Wednesday, November 25, 2015

5 Reasons Jesus Rose from the Dead - Tuesday - The Daily Diary of a Bible Blogger



In this article, I want to share with you five reasons I believe Jesus' resurrection actually took place. 

You can remember these five reasons with the acronym:

R.I.S.E.N.

The first reason I believe Jesus' resurrection is a fact of history is… 

1. The RISE of Christianity in Jerusalem

It is an accepted historical fact that the Christian faith (a religion built upon the preaching of the resurrection of its leader) originated in approximately A.D. 32 right in the very city of Jerusalem where Jesus had been publicly crucified and buried. This has been verified by historical sources outside the Bible. Now, this in itself is a good piece of evidence that the resurrection actually occurred. Why?

Because a message calling people to repent and put their faith in a risen man could never have gained any substantial following amongst the Jews if the tomb had not actually been empty and had the Jewish people not seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion.

'The message of a risen man, could not have been maintained a moment in Jerusalem if the grave was still occupied,' Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, 232.

Remember that Jesus' disciples did not run off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ rose from the dead, where the facts could not be verified. They went right back to the city of Jerusalem where they would have been quickly exposed and disproved—if what they were teaching was false. The critics could have exposed the disciples as liars and Christianity would never have got off of the ground. The local authorities could have said, “Hey! Here is the grave and the body!!!” and squashed the whole movement.

But that never happened! And not only did Christianity originate in Jerusalem, it thrived there!

Luke, whose writings have been confirmed by numerous extrabiblical writings and archaeological discoveries, tells us that 3,000 people believed the first post-resurrection sermon preached a few minutes’ walk from the tomb, Acts 2:41. Later in the same chapter in Acts 2, Luke says that the church was growing daily, Acts 2:47. By Acts 4:4, Luke declares there were 5,000 believers comprising the early Christian church in Jerusalem. By Acts 6:7, Luke just says the number of disciples “continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem", he was apparently losing count!

Not only did Christianity originate and flourish in Jerusalem, it went on to triumph over a number of competing ideologies and eventually overwhelm the entire Roman Empire.
By the early fourth century, when the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, historians say there were around thirty million Christians, Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity, 156; Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, 297.

Here's a question for you. Is it reasonable to suppose that thousands of people within those early days following Jesus' death were actually deceived into believing a man rose from the dead? I don’t think so.

The best explanation for the immediate rise of the early church, right in the midst of a community that had not only been hostile to Jesus, but that demanded His crucifixion, is the resurrection. People had seen Jesus! Acts 1:3 says that Jesus “presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” 

The resurrection catapulted New Testament Christianity into existence. So, the first reason I believe in Christ’s resurrection is: The Rise of Christianity in Jerusalem 

2. The INCREDIBLE Persecution and Deaths Endured by the Disciples

When Jesus was arrested and led away to be crucified, the Gospels tell us that His disciples…

• fled in fear (Matthew 26:56)
• went into hiding (John 20:19)
• lost hope (Luke 24:21

A short time later, we read that something amazing happened. These same fearful men went through a dramatic transformation. Within a few weeks of Jesus' crucifixion, these same men were standing face to face with the people who had crucified their leader, preaching that Jesus was alive, telling people that they needed to turn from their wicked ways and know that Jesus was both Messiah and Lord, Acts 2:36-38

To prevent this belief from spreading, the same authorities who had Jesus crucified…   
     
• threatened the disciples
• flogged them
• beat them
• imprisoned them
• and forbade them to speak the name of Jesus see  Acts 4:16-185:28.

So what did the disciples do? They got back up and said to the Jewish leaders, “We must obey God rather than men, Acts 5:29.”

After saying “We must obey God rather than men,” they then went on “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. Every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ, Acts 5:41-42.”

But their boldness had a cost.

Flavius Josephus, Eusebius, Tertullian, and other independent extra-biblical sources record for us that many of Jesus’ earliest followers, including the apostles, suffered intense persecution and even death for their on-going belief and preaching that Jesus was Lord and was risen from the dead. We are told in these extrabiblical sources that...

  • Matthew was slain with a sword in a city of Ethiopia
  • Mark died in Alexandria, in Northern Egypt after having been cruelly dragged through the streets of that city. 
  • Luke was hung upon an olive tree in the land of Greece
  • John was tortured and banished to the isle of Patmos, Revelation 1:9
  • James, the brother of John, was beheaded in Jerusalem, Acts 12:2
  • James the Less, as he’s called in Mark 15:40, was thrown from a pinnacle of the temple
  • Philip was hung up against a pillar at Heiropolis in the province of Phrygia 
  • Bartholomew was flayed alive
  • Andrew was bound to a cross, and left to die
  • Jude was shot to death with arrows
  • Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace Judas, was first stoned, and then beheaded
  • Barnabas was stoned to death by the Jews at Salonica
  • Paul, after a variety of tortures and imprisonments, was finally beheaded in Rome 
  • Thomas was run through the body with a spear in east India
  • Peter was crucified upside down in Rome


All of this is very sobering isn't it?

Here's a question for you. Were these men lying?

I find it very difficult to believe these men “made up a story” about Jesus and then spent years enduring persecution, imprisonments, and such, only to die these kinds of painful deaths. Nobody lies to get themselves into these kinds of predicaments! People lie to get out of these kinds of things!

Well, the fact that these men laid down their lives, unwilling to recant or admit falsehood in the face of beatings, stonings and torture is another reason I believe the resurrection actually took place.

3. The SHIFT in Beliefs and Practices by Thousands of Jews

Shortly after Jesus' death, thousands of Jews in Jerusalem and the surrounding region began abandoning at least five cherished beliefs and practices.

The beliefs and practices they abandoned had been taught to them from childhood by their rabbis and parents. They were beliefs and practices that had given them their national identity and allowed them to be accepted by society. They were beliefs and practices that had even given them a supposed right standing with God. 

Let's look at the beliefs and practices that thousands of Jews began to abandon?

A. The Practice of Bringing Sacrifices to the Temple

Thousands of Jews, who had for centuries been going to the temple to sacrifice animals as a way of having their sins covered, suddenly stopped! Why? What would explain such a major shift in behaviour?

They realized that Jesus was “the lamb of God”, John 1:36, who took away the sins of the world. They realized that all of those Old Testament sacrifices were “only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come”, Heb. 10:1, a foreshadowing of what God would accomplish through His Son’s death. They had heard of, if not seen with their own eyes, the veil that had been ripped miraculously from the top down there in the temple, Mark 15:38. They remembered that Jesus had told them that the temple was even going to be destroyed, Matthew 24:2. And so they realized things had changed. They realized they were living under a new covenant with God.

If they were mistaken, abandoning the sacrificial system would jeopardize their well-being socially and spiritually. And yet thousands of Jews began to do that very thing. And they didn’t stop there. Thousands of Jews began to change…

B. Their Sabbath Day Worship From Saturdays to Sundays

The Sabbath of course for the Jews was not only a day they were to rest from physical labor, it became a day when the Jews would meet together in the synagogue, worship God together, and study His Word. They had been doing it on the seventh day of the week (Saturdays) for some 1500 years!

But now, almost over night, thousands of Jews began meeting on a new day—the first day of the week, Acts 20:71 Cor. 16:2, a day they began to call “the Lord’s Day", Rev. 1:10. Why did they call it “the Lord’s Day”? Because that was the day of the week Jesus rose from the dead, Matt. 28:1.

So, thousands of Jews, including the disciples, said, ‘Let’s start meeting on that day in commemoration of our risen Lord!’ And they even opened up their meetings to Gentiles, Acts 15!

These Jews, who made up the early church, believed that the coming of the Messiah, along with His death and resurrection, cleared the way for a new relationship with God. One that was based, not on bringing sacrifices to the temple or on keeping the Mosaic law, but on the sin-bearing, life-giving help of a resurrected Saviour.

These beliefs and practices the Jews abandoned are a third line of evidence that Jesus' resurrection actually took place! Now, obviously, a lot more could be said about this. If you’d like to do further research into these and other beliefs and practices the Jews abandoned, I recommend reading Lee Strobel’s excellent, award-winning book The Case for Christ.

 4. The EVIDENCE for the Trustworthiness of the Bible

The account of the resurrection was not passed down to us in a supermarket tabloid or via a long chain of people playing “the telephone game.” It was passed down to us in a sober-minded, collection of historical documents that were written by eyewitnesses in the first century A.D.

This collection of documents making up the New Testament has been validated by a wealth of different evidences:

• Fulfilled prophecies
• Scientific discoveries
• Extrabiblical writings
• Manuscript evidence
• Archaeological discoveries 

Finally, there’s a fifth reason I believe in the resurrection (the N in our acronym R.I.S.E.N.)... 

5. NONE of the Skeptics’ Theories for the Empty Tomb Are Convincing

Even skeptical scholars acknowledge that the tomb of Jesus was empty. As I mentioned earlier, there is no way that Christianity could have ever got off the ground if Jesus' tomb was still occupied. The Roman authorities or Jewish leaders could have just gone to the tomb and paraded the body around downtown Jerusalem for everyone to see and squashed the whole movement. So, the tomb was empty. There’s really no questioning that. But critics have come up with other theories to explain the empty tomb…none of which is convincing. Let’s consider some of their theories. The first theory is the... 

A. Jesus is a Myth Theory

Some critics of the Bible say “The reason why His tomb was empty is because He never even existed. The whole story about Him being a real person was made up by some clever deceivers back in the first century.”

Now, you’ll never hear a respected historian or scholar suggest this. But the “Jesus is a myth” theory has gained a lot of momentum as of late on the Internet. Well, the idea that Jesus never existed is ludicrous! Why? In addition to the 27 New Testament documents that tell us about Him, there are a wealth of extrabiblical sources that mention Him. Did you realize that? 

Jesus is referred to by more then 30 sources outside of the Bible within 150 years of His life. These sources reveal to us more than 100 facts about Jesus' life, teachings, death and resurrection. 

Some of these sources include first century historians like: 

• Flavius Josephus
• Cornelius Tacitus
• Suetonious
• as well as the Jewish Talmud 

The Talmud is a compilation of Jewish teachings that were passed down from generation to generation and then organized and compiled after the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70. The Talmud mentions Jesus. Here is one excerpt:

“On the eve of Passover Yeshu [a Hebrew word for Jesus] was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!” (Sanhedrin 43a) 

Not only does the Talmud mention Jesus, it mentions His crucifixion and even says it occurred at the time of the Passover—the very time the New Testament says it occurred. 

So even the Jews, who rejected Jesus as their Messiah, mentioned that He existed! So, the “Jesus is a Myth” theory utterly fails as an explanation for the empty tomb. Surely He did exist!

A second theory to explain the empty tomb is the… 

B. The Stolen Body Theory

This theory suggests that the tomb was empty there in Jerusalem because Jesus' disciples stole His body. But the “stolen body theory” raises some difficult questions: 

How could the disciples have stolen the body? 

That would have required sneaking past an armed and trained detachment of Roman soldiers, breaking the Roman seal that was put upon the stone, Matt. 27:66, then moving a two-ton stone away from the entry to the tomb without being detected. Certainly the Roman guards that Pilate put on guard at the tomb, Matt. 27:65, to prevent this kind of thing from happening would have heard something and quickly put an end to the attempted thievery. 

The Roman soldiers standing guard at the tomb were trained in the art of defense and killing. 

I find it hard to believe that the disciples who fled in fear when Jesus was arrested would risk their lives trying to steal a dead body from the very people who had three days earlier executed their leader. 

Another difficult question “the stolen body theory” brings up is this: Why would the disciples steal Jesus' body? What benefit would come to them for doing that? Is it reasonable to believe that the disciples stole Jesus' body only to suffer for preaching a message that they contrived? 

I have a very hard time believing that! So, I find “the stolen body theory” utterly unconvincing. Another theory for the empty tomb is… 

C. The Lost Tomb Theory

In 2007 the Discovery Channel aired a documentary called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” that claimed the actual tomb that contained Jesus' bones had been discovered. The primary evidence for this radical conclusion was the discovery of six bone ossuaries found in a grave in Jerusalem. The ossuaries dated back to the first century and had the following names engraved on them… 

1. Jesus, son of Joseph (lit. “Yeshua son of Yoseph”)
2. Mary (lit. “Maria”)
3. Matthew (“Matia”)
4. Joseph (“Yose”)
5. Mary (lit. “Mariamene [who is also called] Mara”)
6. Judah, son of Jesus (lit. “Yehudah son of Yeshua”) 

Well, those names sound familiar don’t they!? And so the men who put the documentary together concluded that these ossuaries belonged to the very persons mentioned by those names in the New Testament. And thus, the whole story of Jesus' resurrection was a farce. He was actually married to Mary Magdalene, had a son named Judah and was buried in a grave with the rest of His family. 

It sounded like part two to The Da Vinci Code book! 

Well their conclusions were immediately blasted by scholars from every end of the spectrum, Christian and non-Christian. There are numerous reasons why archaeologists and historians quickly dismissed their outrageous claims. 

I’ll quickly mention two.

First, the names inscribed on the ossuaries found in the tomb in Jerusalem were very common names in Israel in the first century. Joseph was the second most popular name in the first century. Jesus was fourth. Matthew was the sixth. Joseph was the second most popular name in the first century. Jesus was fourth. Matthew was the sixth.

Among women, Mary was far and away the most popular woman’s name. That being the case, a tomb with ossuaries mentioning Jesus, Joseph, Matthew and Mary is not sufficient proof that the cave was the burial site of Jesus of Nazareth. 

Professor Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the tomb, and one of many scholars who disagreed with the documentary’s conclusions, said there are more than 900 buried tombs just like the alleged “Jesus” tomb within a two-mile radius of where this tomb was found. 

He pointed out that of these tombs, 71 bear the name “Jesus” and that “The name ‘Jesus son of Joseph’ has been found on three or four ossuaries. These are common names.” [Jerusalem Post]

So, that is one strike against the supposed discovery. Another blow to the documentary’s conclusions is this. If the disciples were “making up a religion” and basing it on the resurrection of Jesus, they wouldn’t... 

• bury His body in the very city that He was put to death
• inscribe His name on the outside of His ossuary
• and then bury the other members of His family in marked ossuaries in the same grave 

That would be foolish!

I would think that to get rid of the body you burn it, dismember it, etc. Then you could more safely move about the city telling people, “Our leader has risen!” 

So, those are just a couple of the problems with the “Lost Tomb Theory.”

D. The Hallucination Theory

This theory suggests that the disciples were hallucinating and only thought they had seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion. Well, this theory is not convincing either, for a variety of reasons. 

Hallucinations are very rare and they vary greatly. You may know an individual who has hallucinated while using LSD or some other drug, but you never hear of a large group of people having identical hallucinations. That’s not how they work. They are individual experiences. 

Hallucinations are rare. And when a person experiences one, rarely, if ever, is it identical to the hallucinations other people are having.

Now, back to Israel in the first century AD. Here are hundreds of Jews in Israel, in the first century, claiming to have seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion, to have touched His scars, John 20:27, to have heard Him teach, and to have even eaten with Him, John 21:12-15

If there was only one or two of them making that claim, then perhaps we might chalk up the sightings to hallucination, but there were more than five hundred people who claimed to have seen Jesus alive during the forty days following His resurrection, 1 Cor. 15:6. That, to me, rules out the possibility of hallucinations. Hallucinations don’t happen that way. 

When Paul mentions the five hundred plus people who had seen Jesus alive after His resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:6, he says most of them are still alive. He was implying to the Corinthians that they were still available for questioning. 

In other words, ‘If you don’t believe me,’ Paul says, ‘you can ask them. They saw Him as well!’ 

So the first blow to the hallucination theory is that hallucinations are rare. Second, they vary greatly. A third factor that rules out the theory is that hallucinations are typically the result of mental disorders (schizophrenia) or drug use. 

But the New Testament documents are so sane, so full of virtuous counsel, so rich in wisdom, so accurate down to minute historical details…surely these are the words of men with sound minds. I have a hard time believing the New Testament documents were penned by men who struggled with drug addictions or mental disorders. 

And one final problem with the hallucination theory. If the disciples were just hallucinating, the Jewish leaders could have dragged Jesus' body out of the tomb and exposed the fact. But they could not do that…because the tomb was empty! 

These unconvincing theories of the critics to explain away the empty tomb are a fifth reason why I believe Jesus rose from the dead. 

Conclusion:

Friends, at this very hour, the body of… 

  • Siddhartha Guatama (now known as the Buddha) lies in a grave at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains
  • Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is buried in Medina, Saudi Arabia
  • Joseph Smith is buried in Nauvoo, Illinois 
  • Charles Darwin is buried at Westminster Abbey in London 

They are all dead and their graves are occupied. 

Only Jesus Christ proved that what He said was true by rising from the dead. If you are a believer, rejoice! Your Savior, the one you follow is alive! Jesus' resurrection is not a holiday to celebrate once a year. It is a fact to be pondered hour-by-hour. It’s a reality to be lived in day-by-day throughout the year. 

Because of the resurrection, you have a living Savior who can be known, called upon, worshipped and trusted daily! You’re not following the teachings of some dead man. You are walking through this life with Jesus, the true and living God! What a blessing that is! 

If you are not yet a follower of Jesus...

There are radical implications from the resurrection for you as well. Because of Jesus' death on the cross in your place, for your sins, and His subsequent resurrection, the Bible says you can have your sins forgiven. You can escape the judgment of God that’s coming to all of those who are still in their sins on the day of judgment. You can escape eternity in Hell. You can be reconciled back to your Creator and go on to enjoy a relationship with Him not only in this life but throughout eternity! 

Don’t put that off friend. The Day of judgment is coming. Be reconciled to God today! Turn from your sins. Acknowledge Jesus as your Lord. Receive God’s forgiveness. 

The Majority of this information has been used courtesy of http://www.alwaysbeready.com with kind permission.

Get in touch me via www.seekthetruth.org.uk - I'd love to hear from you, Stephen




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