion engines – to free us from only having horses and/or walking for travel
l) Airplanes – to allow people to travel great distances
m) Advancements in medical science – to maintain our health and increase our life span
n) Space travel. The ability to see the entire Earth as a beautiful blue ball suspended in infinite black space – a mind-expanding perspective.
o) Advancements in physics, chemistry, and astronomy – giving us new products, as well as insights into the nature of our universe.
Of course, this list is incomplete, and could go on and on. All these historical events have mostly to do with this life, and what happens to humanity here on Earth, for better or worse. However, there is one other event that, if it happened, has the power to challenge the chosen beliefs and worldviews of the human race, an event that sheds light about what happens to a person after they die. People who know about this event are forced to decide whether to accept the consequences of believing it – or not. On the other hand, if this certain event did not happen, the implications for the human race are profound indeed. We shall now examine this event – the most important event (or non-event) in the history of the world.
What is it? Answer: The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
This event, if it happened as described in the New Testament of the Bible, authenticates the life, ministry, teachings, and promises of Jesus. In fact, he staked his entire credibility on it – as demonstrated by the following biblical passage.
From Mathew Chapter 12: The religious leaders of his day had heard of Jesus, his alleged miracles, his large following, and so they arranged an audience with him. The exchange went something like this (an amplified paraphrase): “We have heard about you, carpenter. How you perform miracles and amaze the people. They say you fed thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish. We have heard that you actually raised someone from the dead! So then, we would like to see you do some of these signs and wonders for us, here, now – so we can see for ourselves if you really are who everyone claims you are. Maybe, then, we might even believe in you ourselves and become your followers.” Jesus answered these religious leaders, but the text suggests that he did not even bother to look at them, as he might have looked down at the ground with his eyes closed, or possibly just looked wistfully off into the distance. His answer: “A wicked generation asks for signs and wonders. They will receive one – and only one. The sign of the prophet Jonah. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea creature, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth.” This answer is clarified in other biblical passages where Jesus predicts that he must go to Jerusalem, there to be killed, but on the third day will rise again. Jesus staked his credibility, his entire ministry, his claim to be able to forgive sins – on this prediction of resurrection.
Before we examine whether or not Jesus actually did come back alive from the dead, let us look at the implications of the truth or falsity of his claim.
In John Chapter 11, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” If his resurrection is true, then this statement is also true, and we can take great comfort in these words if we are a believer and follower of Jesus. However, if he did not rise from the dead, then here is what we can do with this statement: Strike it from the text of the Bible!
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” Why? Because it is a claim without credibility – nice words, but without authority.
In John Chapter 14, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” True – if he rose from the dead, as the Bible claims he did. If not, then we have another claim with no credibility. Therefore, we remove it.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Now, most people have either heard of the Bible verse John 3:16 (or have seen the “John 3:16” placards at football games). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The most amazing verse in any religious document ever written! We certainly want it to believe it – but, it’s only true if the resurrection is true. But if the resurrection is not true, then the verse should be stricken from the text;
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Even worse, the verse could be rewritten as “For God, whose actual concern for the world is anyone’s guess, gave no begotten son. Whoever believes in this man named Jesus has no assurance of ‘not perishing’ and will probably not have ‘everlasting life’.”
Another example from John Chapter 14; Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go I will come again to receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.” A wonderful promise indeed – but only true if Jesus actually rose from the dead. If not, strike it out:
In my Father’s hous e are many mansions (rooms). If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go I will come again to receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.” No valid promise of heaven for the believer – uncertainty and ambiguity about what happens after death.
There are many other biblical passages that make no sense at all if Jesus just died, stayed dead, and was never seen alive again. A prime example: In Acts Chapter 1 we see these words: “he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible (convincing) proofs, being seen for forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Luke, the writer of Acts, was caught up in an appalling delusion, and, in spite of good intentions, was actually perpetuating a gigantic falsehood. In fact, if one assumes that the resurrection is not true, then one could go through the Bible with a scissors or a marking pen, and eliminate about 50% of it (some skeptics and unbelievers have actually done this.) The Bible, especially the New Testament, is only valid and authentic if Jesus actually rose from the dead. If not, it becomes a confusing and rather tragic document. A litany of wonderful promises about redemption, salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life reduced to just a lot of make-believe, with no more power than sentiments one might find on a Hallmark card. Also called into question is the very nature of God. If God actually exists, then the death of the most beautiful man in human history, who believed that his own resurrection would authenticate his ministry to the world, was ignored with indifference and distance. Jesus is reduced to just another wandering desert prophet. We may respect him, even love him – but he was claimed by death just like any other human being. So much for our little lives and our little hopes. The apostle Paul was keenly aware of this, and he discussed this (about 55 AD) in his letter to the church at Corinth, Greece. (First Corinthians, Chapter 15). He point-blank says that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then men have no forgiveness of sins, and those who profess that Jesus is Lord are the most pathetic of all human beings. What about prayer? At best, a shot in the dark. There would be no assurance that anyone cares or is even listening.
Well, then. Did Jesus rise from the dead? Or are the accounts of this event just a lot of mythology? The best way to decide between mythology and truth is by means of evidence – evidence consisting of facts and eyewitness testimony. The writer of this blog believes the evidence shows that Jesus really did rise from the dead. Let’s examine just a few of the arguments, starting with one that is rarely discussed – an argument in favor of the resurrection. It goes like this. Some people believe that the flights to the moon were staged in a movie-set studio environment. The claim is made that no actual person has ever gone to the moon. The flights were staged in order to win a propaganda battle with the Russians, to make it seem that we had better space technology than they did. Yet, there were thousands of people who worked for the Space Administration (including the astronauts themselves), and no person has ever come forward to say something like, “I just can’t go to my grave with this big lie hanging over me. This whole moon-shot thing was a big fake. Moreover, we were sworn to secrecy. But enough is enough. I don’t care what price I have to pay. I can’t go on perpetuating this lie any longer.” This absence of ‘regretful confessions’ is strong evidence that our astronauts actually did go the moon. Analogous to this, we have no record that anyone of the ancient world, including the Jewish religious leaders, the Romans, the Greeks, or the early followers of Jesus himself, ever said something like “I just can’t go to my grave with this big lie hanging over me. This ‘resurrection from the dead’ thing was a big fake. At first, we were all caught up in the euphoria of the times, but as the years passed we finally had to admit that we never actually saw a risen Jesus.” The early followers of Jesus held to their conviction that Jesus actually rose from the dead. Many of them suffered ostracism, persecution, and even a martyr’s death without ever recanting their belief.
In addition, the Jewish religious leaders would have liked nothing more than to produce the body of Jesus (dead or alive) and to parade it around Jerusalem. That would squelch all the prevailing buzz about resurrection, and kill this new heretical movement (which later grew into Christianity) before it really got started. But they could not do it! Finally, another piece of strong evidence in favor of the resurrection of Jesus is the existence of the New Testament itself. The writers of the four gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John) as well as the letters of Paul, John, Peter, and the others would have had no reason to ever write what they wrote – except they actually saw the risen Jesus, or had talked with others who had. In First Corinthians 15, Paul points out that Jesus was seen alive by over 500+ varied witnesses, and that the first-century church believed it wholeheartedly, and built their doctrine on it. All one need do is read the first few chapters of the book of ACTS, and it becomes crystal clear that the early church accepted the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. There was no doubt in their minds. Thus, they were convinced that Jesus really was the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God, and the Savior of the world – or to say it in today’s vernacular: the ‘real deal’. The later notions about Jesus being part of a conspiracy, marrying Mary Magdalene and moving to what is now France, faking and staging the crucifixion for political purposes, or the resurrection accounts being written hundreds of years later – all these ideas fall flat on their face. There are many more arguments in favor of the resurrection (refer to Footnote). Therefore, it can be stated that the teachings and claims of Jesus are true (not mythology), and all the profound things he said about salvation, redemption, eternal life, forgiveness, and so forth are VALID. In addition, when we pray, someone is listening.
Now to return to the original question; why is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead the most important event in human history? More important than the events on the list above? Because it has everything to do with the eternal destiny of every human being, including those who have never even heard of Jesus – what happens to us after we die. As we know, the death rate is still one-per-person, so it is absolutely critical and urgent that all of us pay close attention to those values and contemplations that pertain to our ultimate destination. All those other events in human history are certainly important, but they have mostly to do with this life, and what happens here on Earth, for better or worse.
Now the conclusion of this discussion – the GOOD news, the golden nugget; because Jesus actually did rise from the dead, his love, mercy, and redemption is available to every human being who has ever lived. All that is necessary is a sincere heartfelt prayer, a ‘reaching out’ to God, and putting one’s faith in the hope of future forgiveness and redemption.
Now, denial of the resurrection of Jesus may seem like a good idea at the time. But some nuggets that might look like gold are actually fool’s gold (pyrites), which is worthless. This brings us to the BAD news. Because the resurrection of Jesus validated his teachings and ministry, to ignore him, or to deny his available redemption is to place one’s very soul in peril. What ‘peril’? This: final and permanent separation from the love of God. A state of existence known in the Bible as ‘hell’, whatever that actually means. I have no intention of finding out – and I do not want any reader of this blog post to find out. Today is the day to call out in repentance to God. Today is the day to ask for his redemption. He will answer with his forgiveness and his love and guidance. The life of the person who says such a prayer will take a new and beautiful turn.
[Footnote: Many books discuss Jesus’ resurrection, and the various arguments pro and con. Two good ones are: The Case for Easter, and The Case for the Resurrection, both by former atheist Lee Strobel, which can be purchased on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, as well as most Christian bookstores.]