13 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For we say this to you by a word from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout,,a with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
RESURRECTION OF JESUS THE CHRIST Historical event whereby Jesus came back from physical death to newness of life with a glorified body, never to die again. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is one of the central tenets of the Christian faith. His bodily resurrection validates the claim that He is both Lord and Christ. It substantiates the proposition that His life and death were not just the life and death of a good man but that He indeed was God incarnate and that by His death we have forgiveness of sin.
The four Gospels are selective in the events they report surrounding the resurrection. Each emphasizes the empty tomb, but each is somewhat different in the postresurrection appearances recounted.
Mark’s Gospel Mark’s account is the briefest, containing only eight verses, if the shorter ending of Mark is accepted as authentic. The focus of his account is on the women’s discovery of the empty tomb (Mark 16:1–4), the announcement of the resurrection by a young man wearing a white robe, and Jesus’ promise to meet them in Galilee (16:5–7). The women’s response is one of fear and awe (16:8).
Matthew’s Gospel Matthew’s report is 20 verses long. He emphasizes three aspects: the empty tomb, his answer to the false accusation that the disciples stole the body, and the Great Commission. Matthew recounts only two resurrection appearances: first, to the women as they fled the empty tomb, and then to the Eleven in Galilee. His account is in four scenes. The first takes place at the empty tomb and involves Mary Magdalene, the “other Mary,” a violent earthquake, the appearance of an angel, the paralyzing fear of the guards, and an admonition to tell the disciples that Jesus is alive (Matt. 28:1–7). The second describes Jesus’ encounter with the women after they fled the tomb (28:8–10). The third is a description of the religious leaders’ attempt to cover up the events at the tomb (28:11–15). The fourth takes place in Galilee and concludes with Jesus giving the Great Commission (28:16–20).
Luke’s Gospel Luke’s record is 53 verses in length. His account consists of a series of resurrection appearances of Jesus ending with Jesus’ ascension. All resurrection appearances in Luke are in Jerusalem. Luke has at least three aims: first, presenting the historical facts (cp. Luke 1:1–4), describing how the unbelieving disciples came to believe in the resurrection by emphasizing the physical nature of Jesus’ resurrected body (24:30, 37–43); second, to show that Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfill OT prophecy (24:25–27, 32); and third, to show that the disciples are to preach the gospel in the power of the Spirit to all the nations (24:46–49). The material is in four vignettes. The first involves the women’s discovery of the empty tomb and the investigation of the tomb by Peter and John (24:1–12). The second, the longest, is Jesus’ appearance to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The third is Jesus’ appearance to the disciples during the evening of resurrection Sunday. The fourth is Jesus’ final instructions to His followers at His ascension (24:50–53; cp. Acts 1:9–11).
John’s Gospel John’s resurrection account is the longest, extending two full chapters. John records three appearances in Jerusalem: the first to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb (20:1–18) and the other two appearances to the disciples, once with Thomas absent (John 20:19–25) and once with Thomas present (20:26–29). Jesus’ Jerusalem appearances conclude with Thomas’ great confession, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Like Luke, John focuses on the corporeality of Jesus (20:17, 20, 25–27). The appearance in chapter 21 takes place in Galilee. His purpose seems to be to describe the reestablishing of Peter’s leadership (21:15–19) and to expel the rumor that John, the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (13:23 HCSB) would not die before Jesus’ return.
A cursory reading of the resurrection accounts in the four Gospels reveals a wide variety of material. Admittedly, any attempt at harmonization of the accounts is speculative, and dogmatism must be avoided. It is impossible to know which, if any, of them is correct, but each shows a possible arrangement of events in a credible sequence. The problem of varying accounts, however, is not confined to events surrounding the resurrection; problems arising from differences in details from various sources have attended almost every event in history. The variances in the scriptural accounts suggest independent witnesses rather than the repetition of an “official” party line.
Paul’s Account The oldest account of the resurrection is found in 1 Cor. 15. In that passage Paul recounted a number of postresurrection appearances. He established that the believer’s future resurrection is based on the historicity of Christ’s bodily resurrection. However, the authenticity of Christ’s resurrection is greatly debated.
Response of Critics Since the 19th century scholars have questioned the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. Some have argued that the women and disciples went to the wrong tomb. The problem with this argument is that the Jewish leadership could have presented the corpse of Jesus in response to the proclamation of the resurrection. Surely they knew the location of the tomb. Another proposed alternative is that the disciples stole the body of Jesus. It is unlikely that the disciples would have stolen the body and thereby invented a story for which they were willing to suffer persecution and martyrdom. Still others contend that Jesus never really died on the cross but He merely “swooned” and later in the coolness of the tomb revived enough to escape. This proposal fails to take seriously the severe beatings Jesus endured, the horrific process of crucifixion, the recognition by a centurion that He was dead (Mark 15:39), as well as the piercing of His side to confirm His death (John 19:32–34). Another suggestion by skeptics is that Jesus continued to live after His crucifixion in some “spiritual” sense but that this did not involve a bodily resurrection. However, the biblical evidence for corporeality is very strong (Luke 24:40–43; John 20:27). Finally, some scholars have compared the resurrection appearances to hallucinations. However, the NT gives evidence of appearances in various places to numerous people, even 500 at one time (1 Cor. 15:6). This proposal also fails to acknowledge that the disciples were psychologically unprepared for the resurrection and actually disbelieved the initial reports.
The evidence in favor of the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is very strong. The evidence for the empty tomb is weighty. First, the story of the empty tomb is found in all four Gospels and is implicit in the early church’s proclamation of the resurrection. How could they preach the bodily resurrection of Jesus if everyone in Jerusalem knew that His body was still in the tomb? Second, it is difficult to believe that the early church would have fabricated the story of the resurrection and then made women the first witnesses to the empty tomb and the resurrection, since women were not considered reliable witnesses in Jewish culture (illustrated by the disciple’s response to them). Third, something incredible must have taken place on that Sunday to cause Jewish believers to begin worshiping on the first day of the week instead of the Sabbath (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10). Finally, nothing short of the miracle of the resurrection can explain the postresurrection transformation in the disciples. The biblical record indicates that at the time of Jesus’ arrest they all fled (Mark 14:50). When the women reported that they had seen Jesus, the men did not believe (Luke 24:11), yet these same men were later willing to suffer persecution and martyrdom in order to preach Jesus as the resurrected Lord. See Ascension; Christ, Christology; Jesus Christ; Resurrection.
A doctrine of the Old Testament. Job 19:26. Psa. 16:10. Psa. 49:15. Isa. 26:19. Dan. 12:2. Hos. 13:14.
A first principle of the gospel. 1 Cor. 15:13, 14. Heb. 6:1, 2.
Expected by the Jews. Jno. 11:24. Heb. 11:35.
Denied by the Sadducees. Mat. 22:23. Luke 20:27. Acts 23:8.
Explained away by false teachers. 2 Tim. 2:18.
Called in question by some in the primitive church. 1 Cor. 15:12.
Is not incredible. Mar. 12:24. Acts 26:8.
Is not contrary to reason. Jno. 12:24. 1 Cor. 15:35–49.
Assumed and proved by our Lord. Mat. 22:29–32. Luke 14:14. Jno. 5:28, 29.
Preached by the Apostles. Acts 4:2. Acts 17:18. Acts 24:15.
Credibility of, shown by the resurrection of individuals. Mat. 9:25. Mat. 27:53. Luke 7:14. Jno. 11:44. Heb. 11:35.
Certainty of, proved by the resurrection of Christ. 1 Cor. 15:12–20.
EFFECTED BY THE POWER OF
God. Mat. 22:29.
Christ. Jno. 5:28, 29. Jno. 6:39, 40, 44.
The Holy Ghost. Rom. 8:11.
Shall be of all the dead. Jno. 5:28. Acts 24:15. Rev. 20:13.
SAINTS IN, SHALL
Rise through Christ. Jno. 11:25. Acts 4:2. 1 Cor. 15:21, 22.
Rise first. 1 Cor. 15:23. 1 The. 4:16.
Rise to eternal life. Dan. 12:2. Jno. 5:29.
Be glorified with Christ. Col. 3:4.
Be as the angels. Mat. 22:30.
Have incorruptible bodies. 1 Cor. 15:42.
Have glorious bodies. 1 Cor. 15:43.
Have powerful bodies. 1 Cor. 15:43.
Have spiritual bodies. 1 Cor. 15:44.
Have bodies like Christ’s. Phi. 3:21. 1 Jno. 3:2.
Be recompensed. Luke 14:14.
Saints should look forward to. Dan. 12:13. Phi. 3:11. 2 Cor. 5:1.
Of saints shall be followed by the change of those then alive. 1 Cor. 15:51, with 1 The. 4:17.
THE PREACHING OF, CAUSED
Mocking. Acts 17:32.
Persecution. Acts 23:6. Acts 24:11–15.
Blessedness of those who have part in the first. Rev. 20:6.
OF THE WICKED, SHALL BE TO
Shame and everlasting contempt. Dan. 12:2.
Damnation. Jno. 5:29.
Illustrative of the new birth. Jno. 5:25.
Illustrated. Eze. 37:1–10. 1 Cor. 15:36, 37.
Resurrection of Christ, The
Foretold by the prophets. Psa. 16:10, with Acts 13:34, 35. Isa. 26:19.
Foretold by Himself. Mat. 20:19. Mar. 9:9. Mar. 14:28. Jno. 2:19–22.
WAS NECESSARY TO
The fulfilment of Scripture. Luke 24:45, 46.
Forgiveness of sins. 1 Cor. 15:17.
Justification. Rom. 4:25. Rom. 8:34.
Hope. 1 Cor. 15:19.
The efficacy of preaching. 1 Cor. 15:14.
The efficacy of faith. 1 Cor. 15:14, 17.
A proof of His being the Son of God. Psa. 2:7, with Acts 13:33. Rom. 1:4.
The power of God. Acts 2:24. Acts 3:15. Rom. 8:11. Eph. 1:20. Col. 2:12.
His own power. Jno. 2:19. Jno. 10:18.
The power of the Holy Ghost. 1 Pet. 3:18.
On the first day of the week. Mar. 16:9.
On the third day after His death. Luke 24:46. Acts 10:40. 1 Cor. 15:4.
At first did not understand the predictions respecting. Mar. 9:10. Jno. 20:9.
Very slow to believe. Mar. 16:13. Luke 24:9, 11, 37, 38.
Reproved for their unbelief of. Mar. 16:14.
HE APPEARED AFTER, TO
Mary Magdalene. Mar. 16:9. Jno. 20:18.
The women. Mat. 28:9.
Simon Peter. Luke 24:34.
Two disciples. Luke 24:13–31.
Apostles, except Thomas. Jno. 20:19, 24.
Apostles, Thomas being present Jno. 20:26.
Apostles at the sea of Tiberias. Jno. 21:1.
Apostles in Galilee. Mat. 28:16, 17.
Above five hundred brethren. 1 Cor. 15:6.
James. 1 Cor. 15:7.
All the Apostles. Luke 24:51. Acts 1:9. 1 Cor. 15:7.
Paul. 1 Cor. 15:8.
Fraud impossible in. Mat. 27:63–66.
He gave many infallible proofs of. Luke 24:35, 39, 43. Jno. 20:20, 27. Acts 1:3.
WAS ATTESTED BY
Angels. Mat. 28:5–7. Luke 24:4–7, 23.
Apostles. Acts 1:22. Acts 2:32. Acts 3:15. Acts 4:33.
His enemies. Mat. 28:11–15.
Asserted and preached by the Apostles. Acts 25:19. Acts 26:23.
Begotten to a lively hope by. 1 Pet. 1:3, 21.
Desire to know the power of. Phi. 3:10.
Should keep, in remembrance. 2 Tim. 2:8.
Shall rise in the likeness of. Rom. 6:5. 1 Cor. 15:49, with Phi. 3:21.
Is an emblem of the new birth. Rom. 6:4. Col. 2:12.
The first-fruits of our resurrection. Acts 26:23. 1 Cor. 15:20, 23.
The truth of the gospel involved in. 1 Cor. 15:14, 15.
Followed by His exaltation. Acts 4:10, 11. Rom. 8:34. Eph. 1:20. Phi. 2:9, 10. Rev. 1:18.
An assurance of the judgment. Acts 17:31.
Typified. Isaac, Gen. 22:13, with Heb. 11:19. Jonah, Jon. 2:10, with Mat. 12:40.
For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish,ac three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s preaching; and look—something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look—something greater than Solomon is here.