Jesus is Risen; Case Closed
By Dr. Donald Whitchard
We are at the end of our journey through the Gospel of Luke, and with it, the established fact of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, declared by the angelic host at the empty tomb to the women who had arrived to complete the process of adding spices to the body (Luke 24:5-6). This gospel began in the temple (1:1-25), and after Jesus rose from the dead, concludes in the temple as well (24:52-53). Throughout the centuries and on into today, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ continues to be studied, debated, and has proven to be an actual, historical fact that cannot be explained away by alternate theories or skeptical dismissal.
In any scholarly work dealing with historical accounts, a researcher will go to what is referred to as the primary source or sources to get the earliest possible account of an event or the life story of an individual. The actual words or writings of the subject, if available, would provide the most accurate information, provided they did not embellish or exaggerate in writing about their adventures, discoveries, or conclusions concerning issues and subjects. In researching the account of the resurrection, Luke went to the eyewitnesses who saw and interacted with the risen Lord Jesus, such as the apostles themselves, the women at the tomb, and the travelers on the road to Emmaus who talked with Jesus as He explained the Scriptures to them.
Dr. Gary Habermas, Professor of Biblical Studies at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Chair of the Philosophy Department, is considered the leading expert in the study of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was the subject of his doctoral thesis, locating and using the historical accounts of non-biblical sources such as the Jewish historian Josephus, histories from the Roman writers of the time, Jewish accounts such as the Babylonian Talmud, and rabbinical commentaries that spoke of Jesus in a hostile manner. His book, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope (2003), points out that biblical scholars with theological views ranging from conservative to ultra-liberal all tend to agree that the following points concerning Jesus and Christianity are actual historical facts:
- Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.
- He was buried in a private tomb.
- Soon afterward, the disciples were discouraged, bereaved, and despondent, having lost hope.
- Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after His internment.
- The disciples had experiences that they believed were actual appearances of the risen Jesus.
- Due to these experiences, the disciples were thoroughly transformed and were willing to die for their beliefs.
- The proclamation of the Resurrection took place early from the start of church history.
- The disciple’s public testimony and preaching of the Resurrection took place in the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified and buried shortly before.
- The gospel message centered on the preaching of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- Sunday was the primary day for gathering and worshipping.
- James, the half-brother of Jesus and a skeptic before this time, was converted when he believed he also saw the risen Jesus.
- Just a few years later, Saul of Tarsus (Paul) became a Christian believer due to an experience that he also believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.
(Source: Geisler, Norman, and Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, Ill., Crossway Books, 2004, pp. 299-300 – quotes from Habermas’ book The Risen Jesus and Future Hope)
In their book The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, Drs. Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner, in writing about the resurrection of Jesus, list similar conclusions from varied biblical scholars that do not need to be duplicated. (Harvest House, 2008, pp.135-138). An additional contribution by Dr. Hindson, in cooperation with the late prophecy scholar Dr. Tim LaHaye, also presents a list of proofs and conclusions made by Bible researchers and scholars that agree with the findings of Dr. Habermas and his contemporaries concerning the fact of the Resurrection. The work is entitled The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (Harvest House, 2004, pp.326-332).
The Scriptures themselves, the original sources, give the following verses as proof of the Resurrection: First, we need to list the specific features concerning the resurrection. It was foretold in the Psalms (Ps. 16:10-11; Acts 13:34-35), presented in prophecy (Isaiah 53:10-12; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8), announced by Jesus Himself (Mark 9:9-10; John 2:19-22), and proclaimed by the apostles (Acts 2:32, 3:15).
The resurrection was accomplished by the power of God (Acts 2:24), of Jesus Christ (John 10:18), and of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). The resurrection was proven by the empty tomb (John 20:1-9), the testimony of the angels (Matthew 28:5-7), the testimony of Jesus’ enemies (Matthew 28:11-15), numerous infallible proofs (John 20:20, 27; Acts 1:3), the preaching of the apostles (Acts 1:22, 4:33), and the Lord’s Day itself (John 20:1, 19; 1 Corin.16:2).
The purposes for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ were to fulfill Scripture (Luke 24:45-46), assurance of the forgiveness of sins by God (1 Corin.15:17), and to justify the sinner (Romans 4:25, 8:34). The resurrection gives us hope (1 Corin.15:18-19), makes faith real (1 Cor. 15:14-17), proves the Sonship of Christ (Psalm 2:7; Romans 1:4), sets Him on David’s throne (Acts 2:30-32), ensures His exaltation (Acts 4:10-11; Philippians 2:9-10), guarantees the coming judgments (Acts 17:31), and seals our own resurrection at the last day (Acts 26:23; 1 Cor. 15:20, 23). The Scriptures record the appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ after His resurrection.
He appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9), other women (Matthew 28:9), the two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-15), to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34), the apostles on two separate occasions (John 20:19, 24, 26), to the apostles on the Sea of Tiberius (John 21:1), to the apostles in Galilee (Matt. 28:16-17), to five hundred brethren all at once (1 Cor.15:6), and to Paul and James (1 Cor. 15:7-8). We also must take into consideration the countless testimonials from men and women whose lives were transformed by reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He endured the cross in order that we might be redeemed from the power of sin and death, and the assurance of eternal life free from the pains and difficulties brought on by this fallen world.
Jesus’ story comes from the teachings and personal encounters of the apostles, written down and known as the New Testament, inspired by God and without error or fabrication (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21). Skeptics tend to question the authenticity of the New Testament, and many of them have written books that accuse the NT writers of errors, such as inaccurate historical dates and events, seemingly contradictory accounts of Jesus’ parables, miracles, journeys, and different details concerning the resurrection itself.
Former homicide detective and author of Cold-Case Christianity, a book on using forensic science as a tool for validating the claims of the Gospels and the Bible as a whole, dismisses these accusations in a concluding chapter that discusses the motives of the apostles in the writing and preaching of Jesus Christ, and specifically the Resurrection message:
“Abductive reasoning can help us decide between two possible conclusions related to the bias or motive that the apostolic eyewitnesses may have had when writing the Gospels or testifying to their observations. The apostles lacked any evil motive or intent to deceive their readers or audience. They simply could not benefit from lying about what they saw. In fact, they would have been far better off if they had kept their mouths shut. What could they have possibly gained from fabricating what they knew was a lie? The gospel writers appeared to be more concerned about eternal life than material gain.
“Could a lie about Jesus make His claims true? Does it make sense that the disciples would forsake everything for spiritual claims they knew were untrue? The evidence supports the claim that the gospel writers reported what they actually observed.”
Source: Cold-Case Christianity, David Cook Pub., 2013, p.251)
Frank Turek writes that the New Testament is a real and authentic account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ due to traits that someone making up the stories would leave out on purpose:
- The New Testament writers included embarrassing details about themselves (Matthew 26:33-35, 28:17; Mark 8:33, 9:32, 14:32-41; Luke 18:34; John 12:26).
- The New Testament writers included embarrassing details and difficult sayings of Jesus (Matthew 11:19; Mark 3:21,22,31; John 6:66, 7:5, 12, 8:30-31, 59).
- The New Testament writers left in demanding sayings of Jesus (Matt.5:28, 32, 44-45, 48, 6:19-21, 7:1-5).
- The New Testament writers carefully distinguished Jesus’ Words from their own (1 Cor. 7:10-12).
- The New Testament writers included events related to the Resurrection that they would not have invented, such as the burial of Jesus, women as the first witnesses of the resurrection, the conversion of priests, and the explanation for the empty tomb by the Jewish authorities (Matt.28:11-15).
- The New Testament writers included more than thirty historically confirmed people in their writings.
- They included divergent details, such as a variety of eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection. They did not write the exact same thing as if trying to fabricate a story.
- The New Testament writers challenged their readers to check out verifiable facts, including facts about miracles.
- The NT writers described miracles like other historical events with simple, unembellished accounts.
- The NT writers abandoned their long-held sacred beliefs and practices, adopted new ones, and did not deny their testimony under persecution or threat of death.
(Source: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, pp.275-297)
He is Risen, and He is Coming Back Soon. If this were nothing but a legend or morality tale and all we have read about the Lord Jesus was a mere fabrication, then let us read what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even being found to misrepresent God, because we testified about God in that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ is raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this world, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, ESV).
Thank you for going on this journey with me, and I look forward to meeting you at His throne.
Donald was born and reared in the authentic Cajun country of south Louisiana. He is a 1978 graduate of LaGrange High School in Lake Charles. He is also a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1994) and Andersonville Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, 2000). He is an ACPE Certified Chaplain with training in Trauma/ER, NICU, and Psychiatric Pastoral Care from the McFarland Institute in New Orleans (2003). He has over thirty years of ministry service, which concluded when he was called to serve as pastor of Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma from 2017-2018. Due to health concerns, he retired from public ministry in 2020 and now devotes his time to internet evangelism through the writing of Bible studies, sermons, and articles on current issues for varied Christian webpages and ministries. He is a regular contributor to sites such as Rapture Ready and Sermon Central as well as Inspirational Christian Blogs. He and his wife Cathy are both active members of Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Muskogee. Don will often serve as a panel member of the Gospel Rescue Mission Pastor’s Round Table Broadcast, shown monthly on the mission’s Facebook page as his health allows. He has a personal evangelistic blog as well and can be contacted at his Email address.