What if Jesus did not rise from the dead?
Lesson 57 from The HOPE Study Guide
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
– 1 Corinthians 15:14–19
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
In the Bible passage above, the Apostle Paul makes a very strong statement about the significance of the resurrection. Carefully dissecting this passage, Paul says that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then at least six things are true:
- our proclamation of Jesus and the message of Jesus is in vain (v.14)
- our faith in Jesus and the message of Jesus is unfounded, and thus worthless (v.14,16)
- those who proclaim Jesus are liars and witnesses against God – basically blasphemers (v.15)
- we are still hopelessly in bondage to the power of sin (v.16)
- we are all doomed to die, and death will forever separate us from our loved ones (v.18)
- we are pitiful people if we hang our hopes on, and live our lives according to, a lie (v.19)
Bible scholars since the time of Paul have emphasized that what Jesus accomplished on the cross has meaning only if it was followed by His resurrection! In this lesson, and the next, we’ll consider the significance of the resurrection by looking at Paul’s argument in greater detail.
All of Paul’s preaching was based on who Jesus claimed to be, as it was revealed to him and the other apostles (Jesus’ inner circle of disciples).
Numerous times Jesus claimed that three days after His crucifixion, He would rise from the dead.1 If Jesus spoke falsely about this, then everything He said was suspect, and worse, He could not be God because God cannot lie.
From this it follows that if we place our faith in a lie, then not only is our faith in vain and worthless, but we are pitiful people to have done such a hopeless thing. Throughout time, people have made great sacrifices, endured terrible hardships, and suffered brutal deaths for their faith in Jesus.2 If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then it was all for nothing! What’s more, believing such a lie not only turns people into pathetic victims, it makes them villains as well.
If Jesus is not who He claimed to be, then those who proclaim Him are guilty on two counts. As we have seen above, they are guilty for leading others astray, and they are also guilty for violating God. Recall from Lesson 49 that the Hebrew religious leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy when He claimed to do what only God can do, namely forgive sin. Blasphemy is basically speaking evil of God or against God, or claiming to be God. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then those who proclaim Him are basically participating in the sin of blasphemy. Implicit in all this is something that has not yet been mentioned, but is deeply significant. If Jesus is discredited, then Satan is victorious, and his power in the world remains unbroken.
Now just in case this line of thinking has become a little too dark for you, realize that this is exactly the effect Paul was trying to achieve in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. If Jesus did not conquer death, then all hope is lost! But praise God Almighty, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, Jesus has risen! If it would be helpful to you, review the previous lesson on the proof of the resurrection, and let what you read sink in.
ASK & REFLECT
- Do you think that too much is being made of Paul’s argument regarding the significance of Jesus’ resurrection? Why or why not?
- No other founder of any faith, other than Jesus, has risen from the dead. From your experience, when people discuss world religions, does this truth usually enter into the dialogue? Why or why not?
- Has this lesson influenced your perspective on the resurrection in any way? If so, explain how.
DECIDE & DO
1 Peter 3:15 says that we should always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence …” Of course, the hope that is in us is Jesus, but as we have seen, this hope hinges on His resurrection. If you are a believer in Jesus, then be prepared to explain why your belief in His resurrection as fact is reasonable.
If you remain a skeptic regarding the resurrection of Jesus, then return to the previous lesson, and consider some of the information listed below under For Further Study. You owe it to yourself.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
- Bob Deffinbaugh, The Significance of the Resurrection. (© bible.org, 2006). (https://bible.org/article/significance-resurrection). Retrieved November 28, 2006.
- Bill Bright, Why the Resurrection Matters to You. (© Campus Crusade for Christ, 2013). (http://www.cru.org/how-to-know-god/did-jesus-christ-really-rise-from-the-dead/). Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Resurrection of Christ – Establishing the Importance. (© AllAboutJesusChrist.org, 2002–2006). (http://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/resurrection-of-christ.htm). Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Resurrection of Christ 2. (© AllAboutJesusChrist.org, 2002–2006). (http://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/resurrection-of-christ-2.htm). Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Andrew Knight, Unforgiven: An Easterless World. (© Lifetime Guarantee Ministries, 1997–2006). (http://www.lifetime.org/2004/04/unforgiven-an-easterless-world-2/). Retrieved December 1, 2006.
1Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22; Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 9:31; Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34; John 2:19-21; John 16:16-23; Matthew 12:40
2John Fox (1516–1587) and William Byron Forbush, Editor. Fox’s Book of Martyrs, A history of the lives, sufferings and triumphant deaths of the early Christian and the Protestant martyrs. (© Christian Classics Ethereal Library). (http://www.ccel.org/f/foxe/martyrs/home.html). Retrieved November 29, 2006.