Lance Lefler
Lead Pastor, Anchor Church

If you want to destroy Christianity, here’s one of the best ways to do it: show that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. The New Testament makes clear that the claims of Christ hinge on the resurrection.

Jesus claimed to be God, that he was sent to die and pay the price for our rebellion against God. Central to this rescue mission was that he would rise from the dead three days after his crucifixion.

If he didn’t rise, all that stuff about being God and being able to clear us of our guilt is nonsense. Then again, if he did rise, we have to reckon with who he claimed to be.

For this argument I’m going to assume the New Testament writers were basically reliable witnesses. This is not controversial, by the way, among first-century historians (though it may be on YouTube!). If you think I’m overplaying my hand, then just assume they’re shoddy witnesses. That’s all I need for my argument to work.

Keep in mind, Christianity was birthed in time-space history, not in some sort of Shrek-like fairytale world. The New Testament was written by eyewitnesses and associates of eyewitnesses who researched the life of Christ, a public figure.

So here’s the argument…

It is highly improbable that the first Christians would have preached that Jesus raised from the dead if he hadn’t, because:

First, they didn’t expect the resurrection. Israel was expecting a conquering king, not a Savior who would die for their sins and rise again. The fact that Jesus was executed threw his followers for a loop. So, it’s absurd to think they would have invented the resurrection if it didn’t happen.

Second, the enemies of Christianity (and there were many, especially among the Jewish religious establishment, who also wielded political influence), who were also eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life and death, could have produced the body to disprove the resurrection. But no one ever did.

Here’s a crucial point: the followers of Christ could not have made up the story of the resurrection (and other miracles) and gone out and preached it, for the simple fact that there were plenty of unfriendly eyewitnesses to the life and death of Christ, who would have been only too happy to prove them wrong.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, his disciples were dejected mourners. The jig was up. Then just a few weeks later, they began preaching that Jesus had risen from the dead—and many went on to pay a heavy price for that.

The most plausible explanation for this change is that they actually saw Jesus alive after his death. That’s what has happened to millions of people since, including me. I came to Christianity as a skeptic, but when I realized the story was true, I met the risen Christ. I hope you do too!

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Lance Lefler

Lead Pastor, Anchor Church