The Great Easter Debate

William Lane Craig debates Brian Edwards on the resurrection of Jesus.

VIDEO by Theology, Philosophy and Science

Reclame

The Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus

Is there evidence in history that God gave specific prophecies, hundreds of years in advance, about the Messiah? Guests Darrell Bock and Dr. Walter Kaiser explain the prophecies that prove Jesus is the Messiah.

VIDEO by John Ankerberg

The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh at http://www.bible.org. Our text deals with the first three of our Lord’s four post-resurrection appearances in the Gospel of John. The first appearance is to Mary Magdalene, and the next three are to the disciples. Jesus will appear to Mary Magdalene (20:10-18), then to the disciples, minus Thomas (20:19-23), then to the disciples, with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples, including Thomas, who were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1ff.). There are some very important lessons to be learned here, so let us listen and learn, looking to the Spirit of God to interpret, apply, and implement these truths in our lives.

General Observations

It would serve us well to begin with several observations concerning our text and its relationship to the other Gospels.

We do not really know a great deal about the time between our Lord’s resurrection and His ascension. When you stop to think about it, a significant portion of each of the Gospels is taken up with the events of the last week of our Lord in Jerusalem. And yet, the 40 days following our Lord’s resurrection gets very little attention in comparison. The material we do have about this period is not meant to satisfy our curiosity about all that happened during this time, but is recorded to prove one important fact: Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father!

Of the details we do find regarding our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection, a number of them are recorded only in Acts and 1 Corinthians. Until now I did not realize how much of my understanding of our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection is based upon New Testament books other than the Gospels. Some of the most important details come from Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:

1 I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he had also presented himself alive to these apostles by many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for “what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” 9 After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him away from their sight. 10 As they were staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still living, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

I am not sure why I had concluded that my understanding of the post-resurrection period was dependent solely upon the Gospels. It was probably due, in part, to my assumption that if one Gospel didn’t mention something I knew about this time period, it was because it was recorded in one of the other three Gospels. But this is not necessarily true. If it were not for Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15, we would not know nearly as much about the Lord’s ministry during the 40 days following His resurrection. From Acts 1:3 we learn that during this time, Jesus taught His disciples about the kingdom of God which was yet to come. While our Lord’s instruction to His disciples to wait for the coming of the Spirit can be found in Luke’s Gospel (24:49), we probably remember this command from Acts 1:4-5. Apart from 1 Corinthians 15:5, we would not know that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time after His resurrection. It is from Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5), as well as from Luke (24:34), that we know Jesus made a private appearance to Peter. We would certainly not expect the replacement for Judas to be Saul, to whom our Lord made another (albeit, a later) post-resurrection appearance (1 Corinthians 15:8). A good part of what little we know of this period in our Lord’s life and ministry comes from outside the Gospels.

Some of the details about events which occurred in this time period may appear to be contradictory. For example, in Mark we read that after the women saw and heard the angel at the tomb, “they went out and ran away from the tomb. They were in a state of trembling and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8, emphasis mine). In Luke’s Gospel we read, “Then they remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest ” (Luke 24:8-9, emphasis mine). I believe the solution to this apparent contradiction is found in Matthew’s account: “So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them, saying, ‘Greetings!’ They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there’” (Matthew 28:8-10, emphasis mine).

By putting all these details in sequence, we get a pretty good idea of what happened from the time the women left the tomb till they spoke with all the disciples and others. The women saw and heard the angel, who instructed them to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and would meet them in Galilee. The women rush off toward the city, but they are in a virtual state of shock. They tell no one they encounter on their way what they have just seen and heard (this conforms with what Mark tells us). Then, as they are still on their way to the city, Jesus Himself appears to them. This is the first time they have actually seen Him. He tells the women to go and tell the others, and indeed they do. Thus, all statements (those of Mark, of Luke, and of Matthew) harmonize when viewed in terms of the entire event. I believe we must assume this to be the case in every instance where an apparent contradiction appears. The details that differ are not an occasion for wringing our hands, they are the opportunity for a fuller grasp of what happened. Let us keep that in mind as we approach our text.

We find that some of the Gospel accounts are particularly brief at this point. This is especially true of Matthew and Mark’s accounts. Matthew writes of one appearance of Jesus to the women (28:9-10) and of one appearance of Jesus to His disciples (28:16-20). Mark’s account is terse as well, depending to some degree upon where you think his account really ends. Mark does briefly mention the appearance of Jesus to the two men on the road to Emmaus (16:12-13; compare Luke 24:13-35). He also tells of the appearance of our Lord to the eleven disciples (Mark 16:13-18). Mark does not include an account of Jesus appearing to any of the women, but only of the angel speaking to them (16:1-8). Luke and John have the most lengthy accounts of the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord. Luke does not describe an appearance of Jesus to the women; he chooses instead to emphasize the appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35). He then writes of our Lord’s subsequent appearance to the disciples (24:36-39) and then of His ascension (24:50-53). John focuses on four of the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances: first to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18), then to the disciples minus Thomas (20:19-25), then the disciples with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples as they are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1-25).

Finally, each Gospel has something unique to add to the story. Matthew informs us that the tomb was secured by a Roman seal and guards, provided at the request of the Jewish religious leaders who recalled Jesus’ promise that He would rise from the dead in three days, and who were afraid His disciples would steal His body. Matthew then follows up with an account of how the guards and the religious leaders fabricated a cover story to explain the missing body of our Lord. Mark’s account is indeed unique, causing much discussion as to where his Gospel should end. Luke provides us with a detailed account of the appearance of our Lord to the two men on the road to Emmaus. John’s account is almost entirely unique. He alone describes the investigation of the tomb by both Peter and John (Luke 24:12 tells us only that Peter went to see the tomb), of the appearance of Jesus to Mary, of three appearances of Jesus to His disciples—more than any other Gospel. His focus on Thomas’ reluctance to believe in our Lord’s resurrection is unique. The appearance of Jesus to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias is also unique, including our Lord’s three-fold question and exhortation to Peter. With this background information in mind, let us take a closer look at the first three post-resurrection appearances of our Lord, as described in John 20.

Jesus’ First Appearance: Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18)

10 So the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood outside the tomb and wept. While she was weeping, she bent over and looked into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’ body had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary replied, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus replied, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her.

It was Mary Magdalene who first arrived at the empty tomb in the early hours of the first day of the week. When she saw the stone had been removed, she seems to have jumped to a hasty conclusion—someone had taken the body. We do not know to whom the “they” (“They have taken the Lord from the tomb …”—verse 2) refers, and I doubt that Mary did either. I believe it is safe to say that it never occurred to her that any of the disciples took the body. She seems to have assumed it was either the Jews, or the Roman soldiers, or someone like “the gardener” (see 20:15). It never occurred to Mary that Jesus had been raised from the dead. She did not hope to see her risen Lord; she simply wished to locate His body and give it a proper burial.

A year or so ago a young woman’s body was stolen from its grave at Restland Cemetery, just a mile or so down the road from our church. It was a terrible thing to do, and the family was most eager to get the body back and see to it that it was buried properly, once for all. Someone had added insult to injury. Not only had this family lost a loved one, they suffered the agony of not knowing what had become of her body. Mary must have felt the same way this young woman’s family felt. She had devoted herself and her livelihood to following Jesus and supporting Him, along with some other women. She had watched helplessly as Jesus was tried, convicted, and crucified. She looked on as His body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Now, she believed that the body of her Lord had been taken. It was almost too much to bear.

When Peter and John left the tomb, Mary remained behind. At first she stood outside the tomb, weeping. She stooped sufficiently to be able to see inside the tomb, apparently for the first time. Two angels were inside, clothed in white. An angel was sitting at each end of the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. From Mary’s response to these angels, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that Mary did not recognize these angels as angels. But then why should she? It is true that in Matthew’s account the one angel who sat on the stone had an appearance that was like lightening (28:3), and this fellow was so awesome the guards were terrified (28:4). But John does not tell us that these two angels were as awesome in appearance as the first angel was. And this should come as no surprise. Often in the Bible, angels simply look like men, so that their appearance alone would not reveal their true identity (see Genesis 18 and 19; Acts 1:10-11; Hebrews 13:2). It would seem that the two angels made no effort to identify themselves as angels, nor even to inform Mary that Jesus was not there. Perhaps it was because our Lord was going to do this personally.

The angels asked Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” The inference is that her tears were not really called for. They were tears of love, and of sorrow, but they were also ill-founded. In Mary’s mind, this was the darkest moment of her life, and yet her tears were based upon false assumptions: that Jesus was dead; that His body had been stolen; that she would not be able to find His body. If Mary had known the real reason why the tomb was empty, she would not have been crying.

Some have suggested that the angels gave a look of recognition when they saw Jesus behind Mary, outside the tomb. We do not know why, but for some reason Mary turned around to gaze at the risen Lord. She saw Him, but she did not recognize Him, in much the same way that I had seen Sally Rackets in the parking lot this past week, but did not recognize her. Mary’s vision may have been obscured by her tears, and Jesus may not have looked exactly the same as He did before His resurrection. He most certainly looked different from the way she saw Him last, from the horrible sight she could not erase from her mind—a badly beaten, bloody figure, who could hardly be recognized for all the abuse His body had taken: “Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:15, NIV).

Jesus asks Mary the same question the angels had asked her moments earlier: “Woman, why are you weeping?”, but He adds a further question, “Who are you looking for?”. Jesus knew why she was weeping. He knew that the empty tomb caused her great grief. He knew that she was seeking His body. His words indicate to Mary that He knows something about her dilemma. Mary’s grief still blinds her to the truth, but she nevertheless seems to discern that this “gardener” holds the key to her quest for the Lord’s body. She pleads with Him to convey any information He may have to her: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him” (verse 15).193

Jesus answered with but one word—“Mary.” For Mary, seeing was not believing, but hearing was. Would you not love to have heard this one word just the way Mary did? That one word was spoken in the voice she knew so well. It was also spoken in the manner she knew so well. What love, what compassion, what healing was conveyed by this one word—“Mary.” I cannot help but recall the words of our Lord, spoken earlier:

1 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow himbecause they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice” (John 10:1-5, emphasis mine).

Immediately Mary recognized that it was her Lord, and called Him “Rabboni” (or teacher). We know from our Lord’s words that Mary has already locked Him in her grasp. It is as though she intended to keep holding on to Him, so that He would never leave her again. And it is because of this that Jesus responds, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17, NAB). I must differ with the NET Bible translation here (“Do not touch me, …”) for two reasons. First, it is not that Jesus could not be touched. In but a few verses we will read, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe’” (John 20:27). Why would Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him, and instruct Thomas to do so? In Matthew 28:9, Jesus allowed the women to take hold of His feet and worship Him. Second, the tense of the imperative is present, and this grammatical construction often conveys the thought of ceasing to do something.194 Jesus is not trying to prevent Mary from touching Him; He is trying to make it clear to her that He is going to leave this world to return to His Father. She should not suppose that by clinging to Him she can prevent His departure.

John does not include the command which Jesus gave to Mary, though it is clear that He instructed her as to what she was to tell the disciples (20:18). She who was the first to go out to the tomb was the first to see the risen Lord, and apparently the first to be privileged to share the good news of His resurrection with others.

Before we go on to the next appearance of our Lord, I would like to make a comment or two. I would like you to note that our Lord’s first appearance is not to one of the eleven disciples, but to Mary Magdalene. She will never be one of the apostles. She will never write a Gospel. She will never become a great preacher or leader. Nevertheless, our Lord chose to manifest Himself to her first. Why do you think this was? I would call your attention to three important factors. First, she had a great love for her Master, as He did for her. Second, she seemed to be the one with the greatest measure of grief. I am reminded of the words of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In the context of this sermon, Jesus did not promise blessings to those who were the greatest, or the most powerful, but to those in the greatest need, with the greatest desire for spiritual things. There is a third reason: Mary was there first. Jesus revealed Himself first to the one who was there first. Mary came to the tomb early, because of her great love, and her great grief, and Jesus revealed Himself to her, first.

I would also like to point out an important lesson which this text teaches us: When we come to see things as they really are, we will find that many of our tears were unnecessary. To put it in different words, Many of our tears are ill-founded. Both the angels and our Lord questioned Mary as to why she was weeping. The reason she gave was that her Lord’s body had been taken, and she did not know where to find it. The truth of the matter was that Jesus was not dead; He had been resurrected. And beyond this, His body was not missing at all, and no one had taken it. Jesus did not need to be found by Mary; Jesus found Mary.

We know that in heaven there will be no more tears: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist” (Revelation 21:4). Why will there be no more tears in heaven? The first answer is because there will no longer be those things which cause us to cry—no more suffering, no more sin, no more injustice, no more death. But the second reason is that we shall then see all of our sorrows in an entirely different light. We shall see them in the context of the perfect work God was achieving through the things which caused us to weep.

When you and I get to heaven, we will see things in a very different light, and when we do, we will discover that many of our tears of sorrow were as groundless as Mary’s tears were. I am not saying that Christians should not cry. What I am saying is that a good deal of our sorrow is the result of our inadequate knowledge of what God is doing in and through our adversities. When Christians get to heaven, they will see the entire picture, and thus they will find that everything that has ever happened to them is for their good and His glory. No wonder there will be no tears in heaven! Our comfort and joy may not come as quickly as Mary’s did, but it will be just as great, just as real, and it is just as certain.

Jesus’ Second Appearance: The Disciples, Minus Thomas (John 20:19-23)

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place for fear of the Jewish authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you!” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And after he said this, he breathed195 on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

John very kindly does not tell us what Mark and Luke record in their accounts—that when the disciples were told that Jesus was alive, they refused to believe it without seeing Him:

9 Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:9-11; see also verses 12-13).

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:10-11).

It was on the first day of the week—the same day that Mary saw Jesus—and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors. They were afraid of the Jews, and rightly so. They were disciples of Jesus, and He had just been crucified for sedition. And now, the story was circulating that they had stolen the body of Jesus (Matthew 28:11-15). Remember that the tomb was sealed by Rome, and guarded by Roman soldiers. The disciples may have felt in greater danger here than on any previous occasion. They must have been deeply troubled by the reports they had heard that Jesus was alive. What were they to think of all this? What were they to do? They did not know.

And so the disciples met together behind locked doors. We are told that one disciple was missing—Thomas. We are not told why he was absent. There is no particular blame cast on him for his absence. In some miraculous way, Jesus enters the room, even though the door is locked. We do not know what the disciples saw, but John certainly leaves us with the impression that our Lord’s entrance was unusual—one more proof of His resurrection. Our Lord twice repeated the words, “Peace be with you” (20:19, 21). This certainly reminds us of what Jesus had said earlier to these men:

25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (John 14:24-29, emphasis mine).

It would appear that this was our Lord’s first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection. If this is so, it may be the same appearance that Luke describes, providing us with additional details:

30 When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” 33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together 34 and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread. 36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a spirit. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see; because a spirit does not have flesh and bones like you see that I have.” 40 Then when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in front of them (Luke 24:30-43, emphasis mine).

Jesus would have appeared to Mary and the other women by now, and they have already announced to the disciples that Jesus was alive. But the disciples refused to believe. Then, the two men who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus arrived to tell the disciples of their encounter with the risen Lord. Once again, the disciples refused to believe:

12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him resurrected (Mark 16:12-14, emphasis mine).

John spares us from yet another account of the unbelief of the disciples, and of Jesus rebuking them for their unbelief. While their unbelief deserved rebuke, John moves on to tell us how Jesus convinced His disciples of His resurrection. He shows them His nail-scarred hands and His spear-pierced side. There was no mistaking the fact that His wounds, now healed, were incurred at His crucifixion. It was Jesus, and there was no denying it, incredible as that may be.

The disciples had a job to do, and they were being left behind so that they could accomplish it. This task is summed up in the “Great Commission”:

18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

To accomplish this task, the disciples are in need of divine enablement. This was promised by our Lord in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16):

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. … 25 I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you” (John 14:15-17, 25-26).

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me; 27 and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 16 In a little while you will see me no longer; again after a little while, you will see me” (John 16:7-16).

I had never noticed before that in His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus does not ask the Father to send the Spirit, which He has promised in chapters 14-16. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is not even mentioned in this prayer! How can this be? I believe that while our Lord prepared His disciples for the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse, He did not intend to send the Spirit until after His ascension. In other words, the Holy Spirit would not come until Pentecost. Some suggest that in our text Jesus is temporarily bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, until Pentecost comes. I don’t agree.

In the first place, John does not report anything out of the ordinary happening as a result of our Lord’s actions. The disciples are not transformed, as they will be at Pentecost. The gospel is not preached. In fact, the next thing to happen in John’s Gospel is that some of the disciples go fishing. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit was immediately bestowed upon the disciples at this moment, as a result of what Jesus says and does. I believe Jesus is symbolically bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, although it will not actually take place until Pentecost. Jesus will have ascended to the Father then, and so this gesture indicates to the disciples that when the Spirit comes at Pentecost, it will be as a result of what Jesus had promised earlier, and symbolically indicates here.

I wish to be very clear here, both as to what I am saying, and as to what I am not saying. I am saying that our Lord is here symbolically bestowing His Holy Spirit on the church. This symbolic act will literally be fulfilled at Pentecost. Jesus wants it to be clear that it is He who is sending His Spirit to indwell and to empower His church. I am not saying that the Spirit is given at the moment Jesus breathes upon His disciples. I am not saying that this is a temporary bestowal of the Spirit, until the permanent coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Specifically, I believe that what Jesus is symbolically bestowing is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples as those who will act as His apostles. Earlier, Jesus outlined some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. For example, the Spirit would call Jesus’ teaching to their minds. He would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. But here, none of these ministries seems to be in view. Here, the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles so that they can either proclaim the forgiveness of sins, or the retention of sins. I do not think this text justifies some priestly hierarchy, who hears confessions and grants absolution from one’s sins. Instead, I believe Jesus is giving the apostles the authority to declare men and women to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. I believe we see an example of this in the Book of Acts:

1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. 11 At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 14 who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles” (Acts 11:1-18, emphasis mine).

It takes a monumental work of God to convince the Jews that God has purposed from eternity past to save Gentiles (see Acts 22:21-23). Our Lord had promised to send the Spirit, which He did at Pentecost. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit directed Peter to go to the house of a Gentile and to proclaim the gospel to those gathered in his house. The Spirit then came upon all those who had come to faith, thus indicating that the gospel (the forgiveness of sins) was not just for Jews alone, but for all who believe, Jew or Gentile. It is difficult for Gentile believers today to grasp how hard it was for Jews to accept the salvation of the Gentiles. Even the apostles found this difficult. As the Spirit came upon the apostles, this truth was embraced, proclaimed, and defended by them. By means of the Spirit’s guidance and illumination, the truth that the gospel was for Jews and Gentiles was declared by the apostles, and particularly by Paul:

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed in the body by hands—12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who turned both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, in his flesh, 15 when he nullified the law of commandments in decrees. The purpose of this was to create in himself the two into one new man, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and non-citizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ. 5 Now this secret was not disclosed to mankind in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8 To me—less than the least of all the saints—this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone about the divine secret’s plan—a secret that has been hidden for ages in the God who has created all things (Ephesians 3:1-9).

Jesus’ Third Appearance: The Disciples, Including Thomas (John 20:24-31)

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” 26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” 28 Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The disciples seem to have been convinced of our Lord’s resurrection, except for Thomas who was not there. He did not see the resurrected Lord, nor did he behold the Savior’s wounded hands and side. And so it was that when Thomas was told that Jesus had appeared to them, he refused to believe. He insisted that in order for him to believe, he would have to see Jesus with his own eyes. He would have to personally inspect the Lord’s nail-pierced hands and His pierced side. Only then would he believe. Before we become too harsh with Thomas, let me remind you that the other disciples did not believe until they saw, either. Thomas is really demanding to see the same things that convinced the others. He is not asking for anything more than what the others saw.

Eight days passed. Apparently Jesus did not appear to any of His disciples during this period of time. The disciples were all together once again, including Thomas. The doors were locked, but in spite of this Jesus arrived and stood in their midst.196 Jesus repeats the greeting He gave at His earlier appearance, “Peace be with you” (verse 26; see also verses 19, 21). Immediately, Jesus turns His attention to Thomas. He summons Thomas to come and to put his finger where the nails had pierced His hands, and to feel His side where the spear had pierced it. He challenged Thomas to forsake his unbelief and to believe.

We do not know whether Thomas actually pressed his fingers into our Lord’s nail-pierced hands or not. Since John does not tell us that Thomas actually felt the wounds of our Lord, it may well be that after seeing Jesus alive he no longer required this proof. It may have taken this sight to convince Thomas, but once convinced, Thomas got it right. He does not merely profess a belief that Jesus has risen from the dead. Thomas professes to believe in what the resurrection proved—that Jesus was God, and that He was Lord (verse 28). Thomas now has it right.

Bible translations handle our Lord’s response differently. Some render the first words of verse 29 as a question, “Have you believed because you have seen Me?” (as does the NET Bible). Others render it as a statement: “Because you have seen me, you have believed” (NIV, KJV, NKJV). The difference is not important. The contrast Jesus seeks to emphasize is between those who must see in order to believe, and those who will believe without seeing. Peter seems to take up this same thought in his first epistle:

8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

It is not too hard to see what John is leading up to. John is writing this Gospel for those who have never seen the risen Lord. He has selected just a few of the many miraculous signs Jesus performed to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be, who John proclaims Him to be.

The Bottom Line: Believing Jesus Is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31)

30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

If there is one thing I despise, it is deceptive advertising. I hate those phone calls that come from unidentified (“out of the area”) sources, which begin with the assurance that the caller is not “selling” anything. John could not be more open and direct about the purpose of this book. I believe John has two conclusions. The first is found in chapter 20. It is aimed at those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. The second is aimed at those who have believed, and it is found in chapter 21.

In our text, John informs his unbelieving readers about the “bottom line” of all that he has written. John has one goal for the unbeliever: He wants to demonstrate as clearly and as forcefully as he can that Jesus not only claimed to be the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God, but that by many miraculous signs He proved it! The last and greatest of these signs was His resurrection from the dead:

38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; yet something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The Queen of the South will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; yet something greater than Solomon is here! (Matthew 12:38-42).

While the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was prophesied in the Old Testament, and by our Lord Himself, John makes it very clear that the disciples were not predisposed to believe it. Only after the most forceful and compelling evidence would the disciples believe Jesus really was alive. And having become convinced of this great truth, the disciples never ceased to proclaim it. The resurrection of Jesus is the final and compelling proof that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world:

1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 that he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with respect to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1-4).

Believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, is the only way God has provided for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life. By believing in Him, you will be saved:

9 Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has a right standing and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God (John 1:11-13).

In many ways, the Gospel of John is not a simple book. But its message to the unsaved is incredibly simple, and John sums it up in these last verses of chapter 20. If you have never come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, then John has written this book to you, and for you, to give you all the evidence you need to believe in Him. Have you believed? This is the most important decision you will ever make. It determines your eternal destiny.


193 Some have criticized Mary for being so nave as to assume she will be able to carry away the body of our Lord. They are missing the point. She is not thinking in terms of logistics here. She is simply saying that if this “gardener” will tell her where to find the body, she will see to it that it is returned to its proper place. Of course she will get help to accomplish this. For now, she just wants to know where His body has been placed.

194 A. T. Robertson comments, “Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet … and worship … as we read in Mt 28:9. The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness.” Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 6 vols. Vol. V, p. 312.

195 I am reminded that the breath of God is the source of life (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 33:6; Ezekiel 37:9), even as it is also the means of divine judgment (2 Samuel 22:16; Job 4:9; Psalm 18:15). The breath of God is sometimes a symbol for His Spirit (Job 33:4). In a symbolic way, our Lord is breathing life into His church.

Both the NET Bible and the NIV smooth out the translation here. The NIV reads: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 14:26). Both the old and the new King James Versions and the NAS leave the translation a bit rough, in order to convey the unusual word order: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (NAS). “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’” (NKJ). The original text seems to be emphasizing the fact that Jesus entered the room, in spite of the fact that the doors were shut and locked. (On seeing and believing, http://www.bible.org)

Debate – William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens – Does God Exist? Biola University (April 04,2009)

With winter on our heels, we always like to spend time watching apologetics debates, so here is a very good debate with 2 formidable opponents, whom to watch and learn from.

Dr. Craig, presents his case using 5 arguments

  1. cosmological argument, the well known first cause argument,
  2. teleological argument, the incredible beauty, organization and complexity of the universe testifies to intelligent design. He uses the anthropic principle to back up his point here. There are over 100 known fundament physical constants that demonstrate the extreme fine tuning required to support life on Earth. […]
  3. Morals come from a transcendent creator making them objective.
  4. The resurrection of Jesus, shows us there is a personal God. Dr. Craig expounds on the veracity of this claim.
  5. The immediate experience of God

Hitchens, bases his belief of atheism on lack of evidence of a supreme being and a few of the things he brought up include:

  1. The big bang and evolution with very large quantities of time explain the start of the universe and life as we know it today.
  2. When presenting his case, he groups the major monotheisms: Christianity, Jewish faith and Islam into one assembly asserting the arguments based on his vast experience of debating representatives from each world view are similar
  3. Since Mr. Hitchens doubts all arguments for the existence of God based on lack of evidence, he concludes there isn’t one
  4. All religious beliefs are gibberish and wishful thinking
  5. He states the Bible has records of genocide and slavery in it, asserting that it promotes immorality
  6. Firmly believes that morals evolved much the same way organic structures have and cultures that didn’t practice basic morality became extinct.
  7. Uses the fact the Catholic church promoted an Earth centric universe as evidence the theistic camp doesn’t know what it’s talking about when it comes to science
  8. He values personal freedom very highly and doesn’t want a theocracy telling him what to do.
  9. He takes this subject extremely seriously and respects the discussion of it.
  10. He attacks the saint hood of mother Teresa strongly.

There were four sections in the debate: a 20 minute opening speech, rebuttal, question and answer period between Dr. Craig and Mr. Hitchens, a closing argument was given by Dr. Craig and not Mr. Hitchens, presumably he presented his case completely in the first 3 sections of the debate.

This summary is given by an amazon reviewer here. This debate took place in the gymnasium of Biola University – http://Biola.edu. The introduction start in about the 12th minute, so if you want to skip the part before that just of to the 12th minute. VIDEO by Wade Davis

Gary Habermas: 10 Reasons for the Fall of Atheism

steps to atheism rodiagnusdei

Gary Habermas is Chair, Department of Philosophy Distinguished Research Professor at Liberty University, author of 36 books (with contributions to 60 other books) and expert on the facts surrounding the Resurrection of Jesus.

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – A Christian apologist presented 10 reasons for the fall of atheism during the Southern Evangelical Seminary’s 20th annual Christian Apologetics conference on Saturday, an argument which he is also set to deliver before the Swedish parliament, one of the most atheistic societies in the world.

Gary Habermas, who is the distinguished research professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University, divided his 10 reasons into two groups: those which argue for theology in general as opposed to naturalism, and those which support specifically a Christian worldview.

„Both categories are important. God exists, naturalists are wrong, there is some kind of theism or deism, something to do with God, and then there are things saying Christianity is true,” the apologist explains.

„Virtually no religion, and no philosophy, tells you why their beliefs are true,” he added of belief systems outside of the Christian faith. „Christianity has something that no other religion has.”

A number of recent surveys have suggested that the number of non-believers in America is on the rise. According to a 2012 poll by Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life in conjunction with PBS’ Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, one-fifth of Americans said that they are religiously unaffiliated. That number rises to 32 percent when dealing specifically with young adults between 18-29 years of age.

Similarly, an extensive General Social Survey report from earlier this year also found that the number of people who do not identify with religion is on the rise, and has jumped to new levels in recent years.

„This was not happening really for decades, until around 1990 when it started to take off,” Claude Fischer, one of the researchers with UC Berkeley, shared with The Huffington Post. „One thing striking is the trend in terms of renouncing religious affiliation you might say continues to move up at a regular pace, while there is hardly any perceptible trend in the percentage of people who express atheist or agnostic beliefs.”

The decline in religious views has also been felt throughout Europe, and especially in Sweden, where Habermas will be presenting before the parliament this month.

According to a 2010 Eurobarometer Poll, only 18 percent of Swedish residents believe that there is a God, 45 percent believe that there is some sort of spirit or life force, while 34 percent do not believe in any kind of God or spirit.

Habermas argued, however, that despite cultural trends, belief in naturalism, which states that the world operates without any kind of divine or supernatural influence, is losing ground in academic circles.

„The naturalistic argument is starting to break,” the research professor said, bringing up a number of examples of atheists who have turned to theism, or non-believers who have admitted that naturalism doesn’t hold as much weight as previously thought.

The four theistic arguments that Habermas listed against atheism were as follows: Cosmology, Intelligent Design, Fine Tuning, and Near-Death Experiences.

For cosmology, which explores questions about the Big Bang, the beginning and eternal nature of the universe, he brought up a quote from C.S. Lewis, where the famous Christian author said: „If there ever was a time that nothing existed, then nothing would exist now.”

While Habermas only mentioned by name the two other reasons, he noted that next to the resurrection, he has done more work on near-death experiences than on any other topic.

„I have been working on this topic for 40 years, and I am a reviewer for a secular peer-reviewed journal on the subject,” he revealed, adding that near-death experiences have been written up in almost 20 different medical journals.

The apologist explained that this reason falls in the general theistic field, because it deals specifiaclly with people who had lost heart and brain function for a while, and been able to see or understand things through their experience that they could not have come to otherwise.

„But these are non-worldview specifics, meaning that it is religious data in general and that any religion can be right,” he noted.

Next, he presented six reasons that people can use for believing specifically in the Christian faith, listing them as follows:

  • Recent documentations of miracle claims: referring to thousands of cases around the world of documented miracles, including those where medical doctors witness prayer healing people with severe physical disabilities.
  • Double-blind prayer experiments: where people pray for others with terminal illness. Habermas admitted that most such experiments have not worked, but the three that he knows of that have indeed worked were cases of orthodox-Christians praying for the sick.
  • Jesus as a miracle healer: the research professor noted that when he went to graduate school, most people did not believe that Jesus was a miracle healer, but that has changed and many scholars now believe in the real miracles presented in the Bible.
  • Jesus proclaimed the resurrection beforehand: meaning that Jesus did not simply rise from the dead, but revealed beforehand that he would be resurrected. „It’s one thing to rise from the dead, but you claim double the significance of it if you told everybody what was going to happen ahead of time, which shows that you’re in control and know what’s going on,” the apologist argued.
  • Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Habermas said that „we are on the strongest grounds up here on the resurrection argument. Today, there are more scholars who believe that something happened to Jesus than there are those who believe that nothing happened to Jesus.”
  • Shroud of Turin: the apologist referred to an hour-long session he led on Friday about recent discoveries surrounding the Shroud, but admitted, „It deserves to be put on the board, at least now. It could be proven wrong tomorrow.”

Habermas concluded: „We have got to get the world out there, because the challenge is there, naturalism is losing, and we need to see Christianity ascend, because we have the data.” SOURCE: http://christianpost.com

Matt Chandler – Advance ’13 Conference Message – How Both Faithful & Effective Churches Assume the Gospel

Chandler Advance '13

Matt Chandler speaks to Pastors and leaders at the Advance 13 Conference. Here’s a paragraph from his message:

You see how it fits together, as he (Paul) begins to rebuke them for their immaturity, and how they’re viewing personalities and what he’s trying to teach them here is: There’s a way to build on the foundation that was laid, and the way to build on that is with complete doctrine, with an understanding of who God is, that transforms the life and makes us more and more, and more like Christ. So, here you can have possibly faithful and possibly fruitful … but, I don’t think you can have unfaithful, but fruitful. Where it’s unfaithful, it’s not fruitful. It’s apples stapled to a tree.

……

So much where I landed theologically, that right now I believe is right and good before the Lord, and before God, I believe I could give a resounding defense biblically for almost everywhere I land in regards to doctrine  and what I believe about soteriology and ecclesiology, and all the ‘ologies’. In the end, they were all processes, which means I didn’t get there overnight. Over a period of time, as people lovingly just kind of handed me a book, or opened up the word of God for me, or sent me home to look at a passage, allowed me to wrestle- it was all a process and praise God that He did not put in my life or protected me from so many that I see today: the demand that others join them today, what took them years to arrive upon. We are not to be men and women who are unnecessarily harsh.

from Advance 13 Conference – http://www.advance13.com/
SEE NOTES from ENTIRE MESSAGE below the VIDEO.

How Both Faithful & Effective Churches Assume the Gospel

Notes from message (headings added by me to facilitate easier reading)

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? Forwhen one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

  1. All ministers, regardless of gifting or placement and assignment are first and foremost servants of God– Paul and Apollos were each given a place by God, and what we can infer from the text, you’ve got men who are given different abilities, asked to do different things by God. So, here’s what I have in common with any heralder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re placed in different locations, I’ve been placed in Dallas, Texas by God, for the glory of God, and you’re from all over and you’ve been placed where you’ve been placed, and you’ve probably got different giftings of where we excel and where we don’t, and what I know about all of us is what we all have in common is this: We are all servants of the most high God! And that we are to regard ourselves as such… I look for a brother who knows he’s the servant, not the master. I get nervous when a guy operates in such a way that he puts out the vibe that God should be grateful that God grabbed him. There’s something about guys who lie low and exult Christ. I try desperately to be one of those men. We are all but servants. There aren’t positional servants in the kingdom. We are all with the gifts He has given us, with the assignments He has given us, faithfully serving God (from C.S. Lewis).
  2. All ministers are tools in the hands of God. What I know about preaching and teaching is that I can study and prep, and  wordsmith and worry, and stand up and proclaim and ultimately I can motivate, but only God can transform. I learned early on that I can say, „We need to do this guys. Here’s what the word says, let’s go.” And people would go out into the foyer and they’d sign up , and then 8 weeks later there would be like 10% of the people still left, involved.  I can motivate, but I cannot transform hearts. Only God can transform hearts. We are all but tools in the hands of God. Here’s why that’s important. You and I, brothers and sister, we are simply tools in the Father’s hands, we’re instruments in His hands. So, in the same way that a saw cannot receive the glory for the way the carpenter used it, so the minister does not deserve the credit for how God ultimately used him. I marvel at how God uses men and of how God uses any of us. I mean, that we would be conduits through which the power of God moves, that should blow your mind. Marvel at God’s use of a man and the God in him. We’re all but tools in God’s hands. 
  3. All ministers are fellow workers with one another, given assignments by God that are distinct, for the purposes of God. We all serve the same purpose. He calls us fellow workersWe’ve got a hard time with that in modern day evangelicalism, a lot of us. That we are fellow workers with one another, all working towards the same goal, all moving in the same direction. I wanna constantly lay before the Village Church (Matt’s church), and I wanna lay it before you: When it’s all said and done there’s one name that’s gonna be praised. Just one. I don’t get my day in glory, my reward is to be in the presence of my King with my crowns cast down, only looking up when he allows me. (22:00)

What is that purpose?

Ephesians 4:11-12 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, theevangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ Now we’re turning our attention away from the man and we’re turning it towards the church. In this next section of Scripture we’re going to talk about faithfulness vs. fruitfulness.

(A) Laying a foundation – Look at 1 Corinthians 3 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid afoundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 

Where does ministry begin? It is laid on the foundation of Christ Jesus. So, all ministry that is faithful and eventually will be fruitful finds its roots in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And where there is ministry built on something other than that, you’re not dealing with Christian ministry. So, any conversation about fruitfulness is null and void because masses of people coming together to do good, under the banner of „church”, that have not been built on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not fruitful ministry at all, because it fails to be ministry at all. The only foundation that can be laid is the foundation of Jesus Christ, based on the life, death, and resurrection or you cease to be a Christian ministry and you become the rotary club.

I also love church planting, I give it a ton of my energy and time it. There’s something about robust, biblically saturated, Gospel passionate, Jesus centered churches, that the idea of those planting up and springing up in any place really stirs my affections for Jesus Christ. It churns in me a kind of excitement for the Lord’s ability to , and here’s what I know about most church plants: They’re small. But the laying of foundations is fruitful. So, if we follow the apostle Paul’s ministry and we watch him kind of establish these kind of bulkheads of Christian testimony throughout the ancient world, outside of Ephesus and maybe one other, you’re not talking about the megas. You’re just talking about a group of men and women, faithfully loving the Lord, faithfully living out the Gospel and this laying of the foundation is fruitful ministry.

B. Building upon the foundation – But, it doesn’t just stop there. At this point, if you’re laying a foundation on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are actively involved in fruitful ministry. You can throw out all the top 100 growing list, you can throw out all that nonsense and you can just rest in the Bible’s weight, that says, „You’re being faithful.” You’re being faithful, regardless of numerics. This is faithful work. But, the laying of the foundation doesn’t just stop there, so let’s look at what’s next in verse 12: Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—Now, he just threw out a lot of ingredients. Now, he’s got the foundation laid- Church is planted on the foundation of the Gospel, Christ was preached. Christ’s life, His imputed righteousness. His death, His atoning death, His wrath absorbing death on the cross, and His resurrection- price paid in full. It’s preached- people respond. You’ve got now your foundation, now you’re off and running. That was all faithful and fruitful ministry. Now we’re building upon that foundation, and you’ve got several different materials listed here: gold, silver, and precious stones, and then you have your wood, hay, and straw.

I think the best way to understand gold, silver and precious stones is to understand the wood, hay, and straw. These words seem to imply erroneous or imperfect doctrines that won’t stand the test of time, and which tend to lead to evil practices. I am basing that out of Galatians 4:9, where it says, But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? Galatians is one of those churches where a foundation was laid and they began to drift here into erroneous and imperfect doctrine, into a bit of foolishness. In fact, he repeatedly calls them that- who has bewitched you, fooled you- are you so foolish as to….? And he’s saying they went back to an imperfect doctrine, an incomplete doctrine that actually began to lead them into sinfulness and licentiousness, if not legalism altogether.

And again, in Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Again, you’ve got empty philosophy and vain deceit. So, you can build on the foundation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.You can build with imperfect doctrines which lead people into licentiousness or legalism. Or you can build with what we see above in the gold, silver, and precious stones, you can preach the full counsel of God, where you’re reliant upon the holy spirit of God, and the word of God to transform and mold the hearts of our people towards holiness and towards Christlikeness. And so, here, you have in this second section, you now have the ability to be either possibly fruitful building upon that foundation, or possibly unfruitful, building upon that foundation. And yet, in the end, numerics don’t tell the story. Rather, maturity does.

You see how it fits together, as he begins to rebuke them for their immaturity, and how they’re viewing personalities and what he’s trying to teach them here is: There’s a way to build on the foundation that was laid, and the way to build on that is with complete doctrine, with an understanding of who God is, that transforms the life and makes us more and more, and more like Christ. So, here you can have possibly faithful and possibly fruitful … but, I don’t think you can have unfaithful, but fruitful. Where it’s unfaithful, it’s not fruitful. It’s apples stapled to a tree.

C. The day of the Lord is coming when what has been built will be revealed – Now look at verse 13. As a pastor, as a man of God, this has me throw myself on the grace of God and on His word, and allows me, if I’m gonna look foolish for planting my feet on the word of God, let me look foolish because of what this next verse says. 1 Corinthians 13:13 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. What this means is I am currently laboring at the Village Church. That is where God has planted me, that is where God has put me. So, I am building on a foundation that I did not lay, I did not plant that church, I was not the one who established it, Christ was clearly preached there early on, I got to come in and build upon that foundation. And I am trying, with all the grace of God to build with gold, silver and precious stones, and the day of the Lord is coming when what has been built will be revealed. Was it built by me, for me, about me? Or did I build with what is true, right, and good?

And since this day is coming, I tend to be able to once again, since I know I have co-laborers out there that I’m gonna disagree with philosophically, and at some level theologically, and I have this promise coming- that I’m gonna rest and just let the Lord judge my brothers, I do not feel the need to police evangelicalism. Now, do I feel a desperate need to protect the men and women that God has given me, to care over as an under-shepherd of Christ? Absolutely. But, am I out sniping evangelicalism? No. I have no need to. God will judge, God will burn it up. We’ll find out. He’s not like, „What am I gonna do about this guy? Will you start a blog for me? Hey, will you harass him via twitter? Take that you heretic.” You cannot believe that that’s what’s playing out in the heavenlies. That day will determine… In Dallas, we have several churches with which I would have strong differences with, in regards to theology, philosophy, and practice. All of them. I would just go crazy. Now, can I tell you what blows my mind? Three of the guys on my staff, I have already prepped my assistant for the emails that are coming. Three of my favorite guys on staff came to know Christ at that church. As a guy who wants to be extremely precise doctrinally that jacks with my head. I don’t like it. Now, how evil does that make me? I mean, doesn’t that make me the older brother in Luke 15?  It does not make me pure before the… „What, you saved this guy there? No sir!” Does that make me counseling God almighty? I’m gonna let God reveal, I’m gonna let God do His work. The day is coming, I just need to keep my hand to the plow and be faithful to my king. The day is coming… the day is coming.

Now, when it comes to this idea of faithful vs. fruitful, here’s what’s really being asked. More so than ever before, everything’s in front of us. So from twitter to the amount of conferences, really, at any given time, anywhere in the world you can go to a conference on anything you want. It doesn’t even matter how niche you wanna be in theology and practice, you can find a conference there. And what we parade out in front of you more often than not is not a guy that pastors a church of 120, and say, „Look, this is what church looks like.” No, here’s what I’ve spoken at other large conferences, „Let me tell you why I’m here because we went from 160 to 10,000.” I’m not here because I was faithful, because if I would have done the same things and shrank us from 160 to 20, no one would tell me, „Hey Chandler, come teach us how to do that. Come teach us how to be faithful and kill a church.”

Don’t put numeric growth above robust truth 

So what we’re talking about here is numerics. And I think, unfortunately, it’s a caricaturization of two ends of a spectrum that’s unfair to both. And so, let me address the caricature like this: If we’re talking about fruitfulness being sheerly numerics, I cannot biblically define it like that. But, that’s the caricature. So, if we’re talking of simply churches that are based on numerics- let’s call that the fruitful stream- how do they assume the Gospel? I think they assume the Gospel in 2 ways: They put numeric growth above robust truth, in order to see converts. And so, they’re not gonna touch things that are divisive, they’re gonna leave big chunks of Scriptures alone, because those Scriptures will offend people. And so, it’s the belief that you can make Christ cool enough for everyone. And that ain’t happening. You cannot give Jesus such a makeover that everyone goes, „Love that dude.” It’s not ever going to… in fact, the more you try to do that, the more the authority, power, and work of Jesus Christ wanes and you see nothing but shriveled up former life. Jesus doesn’t need a makeover, He needs to be boldly proclaimed. And, you assume the Gospel when you think you have to give the Gospel help.

I also think that another place where this kind of fruitful stream assumes the Gospel is (when) they a lack a plan and process for discipleship. See, they answer the fundamental question wrong: What is the purpose of the church? The purpose of the church is converts. No! The purpose of the church is to make disciples, who have been taught to observe all that He commanded. We already read it. Why did He give teachers, why did He give prophets, and evangelists? Why were these things given in Ephesians 4? For the building up of the body into the fulness of Christ, for the works of the kingdom. That’s what we’re to be about- making disciples. And you assume the Gospel when all the Gospel is is a means of conversion and not a means of sanctification and maturity into the fulness of Christ. You load heavy burdens on people when the Gospel is what saves them, but it relies solely on them to sanctify themselves. Now, the Gospel saves and the Gospel sanctifies. And again, this is a characterization, but, way too many of the fruitful stream lacks any process for the evangelism, or shepherding, or care for its members, partners, whatever word we want to use there, in order to grow them into maturity. I had a friend of mine who went to such a church, and they had no pastoral care. They didn’t do funerals, they didn’t do weddings, there was no hospital visits. It was the weekend. This is no real processes for care, no real processes for discipleship and that’s one of the ways.

I’ll save most of my energy for the way the faithful stream assumes the Gospel. The truth is there isn’t a guy in ministry who doesn’t think he is faithful. It’s not like the fruitful guys are saying, „We’re gonna be unfaithful, to see our place grow.” I just don’t really believe that, there’s not a guy in ministry who doesn’t believe he is faithful. Now, in that faithful stream, which I would define as the caricature that all we’re interested in is doctrine and truth. We don’t really care about people, just give me my 5 points and get out of my face. And, if you don’t believe in definitive atonement, you’re probably not a believer. That’s the caricaturization. It’s only doctrine, that’s all it is. There’s no real love for people, it’s just cold, systematic, intellectual assent. That’s one caricaturization.

Lacking  Gospel ambition 

Now, here’s how I believe the faithful stream assumes the Gospel. Here’s something that bothers me. I’m just gonna be straight with you. I find that in many robust theological churches, that there seems to be a lack of Gospel ambition and that there’s a belief that their smallness somehow validates their faithfulness. „You know how faithful I am? We’re running at 80 (people). We were up to 90 and I’m not having it. So, I did 2 years on Leviticus and shrank us back down.” Now you can giggle, but that kind of trash happens all the time. It’s like being small is a trophy. This assumes the Gospel because it lacks the belief  in the Gospel’s ability to penetrate and draw among the masses faithful, obedient converts unto Christ, who grow and are discipled. It lacks even a belief for that. It doesn’t have a market for it. And I can tell you, as a guy whose church grew, had no intention of it growing, I wanted it to grow, had a desire for it to grow. Just unashamedly, I wanted God to save people. I wanted Him to rescue and I wanted Him to do it like I saw Him do it in Ephesus, where it so shook and rearranged the socio economic climate that people rioted. I want that, I still want it for Dallas. When I drive by our Walnut Hill campus and see all those strip clubs, I wonder, what would it be like for the Gospel to fall in such a way that they couldn’t make money anymore? What would it be like for the Gospel to fall in such a way that there weren’t money to be made in the adult bookstores? What would it be like? That’s what happened in Ephesus. I want that! And for guys who lack that Gospel ambition, there are a lot of us who are so theologically precise that can’t dream like that. Well, you know Matt, narrow is the path. Small is the gate. Well, oh yeah, absolutely. But, you can get in a very long single file, you all. And so, I think, brothers in the faithful tribe have a tendency to lack Gospel ambition.

Being unnecessarily harsh 

I think another one in the faithful tribe have a tendency (again this is all caricature) to be unnecessarily harsh. I don’t know where it came from, I tried to track it down, please hear me: There is a wrong way  to be right! There’s a way to be right and doctrinally accurate, that instead of drawing into the beauty of the truth we find in the Scripture, instead, is unnecessarily offensive. Now, the Bible, parts of the Bible, parts of God’s plan for human flourishing is going to offend secular sensibilities. That’s not what I’m talking about. We should never shy away form that type of offense. But, the kind of brazen- offend to offend sakeThat’s just immature, that’s just spiritual immaturity.  It’s not helpful, it’s not helpful in any way, and if you land in the reformed camp, how that can create such brazen violence and arrogance just blows my mind. If there ever should be a doctrine that lays us low is the doctrine that God saved us by His grace alone, through faith alone. If there ever would be one that would have us dealing gently with people, would it not be that when you see brothers, sisters, doctrine and the truth of Scriptures should always be handled with a scalpel and never like a club? Always like a scalpel and never like a club. So much where I landed theologically, that right now I believe is right and good before the Lord, and before God, I believe I could give a resounding defense biblically for almost everywhere I land in regards to doctrine  and what I believe about soteriology and ecclesiology, and all the ‘ologies’. In the end, they were all processes, which means I didn’t get there overnight. Over a period of time, as people lovingly just kind of handed me a book, or opened up the word of God for me, or sent me home to look at a passage, allowed me to wrestle- it was all a process and praise God that He did not put in my life or protected me from so many that I see today: the demand that others join them today, what took them years to arrive upon. We are not to be men and women who are unnecessarily harsh. May we be people of truth. Amen! May we be people of truth. But, there’s a way to do that that’s right, good, loving and compassionate, and there’s a way to do that that shows that you quite don’t understand the Gospel.

Evangelistic laziness

Another way I find the faithful ones assuming the Gospel is there seems to be evangelistic laziness. It’s almost like a functional determinism. That kind of caricature- Well, if God’s gonna save, God’s gonna save. Whatever. Again, it goes back to: Do you really believe that we can be as broken  and as goofy as we are, conduits through which the Holy Spirit of God works, to draw, rescue and save? See, the faithful crowd, I found, so often wants to argue about little niche corners of theology, that they’ve forgotten about the heralding of the Good News to those around them. See, more than I want to be about converting a guy to a particular doctrine that I believe, I want to see a guy come to know and love the Jesus that I so desperately know and love, and then let’s get to work. But, seriously, how many people that would be categorized in this faithful (group) are far more concerned about converting someone to a specific doctrinal persuasion, rather than they are  seeing people come to know and love Jesus Christ in any type of real way.

So whether it’s faithful or fruitful, our tendency is to assume the Gospel, that’s why Paul perpetually preaches the Gospel to people who already know the Gospel. That’s why almost all of Paul’s letters sans 2 Corinthians are going to address the Gospel, teach the Gospel once again to people who already know the Gospel. Have you ever marveled at the fact he is writing a letter to the churches at Ephesus and the first two chapters are nothing but the Gospel? And Romans is nothing but the Gospel. I mean, just writing the Gospel, the Gospel… Before we talk about marriage, before we talk about children, before we talk about church life let’s talk about what Christ has done for you. Because we all have a tendency to drift, we all have a tendency to assume instead of explicitly  make known the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here’s my appeal. I don’t know how many days you have, I don’t know how many days I have. I’ve pastored long enough to know some of us won’t be here next year. And so, my appeal brothers and sisters is with the days we have left, with the breath we have left, may we proclaim Him and be faithful. And with angst, and with gut wrenching prayer, and belief in the power of the Gospel, we expect and long to see fruit. Fruit in the depth of maturity and fruit in the salvation of those in our neighborhoods, in our cities, in our states, and to the ends of the earth. Be faithful, and pray to the God of heaven for more fruit than you can get your mind around. And let’s labor, and scratch, and work, and plead, and beg, and be bothered by it when we don’t see it.

Discussing the legitimacy of Christ’s resurrection using historical evidence/dates in a way that is granted by skeptics

empty tomb

On February 27, 2013 at Convocation, North America’s largest weekly gathering of Christian students, Dr. Gary Habermas talked about how to defend the legitimacy of Christ’s resurrection using historical evidence/dates in a way that is granted by skeptics. In doing so, he provided students a way to defend the Gospel against arguments that say the New Testament was written too long after the resurrection for the information to be correct.

Dr. Gary Habermas is a distinguished research professor of apologetics at Liberty University as well as the department chair of Philosophy. He has authored over 36 books and teaches primarily in the Ph.D. program for theology and apologetics at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

Gary Habermas:

Easter gives a stamp of approval to Jesus’s ministry and what he taught. Usually, when I go to university campuses, I am asked to speak on the resurrection, and I tell them I’m going to start speaking on 1 Corinthians 15, and the interesting thing about this is that I can start by defining the Gospel, because that’s how Paul starts 1 Corinthians 15. Paul begins by saying, „I gave you the Gospel when I came to Corinth. And, paraphrasing Paul, he says, „Whatever you do with the Gospel will determine whether you will or will not be saved. What you do with the Gospel determines where you will spend your eternity. He begins with that, and I’ll just add this: Whenever the Gospel data, God’s side of the Gospel- there’s God’s side, there’s our side, what we need to do. But, on God’s side, these 3 facts are always mentioned when the definition of the Gospel is given:

  1. The deity
  2. The death,
  3. and The resurrection of Jesus.

Paul begins, and he says, I taught you that when I first came here. And then, you’ve got a response to make: Believe, which in Greek the synonym means to commit to, to surrender to, to trust, to commit, and that’s what we’re called to do with regards to Christ. The Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus who is the Son of God, who died for our sins, who was raised from the dead. What are we gonna do about it? Are we ready to make a lifetime,  indeed, an eternal commitment? Those 2 sides is what we call salvation. Facts + faith = salvation. But, faith by the biblical definition, which means your life will change, and so on…

Even on a skeptical look at the New Testament, here’s what a lot of people don’t understand, skeptics will quote the New Testament- they’re not opposed to using the New Testament.But, of course they will only use verses they think can be verified by other means. And, my point is that you can take those facts alone, and show that Jesus is raised from the dead. So, theoretically, the skeptic who gives you certain facts, they’re enough to show that Jesus is saved. In the timeline today, (I’m not gonna keep reminding you of this, but) virtually everything I say to you today is granted by the critics/ skeptics.

What makes a fact a fact. How do our historical tools work? How do we determine that George Washington was the first president of the United States? Or that Julius Caesar conquered Gaul? How do we determine these sorts of things? Two of the most important things you need are early reports (as close to the facts as possible) and eye witness testimony. Unfortunately, in the ancient world we rarely have these things.

Habermas goes through a timeline of 25 years after the cross

What are the historical facts that most historians accept?

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. He was buried.
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).
6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.
7. The resurrection was the central message.
8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.
9. The Church was born and grew.
10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.
11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).
12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).

Read more about this here –

Lee Strobel interviews resurrection historian Mike Licona

What Jesus said about the Resurrection

Jesus resurrection empty tomb

According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus offered life after death. A claim many find hard to believe.  John 11:25  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; The reason most people struggle with resurrection is because they don’t see that kind of a world.

Bock: Not everyone who hears Jesus’s claims automatically embrace them. In fact, some people have terrific doubts as to some of the things that Jesus is claiming, especially when they become as grand as „I’m gonna sit at the right hand of the Father”, or „I and the Father are one”, or „If you see God, you see Me”. These are not normal claims.

Bethany at the 2 minute mark, where the Bible says Jesus raised a man named Lazarus from the dead.

Shortly after the reporting of the raising of Lazarus in Bethany, Jesus made a prediction of His own resurrection. The prediction occurred during his trial before Jewish leaders, just a few hours before His crucifixion.

Matthew 26:63-65 The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. One problem people have in believing the resurrection is not that they can’t believe in the supernatural, but they know that that puts Jesus in a unique place of authority, and in a world filled with religions. And that seems intolerant.

Jesus Predicts His Death

Assuming that no one could possibly plan their own death and resurrection, some have suggested that Jesus’s death must have resulted in a miscalculation on His part. Some have suggested that Jesus didn’t really want to die, and that the crucifixion was a bad development in his case, kind of accidental. But, you have to remember, in Jesus’s case, nobody planned His own death more accurately than Jesus did. At least half way through Jesus’s ministry, He started advertising that there would be, at first an apparently terrible end to His life, but that He would rise again. He always provided that comforting clause. Now, to the disciples at that time, it really didn’t make any sense to them. They couldn’t conceive this happening. But, this was Jesus’s way of saying, „No, this is part of the divine design, this is why I came into the world, and this is how it’s going to go, and how it’s going to end.”

Matthew 16:21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalemand suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. At least 3 more times, Jesus gives a prophecy of going to the cross, and of being raised after that.  (From the first 7 minutes of video)

Mart De Haan hosts this documentary on the significance and evidence of the resurrection of Jesus. Many scholars and historians were interviewed in this documentary like Gary Habermas, Paul Maier, Doug Geivet, Darrell Bock, Mike Licona, Mike Wilkins, Mary Jo Sharp, Craig Evans, etc.

Where is Your Theology of the Resurrection? John Hendryx

He is risen 2

(via) Monergism

Recently I have been pondering the question: why in traditional theological circles is there such a lack of emphasis on the theology of the resurrection yet so much stress on Christ’s death? Not to de-emphasize his atoning death but this oversight is especialy curious in light of the fact that in the New Testament there appears to be a great importance placed on the resurrection, at least, it seems, equal in emphasis to Christ’s death, but we don’t talk about or theologize about it much … why? I have to ask because the implications of Christ’s resurrection is a critical part of Christ’s redemptive work in and for us.

In light of the resurrection of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15 speaks of our present victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the work of Christ in his resurrection Paul is able to say in verse 58, „Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” As we participate in his resurrection now and are seated with him at God’s right hand, where He reigns over all his enemies, including the world, the flesh, the devil and death, then, in light of this, this should somehow translate to our living in the world now.

We rightly place a great deal of stress on Christ’s death and atoning sacrifice but often seem to leave off the saving dimension of Christ’s resurrection. The finished work of Christ includes both his death and resurrection in NT biblical theology, because we would still be in our sins if Christ has not been raised from the dead according to the same 1 Corinthians passage. In seminaries and theology books very little space seems to be devoted to this, to a degree we should find alarming. Any victory we have now is from the life which Christ gives our mortal bodies in His resurrection (Rom 8:11). In Rom. 6 Paul also states that we are baptized into Christ’s resurrection, which is the power that saves us through regeneration. It is not only what gives us a new heart that we might be raised up from being spiritually dead and so believe the gospel, but grants us the power to live a new life, have spiritual affections for Christ and the grace to live a godly life because of the ethical change that has taken place within us. The disposition in us toward death has been crushed by Jesus’ resurrection.

Since the „last days” were inaugurated with Christ’s resurrection, we are living in the already/not yet time where Christ’s victory over death is being worked out in and through us. There is no such thing, therefore, as Christian who lives in sin as a lifestyle. The resurrected Lord who lives in us is greater than he who is in the world. We may be deceived for a time, but the Spirit working in us compells us to cry ABBA Father and look to Christ in faith for the victory and mortification of any besetting sin. But we cannot do this as individuals since Christ has established his church as the agency for advancing his kingdom rule on earth (Eph 1:22). God calls us to do this through the weakness of preaching the gospel through which he will confound worldly powers and destroy all vain speculations.

It is important to note Paul use of the word „firstfruits” in 1 Cor 15. Without historical background this may not make sense, but what it points to is the Jewish feasts of Passover and Pentecost, each of which had the first fruits of the harvest given to the Lord. These firstfruits were a sign of the full harvest that would come soon after. Of course, more to the point, these festivals were in the Jewish calendar to remember Israel being freed from Egyptian slavery (Passover) and the giving of the Law at Sinai (Pentecost). Here in 1 Cor. 15 Paul is saying that the Christ is our Passover, the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead … with many more to follow. This is an act of God’s grace alone, not something we work toward, yet that grace, that resurrection which we are untied to in Christ compels us to work, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved. There is nothing natural about this. Christ has saved us completely with no contribution owing to ourselves. His kingdom now reigns in His people and He is extending it by redeeming people and the creation through us. Even now, according to the Scriptures, all powers are being subjected to Christ with death being the last enemy.

As we can see that this is no small matter which has profound theological and pastoral implications. There I would challenge and encourage the Reformed community to develop a more robust biblical theology of the resurrection.

J.W.H.

Posted by John on April 24, 2008

A study on the Resurrection of Jesus with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew

12 Historical Facts

(Most Critical Scholars Believe These 12 items)

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. He was buried.
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).
6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.
7. The resurrection was the central message.
8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.
9. The Church was born and grew.
10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.
11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).
12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).

What Do Most Scholars Believe?

In The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel (p. 112), Mike Licona said, „[Gary] Habermas has compiled a list of more than 2,200 sources in French, German, and English in which experts have written on the resurrection from 1975 to the present. He has identified minimal facts that are strongly evidenced and which are regarded as historical by a large majority of scholars, including skeptics. We try to come up with the best historical explanation to account for these facts. This is called the Minimal Facts Approach.”

William Lane Craig (sadly, a non-OSASer) does confirm Habermas recorded 1400 scholars (both skeptics and non-skeptics alike) whom 75% agree the tomb was empty and nearly all agree the original disciples truly believed they had seen Jesus alive from the dead bodily, for a vision wouldn’t convince the disciples of resurrection.

Gary Habermas said (2009) on the John Ankerberg Show, „I just did a count recently of what scholars say. First of all you can count guys on one hand of the 2400 sources since 1975 on the resurrection [in] French, German, English…who think apparent death [is true]. When scholars respond they still cite David Strauss. I think we would all like to have that kind of influence in our writings. His critique has been around almost 200 years.” Habermas was referring to Strauss’s argument that Jesus wouldn’t look much like a risen Messiah to the disciples all battered and bruised.

Habermas and Licona co-authored the award winning book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (2004). Historian Paul Maier said the book’s response to naturalistic explanations for the resurrection „are the most comprehensive treatment of the subject anywhere.” Philosopher J. P. Moreland said the book presented what „may be the most thorough defense of historicity of the resurrection.”

Gary said in a 2009 Ankerberg video, „If we start with the cross approximately 30 AD and call that ground zero, 1 Corinthians 15 checks in at about 55 AD whatever the writer, conservative or not conservative, we have 25 years. In ancient historiography this is incredible in a time when the best known biography of Alexander the Great is that of Plutarchalmost 400 years after Plutarch. When we learn about the early Caesars from Tacitus to Suetonius a ‘good gap’ is 100 years; 25 is incredible [for Jesus]. Paul says, ‘I am passing onto you as first importance that which I also received’ (1 Cor. 15.3).” Paul said, „I make known to you brethren the gospel which I preached to you” (1 Cor. 15.1). Gary says, „This earlier preaching may have taken place 51 AD about 21 years after the cross.” But point of fact, Jesus died not in 30 AD, but 33 AD on April Fool’s Day, Friday, April 1 (Gregorian) which I am sure of just +18 years after the cross.

Gary said, „Almost all contemporary scholarship believes Paul received this material (Gal. 1.18) when he went to Jerusalem about 5 years after the cross. Some put it as early as 3 and as late as 8, but he was converted about 2 years after the cross before he went away for 3 years. Paul spent 15 days with Peter. It is safe to say they talked about more than just the weather. Paul said he preached nothing but Christ crucified.” Gary said about James D.G. Dunn, „In his recent book Remembering Jesus that this passage (1 Cor. 15.3ff) wasn’t just taught. It was already stratified. It was already put in this creedal form within months of the crucifixion.”

Gary said (see video), „I did a count recently of people who have written from about 1990 to-date [2009]. 75% of scholars today say that resurrection or ‘something like it occurred.’ Of that 75%, three to one say it is a bodily appearance. Ted Peters had a book that was published by Eerdmans a few years ago, and 20 out of 20 scholars in his book that he edited said ‘bodily resurrection.’ Higher critical scholars who are in the minority will still usually concede the appearance involved sight and was embodied.”

In the summer of 2012, Gary wrote in the Southeastern Theological Review, „by beginning with a ‘lowest common denominator’ version of the facts. If I am correct in holding that this basis is still enough to settle the most pressing historical issues, then it is indeed a crucial contribution to the discussions. We will return below to some ramifications here. Regarding my references to the ‘vast majority’ or ‘virtually all’ scholars who agree, is it possible to identify these phrases in more precise terms? In some contexts, I have identified these expressions more specifically. At least when referencing the most important historical occurrences, I frequently think in terms of a ninety-something percentile head-count. No doubt, this is one of the reasons why the concept has gained some attention.

„My bibliography is presently at about 3400 sources and counting, published originally in French, German, or English. Initially I read and catalogued the majority of these publications, charting the representative authors, positions, topics, and so on, concentrating on both well-known and obscure writers alike, across the entire skeptical to liberal to conservative spectrum. As the number of sources grew, I moved more broadly into this research, trying to keep up with the current state of resurrection research. He said this again at William Lane Craig’s „On Guard” conference, „1 Corinthians is one of six to eight books all accredited critical scholars accept. You can count the exception on two hands, probably one hand. I have 3400 sources in a bibliography from 1975 to the present (2012). When I say you can count the guys on one hand who disagree with this it is not very many. They believe Paul is the best source, and 1 Corinthians is one of the most dependable sources. They allow 1 Corinthians and Galatians. Both are on the accepted list. Bart Ehrman says they are the authentic Pauline epistle. So does most everybody else. Whatever you write, these two books are allowed [indicating Paul’s genuine belief]. Paul is writing a mere [no more than] 25 years later. That is incredible. We have no other founder of a major world religion who has miracles reported of him within a generation.”

„I endeavored to be more than fair to all the positions. In fact, if anything, I erred in the direction of cataloguing the most radical positions, since this was the only classification where I included even those authors who did not have specialized scholarly credentials or peer-reviewed publications. It is this group, too, that often tends to doubt or deny that Jesus ever existed. Yet, given that I counted many sources in this category, this means that my study is skewed in the skeptical direction far more than if I had stayed strictly with my requirement of citing only those with scholarly credentials. Still, I included these positions quite liberally, even when the wide majority of mainline scholars, ‘liberals’ included, rarely even footnoted this material. Of course, this practice would also skew the numbers who proposed naturalistic theories of the resurrection, to which I particularly gravitated.

„The result of all these years of study is a private manuscript of more than 600 pages that simply does little more than line up the scholarly positions and details on these 140 key questions….

„[Mike] Licona begins by listing my three chief Minimal Facts regarding Jesus’ fate: (1) Jesus died due to the process of crucifixion. (2) Very soon afterwards, Jesus’ disciples had experiences that they believed were appearances of the resurrected Jesus. (3) Just a few years later, Saul of Tarsus also experienced what he thought was a post-resurrection appearance of the risen Jesus.”

Antony Flew Became a Theist

Easter 3

Shortly after the 2000 debate on the John Ankerberg show with Gary R. Habermas-leading scholar and foremost expert in world on the resurrection of Jesus (videos)-, the leading and most published atheist scholar of the 20th century Antony Flew renounced his atheism. This page recounts that debate. Antony Flew never did give his life to Christ but became a deist (a theist who rejects a personal God). He passed away April 8, 2010. This only goes to the point not whether theism is true or not but which theism, and very rarely does someone give their life to Christ at such an advanced age.

Flew said the reason he became a theist was because of the complexity of the cell. Whereas, I accepted Jesus was, is and always will be God by realizing all things sum up in Christthrough observing the unsatisfied searching of another person. It would take the equivalent of a hundred thousand encyclopedias to explain all the workings of the cell; or all the books in the entire Library of Congress, or all the knowledge we currently have about the universe.

However one may want to define life, it is hard to fathom how non-life can spontaneously turn into the simplest replicating life, let alone how unconscious processes with no mind, will, emotion, conscience, communion and intuition can produce these qualities and attributes for sentient life to exist. Can two rocks banging together for a very long time generate beings with self-consciousness and able to say, „I think, therefore I am.” If it sounds absurd it probably is. The more you think about it, the more ridiculous it seems! The 4 Step Proof for God and Minimal Facts Approach are my foundation for evidence.

Antony Flew’s more important role as a theist, from my perspective, was that he continued to agree the disciples truly believed they saw Jesus alive from the dead. Even when he was an atheist he believed this. Yet the problem remained for his faith: where was this illusive naturalistic explanation that could account for their eyewitness testimony in various group settings? What I think even I am underestimating is how solidly God intends this proof to be for us to hang our hat on as we who are Christians rise off into the sunset in glorious victory!

Jesus-Appearing-To-Two-Disciples-On-The-Road-To-Emmaus

Eyewitness Accounts (5)

The foremost contemporary philosophical, atheist scholar of the 20th century, Antony Flew agrees with these 12 facts. These facts are established in eyewitness accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, presented in the books of the NT and disclosed by some of the original twelve disciples (Matthew, Peter and John). Paul was also an eyewitness though not an original disciple. James, the brother of Jesus, also saw Jesus resurrected who wrote the book of James. Jude, also a brother of Jesus, was an eyewitness who wrote the book of Jude. Very close to the eyewitnesses who traveled with Paul were Luke and Mark. There is one verse in Mark that suggests Mark saw Jesus. Mark had close association with Peter and Barnabas. Mark and Luke wrote the other two gospel accounts. At any rate, no scholars doubts Paul’s genuine eyewitness account of the resurrected Jesus so we can begin with Pauline data.

Dates (5)

 

55 A.D., Paul wrote 1 Cor. 15, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (v.3). This is the standard documentation of the historicity of tradition being kept for an ancient text! “If Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith also vain” (v.14)? Paul is declaring sincerely the reality of his beliefs.

51 A.D., Paul preached at Corinth (his 2nd and later a 3rd missionary journey).

35 A.D., Paul met Peter and James in Jerusalem, just a few short years after the death of Jesus: “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days” (Gal. 1.18). Recall Stephen was stoned to death by the Sanhedrin council of Jews for explaining the faith (Acts 7.59). Barnabas brought Paul to see Peter and James.  What did Paul receive from Peter and James? “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15.5,6). Jesus was seen by at least 11 to 12 different groups in different settings. This is all a fairly tight network!

32 A.D., Paul was converted one and half years after the cross and Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

30 A.D. Jesus died on the cross. – Gary Habermas used this date for ease of reference; but, I have talked with him, and he agrees that it is quite possible Jesus died on April 1st, 33 AD, Friday (Gregorian) – April 3rd (Julian). The evidence for this date would be based on these calculations.

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Given these dates, this was very early move!

Explanation for the Most Important Proof (5)

Antony Flew lost the debate 15 years prior to Habermas. He has had 15 years to find his better arguments. Flew’s best guess for the conversion of Paul seeing Jesus in Person is that it was either “conversion psychosis disorder” (Jack Kent coined this phrase) and the disciples experienced grief hallucination like when a 3rd person may be seen in the house who had passed away.

Habermas explains for Paul to have a Conversion Disorder (and Paul does not disclose a disorder in his words or conduct) we have multiple problems with the facts:

1. There is nothing in the diagnostic literature about hallucinations. It’s short lived and goes away. The DSM-3 and DSM-4 are the standard diagnostic tools for psychiatry.
2. You would also have to have an auditory hallucination (of hearing!).
3. You would have to have a visual hallucination (of sight!).
4. A great psychosis – often called Messiah Complex. Paul, instead, says what he receives is from God, not from himself.

Characteristics of Conversion Disorder – Does this sound like Paul to you? (5)

(Kaplan)

 

1. Up to 5 to 1 it happens to women.
2. It happens mostly to adolescents.
3. It happens mostly to people of low economic status.
4. It happens to people with low IQ.
5. It happens to military persons in battle.
These are the most common circumstances. Not a single one of them applies to Paul. This adds up to 9 items. Moreover, there is not a speck of evidence Paul ever wanted to convert from Judaism to Christianity.

Grief Hallucination (5)

There is no such thing as Grief Hallucination in the DSM-4, the most standard diagnostic tool for psychiatry…nothing. However, hallucinations do occur in someone who is alone. But in the Bible the various settings were of different group sizes seeing the resurrection of Jesus in different places; men and women; indoors and outdoors; walking, sitting, standing; and an empty tomb. Hallucinations do not come out of despair necessarily, but when you believe something so strongly, you make the image. Studies have shown that such hallucinations are talked out of eventually.

Antony Flew had nothing to say other than he felt there was an “enormous shortage of evidence”. In return, Gary cites 129 facts in 45 sources from various persuasions that agree to the 4 key historical facts (see below). Though there is a great many things we don’t know, what we do know militates these two problems cited by Kent and Flew.

Flew depends on self-declaring his stance for one of these two conditions: conversion disorder or grief hallucination. But given the evidence it is not possible. The burden of the proof lies on him. The visuals seen by the disciples Flew is convinced require no external referent. There is no question the disciples believed there was an external referent in Christ Jesus the 2nd Person of the Godhead. If the disciples are not good candidates for hallucinations and Paul is not a victim of conversion disorder, then there really is no other possibility than God’s divine providence at work in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The 4 Facts 

Though some Scholars focus on up to 20 facts in this half a week of the passion of the Christ, there is a benefit to just examining 4 of the 12 facts, from Friday to Sunday: (1) you can refute the major naturalistic theories with them, (2) you have the best evidences for the resurrection here, and (3) this is being done with a very small kernel of data, not requiring a large list of noise.

FACT 1 – Jesus died by crucifixion (1).
FACT 2 – The disciples had experiences which they believed were the appearances of the risen Lord (5).
FACT 3 – The disciples were transformed (6).
FACT 4 – Paul came to Christ (12).

Physically Touched (Fact 2)

Antony Flew tries to argue for his naturalistic theory by saying that Thomas never actually put his hand in the side of Jesus, “Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust [it] into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20.27). However, Thomas did reply, “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (v.28) as though he may have done so.

Ignatius in 107 A.D., 10 years after the Gospel of John, says that Thomas did touch Jesus. Be that as it may, there is more to say: “They (the women) came to him, and took hold of his feet” (Matt. 28.9). And Jesus said to Mary Magdalene after she realized that he was not the gardener, “Stop clinging to me” (John 20.17).

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen [it], and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1.1-3) – After the gospel of John and onto the epistles, John says in 1 John, he has seen Jesus with his own eyes, heard with his own ears and touched with his own hands. Another instance is when Jesus is before the disciples in Luke, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having” (Luke 24.39). This is a straightforward account as you can get in His resurrection. It is interesting that Luke says “handle me, and see.” To “see” or to “behold” occurs after doing as Jesus said, to “handle” or “thrust into my side”. In John, he seems not to say that Thomas did touch him, for it is implied. How strange it would be that Jesus would say these words, then not to be touched.

Scholarly Agreement (Fact 2)

Gary Habermas has documented over 100 cases of scholarly work done from 1975 to 2000. His finding is that most scholars believe: (1) something really happened, (2) these were real experiences of the disciples, (3) they believe they saw the risen Jesus, and most importantly, (4) scholars believe the disciples really saw something. At the very least, critic after critic accept Paul’s eyewitness accounts.

Spiritual Body is not Spirit (Fact 2)

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15.44). Since all scholars consider what Paul says to be crucial, first and foremost, his thought should be addressed. The Greek for spirit obviously is pneuma. But the word Paul uses here is pneumatikos soma for “spiritual body.” Paul is clearly saying the is some change here. He is not saying Jesus is a spirit, but there is a physical body.

Resurrection of the Dead (Fact 2)

Paul writes to the Philippians about himself as being “an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee” (Phil. 3.5). The Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection which is widely understood. In Acts 23, Paul was taken by the Romans to prevent him from being killed. And Paul responds with saying: Why are you taking me, I believe in the resurrection of the dead? The Pharisees, agreeing with the resurrection of the dead, don’t have a problem with this statement. But the Sadducees don’t like it, because they don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead.

“That if possible I may attain the resurrection (ek exanastasis – the out-resurrection) from the dead” (Phil. 3.11). All Greek scholars translate this passage as the out-resurrection, for that which goes in must come out. Paul here is not concerned here with whether he is saved or not to be resurrected with the saints. He is thinking of the „out-resurrection” – the „first resurrection” (Rev. 20.4-6), connoting the „best” one, to be included in the marriage feast (see Matt. 25.1-13)-the reward given to overcomer believers to reign with Christ for 1000 years.

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body (soma), that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body (soma)” (Phil. 3.20-21). First there is the body, then it is the body plus something else to fashion a glorious body.

Paul: (1) he is a Pharisee who believes in the physical resurrection, (2) believes in a resurrection from out among the dead (and the „first resurrection” reward), and (3) believes Jesus will change his body (soma) to be like His body (soma).

Antony Flew’s response is that a “spiritual body” is not a body at all since it is immaterial as implied by the word “spiritual.” John Ankerberg responds by asking, If the Bible is a spiritual book, does that mean it is not a physical book? However, this is an ontological question, not a behavioral question.

Phil. 3 is a commentary on 1 Cor. 15. Paul is not leaving any doubt this is a physical body glorified. Any talk about Paul thinking this referring to spirits is not to do Paul’s words justice. If Paul is clear in Phil. 3 this is not some wispy spirit, then we can’t have the problem of saying that this is non-physical because he is telling us what he means by it.

Despair Not Without Hope (Fact 2)

If you go through trial or tribulation, and mourn with hope of the resurrection it makes all the difference in the world. Without this hope it makes the trial unbearable. But if you know where you are going, peace abounds because you know you will be with those that are loved by God. Habermas correctly believes that believers who have gone to rest have not received a spiritual body yet. However, he makes the common mistake of thinking that at the moment of death believers are present with the Lord. To wait for resurrection while still in the good side of Hades (Abraham’s bosom) is timeless unawares until we are raised together which does not violate this verse: “We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5.8). Between Hades and resurrection is timelessness: Abraham’s bosom or Paradise below.

There is no need to be present with the Lord without a spiritual body; moreover, you cannot come to the High Priest naked or with improper attire, that is, to say without a spiritual body which we will receive during the last „set of seven” at the consummation of this age. Not even David a man after God’s own heart is in Heaven yet (Acts 2.34). God desires to receive us to the throne (Rev. 7.9) at the first rapture if we are ready (Matt. 24.40-42, Luke 21.36, Rev. 3.10) before the trumpets (8.7ff) of the Tribulation commence, but if we are not ready we will be raptured together at the last trumpet in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15.50-52). And at the last trumpet, it gives us comfort those who are „alive” and „left” (1 Thess. 4.15-17) shall not precede them who are asleep to meet the Lord in the air. Be comforted in knowing we will ascend together and not separated by hundreds and thousands of years: „Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4.18).

A disembodied state is not present with the Lord. It is the condition of the demons who seek to inhabit and possess bodies. They prefer humans than the swine. Not until resurrection of the body of Christ and saints of old are we present with the Lord. Since no time is seen to have occurred when we are resurrected, then Hades is without time. Thus, any spirit communications with loved ones is purely emotional and imaginary as they are currently resting. Any communications with people you know have passed away is purely imaginary and can sometimes be demonic pretenders.

The Contradiction (Fact 2)

Antony Flew’s belief is that the reasons for the resurrection are valid is because the Jews were looking for the Messiah to come, and it would be equally valid for Christians. The guiding principle appears to be the previously held beliefs of the person which determine the truth of the resurrection. However, there remains the contradiction. If Jesus is saying that what He says is for all people on the planet, then He would be wrong, because Antony Flew says it doesn’t apply to himself. Jesus and the Apostles are right or Antony is right. They cannot both be right. Neither can they both be wrong since none can compare to Jesus. Jesus is God or He is not. Either there are no consequences or Antony Flew is going to Hell to be eternally separated the Creator.

Christians were first non-Christians. If what was good for non-believers to become Christians, which Flew agrees is good for them, then it would be good for him too, since he is also a non-believer. Therefore, it is not good for Flew to remain unsaved, but to his benefit to become a Christian by believing in Christ.

Is there Extra-Biblical Evidence Jesus Died on the Cross? (Fact 1) 

There is data coming in from a variety of angles: 1) medical data, 2) critical data, and 3) extra-Biblical data.

1) Medical Data (Fact 1)

The Journal of American Medical Association, and dozens of other medical associations and articles, stated that death on the cross by crucifixion is death by asphyxiation. Studies by volunteers show a cutoff by about 12 minutes. If you are hanging low for any amount of time, you are not faking it. You’re dead.

The spear on the side of Jesus is confirmed in John as well as two sources outside the Bible. One of them is Roman and the is Christian that they did these things. David Strauss says if Jesus walked off the cross then there would be no Christianity because He would not be raised.

2) Critical and 3) Extra Biblical Data (Fact 1) 

Of the 17 extra-Biblical non-Christian sources, 12 mention the cross and details of Jesus’ death within 100 or 150 years from the life of Jesus in all kinds of details.

“Christus (Christ)…suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate” (Tacitus, Roman Historian, 55-120 A.D.). Tiberius was the governor.

“Christians…worship a man to this day…who…was crucified on that account…[They] worshipped the crucified sage…” (Lucian, famous Greek Satirist). He called him a crucified sophist.

“Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teachings which he had given” (Mara Bar-Serapion, Syrian Writer). He tells his own son to emulate Jesus who gave his life.

“Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die…His disciples…reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive” (Flavius Josephus, 38-97 A.D.). Though it is disputed, the portion about the cross is believed. He also mentions Tiberius Caesar.

“Jesus…was nailed to a tree” (The Gospel of Truth, a Gnostic Source). 

“On the whole world presented there presented a most fearful darkness…” at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus (Thallus, Samaritan).

“And with regard to the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar..” at the time of Jesus’ death (Phlegon, 80 A.D.). There was a lunar eclipse April 3, 33 AD (Julian).

Paul’s central teaching was the cross of Christ and His resurrection. The Koran was written six and a half centuries later (7th century), so it is really beside the point. It has two passages: one says Jesus died on the cross, the other says he did not. It’s hard to believe the Koran has much to contribute to what happen six and a half centuries earlier. Even the leading atheist scholar in the world considers the idea that Jesus didn’t die on the cross absurd. He said this “swoon theory is rubbish.”

Jesus Seminars and the Empty Tomb (Fact 1) 

John Dominic Crossan, Co-Chairman of the Jesus Seminars, believes Jesus was buried in an unknown plot. Very few of his colleagues agree with him. There is not a bit of evidence Jesus was burred in an unknown plot. If there was Crossan could have presented it by now.

Antony Flew suggests that the matter of the empty tomb is entirely dependent on the gospel accounts. This is incorrect because in Acts are various creedal passages: “And though they found no cause of death [in him], yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took [him] down from the tree, and laid [him] in a TOMB. But God raised him from the dead” (Acts 13.28-30).

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that (hoti) Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was (kai hoti) buried, and that (kai hoti) he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that (kai hoti) he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve” (1 Cor. 15.3-5). Paul uses a long sentence called a triple hoti clause, three “and that” clauses. Paul is clearly onside with believing Jesus was raised from the tomb.

What Evidence Shows Jesus’ Tomb was Empty Days Later? (Fact 1) 

1. Early accounts – Acts 13, 1 Cor. 15.
2. The Jewish book – Toledoth Jesu – refers to Jesus; says his body was removed.
3. Matthew
4. Justyn Martyr
5. Tertullian

These Jews admitted the tomb was empty. Undisputedly, Jerusalem was where Christians began to preach a few days later after Jesus died. If Jesus was still in the tomb, wouldn’t there be a problem of his body still being in the tomb if He was not raised? If the body was there still, then the disciples should have preached in Galilee or Rome, not in Jerusalem. The principle of enemy attestation says what your enemy admits to is probably true. They admitted that Jesus was not in the tomb.

If the Gospels are recorded back upon what occurred 50 years prior, then you don’t pick women as witnesses. In the first century, Jewish law said women could not testify in a court of law. Jewish writings said women are liars. “And their words seemed to them as IDLE TALES, and they believed them not” (Luke 24.11). When the women came back from the tomb, the disciples did not believe them that the tomb was empty. They thought the women were spreading gossip and tales.

„A Very Impressive Piece of Testimony,” Antony Flew Concedes (Fact 1)

In The Case for Christ it is recorded the Guinness Book of Records says the most cases ever one by a lawyer in a row was 400. That lawyer said the case for Christ is the best case he has ever seen and surely would have been his 401th won case in a row. Gary Habermas asks Antony, if he finds no fault with the empty tomb (Antony agreed, „it is very difficult to get around”) then what does that say about alleged hallucinations? Hallucination requires the body be in the tomb to account for at least these 11 different group sightings of Jesus. Antony proposes, it is not possible back then to have the kinds of evidences we have today with video cameras and such. Is the determination of the proof of God really founded on video cameras? Flew did not want to give any examples of group hallucinations, but other atheists at least try to find something, but each of them are shot down in The Historical Jesus and The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas.

Even though most scholars believe Jesus died on the cross, some naturalists claim Jesus didn’t die on the cross (1). Evidence against this: (a) Medical evidence, (b) Paul’s testimony, (c) Extra-Biblical evidence, (d) Gospel writers’ testimony.

Some naturalists say the disciples lied. Antony Flew does not believe this. Flew is at least a testimony that atheism is a lie, since Flew became a deist subsequent to this information discussed here. Naturalists propose the Disciples stole the body and lied about the appearances (2). Evidence against this: (a) Disciples were transformed and (b) They died for what they believed to be true.

Flew believes the eyewitness testimony is genuine but a hallucination, and his colleagues say it is legend. They can’t agree. Naturalists say (3) Jesus’ death and resurrection is all a legend. Evidences against this: (a) Paul writes his testimony early, (b) Other eyewitnesses are cited and still living when he wrote 1 Cor. 15, in addition to the other eyewitness accounts such as John and Matthew who wrote two of the gospels. This in addition to all the writers of the NT agreed in the resurrection. The earliest known biographies of Alexander the Great are not written until 4 centuries until after his death. After that length of time mythology is a factor.

Every naturalistic theory can be shot down handedly. For Antony Flew’s theory to hold true about hallucinations, Paul has to have one kind of disorder, the disciples have another kind of hallucination, and the disciples had to have lied about the tomb all happening simultaneously. Naturalist theories are piling up, but they are getting more and more improbable. The more improbable the theories mount, the more the probable scenario bears truth.

Antony Flew concedes: „I am not responding with a naturalistic account of what happened…I don’t think it is possible to offer any satisfactory naturalistic account…I don’t offer anything to counter the empty tomb evidence.” He does believe that hallucinations are the only possibility. There is no other possibility according to Antony.

What Remains on the Table? Hallucinations (Fact 2)

Hallucinations are rare. They only occur under the following conditions: 1) Bodily depravation, 2) Someone taking drugs. These facts do not fit the descriptions of the disciples. Antony Flew says there were no group hallucinations, but perhaps 10 or 20 people are having their own individual hallucinations though without medical explanation. That’s a lot of individual hallucinations. Antony says in the last 15 years what he has learned is that there has been mass hallucinations seeing Mary at Fatima. But this is inaccurate, because ten thousand people don’t actually see Mary or Jesus, but perhaps something in the clouds („signs in the heavens”), rather than in person the risen Christ.

99.999% of them never say they actually saw Mary or Jesus. But in the case of the disciples in different settings, you have whole groups seeing Jesus as once, not as an illusion, but up close and personal. „An illusion is when you see a real thing and think it is something else. A hallucination is when there is no object referent: no real thing present” (Jack Kent). What those at Fatima are seeing is a mass illusion, not a mass hallucination. The latter is what Antony Flew is proposing for the disciples but it just doesn’t fit. Hallucinations are much more radical than an illusion.

The „Good Self” (Fact 2)

Gary Habermas considers Antony Flew the kindest, most moral and sincere atheist he has ever met, and he so happens to be the leading atheist scholar in the world at the time of their debate. Habermas has long standing, continued correspondence with several atheists and agnostics. Gary has been praying for Antony for over 15 years to give his life to Christ. Could it be that Antony is experiencing delusions with mistaken thoughts about Christ that have separated him from God by using the power of his „good self”? One so good yet still eternally separates himself from the love of the one true God! Could such a thing be possible?

The Road to Damascus (Fact 2)

What happened to Paul to convince him Jesus rose from the dead? He was killing Christians. He was not in the frame of mind to believe. He didn’t want to believe. Paul saw Jesus in Person on the road to Damascus, but the others with him did not see Him on the same road. They heard a voice and saw the light but they didn’t see Jesus. Paul lost his sight after seeing and speaking with Jesus.

Paul says he saw Jesus alive. „Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?” (1 Cor. 9.1). „And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15.8). In both cases, Paul is referring to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read all of Galatians chapter 1. Paul’s position is conclusive.

The facts against Kent’s theory of Paul having conversion disorder are: (1) Conversion disorder would not be convinced by a hallucination that eventually passes. Even if it could, simultaneously Paul would also need: (2) Auditory hallucination, (3) Visual Hallucination, 4) Visions of grandeur of „Messiah Complex” (Paul believed God spoke to him a message for the world common with other believers which was not exalting of himself), but (5) There was no evidence Paul wanted to change, was in the mood to change or why he would want to change. There are not only these logical problems but Biblical problems in proposing such a disorder because it doesn’t mesh with what would be reasonable under these circumstances.

Antony Flew wishes to bypass the whole conversion disorder idea by Kent, and instead wants to raise the issue, again, that Paul saw something, but the others who were present did not on the road to Damascus. He finds this entirely implausible. Yet Paul did said, „And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they did not understand the voice of him that spake to me” (Acts 22.9).

The Conversation is Getting Livid (Fact 2)

„I saw a light…blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to fight against my will” (Acts 26.13-14). „And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man” (Acts 9.7). So, we know the others (1) saw a light, (2) fell down to the ground, and (3) heard a voice. The only thing they did not experience was in seeing Jesus Christ in Person. Plainly they experience an objective effect. And, if Paul is having a conversion disorder, why are these things happening to his companions? Paul gave 3 reasons why he thought this was the physical body of Jesus Christ in Philippians 3.20-21 not a ghostly appearance.

Antony counters by saying just because Paul believed it was true, does not mean it was true. But this idea by Antony is finally relinquished when Habermas recounts what had just been said here about conversion disorder. Flew concedes, „I give up” because the conversion disorder is not plausible. But then, right around again, Antony contends, there was nothing to be seen, so how could it be a physical body of Jesus? Habermas turns it right back upon Antony again about the conversion disorder and that others experienced something also who were on the road to Damascus: „If it wasn’t a conversion disorder and it wasn’t resurrection then what was it?” Antony’s logic is that if the companions couldn’t see it then it couldn’t have been a physical body?

Philippians 3 says there is a body. Brilliantly, Habermas responds with the answer: It was not said at Paul’s conversion the companions did not see the body. We are only told what the others saw, not what they didn’t see. Straight logic does not preclude the others from seeing the body just because it is not mentioned that they didn’t see the body of Jesus. A contradiction is „two things cannot both be and not be, same time, same place, same matter”. We only have Paul’s testimony on the road to Damascus, not that of the companions. Antony concedes.

We can thus conclude: (1) Jesus died by crucifixion, (2) The disciples had experiences which they believed were appearances of the risen Jesus, (3) The disciples were transformed, and (4) Paul came to Christ. If this is not a hallucination, then where do we go further with this information?

A Very Small Group of Experiences (Fact 2)

Beyond Paul’s experience was a very small select group of others who had similar experiences seeing the risen Lord (excluding the 500). Because if this, it is too small a sample size to be credible, says Antony. Is it really so small? There is Peter, James, Thomas, the women, and all the others mentioned. What did the disciples see? The women touched Jesus resurrected in Matthew, Mary touched Jesus alone in John, and Thomas was close enough that he could have touched Jesus. Ignatius said he did, and there is no reason to think he did not. Are the candidates good candidates for hallucinations? Or did they actually touch one whom they believed to be Jesus Christ? How many times do you have to touch somebody before they are qualified to occupy time and space?

1) The women touched Jesus, 2) Mary touched Jesus, 3) Thomas is given the opportunity to touch Jesus (Gospel of John), and 4) Paul thought Jesus appeared physically (Phil. 3.21). The two horns of the dilemma remain: the disciples had hallucinations yet Kent agrees Habermas’ facts are accurate. How can you still think it is a hallucination in the Gospels after the testimony of the disciples?

Antony Flew keeps coming back to asking whether there was something to be seen by the disciples or Paul and not about the word „hallucination” or other labels. And so Antony just self-declares, „The evidence is pretty weak,” but does not indicate any such weakness specifically. Where can we go from here? Relatives and outsiders saw Jesus resurrected physically; the empty tomb is a physical scenario; they were with Jesus for three to three, and Jesus said this would haappen and it did. Therefore, the question remains, do you still fall on the hallucination idea or do you give your life to Christ?

Not Noticing Jesus Walking With Them (Fact 2)

Slight changes in the resurrection body of Jesus Christ may make him not noticeable at first, especially not ever expecting his presence there. James, the brother of Jesus, was unbelieving and sarcastic to Jesus, that he should go to Jerusalem and get himself killed then James became a leader of the Jerusalem church. What a transformation! He didn’t believe in Jesus the whole time he was living. Ankerberg asked Antony, what happened to James? Antony confounded said „I don’t know”. Antony responded, Why should he be expected to know what happened to James? Ankerberg said, That is like saying to Habermas in court, You have nothing Habermas, except those 10 witnesses. Antony then says, „I think he has got a lot”. Everyone laughed cordially. Antony conceded that James is doing something that is totally expected given no other choice if he actually saw Jesus resurrected.

Multi-Faceted Accounts and Verification (Fact 2)

Resurrection Evidence: (1) A group of women testify, (2) A woman, Mary Magdalene, testifies, (3) A group of men – the Apostles testify, (4) A lone man James testifies and no longer a skeptic, (5) Paul testifies he has seen Jesus, and (6) Jesus’ tomb was empty. One strand after another of verification! Christians say we have a lot of evidence so we ask atheists, agnostics and other religions, what do you bring to the table? Doesn’t the Burden of the Proof fall on you now? All these aspects is what an historian looks for coming in from different angles such as enemies, believers, skeptics, Jews admitting the tomb was empty, women who were not suppose to be good witnesses seeing resurrected Jesus and grabbing him. This is a lot of data. Christians are Christians because these are these key facts which no viable alternative explanation is given.

Antony Flew recalls his previous idea though turned down because of the gaping contradiction that what a person originally believes very much impacts how one perceives these events. That contradiction was whether Jesus told the truth or not that He is God which would not be dependent on another’s experience, since that person did not create the other. Either the disciples did see the risen Jesus or they didn’t. Previously held beliefs should not dictate the reality of an objective statement or occurrence. Someone who held Jewish beliefs long before in looking for the Messiah does not preclude a person in some remote area of the world who never heard of Jesus from accepting Jesus. Those who do believe in God just by observing the mountains and the stars would accept Jesus if presented the word of God in the 66 books of the Bible.

Jesus Said He is God (Fact 2)

Jack Kent says „Paul never said anywhere in the New Testament that Jesus was God” (The Psychological Origins of the Resurrection Myth). Is that true? Show me where Jesus said He is the Son of God, the Son of Man and God? We actually have Paul saying Jesus is God and Jesus saying He is God. We even have data that predates this in Jesus’ Messianic self-consciousness.

„I kept looking…and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming and he came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him…his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7.13-14). „Son of Man” was the favorite title for Himself. His usage of this title is absolutely taken from Dan. 7.13-14. He virtually quotes this verse before the high priest. Jesus needed a valid reason to die. Why did the Romans want Him to die? „The high priest was questioning him…’Are you the Christ the Son of the Blessed One (the Son of God)? And Jesus said ‘I AM (Ego Eimi) and henceforth you will see the Son of man…coming in the clouds of heaven…” (Mark 14.61-64).

Jesus changes the question about the Son of God to the Son of Man. He is going to come in the clouds and He is going to judge you. The high priest knows right away Jesus is referring to Himself as God as the Son of Man is a claim of deity. „Coming with the clouds” occurs dozens of times in the Scriptures and is always a reference to God. Jesus says, Yes I AM to the Son of God. He is the Son of Man. And He says He is going to come in judgment. At this point the high priest condemned Jesus to death that this was „blasphemy”.

There are the Q sayings which are statements made in Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark. The most ardent critics have a hard time disputing these sayings. „No one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son and those to whom He (the Son) will reveal them” (Matt. 11.27). „But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mark 13.32). This is the principle of embarrassment. If you are claiming to be the Son of Man, then why are you saying you don’t know when You will return or that you don’t know something?

Paul clearly also claims Jesus is God. „Who being in the very nature God…” (Phil. 2.5-6). „Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2.11). „Christ, who is God overall” (Rom. 9.5). Lord in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT, is the translation of Jehovah. Paul calls Jesus Lord repeatedly. „Christ Jesus…who was declared the Son of God with power by resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1.3-4). Paul calls Jesus the Christ and that the resurrection proves all these things. The resurrection is God’s approval on who Jesus thought He himself was. Antony agrees, that if Jesus is raised from the dead, this is the best evidence that Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, since only God could raise the dead which is the reason Christians believe as we do. Antony doesn’t believe in the resurrection, only that the proof is unshakable. If God raised Jesus, then Jesus can’t be a heretic so what He says about himself must be true.

What is the Thing that Would Convince a Skeptic? (Fact 2)

Nothing would convince a skeptic because his heart is set on the mindless assumption in his subconscious that existence happens all by itself. His selfish self (can’t let go of self) can’t see past that choice and that the choice is wrong because that is the nature of selfishness which stems from the fall of Adam and Eve he prefers to be in.

At what point does a skeptic accept the pile up and pile up an pile up of evidence to be true? Antony says, my experience is I just don’t see people being raised from the dead, so why should I believe this amazing miracle of the resurrection?

This problem is called by philosophers, „antecedent probability.” Is it really possible miracles can happen? This is the single biggest issue, the issue of miracles and the resurrection miracle. There are two approaches to answer this question. First, instead of seeing the resurrection as mount Everest and where we stand with regard to this unscalable mountain, we need to adjust our position, experience, and understanding towards the mountain peak. Our rules need to be adjusted we make for ourselves. To make that adjustment, we need to talk about data for God’s existence such as the 4 Step Proof for God and near death experiences. If God exists, then the playing field rises up all the way to the peak of the mountain. Antony Flew agrees, that if we have some reasons God exists, then the resurrection becomes „enormously more likely.”

If there are miracles at present, this moves the playing field up further as well to open us up to other things and let go of self. There was a double-blind experiment done of 400 cardiac patients. Half were prayed for and the other half were not prayed for. They monitored these patients in 26 categories. The ones that were prayed for were statistically better: „A study of 400 cardiac patients found that in 21 out of 26 categories were better as a result of prayer” (Southern Journal of Medicine). Scientists and the medical community have established this is medically significant.

Antony says the ideal of a miracle is parasitical on the idea of a law of nature, because something (miracles) that are happening all the time is seen in the natural causes, therefore rendering them not miracles. However rare it occurs, it is still happening lots. So this should not change people’s religious or other beliefs. A miracle depends on the idea of natural causes because these seemingly impossible natural causes do exist that human beings can’t understand which does not dissuade their non-miraculousness. However, this does not prevent or disallow God being behind those natural causes and other supernatural influence upon the law of nature. The only justification for a resurrection is because God could do it, but man could not.

Citing examples of near death experiences or prayer studies happening all the time is not to say God is doing it but could be visions manifested from feelings and the loving care from one to another in prayers. Even so this love can be God’s grace and part of His design. There is still the 4 Step Proof for God and that God shows forth miracles in nature, e.g. the timing of the event. To distinguish what should be deemed a miracle and what is not, we should consider what could be from God if it is beyond the realm of our own undertaking. What we did not know before we may consider a miracle, but when we learn of its cause, then we no longer consider it a miracle. But a miracle based on timing does not change. For example, when Jesus fulfilled prophecies we realize these miracles are attainable by the correct antecedent cause. And the greatest antecedent is that it is God’s divine providence He predestinates by foreknowledge (Rom. 8.29) all the causes for eternity. We only lack the details of cause and effects, but we know its source, given the 4 Step Proof for God and various other proofs such as the moral argument and ontological argument.

In a word, NOTHING will convince a skeptic but God Himself, not even the 4 Step Proof or other reasons Habermas has given in agreement with the Word. The reason for this is because the evil spirit is in the non-believer’s spirit, guiding him through overassuming and planted ideas. It is a form of possession and control against his own will (only to an extent). However, God has made us all in His image to be able to be saved by grace from this control of the evil spirit that entered at the fall. This way out of the matrix is to give up and give into Christ, even if we don’t know everything, since we will never know everything. There is no other way to be delivered from this possession. And this is all according to God’s design to respond to the fallen of Satan and man with these contingencies. In fact God says just look at the mountain and the stars, and ask yourself, did you do that? If the answer is No, then you know you have yet to give up and give into the Intelligent Designer, even though you can’t quite understand it all. God sees this as vital humility He can work in that one.

How in your experience can you even make a determination about God if you have even one assumption that is false? That very assumption will forever color a picture that separates one from God so as not to be able to discern correctly God’s existence and corresponding response to His will. Therefore, the only solution is to gather a certain amount of evidences to convince you miracles can happen, accepting it is beyond your ability to understand of how God could do it. No matter how much information you gather along the continuum of knowledge and what is permitted to know at each point there is an allowance for entrance into God’s kingdom. Therefore the problem is not knowledge. The problem is CHOICE. If you can’t find one legitimate excuse that is totally solid then such reasoning cannot be justification for anything. Not even a non-choice is justifiable, because then you would be calling Jesus a liar when He said if you are not for Him, then you are against Him.

Gathering Additional Information at Wal-Mart (Fact 2)

The first way to show miracles can happen is to provide additional data that would corroborate the necessity of opening ourselves up to possibilities we were unwilling to accept before. When two things by all natural means contradict each other, the only possibility is that they don’t actually contradict. They only seem to contradict given one’s limited view of lacking information. For example, if you were in a car accident and your best friend was with you, but he died, and you went to his funeral and saw the medical report, yet the other day you saw what you thought was him in Wal-mart, you just know it can’t be. But as additional information is provided you begin to think otherwise which rises you up the mountain unto resurrection and rapture: your friend approaches you and shows you the scar on his face that caused the death, then you begin to think it is possible that somehow he was resurrected. Your friend says touch him to know that he has been raised. Then you tell others and they see him also. It is no longer just one person saying this happened in a hallucination. Others touch him in various group settings and sizes. We then have no choice to deny this truth. And, because it is so well documented, no one should doubt this truth in generations to come. There is only one case in history where something like this happened and that was the resurrection of Jesus.

The second way to accept miracles and the resurrection is once the data fits a scenario and becomes so overwhelming though beyond my realm of our experience, we have no choice but to accept the truth. We reach a point where we must give up and give into our conscience. No way is Thomas going to go into the Wal-mart to discover Jesus there. Jesus can’t make that choice for Him. So Jesus comes to Thomas and says to him, put your hand in my side to see I have been resurrected. Jesus deals with Thomas according to his ability to understand and does not forsake him for doubting. He comes right up to him and says, believe. Paul killed Christians. James said no way to Jesus that he is not the Son of God. The second way to go after this question of miracles is to see there is enough angles, even though it is not your experience, to leave one no choice but to accept the truth.There can be enough data that overrides our feelings.

„The laws of nature are statistical descriptions of what usually occurs when nature is left to herself” (C. S. Lewis). Statistics can be overridden, certainly in areas where it has not been absolutely determined the cause and effect in nature. We need to be at least open to that. Miracles in relation to prior existing beliefs is certainly a plausible suggestion by Antony Flew, because someone may have more knowledge, while another is lacking in such knowledge. However, this does not change the fact of the event in question. Even if Antony understood how God resurrected Jesus, this does not change the fact that God resurrected Jesus and man cannot resurrect himself. Even then, it would still be a miracle to Antony because though Antony could understand how God did it (which I don’t believe we will ever know), he still can’t figure out the intricacies of the ultimate cause what set off God to do it in His thinking other than to say He created out of His glory. God could reveal the why in His choice to create, but even as saved believers, we cannot know the exact details of God’s mind beneath this glory, for some things are reserved for God alone to know. This is the power the uncreated has over the created.

Antony says all of this about Jesus depends on Mosaic tradition. Certainly, Jesus plugs into this fact of proper cause and effect when God first revealed Himself to Israel. If Jesus were to enter creation, as He did, then it could happen no other way and as righteously as God did it. There first must be the antecedent causations leading up to His arrival and subsequent second coming in the future. God would need to choose a people whom would be willing to listen to Him (Israel was enslaved for 430 years) all the way back to the first God-conscious man even to the choice itself he would make for the tree of life or the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Because Jesus plugs into the tradition, it shows the import of it and does not dissuade from its necessity to be brought to the world’s understanding. Hence the Bible is not just 27 books of the NT but also 39 books of the OT. Credibility is achieved by not just 8 authors over 70 years but 40 writers over 1500 years and the biblical record over 6000 years.

Final Evidence for Naturalists – A Foretaste of Resurrection (Fact 2)

The overpowering evidence of the resurrection is one way to convince. The other way is to say this world admits exceptions. Near death experiences are not miracles in and of themselves, but they would be if those experiences are reporting an after-life through various contacts made by God about certain events in the future and those future events came to pass. One would take a whole new look at the resurrection. We are not concerned with the 8 million near death experiences by Americans. We don’t care about the tunnels and the lights, other temporal lobe activity and causes do to lack of oxygen. We are concerned with those cases that can be verified. „When I wrote that book we had only near-death experiences. Now we have post-death experiences.” (Recollections of Death: A Medical Perspective, 1982, Michael Sabom). In Life and Death, his new book, Sabom mentions a women with a brain aneurysm. With 30 doctors present, because the aneurysm was deep in the brain, they had to literally kill the person first to get at it (called „operation standstill”). They cooled her body temperature down to 59 degrees, taking all the blood out of her head, stop her heart and stop her brain. All these were stopped for hours. They repaired the vessel, and she is doing fine today.

After the surgery, she testified that she had risen above her body. She gave 6 points of corroboration. When she heard the saw turn on, she was out of her body and was looking over a doctor’s shoulder. It was at this point they were close to the point of putting her to death. She said she imaged a drill that looked like a pizza cutter, but instead it was a pen with a fine point on the end. The doctor asked her, Where did you get that? She said, You had a socket wrench next to you. The doctor asked, What do you mean a socket wrench? She said, There was this box with all these interchangeable parts. He said, Draw me a picture of the drill and the socket set. She drew them.

Then she described what went on in the operating room. They couldn’t find her artery. They had to go to the other side of her brain. She identified which doctor made the decision and which doctor couldn’t find the artery. She has all these points of memory in being dead for 3 hours.

In another case, a girl who drowned for 19 minutes described what her parents did that night. She reported what her mom did for dinner, the song that was played on the radio, a toy her brother played with and a specific doll her sister played with. After 3 days she was conscious. As soon as she woke, she told the doctor these things she saw that occurred three days earlier.

Though these events are not the acts of Jesus they are a model for resurrection. These after-death experiences don’t show extenuated life after death in heaven or hell, but they are minimalistic life after death: minutes or sometimes hours after cessation of heart or brain waves. If a person is reported to have flat-lined at 3:02 and there is no brain waves by 3:15 as reported in the medical logs then after awaking the patient reports something that occurred after 3:15 even an hour after 3:15, what is the explanation? This would be quite difficult for a naturalist to explain.

Antony was asked if these things open the door for being more than naturalistic? He responded belligerently, „Not really”. This is in keeping with the fact what was said previously, nothing can convince the unregenerate. All reasoning he employs is to justify his previously held beliefs without concern for the truth. These are no outer-body experiences (OBE) according to Antony nor in-body experiences (INBE) of being close to death. However, the experience of the lady from Georgia was post-death by all standards. She shouldn’t be reporting anything! I thought it interesting that Antony used the term, „outer-body” instead after having said he read much of the literature about it, one of his most favorite subjects. His nomenclature showed he was not telling the truth when he said he delved deeply into one his favorite subjects, because he should have used the term „post-death” experience, not „outer-body” since the strongest evidence is there. He appeared to be slothful even apathetic in his response.

What is the naturalistic explanation Antony gives? He believes it was a fraud or misrepresentation, and she could not recover in this way after being put to death for 3 hours. Therefore, he presumes she was not really dead. Yet, it is medical practice to put the person to death for just such cases. She was on a lung machine; the doctors gave her less than 10% chance of living–1 in 10,000 chance of living with all her faculties. She spontaneously awoke a few days later and said to the guy who resuscitated her, You’re the guy that resuscitated me, where is the tall guy without the beard?

This doctor was an agnostic and has since become a theist. Soon after, Antony Few, partly a result of this discussion also became theist though of the deistic flavor by a Creator who doesn’t personally reveal Himself, has no interaction with us, and is completely inaccessible. What love is that? This is the kind of love that reflects the love in Antony’s own heart. Even Brahma the amoral god of Hinduism is more personal than that. One has to ask the obvious question, Why create in the first place if you are going to be an absentee landlord? Seems pointless. If I have a child I want a relationship with him. Deism is a reflection of one’s own impersonal character; projecting onto the Creator his own attributes. The fact that Antony renounced atheism at this late age has to stand for something don’t you think? What does a naturalist do to explain these things happening after-death that did happen and were explained by the patient in vivid detail after they awoke? Antony is entirely confounded and simply says, „This is a new one to me” on what is suppose to be his favorite subject. I think Antony Flew is not coming to God with an honest heart. He is being intellectually dishonest with himself. It seems to me he wants to find a naturalistic explanation yet is unable to access his imagination to fit the data.

Summary of Evidences for a Theistic World View (Fact 2)

1. Good arguments for God’s existence.
2. Evidence for God being the true author of Scripture.
3. Evidence from the Old Testament of God working in time.
4. Jesus doing miracles.
5. Then He rises from the dead.
6. Double-blind experiments on prayer where 21 out of 26 categories the person is statistically better (there are many studies on healing).
7. Documented near death experiences and by all standards, after-death experiences.

Conclusion: The resurrection is not an isolated event but part of the „big picture” theistic world view. The fact that God raised Jesus is extraordinary and one of a kind. It shows Jesus is who he says He is. He’s alive. God is working in other ways too. However, we need to be firm and honest by recognizing, atheists and agnostics have an insincerity about them, an „I don’t care anyway” attitude. Their character and true colors are reflected in their world view.

 

Christ has risen! The significance of the Resurrection


Matthew 28:1-10 Jesus Has Risen

 1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

1. According to the four gospels, Jesus rose from the dead following
   His crucifixion...
   a. Matthew records how the women found the tomb empty and were
      instructed by an angel to tell the disciples - Mt 28:1-8
   b. Also how Jesus appeared to them while on their way - Mt 28:9-10
   -- In all, the New Testament records ten distinct resurrection
      appearances of Christ prior to His ascension to heaven

2. The significance of the resurrection of Jesus to the Christian faith
   cannot be overestimated...
   a. It has great significance for one who has yet to believe in Jesus
   b. It also has great significance for those who are Christians

[In this study we shall consider "The Significance Of The Resurrection"
for both unbelievers and believers...]

I. FOR THE UNBELIEVER

   A. IT VERIFIES THE DEITY OF JESUS...
      1. The resurrection proves that Jesus truly is the Son of God
         - Ro 1:4
      2. It also demonstrates that He truly has all authority in heaven
         and on earth - Mt 28:18; Ac 2:36

   B. IT VERIFIES THE TRUTHFULNESS OF JESUS...
      1. Jesus foretold His resurrection on three occasions - Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19
         a. If Jesus was telling the truth in describing His suffering
            and resurrection...
         b. ...then He was telling the truth in everything else He said
         -- Would God raise a liar?
      2. Therefore the following teachings of Jesus are true:
         a. He was from the Father above, and spoke the words of the
            Father - Jn 8:28-29
         b. No one can come to the Father but through Him - Jn 14:6
         c. His blood was shed for the remission of sins - Mt 26:28
         d. He came to offer abundant life - Jn 10:10
         e. He went to prepare a place for us - Jn 14:2
         f. He shall come again - Jn 14:3
         g. There will be a resurrection of the dead and ensuing
            judgment - Jn 5:28-29; 12:48; Ac 17:30-31

[If Jesus was in fact raised from the dead, "The Significance Of The Resurrection" for the unbeliever is enormous!  It compels unbelievers
to come face to face with reality, and the need to accept the Lordship
of Jesus.  The resurrection of Jesus has even more significance...]

II. FOR THE BELIEVER    

   A. IF JESUS HAS NOT BEEN RAISED...
      1. Gospel preaching is vain - 1Co 15:14
         a. The preaching of the apostles is empty, meaningless
         b. There would be no purpose in preaching about a liar, or
            lunatic
      2. Our faith is vain - 1Co 15:14
         a. Our belief in Christ would also be empty, meaningless
         b. For our faith would be in a liar, or lunatic
      3. The apostles were false witnesses - 1Co 15:15
         a. They swore that God raised Jesus from the dead - Ac 2:32
         b. They claimed to spend 40 days with Him after the
            resurrection, eating and drinking with Him - Ac 10:39-41
         c. There is no way they could have been deceived or mistaken;
            either they told the truth or they were deliberate liars,
            deceivers, and frauds!
      4. We are still in our sins - 1Co 15:17
         a. It would have been a liar or lunatic that died on the cross
         b. No such person could have provided a sacrifice that was
            holy and without blemish
      5. Believers have perished at death - 1Co 15:18
         a. Their faith would have been in a false Messiah
         b. They would have had no atonement for their sins
         c. Dying in their sins, there would be no hope
      6. Christians are to be pitied - 1Co 15:19
         a. Because we believe in a false Messiah
         b. Because our faith in Him leads us to refrain from much
            worldly pleasure
         c. Because we are often ridiculed or persecuted for our faith

    B. IF JESUS HAS BEEN RAISED...
      1. It verifies our justification - Ro 4:24-25
         a. Jesus claimed His blood would be adequate - Mt 26:28
         b. By raising Jesus from the dead, God demonstrated His
            acceptance of Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins! - Ro 8: 33-34
      2. It demonstrates the power available to the Christian - Ep 1: 18-20
         a. Power available at our conversion - Col 2:11-12; 1Pe 3:21
         b. Power available to live the Christian life - Ro 8:11-13; Php 2:12-13; 4:13; Ep 3:20; 6:10
      3. It gives us hope concerning our own resurrection - 1Pe 1:3
         a. His resurrection gives us a living hope! - 1Pe 1:21
         b. Especially concerning the resurrection of believers! - 1 Th 4:13-14
      4. It demands our complete loyalty to Him - Ro 14:9
         a. He was raised and then exalted to become our Lord - Ac 2: 32-36; Ep 1:20-23
         b. Thus our lives and service belong to Him - Ro 14:7-8; 2 Co 5:15
CONCLUSION

1. The impact of the resurrection of Jesus should not go unfelt in our
   lives...
   a. As a historical event it has everlasting implications
   b. For both the unbeliever and believer

2. The unbeliever needs to examine the evidence for the resurrection
   carefully...
   a. The nature of the testimony provided by the witnesses
   b. The unfeasibility of alternative explanations for the empty tomb
   -- For if Jesus rose from the dead, one must believe in Him! - Jn 8: 243. The believer must never lose sight of the significance of the
   resurrection...
   a. Do our lives demonstrate that we serve a risen Lord and Savior?
   b. Do we possess the hope, peace, and strength that the reality and
      power of His resurrection gives to the Christian?May we never forget "The Significance Of The Resurrection" of Jesus
Christ in our lives!
(VIA)

Dr. R C Sproul – We Must Stand Firm on Biblical Authority, Exclusivity of Christ

(via) the Christian Post. Read entire article here. By Lillian Kwon

Evangelical theologians who firmly hold to the inerrancy and authority of Scripture are preparing to help fellow believers stand firm in their faith amid an increasingly hostile culture.

Dr. R. C. Sproul, who will be leading Ligonier Ministries’ West Coast Conference in June, argues that while Christians should „live peaceably with all,” there are times „when we have to contend for the faith.”

He pointed to the increasing push for the separation of church and state and the „new atheists,” whom Sproul describes as having an „extraordinary sense of boldness,” as examples of hostility toward Christianity.

Sproul, who founded Ligonier, was joined in the broadcast by Dr. John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif. Both will be featured speakers at the June 8-9 conference in Seattle where they will address biblical authority, the resurrection of Jesus, and the exclusivity of Christ, among other doctrines.

„We have … a culture that’s basically allergic to taking firm stands on anything theological,” Sproul described. „The idea that’s rampant is that doctrine divides; what we’re trying to do is build relationships and so we should stay away from theological debates and controversy.”

Doctrine, the Sanford, Fla., minister admitted, does divide „because Christ divides, truth divides.”

Unfortunately, he lamented, people tend to „retreat into this relativism that says it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.”

„What we’re saying is it matters eternally what you believe.”

MacArthur said he wants to „help folks see why we can firmly stand on the absolute truthfulness and authority of Scripture” and if Christians don’t, „then everything is lost.”

„We have to trust the Word, … stand on the firm revelation of Holy Scripture, proclaim it unhesitatingly and yet lovingly and watch God do His work, redeem His people, build His kingdom through His truth,” he asserted.

Also joining Sproul and MacArthur at the June conference is Steven Lawson, senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala.

The conference will „explore several doctrines that define true Christianity, including biblical authority, the Trinity, the resurrection of Jesus, the exclusivity of Christ, justification by faith alone, the mortification of sin, and the existence of God.”

Lee Strobel – „The Jesus I know” at Horizon Christian Fellowship + „The Case for Christ” documentary

Lee Strobel: „If I had a friend who did’nt know Jesus, come up to me and ask about Him, what would I say?”

Atheist, turned Christian – Lee Strobel speaks and answers the above question at the Sunday morning service, held on May 6,2012 in Horizon, North Carolina.  Published on May 6, 2012 by 

More resources from Lee Strobel can be found here –

Uploaded by  on Feb 22, 2010 Click here to watch the documentary on LionsGate Youtube Page

Based upon the Gold Medallion award-winning best-seller, The Case for Christ documents Lee Strobel’s journey from atheism to faith through his two-year investigation of the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ. Strobel, the former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, draws upon his investigative skills to examine the historical accuracy of the Gospels, the personal claims of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead. Is there evidence to confirm that Jesus of Nazareth was, indeed, the son of God and the savior of the world? This remarkable film features interviews with 10 leading Biblical scholars from North America and England, cutting-edge apologetics, and a compelling original music score.

The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh at http://www.bible.org. Our text deals with the first three of our Lord’s four post-resurrection appearances in the Gospel of John. The first appearance is to Mary Magdalene, and the next three are to the disciples. Jesus will appear to Mary Magdalene (20:10-18), then to the disciples, minus Thomas (20:19-23), then to the disciples, with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples, including Thomas, who were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1ff.). There are some very important lessons to be learned here, so let us listen and learn, looking to the Spirit of God to interpret, apply, and implement these truths in our lives.

General Observations

It would serve us well to begin with several observations concerning our text and its relationship to the other Gospels.

We do not really know a great deal about the time between our Lord’s resurrection and His ascension. When you stop to think about it, a significant portion of each of the Gospels is taken up with the events of the last week of our Lord in Jerusalem. And yet, the 40 days following our Lord’s resurrection gets very little attention in comparison. The material we do have about this period is not meant to satisfy our curiosity about all that happened during this time, but is recorded to prove one important fact: Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father!

Of the details we do find regarding our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection, a number of them are recorded only in Acts and 1 Corinthians. Until now I did not realize how much of my understanding of our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection is based upon New Testament books other than the Gospels. Some of the most important details come from Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:

1 I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he had also presented himself alive to these apostles by many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for “what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” 9 After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him away from their sight. 10 As they were staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still living, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

I am not sure why I had concluded that my understanding of the post-resurrection period was dependent solely upon the Gospels. It was probably due, in part, to my assumption that if one Gospel didn’t mention something I knew about this time period, it was because it was recorded in one of the other three Gospels. But this is not necessarily true. If it were not for Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15, we would not know nearly as much about the Lord’s ministry during the 40 days following His resurrection. From Acts 1:3 we learn that during this time, Jesus taught His disciples about the kingdom of God which was yet to come. While our Lord’s instruction to His disciples to wait for the coming of the Spirit can be found in Luke’s Gospel (24:49), we probably remember this command from Acts 1:4-5. Apart from 1 Corinthians 15:5, we would not know that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time after His resurrection. It is from Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5), as well as from Luke (24:34), that we know Jesus made a private appearance to Peter. We would certainly not expect the replacement for Judas to be Saul, to whom our Lord made another (albeit, a later) post-resurrection appearance (1 Corinthians 15:8). A good part of what little we know of this period in our Lord’s life and ministry comes from outside the Gospels.

Some of the details about events which occurred in this time period may appear to be contradictory. For example, in Mark we read that after the women saw and heard the angel at the tomb, “they went out and ran away from the tomb. They were in a state of trembling and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8, emphasis mine). In Luke’s Gospel we read, “Then they remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest ” (Luke 24:8-9, emphasis mine). I believe the solution to this apparent contradiction is found in Matthew’s account: “So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them, saying, ‘Greetings!’ They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there’” (Matthew 28:8-10, emphasis mine).

By putting all these details in sequence, we get a pretty good idea of what happened from the time the women left the tomb till they spoke with all the disciples and others. The women saw and heard the angel, who instructed them to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and would meet them in Galilee. The women rush off toward the city, but they are in a virtual state of shock. They tell no one they encounter on their way what they have just seen and heard (this conforms with what Mark tells us). Then, as they are still on their way to the city, Jesus Himself appears to them. This is the first time they have actually seen Him. He tells the women to go and tell the others, and indeed they do. Thus, all statements (those of Mark, of Luke, and of Matthew) harmonize when viewed in terms of the entire event. I believe we must assume this to be the case in every instance where an apparent contradiction appears. The details that differ are not an occasion for wringing our hands, they are the opportunity for a fuller grasp of what happened. Let us keep that in mind as we approach our text.

We find that some of the Gospel accounts are particularly brief at this point. This is especially true of Matthew and Mark’s accounts. Matthew writes of one appearance of Jesus to the women (28:9-10) and of one appearance of Jesus to His disciples (28:16-20). Mark’s account is terse as well, depending to some degree upon where you think his account really ends. Mark does briefly mention the appearance of Jesus to the two men on the road to Emmaus (16:12-13; compare Luke 24:13-35). He also tells of the appearance of our Lord to the eleven disciples (Mark 16:13-18). Mark does not include an account of Jesus appearing to any of the women, but only of the angel speaking to them (16:1-8). Luke and John have the most lengthy accounts of the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord. Luke does not describe an appearance of Jesus to the women; he chooses instead to emphasize the appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35). He then writes of our Lord’s subsequent appearance to the disciples (24:36-39) and then of His ascension (24:50-53). John focuses on four of the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances: first to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18), then to the disciples minus Thomas (20:19-25), then the disciples with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples as they are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1-25).

Finally, each Gospel has something unique to add to the story. Matthew informs us that the tomb was secured by a Roman seal and guards, provided at the request of the Jewish religious leaders who recalled Jesus’ promise that He would rise from the dead in three days, and who were afraid His disciples would steal His body. Matthew then follows up with an account of how the guards and the religious leaders fabricated a cover story to explain the missing body of our Lord. Mark’s account is indeed unique, causing much discussion as to where his Gospel should end. Luke provides us with a detailed account of the appearance of our Lord to the two men on the road to Emmaus. John’s account is almost entirely unique. He alone describes the investigation of the tomb by both Peter and John (Luke 24:12 tells us only that Peter went to see the tomb), of the appearance of Jesus to Mary, of three appearances of Jesus to His disciples—more than any other Gospel. His focus on Thomas’ reluctance to believe in our Lord’s resurrection is unique. The appearance of Jesus to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias is also unique, including our Lord’s three-fold question and exhortation to Peter. With this background information in mind, let us take a closer look at the first three post-resurrection appearances of our Lord, as described in John 20.

Jesus’ First Appearance: Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18)

10 So the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood outside the tomb and wept. While she was weeping, she bent over and looked into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’ body had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary replied, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus replied, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her.

It was Mary Magdalene who first arrived at the empty tomb in the early hours of the first day of the week. When she saw the stone had been removed, she seems to have jumped to a hasty conclusion—someone had taken the body. We do not know to whom the “they” (“They have taken the Lord from the tomb …”—verse 2) refers, and I doubt that Mary did either. I believe it is safe to say that it never occurred to her that any of the disciples took the body. She seems to have assumed it was either the Jews, or the Roman soldiers, or someone like “the gardener” (see 20:15). It never occurred to Mary that Jesus had been raised from the dead. She did not hope to see her risen Lord; she simply wished to locate His body and give it a proper burial.

A year or so ago a young woman’s body was stolen from its grave at Restland Cemetery, just a mile or so down the road from our church. It was a terrible thing to do, and the family was most eager to get the body back and see to it that it was buried properly, once for all. Someone had added insult to injury. Not only had this family lost a loved one, they suffered the agony of not knowing what had become of her body. Mary must have felt the same way this young woman’s family felt. She had devoted herself and her livelihood to following Jesus and supporting Him, along with some other women. She had watched helplessly as Jesus was tried, convicted, and crucified. She looked on as His body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Now, she believed that the body of her Lord had been taken. It was almost too much to bear.

When Peter and John left the tomb, Mary remained behind. At first she stood outside the tomb, weeping. She stooped sufficiently to be able to see inside the tomb, apparently for the first time. Two angels were inside, clothed in white. An angel was sitting at each end of the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. From Mary’s response to these angels, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that Mary did not recognize these angels as angels. But then why should she? It is true that in Matthew’s account the one angel who sat on the stone had an appearance that was like lightening (28:3), and this fellow was so awesome the guards were terrified (28:4). But John does not tell us that these two angels were as awesome in appearance as the first angel was. And this should come as no surprise. Often in the Bible, angels simply look like men, so that their appearance alone would not reveal their true identity (see Genesis 18 and 19; Acts 1:10-11; Hebrews 13:2). It would seem that the two angels made no effort to identify themselves as angels, nor even to inform Mary that Jesus was not there. Perhaps it was because our Lord was going to do this personally.

The angels asked Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” The inference is that her tears were not really called for. They were tears of love, and of sorrow, but they were also ill-founded. In Mary’s mind, this was the darkest moment of her life, and yet her tears were based upon false assumptions: that Jesus was dead; that His body had been stolen; that she would not be able to find His body. If Mary had known the real reason why the tomb was empty, she would not have been crying.

Some have suggested that the angels gave a look of recognition when they saw Jesus behind Mary, outside the tomb. We do not know why, but for some reason Mary turned around to gaze at the risen Lord. She saw Him, but she did not recognize Him, in much the same way that I had seen Sally Rackets in the parking lot this past week, but did not recognize her. Mary’s vision may have been obscured by her tears, and Jesus may not have looked exactly the same as He did before His resurrection. He most certainly looked different from the way she saw Him last, from the horrible sight she could not erase from her mind—a badly beaten, bloody figure, who could hardly be recognized for all the abuse His body had taken: “Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:15, NIV).

Jesus asks Mary the same question the angels had asked her moments earlier: “Woman, why are you weeping?”, but He adds a further question, “Who are you looking for?”. Jesus knew why she was weeping. He knew that the empty tomb caused her great grief. He knew that she was seeking His body. His words indicate to Mary that He knows something about her dilemma. Mary’s grief still blinds her to the truth, but she nevertheless seems to discern that this “gardener” holds the key to her quest for the Lord’s body. She pleads with Him to convey any information He may have to her: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him” (verse 15).193

Jesus answered with but one word—“Mary.” For Mary, seeing was not believing, but hearing was. Would you not love to have heard this one word just the way Mary did? That one word was spoken in the voice she knew so well. It was also spoken in the manner she knew so well. What love, what compassion, what healing was conveyed by this one word—“Mary.” I cannot help but recall the words of our Lord, spoken earlier:

1 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow himbecause they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice” (John 10:1-5, emphasis mine).

Immediately Mary recognized that it was her Lord, and called Him “Rabboni” (or teacher). We know from our Lord’s words that Mary has already locked Him in her grasp. It is as though she intended to keep holding on to Him, so that He would never leave her again. And it is because of this that Jesus responds, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17, NAB). I must differ with the NET Bible translation here (“Do not touch me, …”) for two reasons. First, it is not that Jesus could not be touched. In but a few verses we will read, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe’” (John 20:27). Why would Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him, and instruct Thomas to do so? In Matthew 28:9, Jesus allowed the women to take hold of His feet and worship Him. Second, the tense of the imperative is present, and this grammatical construction often conveys the thought of ceasing to do something.194 Jesus is not trying to prevent Mary from touching Him; He is trying to make it clear to her that He is going to leave this world to return to His Father. She should not suppose that by clinging to Him she can prevent His departure.

John does not include the command which Jesus gave to Mary, though it is clear that He instructed her as to what she was to tell the disciples (20:18). She who was the first to go out to the tomb was the first to see the risen Lord, and apparently the first to be privileged to share the good news of His resurrection with others.

Before we go on to the next appearance of our Lord, I would like to make a comment or two. I would like you to note that our Lord’s first appearance is not to one of the eleven disciples, but to Mary Magdalene. She will never be one of the apostles. She will never write a Gospel. She will never become a great preacher or leader. Nevertheless, our Lord chose to manifest Himself to her first. Why do you think this was? I would call your attention to three important factors. First, she had a great love for her Master, as He did for her. Second, she seemed to be the one with the greatest measure of grief. I am reminded of the words of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In the context of this sermon, Jesus did not promise blessings to those who were the greatest, or the most powerful, but to those in the greatest need, with the greatest desire for spiritual things. There is a third reason: Mary was there first. Jesus revealed Himself first to the one who was there first. Mary came to the tomb early, because of her great love, and her great grief, and Jesus revealed Himself to her, first.

I would also like to point out an important lesson which this text teaches us: When we come to see things as they really are, we will find that many of our tears were unnecessary. To put it in different words, Many of our tears are ill-founded. Both the angels and our Lord questioned Mary as to why she was weeping. The reason she gave was that her Lord’s body had been taken, and she did not know where to find it. The truth of the matter was that Jesus was not dead; He had been resurrected. And beyond this, His body was not missing at all, and no one had taken it. Jesus did not need to be found by Mary; Jesus found Mary.

We know that in heaven there will be no more tears: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist” (Revelation 21:4). Why will there be no more tears in heaven? The first answer is because there will no longer be those things which cause us to cry—no more suffering, no more sin, no more injustice, no more death. But the second reason is that we shall then see all of our sorrows in an entirely different light. We shall see them in the context of the perfect work God was achieving through the things which caused us to weep.

When you and I get to heaven, we will see things in a very different light, and when we do, we will discover that many of our tears of sorrow were as groundless as Mary’s tears were. I am not saying that Christians should not cry. What I am saying is that a good deal of our sorrow is the result of our inadequate knowledge of what God is doing in and through our adversities. When Christians get to heaven, they will see the entire picture, and thus they will find that everything that has ever happened to them is for their good and His glory. No wonder there will be no tears in heaven! Our comfort and joy may not come as quickly as Mary’s did, but it will be just as great, just as real, and it is just as certain.

Jesus’ Second Appearance: The Disciples, Minus Thomas (John 20:19-23)

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place for fear of the Jewish authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you!” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And after he said this, he breathed195 on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

John very kindly does not tell us what Mark and Luke record in their accounts—that when the disciples were told that Jesus was alive, they refused to believe it without seeing Him:

9 Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:9-11; see also verses 12-13).

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:10-11).

It was on the first day of the week—the same day that Mary saw Jesus—and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors. They were afraid of the Jews, and rightly so. They were disciples of Jesus, and He had just been crucified for sedition. And now, the story was circulating that they had stolen the body of Jesus (Matthew 28:11-15). Remember that the tomb was sealed by Rome, and guarded by Roman soldiers. The disciples may have felt in greater danger here than on any previous occasion. They must have been deeply troubled by the reports they had heard that Jesus was alive. What were they to think of all this? What were they to do? They did not know.

And so the disciples met together behind locked doors. We are told that one disciple was missing—Thomas. We are not told why he was absent. There is no particular blame cast on him for his absence. In some miraculous way, Jesus enters the room, even though the door is locked. We do not know what the disciples saw, but John certainly leaves us with the impression that our Lord’s entrance was unusual—one more proof of His resurrection. Our Lord twice repeated the words, “Peace be with you” (20:19, 21). This certainly reminds us of what Jesus had said earlier to these men:

25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (John 14:24-29, emphasis mine).

It would appear that this was our Lord’s first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection. If this is so, it may be the same appearance that Luke describes, providing us with additional details:

30 When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” 33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together 34 and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread. 36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a spirit. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see; because a spirit does not have flesh and bones like you see that I have.” 40 Then when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in front of them (Luke 24:30-43, emphasis mine).

Jesus would have appeared to Mary and the other women by now, and they have already announced to the disciples that Jesus was alive. But the disciples refused to believe. Then, the two men who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus arrived to tell the disciples of their encounter with the risen Lord. Once again, the disciples refused to believe:

12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him resurrected (Mark 16:12-14, emphasis mine).

John spares us from yet another account of the unbelief of the disciples, and of Jesus rebuking them for their unbelief. While their unbelief deserved rebuke, John moves on to tell us how Jesus convinced His disciples of His resurrection. He shows them His nail-scarred hands and His spear-pierced side. There was no mistaking the fact that His wounds, now healed, were incurred at His crucifixion. It was Jesus, and there was no denying it, incredible as that may be.

The disciples had a job to do, and they were being left behind so that they could accomplish it. This task is summed up in the “Great Commission”:

18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

To accomplish this task, the disciples are in need of divine enablement. This was promised by our Lord in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16):

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. … 25 I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you” (John 14:15-17, 25-26).

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me; 27 and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 16 In a little while you will see me no longer; again after a little while, you will see me” (John 16:7-16).

I had never noticed before that in His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus does not ask the Father to send the Spirit, which He has promised in chapters 14-16. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is not even mentioned in this prayer! How can this be? I believe that while our Lord prepared His disciples for the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse, He did not intend to send the Spirit until after His ascension. In other words, the Holy Spirit would not come until Pentecost. Some suggest that in our text Jesus is temporarily bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, until Pentecost comes. I don’t agree.

In the first place, John does not report anything out of the ordinary happening as a result of our Lord’s actions. The disciples are not transformed, as they will be at Pentecost. The gospel is not preached. In fact, the next thing to happen in John’s Gospel is that some of the disciples go fishing. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit was immediately bestowed upon the disciples at this moment, as a result of what Jesus says and does. I believe Jesus is symbolically bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, although it will not actually take place until Pentecost. Jesus will have ascended to the Father then, and so this gesture indicates to the disciples that when the Spirit comes at Pentecost, it will be as a result of what Jesus had promised earlier, and symbolically indicates here.

I wish to be very clear here, both as to what I am saying, and as to what I am not saying. I am saying that our Lord is here symbolically bestowing His Holy Spirit on the church. This symbolic act will literally be fulfilled at Pentecost. Jesus wants it to be clear that it is He who is sending His Spirit to indwell and to empower His church. I am not saying that the Spirit is given at the moment Jesus breathes upon His disciples. I am not saying that this is a temporary bestowal of the Spirit, until the permanent coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Specifically, I believe that what Jesus is symbolically bestowing is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples as those who will act as His apostles. Earlier, Jesus outlined some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. For example, the Spirit would call Jesus’ teaching to their minds. He would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. But here, none of these ministries seems to be in view. Here, the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles so that they can either proclaim the forgiveness of sins, or the retention of sins. I do not think this text justifies some priestly hierarchy, who hears confessions and grants absolution from one’s sins. Instead, I believe Jesus is giving the apostles the authority to declare men and women to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. I believe we see an example of this in the Book of Acts:

1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. 11 At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 14 who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles” (Acts 11:1-18, emphasis mine).

It takes a monumental work of God to convince the Jews that God has purposed from eternity past to save Gentiles (see Acts 22:21-23). Our Lord had promised to send the Spirit, which He did at Pentecost. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit directed Peter to go to the house of a Gentile and to proclaim the gospel to those gathered in his house. The Spirit then came upon all those who had come to faith, thus indicating that the gospel (the forgiveness of sins) was not just for Jews alone, but for all who believe, Jew or Gentile. It is difficult for Gentile believers today to grasp how hard it was for Jews to accept the salvation of the Gentiles. Even the apostles found this difficult. As the Spirit came upon the apostles, this truth was embraced, proclaimed, and defended by them. By means of the Spirit’s guidance and illumination, the truth that the gospel was for Jews and Gentiles was declared by the apostles, and particularly by Paul:

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed in the body by hands—12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who turned both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, in his flesh, 15 when he nullified the law of commandments in decrees. The purpose of this was to create in himself the two into one new man, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and non-citizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ. 5 Now this secret was not disclosed to mankind in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8 To me—less than the least of all the saints—this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone about the divine secret’s plan—a secret that has been hidden for ages in the God who has created all things (Ephesians 3:1-9).

Jesus’ Third Appearance: The Disciples, Including Thomas (John 20:24-31)

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” 26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” 28 Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The disciples seem to have been convinced of our Lord’s resurrection, except for Thomas who was not there. He did not see the resurrected Lord, nor did he behold the Savior’s wounded hands and side. And so it was that when Thomas was told that Jesus had appeared to them, he refused to believe. He insisted that in order for him to believe, he would have to see Jesus with his own eyes. He would have to personally inspect the Lord’s nail-pierced hands and His pierced side. Only then would he believe. Before we become too harsh with Thomas, let me remind you that the other disciples did not believe until they saw, either. Thomas is really demanding to see the same things that convinced the others. He is not asking for anything more than what the others saw.

Eight days passed. Apparently Jesus did not appear to any of His disciples during this period of time. The disciples were all together once again, including Thomas. The doors were locked, but in spite of this Jesus arrived and stood in their midst.196 Jesus repeats the greeting He gave at His earlier appearance, “Peace be with you” (verse 26; see also verses 19, 21). Immediately, Jesus turns His attention to Thomas. He summons Thomas to come and to put his finger where the nails had pierced His hands, and to feel His side where the spear had pierced it. He challenged Thomas to forsake his unbelief and to believe.

We do not know whether Thomas actually pressed his fingers into our Lord’s nail-pierced hands or not. Since John does not tell us that Thomas actually felt the wounds of our Lord, it may well be that after seeing Jesus alive he no longer required this proof. It may have taken this sight to convince Thomas, but once convinced, Thomas got it right. He does not merely profess a belief that Jesus has risen from the dead. Thomas professes to believe in what the resurrection proved—that Jesus was God, and that He was Lord (verse 28). Thomas now has it right.

Bible translations handle our Lord’s response differently. Some render the first words of verse 29 as a question, “Have you believed because you have seen Me?” (as does the NET Bible). Others render it as a statement: “Because you have seen me, you have believed” (NIV, KJV, NKJV). The difference is not important. The contrast Jesus seeks to emphasize is between those who must see in order to believe, and those who will believe without seeing. Peter seems to take up this same thought in his first epistle:

8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

It is not too hard to see what John is leading up to. John is writing this Gospel for those who have never seen the risen Lord. He has selected just a few of the many miraculous signs Jesus performed to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be, who John proclaims Him to be.

The Bottom Line: Believing Jesus Is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31)

30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

If there is one thing I despise, it is deceptive advertising. I hate those phone calls that come from unidentified (“out of the area”) sources, which begin with the assurance that the caller is not “selling” anything. John could not be more open and direct about the purpose of this book. I believe John has two conclusions. The first is found in chapter 20. It is aimed at those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. The second is aimed at those who have believed, and it is found in chapter 21.

In our text, John informs his unbelieving readers about the “bottom line” of all that he has written. John has one goal for the unbeliever: He wants to demonstrate as clearly and as forcefully as he can that Jesus not only claimed to be the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God, but that by many miraculous signs He proved it! The last and greatest of these signs was His resurrection from the dead:

38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; yet something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The Queen of the South will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; yet something greater than Solomon is here! (Matthew 12:38-42).

While the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was prophesied in the Old Testament, and by our Lord Himself, John makes it very clear that the disciples were not predisposed to believe it. Only after the most forceful and compelling evidence would the disciples believe Jesus really was alive. And having become convinced of this great truth, the disciples never ceased to proclaim it. The resurrection of Jesus is the final and compelling proof that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world:

1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 that he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with respect to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1-4).

Believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, is the only way God has provided for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life. By believing in Him, you will be saved:

9 Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has a right standing and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God (John 1:11-13).

In many ways, the Gospel of John is not a simple book. But its message to the unsaved is incredibly simple, and John sums it up in these last verses of chapter 20. If you have never come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, then John has written this book to you, and for you, to give you all the evidence you need to believe in Him. Have you believed? This is the most important decision you will ever make. It determines your eternal destiny.


193 Some have criticized Mary for being so nave as to assume she will be able to carry away the body of our Lord. They are missing the point. She is not thinking in terms of logistics here. She is simply saying that if this “gardener” will tell her where to find the body, she will see to it that it is returned to its proper place. Of course she will get help to accomplish this. For now, she just wants to know where His body has been placed.

194 A. T. Robertson comments, “Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet … and worship … as we read in Mt 28:9. The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness.” Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 6 vols. Vol. V, p. 312.

195 I am reminded that the breath of God is the source of life (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 33:6; Ezekiel 37:9), even as it is also the means of divine judgment (2 Samuel 22:16; Job 4:9; Psalm 18:15). The breath of God is sometimes a symbol for His Spirit (Job 33:4). In a symbolic way, our Lord is breathing life into His church.

Both the NET Bible and the NIV smooth out the translation here. The NIV reads: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 14:26). Both the old and the new King James Versions and the NAS leave the translation a bit rough, in order to convey the unusual word order: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (NAS). “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’” (NKJ). The original text seems to be emphasizing the fact that Jesus entered the room, in spite of the fact that the doors were shut and locked. (On seeing and believing, http://www.bible.org)

R C Sproul – Christ has risen! So what?

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Christ has risen from the dead! But so what? What does that have to do with our lives right now? On this edition of Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul will explain the temporal and eternal benefits that flow from Christ’s resurrection.

What does the resurrection of Jesus Christ have to do with you?

Revelation 21:1-8

The New Heaven and the New Earth

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God iswith men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,“Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Sproul: Every year we focus on the Resurrection, not merely for ecclesiastical reasons but as the central point of our faith and of our hope. We affirm that He is risen and the question I want to explore is this one: So what? What difference does it make that Christ has been raised from the dead?

Published on Apr 13, 2012 by  (22 minutes)

Defending the Ressurection (via) Justin Holcomb, the Resurgence

by Justin Holcomb at the Resurgence

Of all the teachings of Christianity, no doctrine is more central than the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Put bluntly, if Jesus Christ claimed to be the savior but remains dead in a tomb after a brutal crucifixion, his claims were, and are, meaningless. However, if Jesus did rise from death, then his claims to deity, his bearing the penalty of our sins in our place on the cross, and his statements about the afterlife are vindicated.

No future without the resurrection

Without the resurrection, Christians have no savior and are left without hope of a future resurrection, since Christ himself did not rise. Paul writes in 1 Cointhians 15:14 and 17, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” On this basis alone, it is fair to say that Paul saw the resurrection as the lynchpin of the Christian faith.

Throughout the history of the church, the truth of the resurrection has been attacked from every angle. New books and television media appear questioning the truth of the resurrection, by re-hashing old theories about what happened to Jesus’ body. Since the resurrection is crucial to Christianity, Christians ought to be concerned with giving an apologetic defense of it.

Historically credible accounts

The first step is defending the resurrection from the detractors is to establish the fact of the historical events that took place as conveyed in the Gospels.  As William Lane Craig notes in his book Reasonable Faith, “The issue is whether the gospel narratives are historically credible accounts or unhistorical legends.”

The resurrection can be defended by showing that the Gospel accounts were:

  1. authentic—that they were written by the authors who claimed them
  2. pure—that they were not changed from their original form
  3. reliable—that the apostles were neither deceived nor deceivers

Even Bart Ehrman, the notorious New Testament critic, says that “we can say with some confidence that some of his disciples claimed to have seen Jesus alive.”

Not only an empty tomb

In his impressive book The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright establishes the fact of the historical events that took place as conveyed in the Gospels. He sketches a map of ancient beliefs about life after death in both the Greco-Roman and Jewish worlds. He then highlights the fact that the early Christians’ belief about the afterlife belonged firmly on the Jewish spectrum, while introducing several new mutations and sharper definitions. This, together with other features of early Christianity, forces the historian to read the Easter narratives in the Gospels, not simply as late rationalizations of early Christian spirituality, but as accounts of two actual events: the empty tomb of Jesus and his appearances.

Since the resurrection is crucial to Christianity, Christians ought to be concerned with giving an apologetic defense of it.

The Gospel accounts are historically credible, not merely mythological legends embellished over time.

In the next two posts, we will see that the resurrection is the best explanation of the historical events, over and against rival hypotheses.

A defense of the resurrection must give evidence for the historical validity of the events described in the New Testament, and it must show how the resurrection of Jesus provides the best explanation for this historical data. In this post we will focus on the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.

The empty tomb

One of the easiest parts of the resurrection data to establish is the fact that the tomb is empty. Because the location of Jesus’ burial was known to those living in Jerusalem, it would have been unlikely that they would have believed the Apostolic preaching of the resurrection of Christ if there was not an empty tomb. Jesus’ burial is widely attested in early, independent testimonies, both biblical and extra-biblical.

Furthermore, as is often noted, women were not considered reliable witnesses in first century Jewish culture, so it would have been foolish for the authors to have fictionally constructed an account involving women in order to gain credibility.

The person who wishes to deny the resurrection of Christ is left with the unexplained mystery of the empty tomb that existed three days after his death.

Matthew 28:11–15 speaks of a myth that was spread among the Jews concerning the body of Christ. Apparently the Jews were saying the disciples stole the body of Christ. This is significant because the Jews did not deny the tomb was empty, but instead sought an alternative explanation to the resurrection. The emptiness of the tomb is a widely attested historical fact.

Just because the tomb of Christ was empty does not necessarily mean the resurrection happened. Indeed, there have been four alternative hypotheses to resurrection that have been advanced over the years.

Conspiracy theory

First, some offer the conspiracy hypothesis, which says the disciples stole the body of Christ and continued to lie about his appearances to them. On this account, the resurrection was a hoax.

This hypothesis is not commonly held in modern scholarship for several reasons:

  1. This hypothesis does not take into account that the disciples believed in the resurrection. It is highly unlikely that numerous disciples would have been willing to give their lives defending a fabrication.
  2. It is unlikely that the idea of resurrection would have entered the minds of the disciples, as such an event was not connected to the Jewish idea of a Messiah. The scholar William Lane Craig writes, “If your favorite Messiah got himself crucified, then you either went home or else you got yourself a new Messiah. But the idea of stealing Jesus’ corpse and saying that God has raised him from the dead is hardly one that would have entered the minds of the disciples.”
  3. This hypothesis cannot account for the post-resurrection appearances of Christ.

Apparent death

The second hypothesis attempting to explain away the resurrection is the apparent death hypothesis. This view says Jesus was not completely dead when he was removed from the cross. Once in the tomb, Jesus was revived and escaped, thus convincing the disciples of his resurrection.

This view is difficult to hold for a few reasons:

  1. It is unlikely that a half-dead man would have been capable of even getting up to walk, much less moving the stone that sealed the tomb, over-powering Roman guards, and fleeing from sight.
  2. This theory cannot account for the disciples’ attribution of resurrection to Christ, for if they had seen him after he was revived, they would have merely thought he had never died.
  3. It is also foolish to think the Romans, who had perfected the art of killing people, would have let one slip by without ensuring he was dead.
  4. Finally, given the physical torture described in the Gospel accounts, it is highly unlikely that Jesus could have survived.

Wrong tomb

Third, the wrong tomb hypothesis suggests the women had gotten lost on their way to the empty tomb and accidentally stumbled upon the caretaker of an empty tomb. When the caretaker said, “Jesus is not here,” the women were so disoriented they fled, their story later being developed into a resurrection myth.

Like the other theories, virtually no one holds to this view. There are at least three reasons:

  1. First, this theory does not explain the post-resurrection appearances, and it is spurious to think that such a simple mistake would have led a first-century Jew to think a resurrection had happened.
  2. In light of the early evidence that is available concerning the location of Jesus’ tomb, it is almost impossible that the women would have confused its location.
  3. This hypothesis emphasizes that the caretaker of the tomb said that Christ was not there, but it passes over the next phrase: “He is risen!”

Displaced body

Fourth, some propose the displaced body hypothesis to explain Jesus’ resurrection. This theory says Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus’ body in his own tomb but later moved it to the criminal’s graveyard. The disciples were not aware that Jesus’ body had been moved and therefore wrongly inferred that he had risen from the dead.

Because of the spurious nature of this theory, virtually no modern scholars hold to it:

  1. This theory cannot account for the post-resurrection appearances of Christ or the origin of the Christian faith.
  2. It is uncertain why Joseph would not have corrected the error of the disciples by simply showing them where he had moved the body of Jesus.
  3. The criminal graveyard, most likely, was quite close to the crucifixion site, so it would have made little sense why Joseph would not have simply buried Jesus there in the first place. In fact, it was against Jewish law to allow a body to be moved after it had already been buried.

The resurrection really happened

In light of these failed hypotheses that attempt to disprove the resurrection, the person who wishes to deny the resurrection of Christ is left with the unexplained mystery of the empty tomb that existed three days after his death.

A defense of the resurrection must give evidence for the historical validity of the events described in the New Testament, and it must show how the resurrection of Jesus provides the best explanation for this historical data.

The Post-Resurrection Appearances

In 1 Cor. 15:3-8, Paul says that Jesus appeared to Cephas, the Twelve, more than five hundred people at once, James, all the apostles, and finally to Paul himself. 1 Corinthians, an authentic letter composed by a man acquainted with the first disciples, actually claims that people saw Jesus after his death.

Because of the specificity of the list that Paul puts forth, it is fairly indisputable that Jesus actually appeared to the people that Paul mentions. The gospels all speak of post-resurrection appearances of Christ. It would be quite ridiculous to suggest that each of these events was a hallucination. Few scholars argue, therefore, that on different occasions different groups of people had experiences of seeing Jesus. They therefore question whether the experiences were actual physical, bodily appearances of Christ. However, Paul leaves no room for a merely psychological experience. His theology of the resurrected body ensures that he meant that Christ actually, physically appeared. This is confirmed by the gospel accounts. In light of this evidence, one can be certain of the fact that Jesus appeared to the people mentioned in 1 Cor. 15 after his bodily resurrection.

A Plausible Explanation

The resurrection is the most plausible explanation for the postmortem appearances of Christ. The alternative—the hallucination hypothesis—says nothing to explain the empty tomb. Nor does it explain the disciples’ belief in the resurrection. In typical psychological postmortem experiences, the person having the experience rarely would think that a dead person actually returned physically to life. As N.T. Wright argues, postmortem appearances in the ancient world would be more evidence that the person was dead than that he was alive.

Because of the diversity of appearances catalogued, it is highly unlikely that the hallucination theory can be held. Therefore, the physical resurrection of Jesus proves to be the best explanation for the postmortem appearances described in 1 Cor. 15.

The Origin of the Christian Faith

The fact that Christianity started and grew is evidence for the resurrection. William Lane Craig writes: “Even skeptical New Testament scholars admit that the earliest disciples at least believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead.” For Jews, the Messiah was viewed as a figure that would be triumphant and rule on David’s throne, not a figure that would be crucified and die.

The resurrection undid the catastrophe of the crucifixion. The Messiah, who had died, is risen! The resurrection validated and verified the claims that Christ had made about his own identity. The origin of Christianity rests solely on the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

The resurrection validated and verified the claims that Christ had made about his own identity. 

To deny that the resurrection was the cause of the Christian faith, an alternative explanation must be given.  But there is no plausible alternative. Therefore, “Even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that the tomb was somehow emptied and the disciples saw hallucinations—suppositions which we have seen to be false anyway—the origin of the belief in Jesus’ resurrection still cannot be plausibly explained” (Craig).

Come Let Us Reason…

It stands to reason that Jesus Christ did in fact rise from the dead victoriously on the third day after his death. No alternative hypothesis can adequately explain the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances of Jesus, and the origin of the Christian faith. For this reason, one has no good reasons why not to accept this most central element of Christianity.

Where is Your Theology of the Resurrection? John Hendryx

John Hendryx (via) Monergism

Recently I have been pondering the question: why in traditional theological circles is there such a lack of emphasis on the theology of the resurrection yet so much stress on Christ’s death? Not to de-emphasize his atoning death but this oversight is especialy curious in light of the fact that in the New Testament there appears to be a great importance placed on the resurrection, at least, it seems, equal in emphasis to Christ’s death, but we don’t talk about or theologize about it much … why? I have to ask because the implications of Christ’s resurrection is a critical part of Christ’s redemptive work in and for us.

In light of the resurrection of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15 speaks of our present victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the work of Christ in his resurrection Paul is able to say in verse 58, „Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” As we participate in his resurrection now and are seated with him at God’s right hand, where He reigns over all his enemies, including the world, the flesh, the devil and death, then, in light of this, this should somehow translate to our living in the world now.

We rightly place a great deal of stress on Christ’s death and atoning sacrifice but often seem to leave off the saving dimension of Christ’s resurrection. The finished work of Christ includes both his death and resurrection in NT biblical theology, because we would still be in our sins if Christ has not been raised from the dead according to the same 1 Corinthians passage. In seminaries and theology books very little space seems to be devoted to this, to a degree we should find alarming. Any victory we have now is from the life which Christ gives our mortal bodies in His resurrection (Rom 8:11). In Rom. 6 Paul also states that we are baptized into Christ’s resurrection, which is the power that saves us through regeneration. It is not only what gives us a new heart that we might be raised up from being spiritually dead and so believe the gospel, but grants us the power to live a new life, have spiritual affections for Christ and the grace to live a godly life because of the ethical change that has taken place within us. The disposition in us toward death has been crushed by Jesus’ resurrection.

Since the „last days” were inaugurated with Christ’s resurrection, we are living in the already/not yet time where Christ’s victory over death is being worked out in and through us. There is no such thing, therefore, as Christian who lives in sin as a lifestyle. The resurrected Lord who lives in us is greater than he who is in the world. We may be deceived for a time, but the Spirit working in us compells us to cry ABBA Father and look to Christ in faith for the victory and mortification of any besetting sin. But we cannot do this as individuals since Christ has established his church as the agency for advancing his kingdom rule on earth (Eph 1:22). God calls us to do this through the weakness of preaching the gospel through which he will confound worldly powers and destroy all vain speculations.

It is important to note Paul use of the word „firstfruits” in 1 Cor 15. Without historical background this may not make sense, but what it points to is the Jewish feasts of Passover and Pentecost, each of which had the first fruits of the harvest given to the Lord. These firstfruits were a sign of the full harvest that would come soon after. Of course, more to the point, these festivals were in the Jewish calendar to remember Israel being freed from Egyptian slavery (Passover) and the giving of the Law at Sinai (Pentecost). Here in 1 Cor. 15 Paul is saying that the Christ is our Passover, the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead … with many more to follow. This is an act of God’s grace alone, not something we work toward, yet that grace, that resurrection which we are untied to in Christ compels us to work, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved. There is nothing natural about this. Christ has saved us completely with no contribution owing to ourselves. His kingdom now reigns in His people and He is extending it by redeeming people and the creation through us. Even now, according to the Scriptures, all powers are being subjected to Christ with death being the last enemy.

As we can see that this is no small matter which has profound theological and pastoral implications. There I would challenge and encourage the Reformed community to develop a more robust biblical theology of the resurrection.

J.W.H.

Posted by John on April 24, 2008

But Christ Has Been Raised, You Are Not Still In Your Sins on Desiring God

John Piper, to listen to the audio click But Christ Has Been Raised, You Are Not Still In Your Sins on Desiring God.

1 Corinthians 15:17-20

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

Review

Two weeks ago we asked the question, „What is forgiveness? What does it look like when it happens?” To answer we used a definition from Thomas Watson: forgiving those who have wronged us includes

  1. resisting revenge,
  2. not returning evil for evil,
  3. wishing them well,
  4. grieving at their calamities,
  5. praying for their welfare,
  6. seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you,
  7. and coming to their aid in distress.

Then last week we asked, „How can we do this? Where do we get the freedom and the power to act in a way that crosses our nature?” Forgiving is to a fallen human heart what flying is to a heavy human body. How can we do this flying? We took our clue from John Bunyan’s poem:

Run, John, run, the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands,
Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings.

The gospel bids us fly—it commands us to forgive those who have wronged us. But it also gives us wings. Last week we saw two gospel wings with three feathers each in Ephesians 4:32–5:2.

Wing #1: What God did for us before we were born

  1. God loved us with a special saving love before we were born.
  2. Christ died for us with a special covenant purpose of taking us for his bride.
  3. This sacrifice for us was a sweet aroma to God and he was satisfied with it.

Wing #2: What God did for us during our lifetime

  1. God put us into a relationship with Christ so that his death and righteousness count for us.
  2. God adopted us into his eternal family.
  3. God forgave all our sins.

If we really believe these six things, if we rest in them and get our hope and our joy from them, we will be able to do the gospel-flying called forgiveness. If these things are true, we can forgive. If these things are true, we can endure anything. If these things are true, we can go on giving and giving and giving 70 times 7, because the love of God and the sacrifice of Christ and the inheritance we have as God’s children are inexhaustible.

The Resurrection: A Reward for Jesus’ Sacrifice

Now the question I ask today, on this Easter Sunday morning, is this: „If all this gospel-flying—this power to live in love and forgive those who wrong us—if this is accomplished by the love of God and the death of Jesus, then what does the resurrection of Jesus from the dead add to it?”

To answer this let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:17, „If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

If Christ Was Not Raised, You’re Still in Your Sins

To be „in your sins” is the opposite of being „in Christ.” When we are „in Christ,” we get what Christ can do for us, namely, eternal life. When we are „in [our] sins,” we get what sins can do for us, namely, eternal condemnation and death (Romans 6:20–23).

Paul says, „If Christ has not been raised . . . you are still in your sins.” We are still bearing our guilt, still under condemnation, still alienated from God, still unforgiven.

Why Is This So?

But why is this if the death of Jesus satisfied the Father (as we saw last week)? If it’s true that „every debt that you ever had has been paid up in full by the blood of the Lamb” (not the resurrection of the Lamb, cf. Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7), then why are we still in our sins if the Lamb does not rise from the dead?

The answer—or at least an essential part of the answer—is that the resurrection of Jesus is the reward of his sacrifice. And if the reward is not given, it’s because the sacrifice is deficient. And if the sacrifice is deficient, we are still in our sins.

Easter and Being Forgiving People

So you can see that the point of Easter is tremendously relevant to whether we can be a forgiving people or not. If Christ has not been raised, then all the gospel feathers in the wings that support gospel-flying (forgiving) are defective. If God will not let his own Son fly from the tomb and take his seat at the Father’s right hand in glory, it’s because his sacrifice for our sins was defective. It won’t work. We are still in our sins. John Bunyan was wrong. The gospel does not bring us better news: it bids us fly, but it does not give us wings.

So the resurrection of Jesus is tremendously important for our capacity to forgive one another. It is the reward that God gives to his Son precisely because his sacrifice is so totally sufficient for our forgiveness and for our power to forgive.

Hebrews 13:20–21a

Let me try to show some of the evidence that the resurrection of Jesus is the reward of his sacrifice. The book of Hebrews makes this plain in three different places. Start at the end of the book. In Hebrews 13:20–21a it says, „Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will.”

This sounds like Jesus died for himself. Look at it again: „[God] brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep [that is, he raised Christ from the dead] through [by means of] the blood of the eternal covenant.” Christ was raised from the dead through his own blood!

But we know from this same book—especially from this book (Hebrews 4:15; 5:9; 7:26, 28; 9:14)—that Christ was without sin and did not need anyone to die for him, not even himself! So when it says in 13:20 that God raised him from the dead „through the blood of the eternal covenant,” I take it to mean that his sacrifice so perfectly secured his covenant promises for his people that God rewarded him with resurrection to carry those promises into eternal force.

So the resurrection of Jesus validates the infinite value of the blood of Jesus. If he is raised, the sacrifice was sufficient, and you are not still in your sins. There is gospel-flying.

Hebrews 2:9b

Another text that shows this is Hebrews 2:9b, „He has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor.” There it is again: „Because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor.” The glory and honor that Jesus received in the resurrection and ascension was „because of his suffering and death.” His resurrection was the reward of his suffering.

Therefore if he has not been raised, then it is because God does not regard his sacrifice as worth rewarding. It is defective. And we are still in our sins.

Hebrews 10:12–14

We get an even deeper insight into this rewarding of the Son in Hebrews 10:12–14, „He [Christ], having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God [there’s the connection between the sacrifice and the resurrection, but he’s going to say how they are connected], waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For [crucial word! „because”] by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

Now we can see the connection between the offering Jesus made and his resurrection: Verse 12, „Having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God [he was raised!] . . . (v. 14) FOR [because] by that one offering he perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

In other words the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins was so complete that he perfected us for all time by that one sacrifice. This is awesome—all sins forgiven, past, present, future on the basis of one sacrifice. All God’s people who by faith in Jesus are being progressively sanctified now have in fact been definitively, perfected before God for all time—and that by ONE sacrifice, the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus of his own blood.

Therefore—for this reason—he sat down at the right hand of God. The resurrection was the Father’s reward for such an utterly complete and marvelous work on the cross.

If Christ had not been raised from the dead, we would still be in our sins because that would mean his sacrifice was deficient. But he has been raised and the point of all these texts is that this resurrection is the reward for his sacrifice and a validation of its utter perfection and sufficiency to make us perfect before God.

Isaiah 53:10–12

We could go to Philippians 2:6–11 and see the same thing where Paul says that since Christ emptied himself and was obedient unto death, THEREFORE God has highly exalted him and given him a name above every name.

But I think it might strengthen our faith even more if we go to an Old Testament prophecy and see the truth of Christ’s resurrection and, even there 700 years before the event, its connection to the sacrifice of Christ. Even Isaiah (53:10–12) saw that the resurrection of the Servant of the Lord would be the reward of his suffering, and the proof that his suffering was sufficient to justify his people. Notice the crucial connections as I read

The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if [note this „if”] He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days [that’s the resurrection!—”if” he gives himself as an offering], and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of [notice again the connection] the anguish of His soul, He will see it [its fruit] and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore [i.e., because he justified many by bearing their iniquities] I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong [this is the reward of resurrection], because [here it is one last time, „because”] He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

So already 700 years before the death and resurrection of Christ Isaiah saw them and the connection he saw was that the resurrection of Christ was the reward of his sacrifice and the validation of his suffering to cover sin.

  • If he would render himself as a guilt offering, THEN he will see his offspring, he will prolong his days.
  • As a result of the anguish of his soul, he will be satisfied (with its fruit in resurrection).
  • Because he bears the sins of many, THEREFORE God will allot him a portion with the great.
  • He will divide the booty with the strong BECAUSE he poured out his life to death.

Summary

So we come back from Hebrews and Philippians and Isaiah to our original question from 1 Corinthians 15:17: If it’s the blood of Christ, the death of Christ, that covers all our sins and justifies us before God, then why are we still in our sins if the Christ does not rise from the dead?

The answer we have seen is this: the resurrection of Jesus is the reward of his sacrifice. It is the proof of how perfect and all-sufficient his sacrifice was. Therefore if God does not give the reward, it is because the sacrifice is defective and our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. The gospel gives no wings and we are left unforgiven and unforgiving.

But the message of Easter is the shout of 1 Corinthians 15:20, „But Christ has been raised.” And Paul gives the evidence for it in 1 Corinthians 15:5–8—the people Christ appeared to: individuals, small groups, a large group, many of whom were still alive as Paul wrote so that the Corinthians could investigate his claim, „But Christ has been raised.”

Therefore our faith is not futile and we are not still in our sins and we are not unforgiven and we need not be—indeed, cannot be—unforgiving. The gospel does give wings:

Far better news the Gospel brings,
It bids us fly and gives us wings.

Doubt not his sacrifice can save,
God sealed it with an empty grave.
And by his blood and life we live
And now have freedom to forgive.

The resurrection of Jesus is an exclamation point of God’s joy and celebration of all that Christ did for us in his dying. Christ is alive today for this reason: to deliver to us personally and powerfully everything he died to obtain. Including the joy of being forgiven and the doubled joy of being forgivers.

To acknowledge this and embrace it and celebrate it, would you sing with me these words (to the tune of „Be Still My Soul”):

I then shall live as one who’s been forgiven;
I’ll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.
I know my name is clear before my Father:
I am His child, and I am not afraid.
So greatly pardoned, I’ll forgive another;
The law of love I gladly will obey.

John Piper @Desiring God Website DesiringGod.org

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