Easter | Resurrection = Hope

The greatest things we can have and give to someone else in these days is hope. The resurrection of Jesus turned the first followers of Christ from fearful people of despair into courageous people of hope. They began to spread the message of hope everywhere because when they saw Jesus had come back to life, it changed everything.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you…” Ephesians 1:18 NIV

You’ve got eyes on your face. You also have eyes in your heart. We all see the same things, but we see them differently. We filter the world through the things we’ve experienced, the worries we have, the good things that have happened to us, the bad things, the wounds we carry and the disappointments in our life. We pray that God’s light would flood your heart and life, in order that you may know His hope. That hope is found in the resurrection.

When Jesus Christ was crucified in 33 AD, there were only about 120 followers that were true to His message at that time. Today, 2,000 years later, 2.3 billion people in the world, claim to be a follower of Christ. How in the world did that happen? How did this little band of poor people 2,000 years ago expand into billions? In a word, the resurrection. It’s the most significant event in all of history.

Now, understand the difference between resurrection and resuscitation. They are not the same. People get resuscitated all the time. If you faint, we’ll resuscitate you. If you go into a coma, you can be resuscitated. There are people whose heart stop beating for a certain number of beats, you may be resuscitated.

Jesus’ resurrection means He was crucified by far the most brutal, torturous form of capital punishment ever invented. They beat Him, shoved a crown of thorns into His skull. They scourged Him. They made Him carry a heavy cross up the mountain. They lie Him down and nailed His hands to the cross. They didn’t want Him to suffocate on the cross, that would be too easy, so they bent His legs nail His feet so he’d have to push himself up to breathe. Death on the cross took a long time. They took a spear and they stuck it in His side to make sure He was dead. He was buried in a tomb for three days and then He came back to life. Only Jesus Christ has done that. That’s not resuscitation. That’s resurrection.

That single event changed all of history. What it did is it turned the first followers of Christ into the most hopeful, resilient amazing people the world has ever seen. Followers of Jesus are still the most hopeful people on the planet today. We have far more hope than anybody else in the world because of what Jesus Christ did at the resurrection. Anyone can have this hope. Let’s look at some legitimate reasons God gives us to have hope.

1. The first reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have been completely forgiven.

Jesus repeatedly said over and over, “I’m going to be handed over to be killed and on the third day, rise again.” If He didn’t come back to life, then we have every reason to doubt that His death means anything for us. But He did, and now the cross means something powerful for us.

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7 NLT

His death frees you from weight, shame, condemnation, ultimately you having to die for sin. But Jesus said, “I came to die for your sins, so you don’t have to die for them.” The cross was brutal. Why would Jesus go through that? Who killed Jesus? Who is to blame for Jesus being on the cross? It wasn’t Judas, the betrayer. It wasn’t Caiaphas, the high priest. It wasn’t Pilate, the Roman governor. It wasn’t even the crowd who turned on Him and said “Crucify Him! Give us Barabbas. A man who was guilty.” It wasn’t the Roman soldiers.   

The first answer is this, God did. It was His plan when He sent Jesus to earth.

“6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. 9 He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. 10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants.” Isaiah 53:6,9-10 NLT

It was God’s plan. Yet, now notice the change in tense. “When his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of descendants.” In other words, there will be people who will follow Him. The first part is in past tense and then it goes to future. This passage was written 700 years before Jesus Christ. This is a prophecy and Isaiah, in 700 BC, is telling and predicting exactly what’s going to happen to the Messiah, the Savior, the son of God who comes to Earth, and this happened exactly how it happened. It’s the whole reason He sent Jesus to earth. If Jesus hadn’t wanted to give His life for us, it wouldn’t have happened.  Jesus said I came to earth to die. It was for that purpose.

The second answer to who put Jesus on the cross is this: we did. If we could save ourselves, do enough good things, follow God’s law, break our sin nature, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on the cross for our sins. He was doing it so we could be saved. Even on the cross in all of that pain He wasn’t thinking of Himself, He was thinking of us. He cries out, “Father! Forgive them…”

“He was handed over to die because of our sins, [It was our penalty he was paying] and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” Romans 4:25 NLT

Completely forgiven. There’s someone reading this who, you’ve never truly known you’re forgiven, or you’ve never truly felt forgiven. You feel like if anyone knew the real you, you would be hopeless. God knows the real you. He sees it all. It’s not about you anymore. It’s about the name and the work of Jesus Christ. It’s about a cross that once and for all settled the judgment that hung over your life and now there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Be free.

2. The second reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope, we’re no longer afraid to die.

Jesus broke the power of death. Yes, without Christ, we are left for dead and we should be afraid. But Christ has conquered the grave. The individual sins that you’ve committed, that’s not even the whole issue.   Before you know Jesus Christ and are covered by His blood, any good thing you do, God could not care less about, because we’re spiritually dead. God wants you to know and trust in Jesus so the power of the resurrection can have an impact on your life. Jesus broke the power of the fear of death. The fear of death is a universal fear. Everybody has it, all over the world.

But what did Jesus do? He came back to life. If Jesus Christ had not resurrected from the dead, you would not even know that there’s life after death. You might be able to look at some evidence from creation, like the pattern and cycle of nature…actually, nature, science, anthropology, psychology, ethics, philosophy, all give us evidence of an afterlife, but you wouldn’t know. You’d have nothing to prove it. So, Jesus Christ proved it. He came back said, I’ve conquered death. There is greater life after death, and that’s good news.

Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25 NLT

There’s hope. One of the things that’s difficult to explain without the resurrection is the sudden change in the disciples because at the crucifixion and after, they’re all scared to death. They’re running, they’re defeated, they’re depressed in despair. Three days later they’re ready to take on the Roman Empire. What happened? They had seen Jesus. They were eye witnesses. Paul lists just a few of the eyewitnesses.

“Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all… I also saw him.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NLT

For 40 days He has multiple meetings with a lot of different people, friends. This is what’s called definitive evidence. Conclusive proof. Having hundreds of eyewitnesses would stand up in any court, anywhere in the world. This is why the church exploded. Within years, there were 30,000 members of the church just in Jerusalem, then it had grown to nearly a half a million, and it exploded all over the Roman empire. Why? Because of the resurrection, there were so many eye witnesses.

So, the Roman Empire started what was called the great persecution. For the first 300 years of Christianity, it was illegal to be a Christian. If you made the decision to say, I’m going to become a follower of Christ, you are more likely to be fed to the Lions in the Coliseum, crucified yourself or beheaded. Why did people become followers? Because of the hope. Do you know all but one of the original disciples were murdered; John was the exception. Stephen was stoned to death. James was beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was in prison in Rome, and then he was executed. Read the last words of Paul right before he goes to the execution, “I fought the good fight. I finished the race. I’ve kept the faith.”

Christians were fearless in the face of death. Why? Because they knew there was more to life than just here and now. You know what baffled the Roman empire was how unafraid Christians were to die. Paul says it like this.

“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Philippians 1:21 NLT

He says, “Either way I win. If I’m alive, I’m just going to live my purpose, the purpose that God created me for. If I die, I just get to go to heaven sooner. I can’t lose.” What do you do with a guy like that? There’s someone reading right now who is terrified of dying. And it’s greatly affecting the life God is giving you now. You don’t have to be afraid. Anyone who believes in Christ, will live even after dying. Do not be afraid.

3. The third reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have an eternal home waiting for us.

We know as followers of Jesus; death is not the end. It’s just a transition to better things. The last of Jesus 12 disciples to die was a guy named John. He was the only one not murdered because the killings wouldn’t take. So, they exiled John to a prison colony on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. There he wrote the last book of the Bible, which is called the Revelation. It is a vision God gave him of what the end times and heaven are like. What is heaven going to be like? Well, in a word, it’s indescribable.

It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be amazing. Why? Because look at the earth. This is a broken planet. This is a fallen planet. Nothing works perfectly on this planet, and yet there’s still a lot of beauty. Sun rises, sun sets, mountains, farm land, forests, and this is an imperfect planet. Imagine what a perfect place is going to be like with all the sights, sounds, tastes and the colors where it’s absolutely perfect.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

The more we see the earth with all of its abuse, affairs, assaults, rapes, violence, racism, prejudice, war, terrorism, and pandemics; the more we need trust Jesus and look forward to Heaven. And the more we should be ready for it.

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 NLT

To make it through this life, you need hope. Not just a wishful thinking, but a hope you can be certain of. You can’t be good enough to get this hope of an eternity in heaven. You need a savior. That’s what Jesus came to be. If Jesus didn’t need to die on the cross for you, then it was a total waste of his blood. There’s only one way. Before Jesus went back to heaven, He said to his followers,

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6 NLT

You need Jesus Christ. The way, the truth, the life. You need an eternal home, an eternal reward that’s driving your purpose and mission. How you’re living your life? Disconnected from God? Going through the motions without meaning and hope? God knew that on Easter Sunday, 2020 you’d be reading to this. Whatever circumstance you find yourself in right now, God loves you and has been preparing you for this moment.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 NIV

God knew you couldn’t save yourself. And He loves you. He did it for you. Believe.


Check Back

Check back on your discussions from the last series, “Getting To Know God.” God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable and sovereign. What do you think you will remember most from that series?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

The resurrection of Jesus turned the first followers of Christ from fearful people of despair into courageous people of hope. They began to spread the message of hope everywhere because when they saw Jesus had come back to life, it changed everything. This Easter we’ll ask why the resurrection still makes followers of Jesus the most hopeful people on the planet today.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you…Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)

Discussion & Application

  • Read Romans chapter 4. The first reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have been completely forgiven. What stands out to you about this? How does it impact you? Do you believe you have been completely forgiven?
  • Philippians 1:21: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” The second reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we’re no longer afraid to die. How has your fear of death changed as you know God better?
  • Jesus promised: “I am going to prepare a place for you…” The third reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is that we have an eternal home waiting for us. How does knowing your eternal home and reward is waiting for you in Christ change how you live now?
  • What are some other reasons the resurrection gives us hope? His power… His love… His purpose in our lives… Can you think of some more?

Prayer Focus

Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. Who in your life needs the hope of the resurrection? Pray for them.

Next Steps

Write out a thank-you note to God. Thank Him for loving you first, forgiving you, for sticking to His promises in the past. Thank Him for the promises that give you hope for tomorrow and an eternal home in heaven.

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Week 2: God’s Vision for Your Future

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What Time Is It? 

It’s a question many people are asking as we look at world events of natural disasters and terror. Technology is advancing quickly and powerfully, nations of influence are turning away from the truth and Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled.

So people are asking, “What time is it? Are we nearing the end?”

Last week’s post was about the simple truth that Jesus is returning. He’s coming back for His people. We are not forgotten or forsaken. We are on the winning side and being faithful to God in the midst of our doubts, trials and troubles, matters.

After Jesus returns, God tells us that certain things will happen. We will face judgment and spend our eternity in one of two places.

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”  Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV

So in your future, you have an appointment with death and an appointment with judgment. If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a reward in Heaven. If you are not a believer in Jesus, you face suffering in Hell.

Let’s start in the last chapter of the last book in the Bible, Revelation 22.

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”  Revelation 22:12-13 NIV

There is a judgment, a reckoning coming for each one of us. If you are new to Christianity, don’t miss this, we do not get into Heaven by doing good things. The only way we enter Heaven is through our faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t get into heaven because of what we do for Christ. We get into heaven because of what Christ did for us.

As a Christian, it’s important to know that your good works do not qualify you for Heaven. It’s also important to know that your good works determine the rewards you receive in Heaven.

The Judgment Seat of Christ.

This judgment happens right after the return of Christ for the Church. At Christ’s return the dead in Christ will rise from the grave and the believers who are alive at that time will be raptured.

Dead believers bodies will be resurrected into new, glorified bodies. While living believers bodies will be changed into new, glorified bodies.

Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed — in a moment, faster than an eye can blink, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will be changed.”  1 Corinthians 15:51 ISV

At Christ’s return, we call that the Rapture, the dead in Christ are raised and the living are transformed. Then, those believers will be judged at The Judgment Seat of Christ. If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, that’s you.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV

The Judgment Seat of Christ is a judgment for Christians only. At this judgment you’re not judged for salvation or damnation. You’re salvation has already been determined by your faith in Jesus Christ. The Judgment Seat of Christ is a judgment for rewarding you for the good works you have done on earth.

The Greek word translated as “judgment seat” is the word “bema”. The Bema Seat is not the seat where the judge sits to issue a verdict of guilty or innocent. The Bema Seat was where the judge would sit to issue awards after the Greek athletic games. The Bema Seat held the judge who rewarded people for how they ran the race.

Imagine Jesus Christ rewarding you for your faithfulness on earth. This judgment is actually a very joyous occasion for believers. This is where Jesus Christ will, hopefully, say to you, “Well, done! Good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

At the Bema Seat, runners were rewarded with crowns of olive leaves. The judge would place crowns of olive leaves on their heads. 


Incorruptible Crown: Run a Faithful Race

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”  1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV

Runners in the Greek games would do their best trying to win. They go through extensive training, discipline their bodies and practice self-control. They do all of this so that they can win a wreath of olive leaves, a crown that is going to wilt and whither and dry up.

The crown we receive in heaven is imperishable. It is not subject to decay. It’s enduring and indestructible.

“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NIV

Paul doesn’t run without aim. Who’s in control of you? Are you in control of your body or is your body in control of you? Paul says I discipline my body and make it my slave, so I won’t be disqualified. Disqualified doesn’t mean you don’t get into heaven. It means you don’t win this crown.


Crown of Righteousness: Love His Returning

This is the crown for those who long for Christ’s return.

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”  2 Timothy 4:8 NIV


Crown of Life: Those Who Suffer 

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”  James 1:12 NIV

Those who are martyred or killed for Christ or endure great hardships for Christ receive this crown. There are other crowns, other rewards identified in Scripture. For Christians, how you live on earth determines how you’ll be rewarded in Heaven.


In the future, there are two judgments and two resurrections. The first is the resurrection of those who are in Christ. They are judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you’ve trusted in Christ, you’re in that group.

The second resurrection, the second judgment is for non-Christians. If you haven’t trusted in Christ, you’re in this group. That’s known as the resurrection of the dead and the judgment is the Great White Throne Judgment

This judgment takes place before God establishes the New Heaven and the New Earth. It doesn’t determine your rewards in Heaven, it determines your level of punishment in Hell. If you trust in Jesus Christ, you don’t have to go there.


What Will Heaven Be Like?

John had a vision of heaven in Revelation 21 that gives three specific descriptions of what Heaven will be like.

“I saw a new Heaven and a New Earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away.”  Revelation 21:1 NIV

1. God will establish a New Heaven and a New Earth.

Notice that our final destination is not just Heaven, but a New Earth. That’s why whatever you enjoy on earth, you’ll enjoy on the New Earth and the New Heaven. The only difference is there won’t be any sin.

The New Earth will be just like the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Even walked in the cool of the day with the Lord and experienced uninterrupted fellowship with God in paradise, before we ruined it by falling for the Devil’s temptation.

Whatever you love about earth, Heaven will be similar but indescribably better. Think about your favorite place, your favorite moment. Take your best moment on earth and realize that Scripture says:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard what our God has prepared for those who love Him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

2. You will never suffer again.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'”  Revelation 21:4-5 NIV

For those of you who hurt right now, in the New Heaven and in the New Earth, there will be no more pain, no more suffering. You will never, ever suffer again! 

3. You will live with God forever

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.'”  Revelation 21:3 NIV

It’s as if God is saying, “Finally it’s done, it’s restored. It’s back to the way I created it, to the way I wanted it to be.”

Our finite minds cannot comprehend the glory of that promise. We can’t even handle God in His purest form. But on that day when we’re raised to new life, when we’re in our immortal bodies clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we can walk in fellowship with God just like in the Garden of Eden before the fall and the way God intended it to be.

This all starts with you standing before Christ at the Bema Seat. You stand before the One who was crowned with thorns and He welcomes you with a Crown of Righteousness into the Heaven that He’s prepared for you.

Here’s the problem, most people today believe that Heaven is the default destination. Most people today believe that when people die they go to heaven unless they have done something really, really bad. The Bible clearly tells us that heaven is not the default destination. Hell is the default destination.

We’re not all headed to heaven, we are all headed to hell when we die unless Christ intervenes on our behalf.

Jesus said something very sobering to all of us in Matthew 7.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  Matthew 7:13-14 NIV

There are a lot of people traveling on the broad path that leads to the true default destination, Hell.

The Final Judgement: The Great White Throne

Christians will not be judged here. This is a judgment for non-Christians, for non-believers. How you live as a believer matters and how you live as an unbeliever matters as well. This is how John describes the Great White Throne Judgment.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”  Revelation 20:11-12, 15 NIV

If anyone’s sins are not covered by Christ, if they have not responded to the grace of God and are judged by their works alone, their name is not written in the Book of Life and they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. That is the default destination.

Now, you may be thinking this is not fair of God to send people to Hell. Let’s talk about what’s really not fair. Have you ever known someone who hurt someone else severely and they were not held accountable for their actions? What happens when you see that take place? When someone does some horrible injustice to someone else and there are no consequences, we think someone should have to pay for that.

That’s exactly what happens at the Great White Throne Judgment. God takes all of the sin from all of history and says, “There will be payment for the sins that were not covered by the blood of Christ.” Not only is that fair, that’s what we call justice!

What’s not fair is when those of us who are Christians, stand before the One who was crowned with thorns and He gives you a crown and lets you into heaven. Because really we all deserve the Lake of Fire. The only reason we don’t wind up in the Lake of Fire is because Jesus took the punishment for our sins upon Himself.

He was innocent, we are guilty, yet He paid for our sins on the cross. It’s not fair that many of us are rewarded and get to go to heaven. It’s not fair that that His blood covers our sins and that He suffered on our behalf.

The Gospel means good news. So when Jesus puts a crown on your head, thank God that He’s not fair. That’s why we should want to live a life worthy of His rewards.

It’s not that you’re trying to gain access to heaven, you’re already accepted because of your faith in Jesus. But out of a response to everything that Jesus did, you want to live a life not for our own pleasure, but for His eternal glory.

Those of you who are Christians, would you say, “Yes, I want to give in His name, I want to serve, witness and make a difference in His name. I want my life on earth to bring glory to Him in eternity. I want my life here to be worthy of the rewards in Heaven.”

It’s time to make a decision to pursue those rewards.


Check Back

Check Back on your discussion from last week.  How has the promise of Christ’s return affected how you lived this past week?  Did you find any comfort, make any preparation, or change your focus in light of this truth?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read: Revelation 21:1-5, 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, Revelation 20:11-15 and Matthew 7:13-14

Application

1. What is one idea from the message that really stood out to you? Why did this idea grab your attention?

2. Knowing that one day you will be judged and rewarded, what changes might you need to make in your life today?

3. Is there any pain in your life that you’re ready for God to bring to an end?  What is it?

4. How does it make you feel knowing that God wants to live with you forever?

5. Why do you think so many people choose to take the broad road that leads to destruction?

6. What one thing you will do this week as a result of something you learned from this message?

Tell Someone Else

Who is someone that you would like to encourage regarding the hope of a reward for the good works that they have been doing?  Maybe you could write them a note of encouragement this week!

 

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Not So Far-Fetched: Is Jesus Alive?

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Two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus lived in ancient Palestine and was executed on a Roman cross. Shortly after, a group of his followers went out into the city of Jerusalem and all around the Mediterranean and spread the message that Jesus was crucified, but three days later, He rose again. The core of Christianity is the Gospel message, that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. If the resurrection didn’t happen, then our faith is empty but if it did, then it changes everything.

This post is for those of you who need a faith check-up. You believe, but sometimes you wonder, “Is this thing for real? Can I trust this?” Maybe you watched a documentary on the history channel and you’ve got some questions. And you just need a faith check-up.

For others of you, you’re just checking it out. Maybe you didn’t grow up in a religious home and you don’t really care one way or another. Your philosophy of life is, “I’m just here to have a good time and when I die, then I’ll deal with whatever comes next.” 

Then there’s a third category of people, you’ve already decided that you’ve checked out of faith. Perhaps you grew up in a Christian home and you were handed a childhood version of faith. But then you became an adult and what you experienced in the real world didn’t match the version of faith that you grew up with. Perhaps you experienced a tragedy or someone close to you did, maybe a prayer went unanswered or a college professor said something that made you question everything you believe in. So you decided to check out of the whole faith thing.

But today, maybe we can help remove one potential stumbling block to faith and perhaps provide a bridge that may help you consider believing again. Today, you can have incredible confidence that the resurrection is a historical reality. 


The primary argument against the resurrection is that it’s a myth. That the written accounts of the resurrection are far too removed from the actual events to be accurate accounts of actual events. This belief states that over a period of a few hundred years, the story got exaggerated and by the time that anyone had written anything down, the story became so exaggerated and there were no eyewitnesses around to dispute it. If we look at New Testament scholarship today, it will show that theory isn’t even possible.

There’s a college textbook titled, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction To The Early Christian Writings. In it, the non-believing author, Bart. D. Ehrman, agrees with Christian scholars about the timeline of the New Testament writings on the life of Jesus.  Ehrman has his PhD in New Testament documents and is also an atheist. Atheist scholars don’t believe the bible is inspired, they don’t believe in the resurrection. They try to find some other explanation as to why the New Testament authors believed in the the resurrection and study the New Testament documents like they would any other ancient text.

Scholars, including non-Christian ones, believe the New Testament is not just a book but is a collection of biographies and letters written in the first century. Biographies were written of the life of Jesus by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There are also letters from Paul, James, Peter and John. Here’s a timeline, pulled directly from Ehrman’s textbook:

blog timeline.001

These dates mean that the idea of the resurrection as a myth isn’t even possible. The Gospels are the four earliest accounts of the life of Jesus ever written. They all talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

You may not trust the Bible, but even if you don’t believe the Bible is inspired by God, you still have to wrestle with the fact that these are first century texts, written by different people, at different places, with different perspectives, yet they are all talking about the resurrection of Jesus.


Scholars know that Paul lived in the 1st century and was incredibly intelligent. In the New Testament, there are 13 letters with Paul’s name on it. Not all scholars agree on all 13 letters, but they do have a list of 7 letters they call the undisputed letters of Pauline.

  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Philippians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • Philemon

All scholars agree Paul wrote these letters around 50-60 AD. In every single one of these letters except Philemon, Paul explicitly mentions the resurrection.

In the very first sentence of Galatians 1 written around 55 to 57 AD, Paul says:

“Paul, an apostle, sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead”  Galatians 1:1

Now, obviously atheist scholars doubt that the resurrection actually happened. They try to find another theory to explain why the New Testament authors came to believe in it. Whatever theory they come up with, it has to match evidence. Even if the Bible is not inspired, the resurrection cannot be the result of legend because within 20-30 years Paul was already writing about it.


Scholars believe that preserved in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which he wrote in 55 ad, is a creed of the earliest Christians. The first century church created creeds in order to transmit important information. A creed is a carefully crafted, usually memorable series of statements, used to insure accurate transmission of important information. Because at that time, very few people could read or write. People would create these creeds as an easy way to memorize important information.

 

1 Corinthians 15 Creed

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.”  1 Corinthians 15:1-5

No one debates that Jesus was executed, even crucified sometime between 30-33 AD. It’s the resurrection that brings up the disagreements. Notice the word, appeared. He appeared to Cephas (Peter) and the twelve disciples. Then he goes on to tell about other people Jesus appeared to:

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”  1 Corinthians 15:6-8 NIV

When Jesus appeared to people it meant they saw the resurrected Jesus with their very own eyes. It wasn’t just something they heard about, but they saw Him directly.

What this creed means is that Paul, and others, believed Jesus rose from the dead within 22 years after the event. More than that, they  believed that the resurrected Jesus appeared to many people. In terms of history, 22 years is nothing. The earliest documentation that we have for Alexander the Great was written 400 years after his death. And historians consider it reliable evidence.

We know quite a bit about Paul: he was a persecutor of the church and then 1 to 3 years after the crucifixion, he converts to Christianity on the road to Damascus. Some scholars think Paul received the creed then, in Damascus. Others believe he received it 3 years later when he visited Peter and James in Jerusalem. In Galatians 1, Paul tells us that 3 years after became Christian he visits Peter and James in Jerusalem to learn the gospel story from them. 

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.”  Galatians 1:18-19 NIV

The word Paul uses to say ‘get acquainted is the Greek word στορσαι (historeo), which means to inquire into or to get an historical account. Paul visits Peter with the purpose of hearing the Gospel from his perspective. 

Paul must have received the 1 Corinthians 15 Creed between 1-6 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. This is extremely early evidence. What scholars agree on, is that this creed and Paul’s letters prove that the followers of Jesus believed in resurrection just a few years after the event.

The primary point, is that the resurrection was the event that launched Christianity. It’s at the core of our faith.


What’s A Witness?

Luke says it this way, in Acts 2 that on the first day of the church, Peter walked into the crowd and said:

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”  Acts 2:32 NIV

The idea that these men and women saw the resurrected Jesus gave them boldness to tell everyone they knew about it even in the face of suffering and death. Most of the apostles died for their faith in resurrection. Don’t miss the word witnesses.

Do you know the difference between a witness and a believer?

A believer can believe something and not know whether they’re right or wrong.

A witness bases their belief on what they directly experienced.

Someone may willingly die for what they believe to be true, but people won’t die for what they know to be falseWhen it comes the the resurrection of Jesus, a whole group a people all claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.

If the resurrection was a lie, then all the people who said they saw appearances of the risen Jesus wouldn’t be willing to die for it. But they did. They lived lives of poverty while traveling around the Mediterranean so that they could spread the message of the resurrection. Even in face of death, to tell anyone about the resurrection of Jesus.

Now, this doesn’t prove the resurrection with 100% certainty, but we don’t know anything from history with 100% certainty. There is really good evidence and the best explanation of the evidence is: it really did happen!

For those of you who have checked out of faith, you just can’t believe anymore, now that you’ve read the evidence, what do you do with it? You can come up with another theory because typically, when people die, they usually stay dead. Even if you don’t believe the Bible is inspired, even if can’t answer every question about faith, no matter your theory or worldview, it has to fit the facts. The fact is, that within 1-6 years, followers of  Jesus believed He was resurrected from the dead because they had seen Him. They boldly spread the message that Jesus is alive. Scholars don’t debate that. Look for yourself. Look up the undisputed letters and the 1 Corinthians creed.

Maybe you are thinking, “If there’s so much evidence that even the non-believing scholars agree too, then why don’t they believe in the resurrection?” The answer they would give is, “It doesn’t matter how much evidence you show me, because resurrections are impossible. Miracles, by nature, are impossible. No matter how much evidence you have or how short my alternate theory falls. It still outweighs the evidence for the resurrection because miracles just don’t happen.”

If that’s your worldview, we will tell you, of course resurrections are impossible, that’s the point! If resurrections happened every day, what would be special about Jesus? Because it’s impossible, we know Jesus is real deal. If you can’t believe in the resurrection because you can’t allow miracles into your worldview, that’s fine. But what you can’t say is that there’s no evidence for it.

We believe that the resurrection is the most important event in history. It changes everything, it changes everything about you, everything about your life and it says that there is a God out there who loves you. He loves you enough that He’d be willing to send his Son to die for you and then 3 days later, He came back to life.

Jesus can bring you back to spiritual life as well.


Check Back

Check back on what you discussed last week. Does anyone have any more thoughts on what you discussed last week about the goodness of God?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

This week we looked at the question, “Is Jesus Alive?”

The Resurrection of Jesus is the event that launched the Church into existence. According to the apostle Paul, if the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ isn’t true, then our faith is empty. However, if we look at the first century documents that make up the New Testament, we can have incredible confidence that the resurrection is a historical reality. 

Read: 1 Corinthians 15

Application

  1. What stood out to you in the message? What did you hear?
  2. What was your family’s perspective on the resurrection and Christianity growing up?
  3. Have you ever heard any objections or arguments against the resurrection?
  4. How did some of the evidence Zach presented change how you think about the resurrection historically?

Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to share this message with? Is there someone you’re better equipped to have a conversation with because of this message?

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