Then there is the view of the Jehovah's Witnesses, which is the spiritual resurrection theory. This theory also seems to be gaining currency with some theological liberals today. They say that Jesus' resurrection was not physical, but it was spiritual, and that He was just a spirit. But the Bible directly refutes this:
"Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, 'Peace to you.' But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit" (Luke 24:36-37).
Yes, says the Jehovah's Witnesses, they were right. What they saw was a spirit. Not so fast. Luke continues: And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?" So they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence (Luke 24:38-43).
This is not to mention the fact that if Jesus were just a ghost or spirit, what about the body? Well, the body is still in the tomb. What about the disciples who ran to the tomb when they heard that Jesus has risen? They would have gotten there, the stone would be in front of the door; and Jesus would still be in the tomb. Well, the Jehovah's Witnesses have managed to take care of that, too, with the same disregard of anything the Scripture or history teaches and they simply said that God destroyed the body. He evaporated it; it just disappeared. But there is nothing in the Bible that says anything whatsoever like that.
Fourth, there is the view of the Muslims. This is the "wrong person theory." I doubt very much if you ever heard of this because, other than the Muslims, I don't know of anyone that believes it. But the Koran says of Jesus, "They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them" (Surah 4:157). Commentators on the Koran state that somehow, on Good Friday, there was a mix-up and Judas got crucified instead of Christ. But the eyewitness accounts say that Jesus was crucified.
Second, we have Mary, His mother, standing at the foot of the Cross for all of those hours looking at
Him and weeping over her dying son. He says to her, "Mother."
According to this theory, she was confused—as were Pilate, the Sanhedrin and the disciples. Everyone was confused, including Jesus, because He then came to the disciples after He rose from the dead.
I wonder who it is they think that appeared to the disciples and said, "Behold my hands and feet?" Do they believe that Judas arose from the dead? They have the same kind of problem they tried to get rid of—someone that God raised from the dead—which He didn't do with Mohammed.
Another fatal flaw to this theory is that it doesn't coincide at all with the character of Jesus. He was a man of impeccable integrity, but according to this theory, He would be a fraud, a deceiver. Furthermore, if this theory were true, the tomb would still be occupied (but we know it's empty); Judas' body would still be in the tomb, and what about the guard? What happened to them? When the early Christians declared Jesus risen from the dead, they could have easily countered what they said and just shown them the tomb with the Roman seal still affixed. This theory doesn't fit any of the known facts in this case.
Fifth, there is the hallucination theory—the theory that all of the disciples simply had hallucinations when they saw Him risen from the dead. Psychologists have pointed out that hallucinations are idiosyncratic129—that is, they are very personal and private, and people don't have collective hallucinations.
Jesus appeared to the people in the morning; He fixed breakfast with them. They hallucinated having breakfast. He appeared at noon, He walked with them to Emmaus, He appeared with them at suppertime several times, He appeared inside, He appeared outside. He even appeared to 500 people at one time. Not only did they see Him, but they heard Him, talked to Him, handled Him, and watched Him eat. They could not have been hallucinating all these things. Not to mention the other evidence; because having thus hallucinated that Jesus was alive and had appeared to them, they ran to the tomb and hallucinated that the tomb was empty, the guard was gone, the stone was rolled away, and the grave clothes were missing.
Then they began to preach that Jesus rose from the dead. If that were the case, this hallucination would be contagious. They declared that "You, Sanhedrin, you have taken with wicked hands and you have slain the Prince of Life and Glory and God has raised Him from the dead." So, the Sanhedrin ran down to the tomb, and they had the same hallucination. They hallucinated that it was empty, too.
Then the Romans, seeing there was a tumult made, went down and checked things out and talked to the guard. The guards all had hallucinations that the tomb was empty. This is all too ridiculous, obviously. It doesn't deal with any of the evidence.
There is also the theory which suggests the women went to the wrong tomb. But again, we must deal with the evidence. It is conceivable that the women got mixed up, and though they had been there on Friday evening, they went to the wrong tomb. According to Kirsopp Lake, a liberal biblical scholar who taught at Harvard (1914-37), this was conceivable in that there were so many tombs around Jerusalem. But I have been to that tomb, and there aren't any tombs around it—nor were there tombs around it at the time of Christ.
If this theory were correct, the women went to the wrong tomb, and Peter and John (by themselves), ran to the wrong tomb, and then the disciples came and they went to the wrong tomb. Joseph of Arimathaea, who owned the tomb, naturally would want to see what happened, and yet he, too, went to the wrong tomb. Of course, the Sanhedrin also was concerned, and they went to the wrong tomb. And then, of course, the angel came down, and the angel went to the wrong tomb—but what does an angel know about tombs?
Of course, all the while there were the guards saying, "Hey, fellows, we're over here" They, at least, were at the right tomb. Again, this is obviously a wrong theory, and it doesn't answer any of the facts.
If the women and everyone else went to the wrong tomb and started proclaiming Christ risen from the dead, what would the Sanhedrin do? Why, they would go to the right tomb. They would tell the soldiers to roll back the stone. They would say, "Bring Him out." Then they would hang His corpse up by the heels in the town square in Jerusalem, and they would say, "There is your glorious Prince of Life. Take a good whiff of His rotting corpse." That would have been the end of Christianity right then and there.
Lastly, there is the legend theory. This is the idea that the "myth" of Christ rising from the dead just sort of gradually grew up over the decades and centuries. This view was popular in the nineteenth century. That was back when they said that the Gospels were written in the second or even the third century by people other than the apostles. But all of that has collapsed in the last 30 or 40 years. Now even the late Bishop John A. T. Robinson of England, one of the most blatant critics, wrote a book pointing out that the conservative scholars were right all along and that the Gospels were written by the men whose names they bear, and in the times we have said they were written. Robinson said near the end of his life that he believed that all the Gospels, including John, were written before 70 a.d.130
Furthermore, as stated above, secular historians point out that the Church of Jesus Christ began in 30 a.d. in Jerusalem, because the apostles preached the Resurrection. Jesus and the Resurrection were the central thrust of their teaching, so there was no time for myth-making or legend-spinning. As Peter said, "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Peter 1:16). John said, speaking of Jesus, "the Word of life": "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life...we declare to you" (1 John 1:1, 3:b).
What's more, we know how all of the apostles died. They were crucified and stoned and cut up. All this was done to them...supposedly for believing a legend which hadn't even yet developed, and which wasn't going to develop for another 100 or 150 years. That's absurd. It doesn't deal with any of the factual information. It doesn't deal with what the Sanhedrin, the Jews, and Romans would have done.
In his book, The Historical Jesus, Gary Habermas points out that there are 18 different first or second century pagan (or at least non-Christian) writers, who present more than a hundred facts about the birth of Christ, His life, teachings, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. These names were listed in the transcript of our television special. They include Josephus, Tacitus, Thallus, Phlegon, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Emperor Trajan, Emperor Hadrian, the Talmud, Lucian, Mara BarSerapion, and so on.131 This is no legend that built up over the centuries. It began at the beginning.
"MIRACLES DON'T HAPPEN"
Some people begin with the assumption that miracles don't happen; therefore, Christ could not have risen from the dead. But this doesn't explain any of the facts.
It is also circular logic. It is merely a presupposition that disallows the possibility of the Resurrection. Who is open-minded here? Surely not the person who rejects the Resurrection out of hand because they know miracles don't happen. How can anyone know they don't happen? It is an illogical assumption.
But the truth is that Christ rose from the dead. The greatest problem mankind has ever faced, generation after generation, century after century, millennia after millennia, has been solved by Jesus. Death has been with us since the fall of man, and always people have asked, "If a man dies, will he rise again?" Jesus Christ has given us irrefutable evidence that the answer is "yes."
The greatest efforts of the most brilliant, unbelieving skeptical minds of the last 2,000 years to disprove the Resurrection have all come to naught. There is not one of them that could stay afloat in a debate for fifteen minutes when the evidence is given a fair examination.
There are other evidences I could discuss at length, if space permitted. I will mention them but briefly. Most notable is the transformation of the Sabbath from the Jewish Saturday to the Christian Sunday. The Resurrection took place amidst Jews who were committed and zealous Sabbatarians. How is it that suddenly the Christian Church changed from the seventh day Sabbath to the first day? Because the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead happened on the first day of the week.
For these Jews who believed in Jesus, and all the early Christians were Jews, to switch over from strict observance of Saturday as their holy Sabbath to Sunday as the all-important "the Lord's day," as it is called in the New Testament, was a monumental shift. The Resurrection was the cause of that shift. Christians have been worshiping Jesus Christ on Sunday from the very beginning until the present.
Dan Brown claims that "Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan's veneration of the sun."132 It is true that Sunday is so-named because of the sun. It is true that Constantine made the change official, but what he is leaving out is this: Christians worshiped Jesus on Sunday (on the Lord's day) from the very beginning—to honor His resurrection. Constantine just made official what Christians had been doing all along.
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