“And declared to be the Son of God with power,
according to the spirit of holiness,
by the resurrection from the dead.”
The reality of the resurrection of Christ is the foundation upon which the Christian faith is built. If Christ be not risen from the dead, then He is not the Son of God with power, and there is no Spirit of holiness. Faith collapses and the world is plunged into spiritual darkness if Christ is not the true Light of the world, ascended into heaven, and seated at the right hand of God the Father. Because of the centrality of the resurrection, we consider this doctrine once more by turning to 1 Corinthians 15.
Doctrine of the Resurrection
The prominence of the resurrection of Christ is set forth in Scripture. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching in vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
The fact of the resurrection is declared in simple eloquence as the essence of the true gospel. “Moreover brethren, I declare unto the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received and wherein ye stand.” (1 Corinthians 15:1).
The time of the resurrection of Christ is said to be on the third day: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:34).
A possible date and time of the crucifixion was AD 30, the 15th of Nisan, which fell on Friday (April 7) between 9 AM and 3 PM. During those six hours the world was changed.
That the day was Friday is indicated in various passages.
- Mark 15:42 “the day before the Sabbath”
- Matthew 27:62 “the day of preparation”
- Luke 23:54 “that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath (Saturday) drew on “
- John 19:14 “it was the preparation of the Passover”. Friday is called preparation day because the meals for the Sabbath were prepared on the sixth day, as no fires were allowed to be kindled on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:5).
Some modern theologians have suggested that the day on which Christ died was Wednesday and not Friday. The reason for this view is grounded in a concern for exact literalism of such passages as Matthew 12:40. The Bible says, For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. As interesting as the concept is, the idea that Jesus died on Wednesday is not necessary to embrace for a variety of reasons.
- All the other events of the Last Week would need to be condensed in time and reassigned to other days.
- The Jews considered part of a day to be a full day thereby fulfilling the prophecy of Matthew 12:40.
- The natural reading of the gospel narratives indicates a weekly Sabbath, not a special Sabbath.
- The earliest tradition of the Church honored Friday as the day Christ died. Those closest to the scene of action would surely be more familiar with the events than others two thousand years later. New interpretations of the scripture should always give more honors to the historical position of the Church when that position has always been consistent.
- Conservative Christian scholars down through the centuries have recognized Good Friday as the day on which Christ died. “The day of the week on which Christ suffered on the cross was a Friday, during the week of the Passover, in the month of Nisan, which was the first of the twelve lunar months of the Jewish year, and included the vernal equinox.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. I., p. 133). Alfred Edersheim who wrote The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah concurs.
The reason for the resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:3) Christ was not a martyr dying for His faith, but a Savior dying for our sins. He did not say, I am finished, but it is finished! All three Persons of the God head were involved in the Lord’s death and resurrection: The Father (John 3:16; Acts 2:24); The Son (John 10:11,18); The Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9;14; Romans 1:4)
The results of the resurrection include the salvation of souls (1 Corinthians 15:2). By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
Christ made at least seventeen personal post resurrection appearances.
- Mary Magdalene John 20:1118
- The other woman Matthew 28:910
- The two disciples Luke 24:1322
- Simon Peter Luke 24:3335
- Ten Apostles Luke 24:3644
- Eleven apostles John 20:2631
- Seven apostles John 21:114
- Five hundred disciples 1 Corinthians 15:6
- James, the Lord’s brother 1 Corinthians 15:7
- The eleven apostles on Mt. Olivet Luke 24:4449
- Stephen Acts 7:160
- Paul (five times)
- At Damascus Acts 9:19
- In Corinth Acts 18:9
- While at Jerusalem Acts 23:11
- On board a ship Acts 27:23
- At Lystra 2 Corinthians 12:14
- John, Isle of Patmos Revelation 1:12
Because the resurrection of Christ is essential to the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1219) it has been challenged. Several alternative theories have emerged to explain what might have happened.
The Fraud Theory suggests that the early disciples simply lied. But then the question emerges, “Would the disciples die for a known lie?” All but John died a martyr’s death.
The Swoon Theory maintains that Jesus did not die at Calvary but merely swooned. Later, in the cool of the cave he revived and was able to escape. The response to this concept is that the soldiers who killed Christ knew death. They had stared it in the face. Also, the armed guards would have kept anyone from stealing the body.
The Vision Theory argues that since the men and women who loved Christ wanted to see Him alive again, they had a vision and the vision became a verbal reality.
The Spirit Theory sets forth the novel concept that only the Spirit of Jesus was resurrected.
The Heart Theory appeals to modern Biblical liberalism by teaching that the historical facts of the resurrection do not matter. Jesus is resurrected in our hearts.
All of the theories of the resurrection are unworthy of the gospel and of Christ. It has been said that if the resurrection of Christ is not true, then all gospel preaching has been and is now useless; all gospel preachers are liars and are fools; all souls are still in their sins; all holy reasons for life are destroyed; the body of Christ has deteriorated and is dry dust in a Middle Eastern graveyard; Christian ordinances such as baptism are silly; suffering for the Savior is meaningless; and a life of hedonism (pleasure) should be embraced (1 Corinthians 15:32)
But the resurrection of Christ is true. Christ is the First Fruits from among the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20-28 cf. Leviticus 23).
And because the resurrection is true (1 Corinthians 15:33, 34), Christians are to awake to righteousness and sin not (1 Corinthians 15:34). Moreover, they are to withdraw their fellowship from those who deny the resurrection and live as the hedonist (1 Corinthians 15:33).
The resurrection of Christ becomes a pattern for the resurrection of Christians and a preview of things to come (1 Corinthians 15:35-38). It is still true that the body of the saints will, like a grain of wheat, one-day die. No human power can stop this process. But, like a grain of wheat, there is change in death (John 12:24), for death does not suppress life but releases it. The body will not lose its ultimate identity (1 Corinthians 13:12) and shall one day live again.
What shall the resurrected body be like? The Bible offers a contrast of the resurrection body with the old. The old natural body goes to the grave in corruption (1 Corinthians 15:42), dishonor (1 Cor 15:43), and weakness liable to diseases and infirmities (1 Corinthians 15:43). It is sown a natural body governed by the Laws of nature. (1 Corinthians15:44) But thanks be unto God, the new resurrection body is raised incorruptible so that it can never again perish (1 Corinthians 15:42). It is raised in glory to enjoy existence in a new heaven and a new earth (1 Corinthians 15:43). It is raised in power so that it is not vulnerable to disease and death (1 Corinthians 15:43). It is raised a spiritual body and is not subject to the known Laws of nature (1 Corinthians 15:44).
Because the teaching of the resurrection sounds too good to be true, the Bible offers assurances that it will happen (1 Corinthians15: 50-53). The Bible states plainly that all Christians shall all be changed suddenly. Corruption will put on incorruption, and mortal persons will put on immortality. And all wonderful change will happen at the Second Advent. (Hebrews 9:28) Some who are living will not die (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51).
The resurrection will be majestic and glorious (1 Corinthians 15:54) as it defeats physical death (15:26 cf. Psalm. 55:4), and spiritual death (Revelation 2:11; John. 5:24; 8:51) not to mention the world (Galatians 1:4; 1 John. 2:15), the flesh (Romans 7:18; Galatians 5:17), and the devil (Matthew 13:39; Ephesians 6:11).