Death is a reality we will all face. Some have more or less time than others, but we’re all terminal. It doesn’t matter your age or your relative health. The truth is that the only thing stopping you from witnessing everyone you love and care for die, is your own death. It’s not surprising then, that one of the fundamental concerns of humanity is this: Is there life after death?
Death is a question that has haunted humanity from the beginning. It is the inescapable unknown into which everyone must venture. Does death lead to an eternal nothing or an eternal something? Is it possible to know what lies beyond the grave, if anything?
Our culture is fascinated by near death experiences. We hope that people who’ve briefly peered over the edge can give us a small glimpse into the unknown. The problem is people don’t return from the grave. Not usually.
History does record one convincing account of a person that died and came back to tell us about it – Jesus Christ. To put it clearly, if Jesus rose from the dead, then we have hope that Jesus is who He claimed to be and there is life after death. But if He stayed in the grave, then Jesus is not who he claimed to be, the entire Christian faith is empty, and we know nothing about what happens after death.
So what I want to do is share a few proofs that affirm that Jesus rose from the dead – kind of an Easter message. Because if Jesus lived, died, and then lived again, there is hope for us all. Death is not the end. You can read the account I refer to in John 20:1-18.
The empty tomb is a silent testimony to the resurrection of Jesus that has never been refuted. The resurrection could not have been maintained for a moment in Jerusalem if the tomb had not been empty. There are two basic alternatives. After three days, Christ’s tomb was either occupied or empty. And if it was empty, it either had a natural or supernatural explanation.
Some believe the tomb was occupied. Several possible theory. It was an unknown or wrong tomb. The resurrection was a legend. It was only a spiritual resurrection. But the 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that there were over 500 eyewitnesses who was Him at one time.
Some believe the tomb was empty and give a few natural causes. Maybe it was stolen by the disciples or moved by the authorities. Maybe Jesus really wasn’t dead, but recovered in the grave. Maybe they mistook someone who looked like Jesus.
However, only one conclusion takes into account all the facts and doesn’t try to adjust them to preconceived notions. The grave is empty by a supernatural act of God.
In a literal sense, the grave was not empty. When Peter and John got there they saw the grave clothes. They were lying as if they were wrapped around a dead body, but the body was gone. And the cloth that covered the head was wrapped up and laid in another place. It looked like someone simply rose up through the clothes, took the napkin from his head and folded it neatly on the other side and walked out. That was enough to make a believer out of anybody. That was when John believed. The thing that stuck in the minds of Peter and John was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes – undisturbed.
On several occasions, Jesus appeared after His resurrection. When studying an event, it is important to investigate eyewitnesses. Some things to consider about the eyewitnesses.
- Large number of witnesses. 500 saw Him at one time, and the majority were still alive when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to attest to what they saw. Give 500 eye witnesses only 6 minutes each to tell what they saw, that would be 50 hours of firsthand testimony. Add all the other eye witnesses and you would have the largest and most lopsided trial in history.
- Location & Time. There were over 15 different resurrection appearances and no two are alike. Mary Magdalene early in the morning in the garden, two on a road in the afternoon, apostles in a home after dark. Mary was in the open air, apostles in closed room. Mary was alone, disciples were in a group, 500 saw Him at one time.
- Hostile Witnesses. Saul persecuted the church and after his encounter became the greatest witnesses to the truth of the resurrection. James, Jesus’ brother did not believe before, but after seeing the resurrection became a leader of the church.
- The first appearances were not to His disciples, but to women. This must have been an embarrassment to the men. According to Jewish principles, women were invalid witnesses. They did not have a right to give testimony in a court of law. If the resurrection was manufactured, women would never have been included as the first eyewitnesses.
Charles Colson, convicted for his involvement in the Watergate scandal as an assistant to President Richard Nixon became a Christian and has a unique reason for believing in the resurrection: Watergate. Watergate was a conspiracy perpetuated by the closes aides to the President of the United States – the most powerful men in America, intensely loyal to their president. But one of them, John Dean, turned state’s evidence and testified against Nixon to save his own skin within 2 weeks. The cover-up could only be held together for 2 weeks, then everybody jumped in to save themselves. These men were facing embarrassment, maybe prison Nobody’s life was at stake.
But what about the disciples? They were facing not just embarrassment, but beatings, stonings, execution. Every one insisted they had seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead. Don’t you think that one of those men would have cracked before beheaded or stoned? One would have made a deal. None did. Men will give their lives for something they believe to be true. They will never give their lives for something they know to be false.
Jesus is alive. That’s the message of the Gospel. It’s a historical fact, established by the evidence – and one you can bet your life and forever on. Is there life after death? Yes. And because Jesus lives, we will live also. There is life after death. Prepare now for it.
Read more God Questions.