Christianity is unique among the world’s religions in that it’s grounded in a single historical event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ did not raise His physical body from the grave after He died, though Christianity contains much we might consider true, its central message may be dismissed. (1Co 15:14) If the Resurrection didn’t occur as the Twelve Apostles claimed, Christianity is based on a lie. (15)
This begs the question: Does the evidence assure us that Jesus Christ actually did rise from the dead? The answer is: Yes. Assuming Christ didn’t rise from the dead generates a significant contradiction. This proves that He did rise from the dead.
The primary evidence for the Resurrection claim is the New Testament, containing eye-witness accounts of those who claimed to have personally encountered the risen Christ: the Twelve Apostles (Ac 1:21-22), over 500 eye-witnesses who all saw Him at one time, and finally the Apostle Paul. (1Co 15:6-8) This evidence comprises not only what these witnesses said, but also what they didn’t say, and how their lives aligned with their testimony.
The reliability of the New Testament is established by Dr. Bart Ehrman. As an atheist who rejects the historicity of the Resurrection, Ehrman may be received as authoritative here: he affirms that these writings accurately convey eye-witness accounts of historical events pertaining to the Resurrection. So, we’re left to consider the reliability of the witnesses themselves.
The Twelve Apostles were devout Jews with a Torah-centered world view, a truth-based value system. They claimed they saw the risen Christ repeatedly over a 40-day period, eating and drinking with Him, conversing with and being taught by Him (Ac 1:3), and physically touching Him. (Lk 24:39) If their Resurrection claim is false, the Twelve Apostles all knew they were lying and they must have had a compelling motive for conspiring together to do so.
However, the apostles expected no temporal benefit through their testimony; they anticipated and experienced severe hardship and suffering. (1Co 4:9-13) If the Resurrection were a false hope, the apostles admitted they themselves were to be pitied above all men. (1Co 15:19) People with a truth-centered world view do not do this consistently, gladly sacrifice themselves for what they know is a lie.
Further, a crucified/resurrected Messiah was entirely unexpected and totally unacceptable within their Jewish community (1Co 1:23), which expected a military conqueror to deliver them from Roman oppression (Ac 1:6), and the Twelve Apostles undertook their mission with no interest in evangelizing non-Jews (Ac 11:19): they didn’t intend to start a new religion. (Ac 21:20)
So, if the Apostles were lying, they crafted a message they knew would be terribly unpopular, and for which they expected to be severely persecuted, and they consistently gave their all to share it. Sane people don’t act like this, especially in large groups.
Assuming Christ didn’t rise from the dead as the Twelve Apostles claimed thus implies a basic contradiction in human nature, based on the overwhelming, historically reliable witness of those who gave their lives to tell us about it. Further, since well over 500 souls are involved, this contradiction must be acknowledged on a massive scale.
Such evidence establishes the Resurrection of Jesus Christ beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet do our presuppositions and biases blind us?
What will it cost us to believe in the Resurrection? Or to not believe?
Either way, in the end, this will cost us everything, as it should. (Mt 10:39)
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pivotal event of history: it changes everything. (Ac 17:30-31)