Welcome to the FAQ for module 10—empty is good. The following questions include video and/or written answers and are also included in the guide for your leader. You may like to raise these questions during your group time, and we also place them here for you to explore and re-explore at your leisure.
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Q 1. Why is the resurrection so important?
1. Jesus is God
2. Jesus is the Messiah
3. Everything Jesus said is true
4. Jesus has defeated Satan and will eventually destroy him
5. Jesus has defeated death and will eventually destroy it
6. Those connected to Jesus by faith will be resurrected
7. Jesus has completely paid for sin
8. Jesus will judge the world.
The resurrection is important:
1. It is a proof that Jesus is God. The reasoning is that:
a. Jesus predicted he would raise his own body from the grave (John 2:19–22)
b. In claiming that he would raise his own body, Jesus is claiming to be able to do what only God can do—raise the dead
c. If Jesus did rise from the dead by his own power, he is God!
2. It is a proof that Jesus is the Messiah. The reasoning is that:
a. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah (Matthew 26:63–64; John 4:25–26)
b. The Messiah would establish God’s kingdom forever (Isaiah 9:6–7)
c. Jesus could not do this if he stayed dead (Matthew 16:13–16, 21)
d. Jesus rose from the dead, proving he was who he claimed to be (the Messiah who would one day establish God’s kingdom).
3. It is a proof that everything Jesus said is true. Jesus predicted his own resurrection many times (Matthew 16:21, 20:18–19, 26:26–29) and he even said that he would raise his own body from the grave (John 2:19–22). If Jesus was right on something this important, we can be certain he was correct in everything else he said.
4. It is a proof that Jesus has defeated Satan and will eventually destroy him (John 16:11; 1 Corinthians 15:21–24; Revelation 20:1–3, 10).
5. It is a proof that Jesus has defeated death and will eventually destroy it (1 Corinthians 15:21–26, 54–57).
6. It is a proof that those connected to Jesus by faith will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:20–23).
7. It is a proof that Jesus has completely paid for sin (Romans 4:25). The resurrection of Jesus is proof that those connected to Jesus by faith have been declared righteous before God (justified). That means Jesus’ death for sin was so fully and completely acceptable to God that God has raised Jesus to life to prove the account has been settled in full! The debt has been completely paid—Jesus can live again. For instance, when a person commits a crime and is sentenced to imprisonment, they must remain imprisoned until they have completely paid the penalty for their crime. Once they have paid for their crime, they must be set free. Jesus so completely paid the penalty for our sin (death), that he was set free (resurrection).
8. It is a proof that Jesus will judge the world (Acts 17:31). Jesus said he was the judge of all men and that God the Father has committed all judgement into the hands of his Son (John 5:22–23, 27). The resurrection is proof that Jesus is God and the coming judge of every human being. Paul confirmed this: “… he [God] commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31). If people were confused about Jesus in his lifetime, there could be no doubt or confusion about who Jesus was after the resurrection. It is unmistakable: he is declared to be the Son of God with power (Romans 1:4)—including the power to judge.
Q 2. Does someone have to believe in the resurrection to be a Christian?
Yes, for two reasons:
1. The resurrection of Jesus is the absolute foundation of the Christian faith: “… if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). The resurrection is key to one’s personal Christian faith.
2. The resurrection of Jesus is an integral part of the Christian confession: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified…” (Romans 10:9–10a).
Q 3. Did the resurrection really happen?
The resurrection of Jesus was as real, historical and physical as were the Battle of Hastings, the Great Fire of London and the landing of man on the moon.
1. Jesus’ physical resurrection was confirmed by over 500 witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3–8).
2. Jesus’ resurrection body was real: it could be seen and recognised (Matthew 28:7, 17; Mark 16:7; Luke 24:31; John 20:16); it could speak (John 20:19); it could walk; it could eat food (Luke 24:41–43; Acts 1:4); it could be touched (John 20:25–28); and it could be held on to (Matthew 28:9; John 20:17).
3. Jesus’ resurrection body was the same body that went into the tomb—it bore the actual wounds of the crucifixion in hands, feet and side (John 20:25–28) and still does today (Revelation 5:6)!
4. Jesus said his resurrection body had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).
5. Jesus’ resurrection was a historical event that could be pinpointed in space-time history—it occurred “on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4) after he was crucified.
Q 4. What is the basic case for the resurrection?
The evidence is simple and straightforward. There are two key points as well as an additional confirming point:
1. The empty tomb
2. The appearances of Jesus after his tomb was found empty
3. Secondary evidence (the transformation of the disciples).
The confirmation of the resurrection rests on two primary pieces of evidence as well as some confirming evidence:
1. There is an empty tomb. The empty tomb cannot be adequately accounted for apart from by the resurrection of Jesus (see Qs 7 to 12).
2. The resurrection appearances. There are in excess of 500 independent witnesses to the physical resurrection of Jesus which occurred on 12 separate occasions over 40 days and included many different levels of verification—touching Christ, hearing Christ, seeing Christ, watching him eat, etc. (1 Corinthians 15:6–8; Matthew 28:9–10, 16–20; Luke 24:13–53; John 20:14–21:25; Acts 1:3–9).
3. Confirming evidence. In addition to these two primary pieces of evidence, there is a secondary strand of evidence: the ‘transformation of the disciples’. What can possibly explain the radical transformation that took place in the disciples—one which saw the disciples change from being a fearful group of runaways (Matthew 26:56) to fearless, unstoppable preachers of the resurrection (Acts 4:5–22)—each of whom would suffer and eventually die for their faith? But this is secondary (not primary) evidence.
Q 5. Is it unscientific to believe in the resurrection of Jesus?
1. Only some scientists argue against the resurrection of Jesus. There are equally capable scientists who argue for his resurrection.
2. The resurrection is a matter for historical investigation—not scientific investigation. The resurrection cannot be proved or disproved scientifically (see the discussion below).
3. There is so much at stake if the resurrection of Jesus is true. This is what drives a lot of ‘scientific opposition’ to the resurrection of Jesus (see Q 13 below).Read More
The key point is that the resurrection belongs to history and not a scientific laboratory.
For instance, if we wanted to investigate on which day World War II began, we would undertake a historical (not scientific) investigation. We would check eyewitnesses’ accounts, historical documents written by different world rulers, news clippings and TV footage, etc. We would not go to a scientific laboratory and try and do experiments. Why? Because World War II happened once, cannot be repeated and cannot be observed happening today in a laboratory. This means the question is a matter of historical investigation, not scientific investigation. Just because World War II happened only once does not mean it is not a reliable fact to be believed—for the same reason, just because the resurrection of Jesus happened only once does not mean it is not a reliable fact to be believed.
Q 7. Can the resurrection be explained by saying the disciples went to the wrong tomb? (Could there be an alternative, more ordinary explanation for the resurrection?)
This is the ‘wrong tomb’ theory.
1. The proposal. The disciples were upset, confused and very worried. It was dark and they went to the wrong tomb.
2. The response. The ‘wrong tomb’ theory is faulty:
a. All the authorities had to do was take the disciples to the correct tomb and unveil Jesus’ corpse.
b. Later, in broad daylight, John and Peter found the same tomb to be empty and they saw the burial clothes too. There was no mistaking the tomb (John 20:6–8); they had the right place, for sure.
Q 8. Could the disciples simply have been hallucinating and actually never have seen a physically resurrected Jesus? (Could there be an alternative, more ordinary explanation for the resurrection?)
This is called ‘the hallucination’ theory.
1. The proposal. The disciples were so mentally distraught and sleep deprived through the time of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion that they were actually hallucinating.
2. The response. This theory is faulty:
a. There is good evidence the disciples were in a sound state of mind—e.g. Thomas flatly refused any belief without hard evidence (John 20:24–25).
b. There were over 500 separate witnesses to the physical resurrection of Jesus, on different occasions, over 40 days. This excludes any possibility of such people all hallucinating about the same event (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Q 9. Can the resurrection be explained by saying the disciples actually had seen a ghost? (Could there be an alternative, more ordinary explanation for the resurrection?)
This is the ‘ghost’ theory.
1. The proposal. The disciples actually saw a ‘spirit’ and assumed Jesus had risen from the dead.
2. The response. The theory is faulty:
a. Jesus demonstrated his physical status. The Gospels report that the disciples actually thought they were seeing a spirit but Jesus invited them to examine him closely by touching (Luke 24:36–40). Then Christ ate real, physical food in front of them (Luke 24:41–43)—something a spirit could not have done.
b. The actual ‘physical’ resurrection was verified by more than 500 people—not all of them could have been mistaken.
Q 10. Can the resurrection be explained by saying Jesus wasn’t actually dead?
This is called the ‘swoon’ theory.
1. The proposal. Jesus didn’t die but was in a coma when they took him down from the cross and put him in the tomb. After three days in the cool of the tomb, he recovered enough to take off the grave clothes, move the stone and overpower the guards and escape.
2. The response. The ‘swoon’ theory is faulty:
a. It requires that we believe in a near-death Jesus who:
- Was exhausted from lack of sleep (Mark 14:32–41)
- Had four large wounds in his hands and feet
- Had a large spear wound in his side that had probably pierced his lungs and heart (John 19:34)
- Had suffered the excruciating agony of the crucifixion (Mark 15:24–34)
- Had been embalmed and buried and…
After three days in the tomb, suddenly recovered sufficiently to:
- Undo approximately 34 kilograms of bandages (John 19:39–40)
- Move a 1000-kilogram stone
- Overpower 16 Roman guards
- Walk kilometres to meet the disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13–31) on those feet that had nails driven through them.
The truth is, this is asking us to believe too much. Given that kind of suffering, Jesus could not have made it out of the burial clothes, let alone his tomb!
b. It overlooks the fact that the Roman soldiers (familiar with death by crucifixion) knew Jesus was dead, made doubly sure he was dead by stabbing the spear into his side (John 19:34) and gave Pilate the guarantee he was dead (Mark 15:44–45).
Q 11. Can the resurrection be explained by arguing the disciples stole Jesus’ body to ‘stage’ the resurrection?
This is called the ‘stolen body’ theory.
1. The proposal. The disciples were so desperate to secure the future of their ‘Jesus movement’, they stole the body to ‘stage’ Jesus’ resurrection.
2. The response. This theory is faulty for seven reasons:
a. It overlooks the fact the Jews and Romans had anticipated and taken precautions against such a thing happening (Matthew 27:63–64).
b. It is unlikely that 11 disciples (if they all showed!) would have had the ability to overpower a Roman watch of 16 soldiers, break the Roman seal (on penalty of death) and then move the 1000-kilogram stone to steal the body of Jesus.
c. It doesn’t explain how and where the disciples might have successfully hidden Jesus’ body so it couldn’t be found by the authorities.
d. It doesn’t explain why the disciples (generally all honest and sane men) would have suffered so greatly for what they knew to be such an obvious lie.
e. The disciples would not have had time to unwrap the body of Jesus from the burial clothes—nor would they have had the time or the presence of mind to neatly fold “the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head” (John 20:6–7).
f. It doesn’t consider how unlikely it would have been for 11 men to continue the lie.
g. If the body were stolen, the soldiers would have been punished by death. But they weren’t (Matthew 28:12–15).
Q 12. Could the Jewish/Roman authorities have collaborated and removed Jesus’ body and buried it somewhere else?
This is the ‘precaution’ theory.
1. The proposal. The Jewish and Roman authorities took precautions against the possibility of a resurrection by removing the body and taking it into custody.
2. The response. The ‘precaution’ theory is obviously faulty:
a. Why put the Roman seal and guards in place if they had the body in their custody?
b. Why not stop the whole resurrection madness by presenting Jesus’ corpse? This would have immediately destroyed Christianity once and for all—something they could have done and, given half a chance, would have done.
c. The authorities would not have unwrapped the body of Jesus and left the burial clothes in the tomb.
Q 13. Why are there so many theories which attempt to disprove the resurrection?
The resurrection is under constant attack because Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Saying Christ is risen from the dead is “like a knife pointed at the throat of the irreligious man, and an irreligious man whose religion is threatened will fight… like a tigress fighting for her cubs.” Some people are desperate to disprove the resurrection, simply because so much is at stake (see Q 1 above).
Q: Can the weather presenter predict the future? Part 3
In the previous module, we looked at some prophecies (predictions) that the Bible made about Jesus the Messiah’s suffering and death. In this module, we look at some prophecies about his resurrection.Read More
|Old Testament Prophecy||Explanation|
|“See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.” (Isaiah 52:13)||In the last module we learnt that Isaiah 52:13–53:12 predicted that the Messiah would die (e.g. Isaiah 53:8). Therefore Isaiah 52:13 is predicting that the Messiah will “be raised” from the dead.|
|“… he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:10)||Someone who has died has no more days left to live! So, the only way that the Messiah (who had died) could live more days is because he would be resurrected.|
|“After he has suffered, he will see the light of life”. (Isaiah 53:11)||Since the Messiah will die, the only way he could “see the light of life” [physical life] after he had died is by resurrection.|
|“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great”. (Isaiah 53:12)||Since the Messiah will die, the only way he could experience a reward from God is if he comes back to life (resurrection).|
|“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.” (Psalm 16:9–11)||The only way that the Messiah’s body would not decay away to dust would be by resurrection. For a commentary on this psalm, see Acts 2:22–33.|
|“I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you… For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” (Psalm 22:22, 24)||In the last module we learnt that many of the Messiah’s sufferings were predicted in Psalm 22. In Psalm 22:15 it spoke of the Messiah’s death (“you lay me in the dust of death”). In verses 22 and 24 the psalm now speaks about the Messiah declaring God’s name to the people and praising God, something only a living person can do. This can only be because the Messiah has been resurrected.|
Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Ha-Mashiach: The Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures, rev. ed. (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2014). (Previously titled Messianic Christology.)
We don’t need to let the title of the book put us off—“Ha-Mashiach” is simply Hebrew for “the Messiah” but the book is written in English, not Hebrew!
This book explains the prophecies of the Messiah’s life, death and resurrection in easy-to-understand language.