Christ's Resurrection: Fact or Fable?

by John V. Koontz

Christ's Resurrection: Fact or Fable

The Athenians ridiculed the Apostle Paul for declaring that God has "fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). When they heard Paul speak of the resurrection of the dead, some sneered but others said, "We will hear you again on this subject."

The doctrine of the resurrection is a thing scoffed at by many today, as it was in Paul's day. And as the argument is current, so is Paul's response, found in 1 Corinthians 15, where he lists four consequences of denying the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1. If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile (v. 14). Preaching a dead Christ won't save anybody. Preaching may be very logical, learned, and forceful, yet if the Savior preached about is not risen, preaching is empty. It's like throwing a life rope to a drowning man with no anchor to secure the rope at the other end. If Christ be not risen, preaching about Him is futile. Why waste time listening to lectures about a savior whom death overcame? What kind of "savior" is that?

2. If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is fruitless (vv. 14,17). Many people think faith saves a person. However faith in the wrong person won't help, but hurt. Faith reaches out to lay hold on some object. A drowning man will grasp almost anything, even if it's only a piece of driftwood or seaweed, and cling to it. But clinging won't save him. Faith is like clinging. All around us people are clinging to something that may even prove helpful temporarily. For example, counterfeit money may help temporarily to pay your taxes, but when the authorities find out the money is bogus, they will come after you. One may kid himself that he is getting relief from a sin-troubled conscience by trying to pay off sin's debt with faith in a fictional "savior" whose "resurrection" teaches "the permanence of personality," but the day is coming when he will be caught with his counterfeit and pay the penalty.

3. If Christ has not been raised, then forgiveness is a failure (v. 17). You are still in your sins. You have no hope of pardon for sin if Christ remained under the power of death. A dead Savior can't deliver us either from sin or its penalty. If He is still dead, His blood did not accomplish its purpose for He said, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is to be shed on behalf of many for forgiveness of sins." Peter declared, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:30,31). Forgiveness of sins hangs upon a resurrected, exalted, living Savior. Paul preached that forgiveness of sins was provided for through Jesus who was raised from the dead as promised without His body undergoing decay (Acts 13:34-38).

4. If Christ has not been raised from the dead the future is fearful. "Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished" (1 Cor. 15:18). Those who died trusting in a non-risen Jesus are lost. When a life-guard dives into the sea to rescue a drowning person, and the life-guard never comes back, not just one person perishes-both are lost! If the resurrections doesn't mean that He who lives was dead, and now is alive forevermore, then the Apostles Peter, Paul, James, and John have perished. So have countless millions who died trusting in the Jesus they preached because their faith will never prove true. Our future is filled with fear and dread "if we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most to be pitied."

In a painting called "The Game of Death," a young fellow is seen playing chess with the devil. Apparently the devil has won the game, judging by the position of the pieces on the chess board. A famous chess player went to see the picture, and after looking at it said, "I can save that fellow." He explained how the chessmen could be moved to save the game and defeat the devil. This faintly illustrates what Jesus Christ has done. In one mighty move up from the grave He has eternally checkmated the devil, broken his death grip, and delivered them who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Heb. 2:14-15).

Because the Lord Jesus Christ lives on high, triumphant over sin and all its stain, our preaching is not futile, our faith is not fruitless, our forgiveness is not a failure, and our future is not fearful if our trust is in Him.