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A Look at the Historical Fact of the Resurrection, Part 1

by Walt Windish

My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less: A Look at the Historical Fact of Christ's Resurrection
Part 1

The hope of every Christian is that we will share in Christ’s victory over death and spend eternity with our maker. Biblical hope is much different than the “wishful thinking” hope our culture espouses. The Christian hope is much more than “I hope I get pizza tonight” hope. It is hope firmly grounded in the historical fact of the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Christian hope is an “eager, confident expectation,”[1]  a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

I would like to spend a few blog posts on exploring the historicity of Christ’s resurrection. Today we’ll take a look at a passage that was very important to my own spiritual growth, 1 Corinthians 15. In the coming weeks of Lent, I’d like to explore with you topics that come out of this passage, including the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection (both inside and outside Scripture), the empty tomb and the alternate theories critics use to try to explain it away, and the twelve post-resurrection appearances of Christ. We’ll also explore why the bodily resurrection is so important.

If you have a Bible handy, please take a moment and read 1 Corinthians 15 (it’s about 9/10 of the way through your Bible). Keep in mind that this book was written by the Apostle Paul. He was known as Saul before his conversion and was a great persecutor of Christians (1 Corinthians 15:9, Galatians 1:13). Saul was confronted by the resurrected Christ on a trip to extradite arrested believers in Damascus and was miraculously converted and filled with the Holy Spirit. He then began proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God, to the astonishment of Christians (Acts 9:3-22).

Paul begins Chapter 15 with a simple reminder to the Corinthians of the heart of the gospel, that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . .” (vv. 3–4). Paul notes that both he and the Corinthians (“you”) received this truth. To have eternal life, we must put our trust in the finished work of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. We must also receive this truth.

Next comes a point that really hit home with me when I grasped its importance—verses 5-8 mention over 500 eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ! Some are specifically named. Not only that, but Paul states most were still alive at the time he wrote the epistle. If anyone doubted Paul, they could have asked one of the witnesses.[2]

Verse 12 tells us that some people in the Corinthian church were saying that there is no resurrection of the dead. This is probably the reason Paul began with a reminder of the gospel that they had received.

Finally, in verses 13-19, Paul notes that if Christ has not been raised, then not only has Paul’s preaching been in vain and he has been lying, but Christians would still be in their sins and should be pitied above all others. There is no whitewash here: Christianity stands or falls on the historical fact of the resurrection of Christ. And Paul recognizes this in front of the very people who have access to hundreds of eyewitnesses to verify the story.

This is a powerful chapter regarding the resurrection. It’s the chapter that got me excited about the study of Christian Apologetics.[3]  It’s the chapter that really helped me understand that Christianity is not just wishful thinking, but faith based on the historical reality of the risen Christ.

Notes
[1] "What Is the Living Hope in 1 Peter 1:3?" https://www.gotquestions.org/living-hope.html.

[2] Note: This blog is not the place to discuss dating of documents, but I should point out that many scholars, even critical scholars, date 1 Corinthians at A.D. 55-56, which places this testimony at under 25 years after the resurrection. Further support for early dating is that a letter from Clement to the Corinthians, written sometime between 70 and 80 A.D. mentions this epistle, among others.
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[3] Christian Apologetics is the field that deals with giving a defense of the Christian faith. It comes from the Greek work apologia, which is usually translated as “defense” or “reason” in 1 Peter 3:15.