Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ important to Christians? Some want to say that the physical fact of the resurrection of Jesus is not important and that what is truly important is the meaning that such an inspiring “myth” brings to us. The writers of the New Testament and the consistent witness of the early church shows that idea to be false. We Christians are not “inspired” by a story that is not factually true. Rather, we are transformed by an event which actually happened in space and time. Anyone who does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead cannot call himself a Christian in the biblical sense of that word. Let’s look at the biblical testimony about the resurrection and then the importance of the resurrection for believers in Christ.
THE OLD TESTAMENT PREDICTIONS OF JESUS’ RESURRECTION
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was predicted in the Old Testament. Then, the apostles used those Old Testament texts in their preaching of the resurrection of Jesus. Look at how Peter and Paul use David’s Psalm 16 to preach the resurrection of Jesus:
David--Psalm 16:10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
Peter--Acts 2:25-31 For David says concerning him, . . . For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. . . he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
Paul--Acts 13:35-37 Therefore he says also in another psalm,“‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’
36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.
Paul also uses David’s words in Psalm 2:7 in the same fashion:
Psalm 2:7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
Acts 13:33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’
The author of Hebrews has a similar usage of Psalm 22:22:
Psalm 22:22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: Hebrews 2:11-12 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
The point here is that the resurrection of Jesus was predicted in the Old Testament; the apostles used these scriptures to point to the bodily resurrection of Jesus; and the consistent preaching of the New Testament included the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
JESUS OWN TESTIMONY OF HIS RESURRECTION
Jesus predicted, not only his own death, but His resurrection from the dead.
Very early in His ministry: John 2:18-22-- So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
In His last year of ministry: John 10:18-- No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Three predictions in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) from the last year of Jesus’ ministry:
Matthew 16:31-- From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
Matthew 17:9-- From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 17:23-- and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
Matthew 20:17-19-- And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
The point here is that the resurrection of Jesus was predicted multiple times on multiple occasions to multiple people. Ironically, the only people who thought deeply about this were Jesus’ enemies. As you recall, they worried about Jesus’ body, precisely because He had predicted His resurrection.
THE WRITERS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
The writers of the New Testament are clear and unequivocal in their proclamation that Jesus Christ bodily rose from the dead. The resurrection is explicitly declared in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, each of Paul’s epistles, 1 Peter, and Revelation. The idea that every single one of these documents was manipulated or written by people many, many years later to perpetuate a myth is preposterous. It takes more faith to believe the prevailing liberal scholarship on these documents than it does to take them at face value. No one says it more clearly than the Apostle Paul as he describes the Christian Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Note Paul’s language here. The resurrection is the cornerstone of what is of first importance. The resurrection is an essential part of the Christian Gospel. There is no Gospel without the resurrection. The resurrection was a bodily one, not a “spiritual” or “mythical” one, attested by many key witnesses. If you are seeking authoritative witnesses, look to the apostles like Peter, James, and Paul. If you are seeking quantity of witnesses, Paul says that over 500 people gathered at one time were eye witnesses of the bodily resurrected Messiah.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RESURRECTION
Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead so important? Let me count the ways! First, the resurrection is the foundation upon which Christianity rests. There is no true Christianity apart from the resurrection. Paul put it this way, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Note how Paul describes four problems for Christianity, if Jesus’ resurrection did not happen.
--Our faith in Him would be futile, worthless.
--We would remain in our sins under the wrath of God forever.
--Those who have already died as believers in Christ have perished, which means that they are in eternal torment with no hope.
--And we who remain, are, of all people in the world, most to be pitied.
This is quite a statement. Basically, Paul is saying that there is no Christianity, no heaven, and no joy here on earth if the resurrection did not take place. This shatters the idea that the resurrection can be held as some inspiring mythical story which elevates us as we think about how true it is in our imaginations. No, a thousand times no! Jesus rose from the dead, and we have a real faith, our sins forgiven, an eternal home with God after we die, and a joy right here that is unspeakable. It is either that, or it is nothing.
Second, the bodily resurrection of Jesus means that all who believe in Him will experience eternal life with a resurrection body like His glorious body. Consider Jesus’ promise John 14:19: Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. Consider Paul’s declaration in 2 Timothy 1:10 that Christ Jesus . . . abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. This will be so real and substantial that it means that there is no true death for the believer in Christ; the believer never faces separation from God. Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” Paul affirms that the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead means that we will have real bodies in heaven, just like the body of our Lord Jesus. Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Third, the bodily resurrection of Jesus assures that sin has been paid for and that death has been completely defeated. Paul makes the point that Abraham was counted righteous by faith in a Savior future to Him. Then, he goes on to say that the same justification of being counted righteous applies to us, but only because the same Savior of Abraham and us was raised from the dead. See Romans 4:22-25: That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. The complete defeat of death was accomplished by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. See 1 Corinthians 15:53-57: For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fourth, the resurrection of Jesus Christ means that He is the Lord of everything, including me. I am not my own boss; I am not my own king; I do not have the right to craft my life apart from Him. He is Lord. That means that my work, my finances, my sexuality, my habits, my family, my mission in life, my everything belongs totally and completely to Him. Any failure to surrender any of these to Jesus is doomed to both failure and judgment. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Ephesians 1:19-23 declares the power and authority of Jesus Christ: and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we have a message to declare to every people group in the world. Jesus is Alive! God promised Good News, “through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” (Romans 1:3-5) Jesus declared after His resurrection, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48)
No other “religious” leader died for our sins; no other “spiritual guide” rose from the dead; no other leader of any kind defeated death. Only Jesus, and He is the Savior of the world.
Hallelujah! He is risen! He is risen indeed!