Christians believe something that makes them different from any other religion: Our founder died for our sins and afterwards came back to life. Paul explained: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how 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” (I Cor. 15:1-4). And thereafter He ascended to heaven, so that “[a]fter he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever,” Jesus “sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12).
We ought to believe in our hearts that Jesus was resurrected (see Rom. 10:9-10), but that’s not the only basis for our faith. The Bible and history provide us with some solid reasons to believe that Jesus’ resurrection is an actual event of history:
1. Jesus was publicly tried and executed, which removed any doubt that He was in fact put to death. Scripture says, “When they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs; but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:33, 34).
2. Jesus was buried in a new stone sepulcher which was guarded by Roman soldiers. So there was no way thieves could enter or leave with His body (Matt. 27:57-66).
3. The tomb of Jesus was officially sealed, which identified it as the burial place of the One who had been crucified and ensured that it received special attention (Matt. 27:66).
4. The apostles – Jesus’ closest followers – personally saw Him on many occasions after His resurrection (for example, Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:3-9). They couldn’t be fooled (see II Peter 1:6; I John 1:1-3).
5. A large number personally saw the resurrected Savior. Paul said that over 500 saw Him, among others (I Cor. 15:6-8).
6. The apostles were changed by His resurrection and preached it widely. The resurrection of Christ was a key component of Peter’s preaching (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; I Pet. 1:21). Paul, who had been a vigorous persecutor of Christians, became Jesus’ follower, and emphasized that Christ arose from the dead (Acts 13:30, 34; 17:3, 31; Rom. 1:4; 4:24, 25; 6:4, 9; 7:4; 8:11; 10:9; I Cor. 6:14; 15; 2 Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12; I Thess. 1:10; 4:14; II Tim. 2:8). All were highly motivated to serve the purpose of Christ.
7. The apostles were willing to be martyrs for Jesus (see, e.g., Acts 12:1-3; 21:13; II Tim. 4:6-8). They died because He lived.
8. Jesus foretold His resurrection. He said, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40). He also promised to “rebuild the Temple” of His body in three days (see John 2:19-22). He specifically foretold that He would be put to death and rise again (see Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19).
9. The Old Testament prophets foretold Jesus’ resurrection. Key passages are: Psalm 16:9-10; 22:22-31; 118:22-24; Isa. 53:10; Job 19:25. Psalm 16:9-10 is cited by Peter (Acts 2:25-31) and Paul (Acts 13:33-37) in teaching Jesus’ resurrection. Psalm 22:22 is quoted in Hebrews 2:12, and Psalm 118:22 is quoted in Acts 4:10-11 as proof that He arose.
10. Life would be meaningless without Jesus’ resurrection. Paul pointed out the futility of life apart from the empty tomb (I Cor. 15:12-19). We have hope because Jesus is “he that liveth, and was dead; and [is] alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:18).