The Resurrected Life

Last week we looked at the promise that we were buried with Christ and our sinful nature was taken away. This leaves our flesh unemployed, but us free to pursue life in the Spirit. This week we are going to look at the life in the Spirit. Let’s begin by looking at John 12:23-25

23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
25 “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Jesus was about to face crucifixion, and He first pointed at His own life to teach that until He dies, a fruit-bearing life cannot emerge. He immediately transitions into connecting His work to our lives. You also cannot live until your life has died to the flesh. Until you die, you remain alone. If you maintain this temporal life of the flesh, you cannot live, but death remains upon you. But if you die with Christ, eternal life emerges. To understand how we died with Christ, I recommend reviewing the earlier message, The Crucified Life.

Let’s take a few moments to see how His death produced our life. Look now at Isaiah 52:13-14

13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men;

Who is God’s servant? According to Philippians 2, Jesus existed in the form of God, but veiled His glory and took on the form of a bondservant for the purpose of becoming obedient to death. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him.

This was foretold here in Isaiah. He will be exalted, but before that, we will be astonished at His marred appearance. Jesus will be marred more than any man. This prophecy given before Christ was speaking of his two-fold punishment. Jesus was first marred by being scourged with a cat of nine tails. This is a whip with pieces of sharp rock or other tearing material woven into the tip. It was intended to rip the flesh with each stripe. The whip would strike the back, and the punisher would yank the whip back to intentionally tear away the flesh.

This was normally the end of punishment, but Jesus was also condemned to die, so He was led away to be crucified. Condemned men were humiliated by having them carry their cross up the hill where they knew death awaited them. Because Jesus was so marred, He didn’t even have the strength to carry the cross, so a bystander was summonsed to carry it for Him.

Six inch nails were then driven through His wrists. Most translations use the word ‘hands’ but the Greek word for hands also includes the wrists. The hands didn’t have enough strength to support a human body, so crucifixion used the gap between the two bones in the wrist. It’s also one of the most painful places to be pierced.

Nails were driven between the space in the center of the feet, two to three inches behind the toes. Another agonizing place to be pierced. When someone hung from the cross, the weight pulling against their chest made breathing nearly impossible. Each labored breath required the convict to push up on the nail in their feet so they could release the pressure against their ribcage. Crucifixion was intended for maximum pain, and maximum humiliation. Knowing this makes the next passage clearer, Isaiah 53:3-6

3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 52 says that Jesus is about to be highly exalted, but before this He will be marred more than any man, and He must go through the shame of Isaiah 53. Man will hide his face from Christ. This means the people will disown Him. Everyone will turn their backs on Him. His disciples will forsake Him out of fear, and the people will turn their backs on Him out of hate.

Satan is delighting in the torment, yet God was working a magnificent plan. The very stripes being laid on Jesus’ back were creating the flow of love that would soon be offered to His enemies for redemption. His bruises were for our sins. His stripes were for our healing. His rejection was for our acceptance. During the midst of this brutal act, God was laying your iniquities upon Him, so that your sins could be put to death in Him and new life emerge. Until you die with Him, you remain dead in your sins. But when we trust in Him, we are accounted as dead indeed to sin, but alive to God. And we are promised a new life – which we receive when we put our trust in Him. Look at this amazing promise from Ezekiel 36:26-27

26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

And this is from the Old Testament! God is foretelling of the day when God will take away our stony heart of sin and give us a new heart that is tender toward God. He then takes our dead nature away, and gives us a new spirit. Not only that, but His own Spirit will also be placed within us, and we will then have perfect fellowship with God.

Your old nature based on a spirit born into sin can never have fellowship with God. But when God takes away our sin, He gives us a new spirit AND His Holy Spirit. This is why we are called the temple of God.

But wait! There’s more! God then promises to be the driving force of good in our life, so that He causes us to walk in His ways and do His will. This is why the book of Romans tells us that the Gentile Christians, those who knew nothing about the law, did by nature the things written in the law, proving that the law of God was written on their hearts.

It is only when people are taught to walk in the flesh that they begin to struggle with sin again. We are called to walk according to our new nature, then the old sins have no power. Sin is defeated in the life of the Spirit. It cannot be defeated by human effort. Nor can faith be lived through human effort. We learn to walk in new life, and then righteous living is a natural way of acting. It is by nature that you keep God’s ways. It cannot be by forcing our flesh to live by a godly standard.

The Spirit subdues the flesh to make us instruments of righteousness. The flesh cannot be the focus, for it cannot change itself. Or as the Bible says, “The body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” Life lived through the flesh will always produce sin. But you are not in the flesh if the Spirit of Christ is in you. Now you must learn how to walk according to your nature, and not according to the dictates of the flesh.

The resurrection of Christ is your power. Look at Romans 8:11-15

11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors– not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

It is God’s Spirit that gives life to your mortal bodies. Everything of God comes through the Spirit. One of the evidences of life is God’s Spirit transforming your outward life into an instrument of righteousness according to the inward man – a new nature born by the Spirit. You cannot make your body become a Christian. You cannot redeem your body. Until your body is changed at the resurrection, it will always be dead because of sin. Thankfully, we are given two important promises here.

Your body is constantly given life – if you are in the Spirit. Second, your body is always in sin, but you are not subject to the body – it is subject to you. The only way sin can reign over you is if you submit yourself back into the flesh.

You are given new life, and that spirit within you desires the things of God. The body desires sin, but when your mind is focused on the Spirit, you are walking by faith and God subdues your sins, God empowers you to walk in His will, and God empowers you to do His works. It is His Spirit working in you; not you working to produce good works for Him.

Sin has no power in the Spirit. It is God’s work and He blesses you for possessing His free gift of life. Let’s now look at Romans 4:23-25

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

The resurrection is your justification. His death was the payment for your sin, and His life is the deliverance of your justification. You live because He rose. You are justified through the resurrection, not based on your own actions or merits. What must you do to please God? According to the Bible, without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith in what He has done. Faith in His works. Faith in His righteousness. Trusting in His resurrection.

When the people asked Jesus, “What must we do to work the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom the Father has sent.” Jesus was sent, and your only work is to believe on Christ! You are saved by grace through faith, not of works. You now live by grace through faith, and not of works.

Works is God’s Spirit performing His will in you, and then He gives life to your mortal body so that you can outwardly manifest the life that is being transformed inwardly. The more your mind grows in faith, the more your outward life will both depart from sin and do the works of God.

Because of the resurrection, you have new life, and you are freed from sin. Look at Romans 6:4, 7-12

4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

Your old nature was buried, and you now are in the new life. It is an accomplished fact, if your faith is in Christ. If you have died with Christ, you have been (past tense) freed from sin. Sin no longer has dominion over you. You are free. Death has no dominion over you, for as we looked at last week, sin and death condemned sin, but Jesus condemned sin in the flesh and nailed both our sin and the law that condemned us to the cross. You are free.

If this is true, why does sin trouble us? Why do we struggle with sin? The Bible says we are no longer under the law, because we are no longer in the flesh. We now have the law of faith and the law of righteousness. Our new nature does not need the letter of condemnation, for it desires to serve God alone.

Yet the Bible says that we can submit again under sin and the law. The Bible says, “Do you not know that whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey? This is true whether we are submitting to sin leading to death, or obedience leading to righteousness.

The flesh rises up and wars against your mind, demanding your submission to its desire to sin. If a child walks onto a playground and says, “I’m in charge,” what happens? If he has a strong personality, he might convince many, if not all, the children to submit to his claim of authority. But what happens if someone says, “No, you aren’t the boss?” His authority is gone. His authority is dependent upon your submission.

Now what happens if your boss comes up and says, “This is what I want you to do?” He has authority and either you do what has been commanded or there will be consequences.

Your authority comes from above, not from the earth. Your flesh is dependent upon you being convinced you must submit to its demands, but the Bible says, “No. Reckon yourself dead indeed to sin, but alive to God.”

To reckon is to account something as true. It is to believe, knowing something is certain. You have certainly died to the flesh; therefore, when you reckon that to be true, you will be stripping the flesh’s claim to authority over your mind. When you reckon yourself alive, you are putting your trust in the truth of God’s promise of life.

Let’s conclude by looking at Isaiah 54. Isaiah 52 speaks of Christ’s exaltation after He is marred more than any man. Chapter 53 explains the purpose of the crucifixion. He was wounded for your iniquities, striped for your healing, bruised for your sins, and rejected for your acceptance. Everything negative to you has been laid to His account, so that everything positive with Jesus is laid to your account. Isaiah 54 gives us a glimpse of how we now are viewed by God. Look at Isaiah 54:8-9

8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the LORD, your Redeemer.
9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.

In the Old Testament, God gave a rainbow as a symbol of His promise to never flood the entire earth again. Never again will He wipe out all life on earth because of man’s sin. This is a certainty and God cannot lie. It will always stand as a promise.

Now that the work of Christ has been completed, a new covenant of God has been given. God has sworn that once we are in Christ, He will never again be angry at us or rebuke us. Our sins are cast into the depths of the see. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. His anger was laid upon Him, so His favor could be laid upon you.

Do you believe God’s declaration of His oath of promise? It’s only found in Christ. When you put your trust in Christ, you are now under the covenant of promise, and the Bible says that we are saved from wrath through Christ.

For a moment, God hid His face. Through the law, man was under condemnation. Man could never attain to righteousness, and that is the purpose of the law. It showed how helpless we are to rise to the acceptable standard of God – which is perfection. But that moment has passed. Now we have passed from death to life, and are accounted as sons of God – both male and female. This is explained in Romans 5:1-2

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

We are all inheritors of the promise. Never again will we be under wrath if we are in Christ. That is God’s oath. This is a certainty!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

 

The Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ (Part 2)

Jesus’ Tomb
Three decades ago, archaeologists found an ossuary in Jerusalem that had what is believed to be a family tomb. This was not big news until recently when James Cameron announced that he was filming a documentary claiming this was the tomb of Jesus Christ. Now, thirty years after the fact, it has been announced that “researchers have made a new discovery that could shake Christianity off its foundation”. I have even watched some of the more liberal ‘Christians’ come up with new theories that make Jesus’ ascension into heaven symbolic. One priest even made the comment that Jesus’ spirit ascended but His body remained on earth.

Why is it that each time the atheists make a claim, Christians put their faith in these wild theories even though there is no credible evidence? When researchers found a tooth of a pig some years back, it was declared to be a missing link for mankind and they used this tooth to create – not one hominid, but an entire family. Science eventually prevailed and it was proven to be a tooth of an extinct pig and not the imaginary ‘Nebraska Man’ created from the imaginations of evolutionists. The evidence of Jesus’ tomb is on par with the pig’s tooth – a speck of evidence and a mountain of imagination. It is such a laughable theory I originally shrugged it off; however, since I have seen so much concern over the topic among Christians, I have decided to add a brief segment into this study.

The arguments for the tomb of Jesus are so easily refuted, that no rational person would give them any credibility. A few paragraphs should sufficiently aid the Christian with all the information needed. The first thing that should be noted is that the archaeologists that discovered the tomb did not see any significance in the names at all as related to Jesus Christ (and still do not). Why? These names were so common during the era of Christ, that it is not surprising at all to see them together. Think about the scriptures. In the four gospels, three Mary’s are directly involved with Jesus. There could have been more, but the fact that in one place you see three people named Mary should be sufficient evidence that the name is quite common. The same is true for the name ‘Jesus’. Jesus was the third most common name in Israel during the era of the tomb. Evidence for this is also found in scripture. In Colossians 4:11 Paul introduces one of his workers as Jesus whom they call Justus.

The Tomb of Jesus theory claims that the odds that Jesus and Mary being in the same tomb together is rare and proves Jesus married Mary Magdalene. This is like saying the odds of a man named Steve being married to a woman named Mary is nearly impossible. Since these two names are common in America, you may find dozens of Steve’s and Mary’s joined together in marriage. Critics of the Bible also claim that Mary’s tomb has the name ‘Magdalene’ over the tomb. This is an attempt at deception. The name on the tomb is ‘Miriamne’ which is a Greek name. Cameron is claiming that this is the Greek translation of ‘Magdalene’.

There are two flaws with this statement, first, it is pure speculation that this Greek name means Magdalene and researchers have not made this connection – only Hollywood has. Second, why would a Jewish woman have a Greek name put on her tomb? The Jews despised the Roman government and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was a revolt to break away from Roman rule. The only reason Greek was spoken was because of Roman law. When Rome conquered a nation, they established a Roman governor and required all people to learn a simplified form of Greek. This was a point of contention among the Jews in the Bible and ultimately led to their destruction as a nation.

Amon Kloner, the Jewish archaeologist who oversaw the original excavation of the ossuary in 1980 called Cameron’s claim ‘nonsense’.  He stated that Jesus’ family were Galileans with no ties to Jerusalem. Also, the Archaeology Institute of America stated the following:

Jacobovici points to the James Ossuary as the last missing piece of the puzzle, though he acknowledges the artifact has a controversial background. The inscription on the box, “James Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus,” has been demonstrated to be at least half fake. Studies of the box show that “Brother of Jesus” was recently added to the inscription by forgers. Moreover, a recent news report states that an FBI expert witness at the trial of Oded Golan over the “James Ossuary” and other dubious antiquities, has testified that Golan had photos of that ossuary taken in the 1970s. See http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/jesus/

So in other words, Director James Cameron and filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici are taking a little bit of fact, mixing it with proven frauds, and creating a documentary that they claim to be proof. Ernst Haeckel would be proud!

Those who promote the Jesus Tomb theory claim that they have evidence through DNA testing. They fail to publicize the fact that the DNA came from a contaminated source where several remains were mixed, making it impossible to tell whose DNA was being tested. So even if they could make a reasonable test, it has little value. The fallacious claim is that since the two samples tested were proven to be unrelated, this proves that the remains were a married couple. The claim of DNA evidence serves only one purpose – to make the theory sound scientific. It is merely a vain attempt to fabricate evidence from the ruins of their theory. Why are atheists so gullible? Perhaps it is desperation. The real bottom line of the documentary is money. The press release in 2007 was to generate publicity for their book and movies. That is why researchers shrugged off the claim, but the media and atheist circles devoured it like wolves.

The best expert witness Cameron could come up with was Shimon Gibson of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Israel. He was also a member of the original team that excavated the ossuary, and his response was reported by the Archaeology Institute of America:

After a lengthy description of the original condition of the tomb, Gibson confessed to being skeptical about the claims that the site was Jesus’ tomb, though he added he was trying to keep an open mind about the possibility.

In other words, he doesn’t see credibility in the theory promoted by Cameron, but he’s willing to be persuaded. Ah, the heart of atheism. I have another theory. Perhaps he is truly skeptical to this imaginary theory, but he isn’t willing to risk losing any financial compensation he was to receive from promoting the documentary. It is ironic that the best expert witness on this claim is someone who is not convinced, yet the masses are accepting the theory like it was the gospel.

The name Matthew was also found in the tomb and it is supposedly evidence that it is Jesus’ tomb. Once again, this is a very common name; however, why weren’t the other disciples buried in the tomb? If you notice, the only names that have been the target of attention are the ones that are common to names found in the Bible. When they figure their odds that they broadcasted as evidence, they only chose the names that would increase their argument and ignored the rest. It was claimed that the odds were 600 to 1 in favor of their theory. That is only using four names and assuming the other six ossuaries to be inconsequential. An honest attempt would have factored in the six limestone boxes that could not be linked to the Bible. These were not included in their statistical analysis.

The strongest evidence against the Tomb of Jesus theory is the location of the tomb. At least the swoon theory had the foresight to put Jesus in a far away place, but the new theory puts Jesus right in the middle of Jerusalem. Think about the implications of this for a few moments. The church is now growing at an alarming rate, the Jewish religious leaders are doing everything in their power to stop this new faith, the apostles are being beaten, threatened, jailed and killed for their claims that Jesus rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven. Doesn’t it seem a little odd to say that Jesus was living openly in Jerusalem – the hotbed of controversy – and no one thought to point down the street and say, “Why is Jesus living down the road with his children?” The irony almost makes me laugh.

Critics claim this discovery to be the deathblow to Christianity. So in truth, they are admitting the very flaw that undermines their own claims. If this find shakes the foundation of Christianity today, how much more true would this have been during the life of the apostles? The entire Christian belief system would have crumbled and the early church with it if Jesus was on the streets of Jerusalem. If these were just a bunch of cult followers, they would have rewritten the Bible to fit the evidence and would have made Jesus into a cult leader instead of a risen Savior. This would include rewriting the Old Testament that foretold that His life would be taken from the land of the living (Isaiah 53:8).

Anyone who puts any faith at all in this theory should also take a moment to pay homage to the Nebraska man’s pig’s tooth.

The stolen body theory.
This is the only counter-argument that is even remotely logical. It also has flaws that can’t be explained. First, who stole the body? It is undeniable that the body of Jesus was no longer in the grave. The disciples, Jews, and Roman soldiers all concurred that the body was missing. As one historian put it, “history’s silence is deafening concerning the body of Jesus. No one has ever claimed to see the body of Jesus after the resurrection.” If the Jews or Romans stole it, they would have produced it. All of the efforts to squelch Christianity and the determination to explain away the resurrection would have ended quickly if someone produced the body. We know that the soldiers did not have it or they would have surely produced it. They were paid for their silence, how much would they have been paid if they produced the body? There would have been no need to think up and rehearse the story of the disciples stealing it if the soldiers had it. We know the Jews didn’t have it, because they would have been the first to put it on display. This only leaves the disciples or the resurrection.

Let’s look at the possibility that the disciples took Jesus’ body. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples scattered like cowards. Peter was the boldest of the twelve and he denied Jesus three times. To show how cowardly he was at this point, he was afraid of a servant girl who did not even have the legal right to testify in that culture. Yet when she confronted Peter, he called curses down upon himself to prove he was not one of Jesus’ followers.

The disciples were too afraid to come forward to take Jesus down and help with the burial. How is it that they would suddenly be bold enough to risk certain death and sneak among the guards, break the seal, move the stone without rousing anyone and take the body. Also consider that the head cloth was neatly folded and laid beside the burial cloth. Anyone sneaking into the tomb would be hastily retreating after getting the body. They would not take the time to remove the burial cloth and then neatly fold it.

How would a stolen body suddenly empower eleven men who were hiding from the Jews to go out and begin preaching His resurrection boldly before the same leaders they feared? What would make eleven men rejoice at being beaten, imprisoned and then put through painful deaths? A stolen corpse? The stolen body theory holds no water.

The final possibility is that Jesus was resurrected. We see that all the evidence against the resurrection falls short, but what evidence lends credibility to the resurrection? Let’s begin by examining the disciples. These men fled in all directions when Jesus was arrested and they did not offer any defense on his behalf during the trial where he was sentenced to death. After the resurrection there was a dramatic change in their lives. These men who were afraid to be present at Jesus’ burial now were going into the very city where the crucifixion occurred, and were boldly proclaiming His resurrection at their own peril.

The crowds were still present and so were the council members that tried Jesus and the soldiers who crucified Him. Why would they suddenly have such a change of heart that they would preach the same Jesus that they had just denied? Not only did they preach the resurrection, but they also condemned those responsible for His death and called them to repent so they could be forgiven.

To create a legend, you don’t go where the eyewitnesses are and exaggerate when the facts are still fresh. Legends are born by carrying the story to a distant land or waiting until the facts have faded from memory. The disciples went to where the fire was still hot. They proclaimed the resurrection to those whom they knew would examine the facts. There are no accounts of anyone refuting the disciples. There was no attempt to silenced them with evidence; they were threatened in an attempt to persuade them to stop. When ordered to never again preach in the name of Jesus, Peter said, “We cannot help but to proclaim the things which we heard and saw.”

There were many eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ. Look at Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:

6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

Paul presented his claim before those that could question him and in fact is inviting them to question. He is saying that most of these witnesses are still alive and available to examine. His reference to James is significant because James was one of the brothers who scoffed at Jesus during his life. After mocking him, the Bible says that even his brothers did not believe him.

People may be willing to die for what they believe to be true, but who would die for what they knew to be a lie? The eleven disciples saw Jesus die. They gained absolutely no financial gain from this faith; indeed we see just the opposite. They lost everything except their joy and the hope of heaven. When Jesus was alive, their hope was their expectation of an earthly kingdom. After the resurrection, they lived for Christ with reckless abandon as they were committed to the hope given to them for the eternal life and the kingdom of God to come. Only John died of old age; however, he was beaten, imprisoned and banished to the isle of Patmos. Patmos was a penal colony where criminals were sent to die either from starvation or from the hands of other criminals. Each of the other disciples were beaten repeatedly and eventually killed. Look at how Jesus’ disciples died and determine if this sounds like men clinging to a lie:

Matthew was slain in Ethiopia.
Mark was dragged through the streets until dead.
Peter and Simeon were crucified.
Andrew was crucified.
James was beheaded.
Philip was crucified.
Bartholomew was flayed alive.
Thomas was pierced with lances.
James, the less, was thrown from the temple and stoned to death.
Jude was shot to death with arrows.
Paul was boiled in hot oil and beheaded.

All of these men could have lived if they had said one statement: “He is dead,” but they refused. The list above accounts of their deaths but they also endured hardship, imprisonment, beatings, and torture. Paul was stoned three times and survived. He was beaten with forty strips from a cat of nine tails on five occasions, and imprisoned repeatedly. Similar stories follow the other apostles. Bartholomew was crucified twice. He was first nailed to the cross and then brought down by the Roman Emperor and set free. Not even a fool would have continued to spread a lie after this encounter, yet Bartholomew recovered and went on spreading the gospel until he was captured again and crucified a second time.

The disciples lived lives that would be considered sheer misery by the world, yet they rejoiced in their sufferings. Not one of them caved in and chose the easy life. Can anyone believe that not one of these men would deny his resurrection unless they absolutely witnessed the resurrected Christ? What did they have to gain by forming this kind of religion? They lost property and often were abandoned by friends and family. Even if you could believe that these men were willing to suffer for a lie, would they be willing to draw their own friends and families into suffering? They may have suffered for Christ on the outside, but they rejoiced openly and lived with joy and peace that their captors did not have and could not understand. Throughout history, many of the very people who have persecuted Christians have become Christians. As they saw the strength, joy, and peace that defied logic, they saw their own lives as meaningless. There are many testimonies of captors who witnessed persecution who said, “I want what that person has.”

If Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body of Jesus in hopes of being religious elitist, they would have given up when the illusions of grandeur proved to be a failure. If it were a lie, they would have quickly grown tired of the beatings and other punishments. Look at James, the brother of Jesus. He rejected Jesus during His life. I am sure that he thought of his older brother as just another sibling and a delusional one at that. Yet after seeing the resurrected Christ James was a changed man as well. After James encountered the risen savior, he no longer referred to himself as a brother of Christ, but a “bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Not a single critic ever questioned that the tomb was empty. There was no doubt of this fact. The real question is, which testimony do you believe? Those who reject Christ or those who were eye witness testimonies to His resurrection and GLADLY suffered for their proclamation of this truth?

Are the gospels reliable? What about the differences? One of the biggest arguments against the gospels is that they have slight differences. The irony is that if all the gospels were identical, they would have zero credibility. These same critics would say they were written by the same people. In truth, the differences between the gospels are not contradictions but the eyewitness testimonies written from different perspectives each testifying to the same truth. Critics of the gospels argue both sides and don’t see their own contradiction.

Skeptics claim that the later church doctored the manuscripts to support their beliefs and then these same critics point out the differences as proof of error. First, if the later church had doctored the manuscripts, why didn’t they fix the differences? Second, we know the manuscripts were not doctored because we now have documents dating back before the ‘questionable’ era and there are virtually no differences. By all standards, even harsh critics agree that the scriptures have maintained an incredible accuracy over the centuries.

Also consider the testimonial aspect. If three witnesses testified to being eyewitnesses to an event and their stories matched completely with the exception of a few supporting details, would that evidence be valid? By all standards it would. In fact, if there were no differences, it would raise serious doubts to their credibility. The scriptures provide Matthew, Mark and John as eyewitness accounts to the life of Christ and they all agree. Luke comes in as a character witness that makes an airtight case. Luke was not an eyewitness. Luke wanted to do two things. He wanted to give Theophilus a complete explanation of who Jesus was and he wanted to compile all the testimonies that had been handed down 2nd and 3rd hand from eyewitnesses. This is an extremely important testimony. This is how we know if the word and doctrine handed down agrees with the events that actually occurred.

The gospels were not widely circulated at the time. The differences in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John prove that the each of the apostles wrote from their own eyewitness perspective. The gospel of Luke proves that the gospel was accurately handed down without becoming sensationalized. There is virtually no difference between Luke’s account that was passed by testimony and the apostle’s accounts that were witnessed directly. These three witnesses and the character witness of Luke would hold up under any cross-examination.

The earliest apostle writings can be dated back to eyewitnesses. You can’t make that claim from other religions. Christianity was written down closer to the actual events than other religions. The Gathas of Zoroaster were estimated around 1000 BC but didn’t make it into writings until after the third century AD and the most popular Parsi biography was written in 1278. Buddha lived in the sixth century BC, but the scriptures of Buddha were not written until the first century AD. Muhammad died in 632 AD but his sayings were not written for more than 100 years, 767 AD. Unlike other religions, outside the Bible there are many supporting witnesses that verify the accuracy of the accounts of scripture. Without the Bible, we can prove through historical evidence that:

-Jesus was a Jewish teacher
-Many people credited Jesus with healing and exorcisms
-People believed He was the Messiah
-He was rejected by the Jewish leaders
-He was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius
-After his shameful death, His followers believed he was still alive and this faith spread to the multitudes throughout Rome by AD 64
-The Christian faith was held dear by all manner of people; women, men, slave, free, rich, poor.
-Those who converted, worshipped Jesus as God.
-There are also tens of thousands of archaeological discoveries that validate the scriptures and silence criticism.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact of history and applies to every person’s life. Because Jesus died, our debt was paid. Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished”, the debt has been paid. His death on the cross paid the debt for your sin and His resurrection gives you life. Romans 10 says:

9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in
your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the
mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put
to shame.”

Salvation depends on the resurrected Christ. When you believe and confess Him as your Savior, you will no longer have to fear the shame of your sins, and no longer have to fear God’s holy judgment for sin. The Bible says that Jesus came into the world and that the world was made through Him. As many as receive Him, to them He gives the right to become the children of God (John 1). It is not automatic, we must acknowledge Him as Lord. The Bible also says that we must count our lives as a loss and receive new life through Him.

Jesus died to take your debt to sin and exchange His righteousness in its place. When we receive Christ, we literally become the righteousness of God so that we are completely justified before Him. It is no longer your ‘falling short’ but the gift of righteousness credited into your life because of your faith and trust in Christ. If you have never received Jesus as your Lord, he offers a new life where the past is buried and you become a new creation.

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” The cry of Jesus on the cross is the love of God. The Bible says that though Jesus existed in the form of God, he humbled himself, took on the form of a bond servant, and became obedient unto death on the cross. The cry of his humanity is a declaration of the love of God to bear our guilt in our place. When Jesus cried, “It is finished,” your debt was paid in full. Hope and salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone and only Jesus proved to be our Savior by His death, burial and resurrection.

Eddie Snipes

The Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ (Part 1)

Psalm 22:
1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?
2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.

14 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet;
17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.
18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.
25 My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!

The most descriptive account of the crucifixion of Christ was written over 1,000 years before Jesus was born. This vivid detail of the anguish of Jesus as He bore our sins leaves little doubt that the crucifixion was a part of God’s plan from the beginning. As a part of this Easter season, let us take a closer look at the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will look at the resurrection account in light of both scripture and history. What evidence outside the Bible validates the biblical account? Obviously, in a short study like this, we can only hit the highlights of this subject; therefore, let us take a brief look at history and the biblical account that gives reasonable evidence to believe. The purpose of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of the crucifixion and equip saints for sharing faith among a skeptical world. It is frequently argued that there is no evidence outside the Bible to verify the Bible’s claims. Thank God this is far from true; history, archaeology and science are filled with irrefutable proofs that validate the scriptures. In this study we will look at historical accounts that are widely accepted as credible by both biblical scholars and secular historians. Let us take a brief look at the Life, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.

The Life of Jesus
Some time back, I had a discussion with an atheist who stated that he would not believe Jesus existed unless he saw irrefutable proof. He claimed that the authors of the Bible made up the whole story of Jesus. It is ironic that he needs no proof to believe in the conspiracy of the disciples but he needs irrefutable proof that the conspiracy does not exist. How do we know that Jesus really existed? How do we know that Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, or the founding fathers who signed our declaration of Independence existed? How do we know any historical event is true and not a fairy tale made up to shape history? We know they existed because historical documents, artifacts, the testimonies of eye witnesses and other evidences are examined and accepted as credible by those who have examined the evidence. We either believe the generation that lived through the events or we have to believe there is a massive conspiracy to fabricate historical events. As individuals, very few of the men in our past are mentioned in detail; instead most of their names show up in history as having been at an event but little is known about them as individuals. Where is Jesus mentioned in history? Obviously, the Bible will give the detailed description of Jesus because He is the central figure of the Bible; however, Jesus is accounted for in many other historical documents as well.

First look at the testimony of the Jewish Talmud. The Talmud is a historical document that includes commentaries on the Jewish books of the law, civil and religious records. The Talmud is not supportive of Christianity and is very hostile to Jesus. The Talmud praises the trial, conviction and execution of Jesus. The Talmud also refers to Jesus as a bastard son of Mary. The account of Jesus in this historical document was indisputably written by those who were enemies of Jesus. In a court of law, if your enemy testifies on your behalf, willingly or unwillingly, it is a highly credible testimony. The Talmud testifies on behalf of many of the Bible’s claims about Jesus; it verifies the existence of Jesus, states that Jesus was a teacher, verifies the trial of Jesus as instigated by the religious leaders, the conviction and crucifixion of Jesus. Even more importantly, the Talmud verifies that Jesus performed many healings and miracles. It claims that Jesus performed these miracles through the power of sorcery; however, the key evidence is that even though the enemies of Jesus are hostile witnesses, they do not dispute the miracles but verify them and validate the Biblical account. Jesus’ very enemies validated His works and even though their intentions were malicious, they provide a strong testimony for the scriptures.

Josephus, the great Jewish historian wrote about Jesus. Josephus also claimed that Jesus was a teacher that wrought many surprising feats. Josephus states that by miracles, Jesus won over many Jews and Greeks. Josephus testifies that Jesus was condemned under Pilot, crucified, and then He appeared restored after three days. Josephus states that Jesus’ followers were called Christians after Him.

Roman governor Pliny the Younger produced writings, which also testify on behalf of the Bible. He stated that Christians were sent off to be executed for their “stubbornness and unshakable obstinacy that ought not to go unpunished. …they would not recant and they worshipped and honored Christ as if he were a god”.

There can be no reasonable doubt that Jesus did in fact exist and other historical documents hold testimonies that do not contradict the biblical account. We have testimonies that verify Jesus’ miracles, crucifixion, resurrection and the fact that His followers believed He was God. Two of these three witnesses are hostile to the gospel, yet verify the gospel. There is no shortage of proofs for those who will be open enough to see it.

The Crucifixion
We have already seen that Josephus, Roman historians, and the Talmud validates the crucifixion. Lets look at the picture of the crucifixion. In an essay on a popular atheist website, the writer makes the comment, “On the cross Jesus’ last words were, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?’ That doesn’t sound much like Jesus’ plan went as he expected”. Of course, this was not Jesus’ last words. After this quote, Jesus then said, “It is finished” and finally, “Father into your hands I commit My spirit”. Even so, as we have seen from the opening passage of this study, not only was the crucifixion foretold a thousand years before this torturous method of execution was invented, but even Jesus’ words and thoughts were foretold as well. It is clear by reading Psalm 22 that God’s plan was completed exactly as expected. The historical account of Matthew 27:46 matches the prophecy of Psalm 22. Matthew 27:

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

To add to the historical significance of the crucifixion, look at the following passages:

Luke 23:44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.

Matthew 27:50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

There is also a plethora of historical evidence that validates this event in scripture. Two witnesses to this scripture are Thallus and Phlegon. Although they did not witness the crucifixion, they were both eye witnesses to the events surrounding the crucifixion. Look at their accounts:

Thallus finished his historical account of the world since the Trojan war in 52 A. D. His work was destroyed but quoted by Julius Africanus in AD 221. Julius gives a commentary on Thallus’ AD 33 record of the darkness across the land. “Thallus in the third book of his histories, explains away the darkness as an eclipse of the sun – unreasonably as it seems to me.”

Thallus testified that this event occurred on the exact day of the crucifixion but explained it away as an eclipse of the sun. Why did Julius Africanus state this explanation seems unreasonable? The reason is because the feast of the Passover was ALWAYS celebrated on the new moon during the Jewish month of Nisan. The new moon occurs when the lunar cycle has been completed, and the new cycle begins. At the beginning of the new lunar cycle, the moon is not visible. Each day, more of the moon becomes visible until it reaches a full moon, and then begins to fade each day as it approaches the next new moon. This is an approximate 30 day cycle. On the new moon, the moon has no visibility at all in the sky because it is on the opposite side of the earth, thus making it impossible to have an eclipse. Therefore, to attribute this event as an eclipse is truly an unreasonable assumption. Traditionally people credit this darkening to clouds; however, this is not the case at all. Look at the testimony of a Greek historian named Phlegon.

A Greek author from Caria named Phlegon wrote about the darkness that occurred in the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad (equivalent to 33 A.D.). “There was the greatest eclipse of the sun. It became as night in the sixth hour of the day (noon) so that the stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia and many things were overturned in Nicaea”.

Thallus’ account did not mention an earthquake but Phlegon did, however both reported the same darkness and both believed it to be an eclipse. Thallus was not close enough to feel the earthquake but Phlegon was. The earthquake was regional, but the Bible says that the darkness was over all the land. It is no wonder that they chose an eclipse as the reason since there was no other logical explanation without understanding the scripture’s claim that the sun refused to shine. How this occurred will never be known, but the evidence clearly shows that this event was witnessed throughout the Roman Empire on the date and time stated in the scriptures.

The darkness reported was not consistent with a normal eclipse and was referred to as ‘the greatest eclipse’. Consider how an eclipse occurs. A full eclipse is a rare event and it can only be seen in a specific region. If Atlanta gets a full eclipse, Texas will only get a partial eclipse; therefore, the same applies in this historical event. If two records of the same event occurred thousands of miles apart, an eclipse cannot explain it. Add to this the fact that never is an eclipse so dark that the sky is darkened and all the stars can be clearly seen. Though many have sought natural causes to explain the darkness, they clearly validate the Bible’s account.

Two other pieces of significant evidences are the account of the pierced side and the tomb of the prominent rich councilman, Joseph of Arimathea. After Jesus died on the cross, Joseph went to Pilot and asked for the body so he could bury Him with honor. Pilot sent a soldier to verify that Jesus was already dead. The soldier verified Jesus was dead and pierced His side. The spear clearly went through to the heart and John 19:34 says that blood separated from the water poured out. The only way the blood could separate is if circulation has stopped and the blood begins to clot and separate. It is highly unlikely that John could have known this to be evidence of death and fabricated it. This era had little medical knowledge and those present would not have understood the significance of this statement at the time.

Isaiah 53:9 foretells that Christ would die with the wicked but would be buried in the rich man’s tomb. John’s account is fulfillment of this prophecy. (See Mark 15:43 and Luke 23:50-51) Joseph of Arimathea was a rich, prominent member of the council that condemned Jesus to die. Fabricating the story of Joseph would have been a fatal blow to any ‘conspiracy’. If the disciples were going to make up a story to fulfill this prophecy, as some have claimed, they would not have picked someone out of the council that tried Jesus. If it were a lie, they would be the first to protest and would have the public platform to dispute the claim. There is no reasonable doubt that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried in the councilman’s tomb.

The Resurrection
The resurrection is the most controversial part of the biblical account of Jesus. If Jesus was not bodily resurrected, He was not God, He was not a Savior and Christianity is a lie. Symbolic resurrection is not compatible with the Christian faith. The resurrection is the evidence that Jesus proclaimed to be a sign that He was who He claimed to be. The resurrection is the proof that Jesus conquered death. It is also what gives Jesus the authority to claim that He is the resurrection and that we all will be partakers of the resurrection if we are found in Christ. This alone separates Christianity from mere religion.

The apostle Paul states that if the resurrection is not a fact, then we are false witnesses before God. He sums it up this way, “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” 1 Corinthians 15:17. If Jesus could not rise from the dead, He is not our savior and our faith is a lie. However, if Jesus were God in the flesh as He claimed to be, then taking up His body would be a small thing. Lets finish this study by examining the proof of the resurrection.

To clarify the resurrection, let us first look at the arguments against it. There are many alternative views used by critics to claim that the disciples conspired to make Jesus look like more than a man. Out of all the dozens of alternate stories, only two are even remotely worth examining. Most conspiracy stories are so weak that no one who uses reason would consider them valid. Even the two more common views are so weak that only those desperate for another answer would even give them credibility. Most skeptics try to argue Jesus out of history in order to avoid the debate all together. History does not support them, but that doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to those determined to disbelieve. Let us examine the two most popular conspiracy stories about Jesus.

The Swoon Theory. This alternative explanation has been repackaged with many variations. The most popular variant was ‘The Passover Plot’ published in 1965. The basic argument is that Jesus and His disciples conspired to fulfill messianic prophecies by faking Jesus’ death on the cross. They managed to manipulate the Jewish leaders into trying and convicting Jesus, the people into demanding the crucifixion and the Roman government into executing Him. The legal manipulation would have been a miracle in itself. Before being nailed to the cross, Jesus was supposedly given a drug that appeared to make him look dead and trick the soldiers into removing Him from the cross while he was still alive. The cool damp air of the tomb revived Him and He appeared alive to His followers. By just using simple logic, this argument fails miserably. The first obvious flaw that jumps out is the question ‘how did they know Joseph would offer his tomb?’ If you can believe that Joseph and Pilot were a part of this conspiracy, there are plenty of other flaws to fight through. Jesus was beaten so badly that He was too weak to carry His own cross and a bystander was commissioned to carry it for Him. He had nails driven through His wrists and feet. The blood loss is hard to escape. The blood poured out His feet, hands, back from the beating, and finally a mortal wound was inflicted between His ribs when the spear pierced His heart.

If someone has faith enough to get past the impossible odds of survival, there are a few more problems to deal with. How does a man who has had spikes driven through his limbs get up and walk and appear as a victorious leader to the people? Somehow Jesus revived, untangled himself from the burial cloths wrapped around his body, pushed a massive stone away from the entrance of the tomb, passed through a squadron of soldiers guarding the site, and ran away without anyone noticing. Not only did he escape, but he also walked seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus with two travelers who did not notice he was wounded.

How is it that most people can’t walk with minor pain in their feet, but Jesus was able to walk with holes in His? He had full use of His hands because he took over the evening meal and broke bread. We could come up with dozens of functions that would cause Him excruciating pain if this was a faked resurrection. If by some miracle Jesus and the disciples pulled this off, He would have looked so weak and anemic that no one would have been amazed. It seems a little hard to believe the disciples were able to get the multitudes fired up by seeing a half-dead Jesus

Eddie Snipes
04/2010

Why does the Bible say that Mary could not touch Christ after His resurrection?

Why does the Bible say that Mary could not touch Christ after His resurrection?

Many people completely misinterpret John 20:17. The KJV’s translation does not clearly reflect the meaning of Mary’s encounter with Jesus. The KJV said, “do not touch me for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” Many incorrectly assume that Jesus is saying that He cannot be touched. We know this is not the meaning of this passage because a few verses later in John 20:27, Jesus asks His disciples to touch Him, feel the wounds and even put their hand in the wound in His side so that they will believe that He has truly resurrected bodily from the dead.
In John 20:17, the word ‘touch’ comes from the Greek word ‘haptomai’. Haptomai means: to fasten one’s self to; adhere to; or cling to. When Mary recognized Jesus, she embraced Him with such emotion that Jesus said not to cling because he has not yet ascended. When I read this passage, I imagine that this was a joyful encounter by Mary and Jesus. Mary and Martha were extremely close to Jesus while He was alive and Mary has at last seen that death did not have a hold of Jesus. When she realized it was Him, she embraced Him and did not let go. I picture Jesus laughingly saying, “Stop clinging, I haven’t yet ascended”. No that she has seen, Jesus instructed her to go and tell the other disciples that He was alive and is coming to see them as well. This is confirmed in Matthew 28:5-9

5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.

Notice that Matthew gives additional details that indeed confirm that the women did in fact touch Jesus and were holding him by the feet. Thomas was invited to touch Jesus’ hands and side to resolve his doubts about the resurrection. It is not possible for Jesus to be corrupted or made unclean; therefore, there is no concern with anyone touching Him before His ascension.

Eddie Snipes
2010