One hundred and ten years ago Reuben Archer Torrey (1856-1928), then Superintendent of the Bible Institute of Chicago (later renamed Moody Bible Institute) wrote:
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is in many respects the most important fact of Christian history. It is the Gibraltar of Christian Evidences, the Waterloo of Infidelity and Rationalism. If the scriptural assertions of Christ’s Resurrection can be established as historic certainties, the claims and doctrines of Christianity rest upon an impregnable foundation.
Thus he began chapter six of What the Bible Teaches (p. 166). With the same belief and conviction, I wrote the following for this week’s issue of our area newspaper:
Each year at this time we remember the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most believe Jesus died on the cross, but opinions are divided about what happened after his crucifixion and burial. Some say that because the apostles experienced severe emotional turmoil they imagined seeing Jesus. Others who consider themselves Christians interpret Christ’s resurrection in a moral rather than literal sense: instead of a real historical event, they believe it signifies the victory of good over evil.
Ultimately, our opinions are just that—opinions. I can think that my four-door family sedan is a high-powered sports car, but the fact proves my opinion wrong! So, when considering the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we must find out the facts. What does the Bible say about Christ’s resurrection?
Every writer of the New Testament testifies of Christ’s resurrection. In fact, it is mentioned over 100 times! Jesus foretold his resurrection (Matthew 16:21; 17:23). All four gospels clearly state that Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:7; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6, 34, 39-43, 46; John 20:24-29). The Bible indisputably teaches the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The question is in what sense was Jesus resurrected?
The Bible clearly says that Christ’s resurrection was literal, miraculous, and bodily. Jesus literally and in his own body appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-17), Peter (Luke 24:34), the other disciples (Luke 24:36-43), to five hundred believers (1 Corinthians 15:6), and to James, his half-brother (1 Corinthians 15:7). Jesus said that his literal body was resurrected: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). The wound in his side and the nail prints in his hands and feet could be seen and touched (John 20:25-29). He was recognized by his voice as the same person who had died (John 20:16). He ate food (Luke 24:41-43) and was physically touched (Matthew 28:9). The Bible does not teach a spiritual or symbolic resurrection but a literal and physical one!
Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ so important? The Bible also answers this question. “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:13-17).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an essential truth of the gospel. The gospel is the good news that there is deliverance—salvation—from the power and penalty of sin through Jesus Christ. Jesus was fully God and man; he lived a perfect, holy life; he was crucified—not for his sins, for he had none—but for the sins of mankind; and he was raised from the dead. Christ’s resurrection is essential for providing salvation from sin.
Because Christ was literally and bodily raised from the dead not one bit of salvation—being right with God—depends on your own good works or effort (Romans 8:33-34). To reject the Bible’s teaching about Christ’s resurrection is to deny your only hope of salvation: “you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17) without any hope of salvation (Acts 4:10-12).
What does it mean to “believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ”? True faith that results in salvation from the power and penalty of sin is not simply a nod of the head, “yeah, I believe that.” True faith involves accepting as true and factual the literal and bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead. True faith involves not relying at all on any good works you do or on any church rite. It involves relying entirely and completely on who Jesus Christ is, what he accomplished on the cross, and his literal, bodily resurrection from the dead.
Do you believe what the Bible says? Do you trust the resurrected Christ for your salvation?