In one of Paul’s most emphatic statements, he declared, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, everything else is a waste of words. If he is not alive right now, Christianity is a hopeless fraud. But the good news is that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead—as our Savior, and as the promise that we will also rise from the dead.
The doctrine of the resurrection is an essential of the faith. All of Christianity depends on the truth of this doctrine. But it is more than a doctrine—it is wonderful good news, news that should fill us with joy, hope, confidence, excitement and celebration!
1. Did Jesus not only predict his death, but also his resurrection? Matthew 16:21; 17:23; Mark 9:9. Did the disciples understand and believe Jesus? Mark 9:10; John 16:17-18;Mark 16:11; Luke 24:11.
2. What convinced the disciples that Jesus rose from the dead? What did they see in Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning? Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:1-6; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-8. What evidence did they see later that same day? Matthew 28:7-10; Mark 16:9-14; Luke 24:13-16, 30-43; John 20:10-22. When did they begin to believe?
3. What evidence did the disciples see after that first Sunday? Matthew 28:16-20; John 20:26-29; 21:1-14; Acts 1:3, 9. What did they later testify about what they had seen? Acts 2:32; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30-32; 7:56; 10:39-41; 1 John 1:1.
4. What evidence persuaded Saul of Tarsus, a hostile nonbeliever? Acts 9:3-6. What did he conclude from this experience? Acts 13:33; 22:6-8, 17-21; 26:14-18. What did he then preach? 17:3, 18, 31; Romans 1;4; 1 Corinthians 15:8; 2 Timothy 2:8.
Comment: Although Jesus had clearly predicted his own death and resurrection, the disciples did not believe it. They could not imagine a Messiah who died, and as a result they did not understand any need for a resurrection. Even after Jesus’ death, the disciples did not believe. Even after seeing an empty tomb, they did not believe. They did not expect to see Jesus ever again.
What convinced the disciples that Jesus had risen? Jesus did. He appeared to them with real flesh and bones. They saw him and touched him. The disciples saw the risen Christ in several places, in several circumstances. This was not wishful thinking, nor hallucinations.
Hundreds were convinced that Jesus was alive—and they were so convinced that they preached this even when threatened with death. They did not invent the story—people do not risk their lives for something they know to be false. Their boldness shows that they believed, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Jesus was really alive.
No other explanation makes sense. A badly beaten and left-for-dead victim of scourging and crucifixion could not have escaped the tomb by himself. Nor would it make sense for the Jews or Romans to steal the body. The Jews could have stopped the “heresy” of the disciples if they had simply produced the dead body—but there was no dead body to be found! The empty tomb may not have been enough to convince the disciples, but a full tomb would have been enough to stop everyone.
It was not a hoax. It was not a mistake. Jesus was really alive, and hundreds testified to what they had seen and heard. Even Saul of Tarsus, an enemy of the message, became convinced when Jesus appeared to him. It was not a wishful thought, not a fraud, not a hallucination—it was an event that changed Saul’s life. Jesus’ resurrection changes our lives, too.
5. What does the resurrection prove about Jesus Christ? Romans 1:4; Acts 17:31.
Comment: When God raised Jesus from the dead and he ascended to God’s right hand, it was a stamp of approval on Jesus himself, showing that he was God’s Son and his Messiah. It showed that he was not a sinner, and that what he taught was true.
However, the apostles made little use of this argument. Jesus was the Son of God even before he was resurrected, and what he taught was true, whether or not he was resurrected. The apostles give more emphasis to what Jesus’ resurrection means for us—for our salvation.
6. Is the resurrection of Jesus a prominent part of the gospel message? Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:4; 2 Timothy 2:8. Is it part of the symbolism of baptism? Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21.
7. Jesus died for our sins, so that we might be forgiven. But is his resurrection also needed for our forgiveness and our justification? Acts 13:37-39; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:17. Are we saved not just by Jesus’ death, but also because of his resurrection? Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:4-6; 1 Peter 1:3.
8. Is Jesus only the first to be resurrected? Acts 26:23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Revelation 1:5. Does his resurrection serve as a promise that we will also be resurrected? Romans 6:5; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14. Has Jesus broken the power of death not only for himself, but also for us? Acts 2:24; Romans 6:9; Hebrews 2:14-15.
Comment: The Jews believed that there would be a resurrection at the end of the age (Daniel 12:1-3; John 11:24). But how did Jesus’ resurrection happen before the end came? It signaled the beginning of the end—the old covenant era had come to an end; a new era had begun.
Although the last days began with Christ (Acts 2:16-17; Hebrews 1:2), the new age is not yet completely here. We are living in a transition era. Some aspects of our salvation are already here; others are not yet here. Jesus is resurrected, but believers are not—but his resurrection does affect us, as pictured in our baptism. We are described spiritually as having been raised with Christ so that we might live a new life. This affects the way we live. Since we have been raised with Christ, we are to seek the things that are above (Colossians 3:1-4).
We look forward with confidence to our complete redemption (Romans 8:23). Because God raised Jesus from the dead, we can be sure that God will also raise us from the dead, and we will be like Jesus in his glory (1 John 3:2). His resurrection is therefore tremendously important news not just about Jesus, but also about our own future.
What will we be like in the resurrection? We will be like Jesus Christ. Paul says that our mortal body will be clothed with immortality; it will be changed from perishable to imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:35-53). The old body will rise and will be given new characteristics.
In verse 44, Paul describes our mortal bodies with the word psychikon (from psyche, the word for “soul”). He describes the resurrection bodies with the word pneumatikon (from pneuma, the word for “spirit”). He is not talking about bodies made of soul, or bodies made of spirit—he is just saying that our resurrection bodies will be bodies, characterized in some way by spirit. Our bodies will be raised with a changed nature.
When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, his body had flesh and bone, but it also had supernatural capabilities. He was not subject to the same laws of physics. The grave clothes were left in the tomb, but Jesus’ body was not. It was changed from perishable to imperishable—a supernatural body. It was his body, but it had been changed.
9. What happened 40 days after the resurrection? Acts 1:3, 9-11. Where is Jesus now? Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:56; Ephesians 1:20-21; Philippians 2:9; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 1 Peter 3:22.
Comment: By visibly rising into the sky, Jesus showed that he was leaving his disciples and going to his Father in heaven. He would no longer appear in bodily form to them—he was leaving.
But in another sense, in another way, he continued to be with his disciples (Matthew 28:20). He still lives in his disciples (John 15:4; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). He is the one who sent the Holy Spirit to fill the church (John 16:7; Acts 2:33).
Throughout his epistles, Paul describes the Christian life as being “in” Christ. We are spiritually united to him. Christ is in us as well as in heaven. He can therefore serve as our connection to heaven.
10. What is Jesus Christ now doing in heaven to help us? Romans 8:34; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1. What terms for his work are used in the book of Hebrews? Hebrews 2:17-18; 3:1-6; 4:14-16; 7:24-28; 9:15; 13:20. What is Jesus now doing in the church? Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:23; 4:15-16; 1 Peter 2:25.
Comment: Jesus cares for the spiritual health of every believer, interceding for them, forgiving them, strengthening them. We can pray with confidence, knowing that we have a high priest who understands our difficulties. He has not only begun the work in us, he will complete it—he is the author and the finisher of our salvation.
Jesus Christ continues to lead and guide the church he built. He remains actively involved in his people so that we might become more like him, growing in him until we are fully conformed to his image. The church depends on the risen Christ. Our salvation depends on the risen Christ. All our faith depends on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ resurrection was a time of triumph, of victory, of joy, worship and celebration. It was a demonstration of the hope that all Christians have of conquering death, of becoming imperishable, of rising to glory. It expresses faith, hope and joy. It is no surprise that Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.