And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential to the gospel message. Paul, writing to first-century believers, reminded them that they had been saved through believing the message of the gospel and that the essential historical facts of the gospel were “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The crucifixion of Jesus was not done in a corner, as Paul told King Agrippa (Acts 26:26) but was conducted publicly in Jerusalem at the instigation of the Jewish leaders by Roman soldiers under the direction of the governor, Pontius Pilate.

But the apostles insisted that Jesus rose again on the third day and that, in addition to the apostolic band, the Lord appeared to over 500 believers at the same time, most of whom were still living when he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:5-6). Paul is so confident of this eyewitness testimony that he is willing to rest the whole weight of the Christian faith on its truthfulness. He tells them that if Christ did not rise bodily from the dead, their faith is pointless, his preaching is a lie, and those who died believing have no hope (vv. 14-18), because, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men,” (v. 19, NIV).

Historical events cannot be proven by scientific evidence but must be tested by legal evidence, especially eyewitness testimony. Jesus chose twelve apostles to be His witnesses and after Judas committed suicide, the remaining apostles chose as his replacement another man who had been an eyewitness to the ministry, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 1:21-23). These men all went to their deaths preaching with an unshaken conviction that Jesus died, rose again the third day, and ascended bodily to heaven (Acts 1:9-11). The blessed hope of Christians was expressed well by the angels at Jesus’s ascension: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven,” (Acts 1:11). Our hope in Christ is not just for this life; it is the confident expectation that Jesus will return in power and great glory to establish an everlasting kingdom which will never pass away (Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 26:64).


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