Sunday, April 9, 2023

Is there Evidence that Jesus Christ is Alive after Death? An Examination of the Facts

If Jesus is dead then I’m a fraud. If Jesus is dead right now, then we’re all a joke. The atheists would be right. The world would be right. All the good in the world wouldn’t really be good, all the bad wouldn’t really be bad, all our work would be for nothing, and our lives would be truly meaningless, if Jesus were really still dead.

But Jesus Christ is alive. Jesus predicted, two thousand years ago, that he would be betrayed, and killed, but that three days later he would rise from the dead. And then it happened. And the world was shocked. The chief priests were horrified, the romans were stupefied, and no one knew what to do next. They tried to deny it, millions today still try to deny it, but it remains true, a historical fact, that Jesus of Nazareth was seen by multiple witnesses alive, after being crucified. And these post-death appearances of Jesus affected his followers in such a radical way that they spread the gospel across the face of the Earth, the gospel that Jesus had died to pay off the sins of any who would follow Him, and that he has risen from the grave, to be the first of many who would rise from their graves, and live forever.

You’ll have to decide in your heart: Do you believe in miracles?

For me, it’s obvious that Jesus Christ is alive right now. Because he changed my life forever. He set me free from sins and addictions. He changed my family. My grandpa. My mom. He’s still changing lives everyday in this very city, and across the face of the Earth. Not only that, we have good reason to believe that Jesus is alive, evidence from history, archaeology, science, and ancient manuscripts. Overall, I believe, and yes, I know, Jesus Christ is alive. He rose from the dead. Because it’s clear as day, to see this truth.

Jesus predicted it would happen. Jesus was very strategic about what he said to his disciples. But he did say several times, the son of man must be betrayed, and killed, but then be raised from the dead three days later. It seemed like it didn’t quite click for the disciples what he was talking about. Maybe it kind of went in one ear and out the other.

But Jesus kept hinting to them. You think of when he raised Lazarus from the dead. He told Lazarus’ sisters, "I am the resurrection and the life, if you believe in me, though you die, you will live."

Again I don’t know if they truly understood what he was saying.

So we think to the crucifixion which we recognize on Good Friday. Jesus went through his all night ordeal and into the morning, being judged and condemned by the chief priests and the roman authorities. They had him charged with crimes, accused him and then found guilty and sentenced him to death, though he had done nothing wrong. He was scourged with whips, mocked, ridiculed, slapped, and a crown of thorns was forced onto his head. At 9 AM he was nailed to a wooden cross, and it was raised up and dropped into a hole in the ground.

There he suffered from 9am to noon. Then from noon until 3pm a total solar eclipse took place. And at 3pm Jesus died.

The disciples went into hiding. They didn’t understand what was happening and why it had happened the way it did.

They were struggling with unbelief, and fear. And we do the same thing don’t we? We give up sometimes just a bit too easily. Jesus died and his disciples thought it was over. But then something happened three days later, just as Jesus had predicted: Jesus was found to be alive.

There are numerous reports of post-death appearances of Jesus. People are seeing him alive. Not as a ghost. Not as a spirit. But physically alive.

There is this strange report of the stone being rolled way from his grave. The body is missing. The Romans aren’t sure what happened. The Jews aren’t sure what happened.

And you have several different accounts of Jesus appearing alive to people, Peter, Mary, all the eleven disciples, even a crowd of 500 people.

And here we find the very crucial key question of Christianity: Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

We can look at the pictures and the paintings and think how beautiful they are. We can read the accounts in Matthew or Luke and be inspired. But if we could go in a time machine and land our time machine outside the tomb on that morning, would we really see that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?

That’s the key to everything friends. If Jesus is dead right now, then we’re all wasting our time here. But, if Jesus is really alive right now, then every word of the Bible is true, and every single person on planet Earth needs to know about Jesus and get Jesus as their savior and Lord.

But what does it mean for us exactly? Let’s dive into that.

From 1st Corinthians 15:20-23: "But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.”

The first man talked about in 1st Corinthians 15 is talking about Adam. He was the first one created by God, so long ago, in the garden of Eden. We know a great disaster came through Adam and his wife Eve, when they were deceived, and rebelled against God.

And all of us, being part of the lineage, the family of Adam and Eve, are also born into sin. We naturally tend to toward sinfulness and selfishness.

Thousands of years later in AD 30, Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the grave, to take his seat in heaven's throne-room as the new Adam. The new head of a new family of God.

So, we have a choice, we can remain as part of the lineage of Adam, and then we will die in our sins and face eternal death in hell. Or, we can join the new family, the family of God in Christ, and we will join in a new resurrection, a new eternal life, in a new paradise, when Jesus comes again.

That’s as real as anything in life, as real as your bank account as real as your car or your apartment, it’s real, it’s true, and God will base our eternal future, our destiny, on which family we are part of.

Christ has already been raised. He is seated as King in heaven right now. But, our resurrection will wait until Jesus returns again to gather his bride from the four corners of the Earth.

What happened when Jesus was resurrected? He was in his tomb. Just as many Christians are in the ground right now. But when Christ returns, those graves will be opened, just as Jesus grave was opened, and those Christians will rise to eternal life. And on that day, any who remain and are alive on the Earth at that moment will rise with the dead on that day as well, rise to new bodies, just as Christ had a new body after he was raised from the dead.

So we see that the resurrection of Jesus is a picture for us, of what will happen for us, when we die, if we die in Christ. Jesus death and resurrection is a depiction of our future if we follow Christ to the very end.

But the scripture continues, it says this, verses 24-26: "After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Death is the enemy of every human on planet Earth. We all fear it. Christians hopefully learn not to fear it like people of the world do. But there were times in my life when I was close to death. I recall being in the ICU, with my organs shutting down, and being afraid that I might die. And I remember the fear that came over me was inexhaustible. It was an endless fear that could not be quenched. Because I did not know Christ then. So I faced a death worse than anything imaginable, an eternal death.

But Christ will reign, and is reigning, until he defeats every enemy. That will happen when Christ returns and defeats the anti-christ at the end of the great tribulation. And it will happen during the 1000 year millennial reign of Christ. And the last enemy Christ defeats is death itself, when at the end in Revelation, death is thrown into the lake of fire. And we see in the new Jerusalem there is no longer any death, but all live forever and will never die again.

Then it says in verse 27-28 of 1st Corinthians 15: "For the Scriptures say, “God has put all things under his authority.” (Of course, when it says “all things are under his authority,” that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.) Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.”

Lastly today, we see a not often cited theological truth: One day, after the millennial reign, when the new heavens and new earth come, Jesus Christ will give over his authority to God the Father, who will reign from then on. Jesus I assume will continue to have great authority, but the greatest authority will then belong to God the Father. So Christ eventually yields his authority to God the Father who gave the Son authority. So it indicates in 1st Corinthians 15, God the Father then reigns with supreme authority after the coming of the new Jerusalem.

So in conclusion today, Jesus Christ is indeed risen from the dead. How important is this fact? It could be the most important fact of the entire New Testament. I tend to think it is absolutely vital to understand. To conclude I’d like to share as quotation from Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland which illustrates this point:

“Well over three hundred verses are concerned with the subject of Jesus' resurrection in the New Testament. We are told that this event is a sign for unbelievers (Matthew 12:38-40); cf. John 20:24-29) as well as the answer for the believer's doubt (Luke 24:38-43). It serves as the guarantee that Jesus' teachings are true (Acts 2:22-24; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20) and is the center of the gospel itself (Romans 4:24-25, 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Further, the resurrection is the impetus for evangelism (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 10:39-43), the key indication of the believer's daily power to live the Christian life (Rom. 6:4-14, 8:9-11; Phil. 3:10) and the reason for the total commitment of our lives (Rom. 7:4; 1 Cor. 15:57-58). The resurrection even addresses the fear of death (John 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:54-58; cf. Hebrews 2:14-15) and is related to the second coming of Jesus (Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7). Lastly, this event is a model of the Christian's resurrection from the dead (Acts 4:2; 1 Cor. 6:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and provides a foretaste of heaven for the believer (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Peter 1:3-5).” -Gary R. Habermas & J.P. Moreland, Immortality - The Other Side of Death, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992, p. 245.

So we can know that Jesus Christ is alive. Since he’s here with us right now, in this very moment in time. His Holy Spirit lives within us. We know billions across the planet have testified that Jesus changed their life. We know he has changed our lives. And he continues to change our lives each day.

And if we carefully follow Jesus Christ, and love Him first, and love his people with a patient, determined love, and we put to death the deeds of the flesh, and live by the Spirit’s leading, then we will enjoy that day when we meet Jesus Christ face to face and he embraces us as His own and welcomes us into a new city, a perfect country, a new world, without death, where we will dwell with him forever. Dedicate your life to His life, and you will have life, eternal life. Amen.