Bible study: what difference does the resurrection of Jesus make?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Here’s an article from, written by famous New Testament manuscript expert Dan Wallace. (H/T Eric Chabot, Ratio Christi OSU)

There is a lot in this article, but I’ll just snip out one that I think is interesting.

First, what does the Old Testament say about the doctrine of the resurrection in Judaism?

The resurrection of the dead was not plainly revealed in the OT until very late in salvation history. It was not until the Jews were taken in captivity, in the sixth century BC, that this was clearly articulated. Daniel 12:1-2 is the principal text: it speaks of the resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous:

At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (RSV)

Why was it not clearly revealed till then? It was not revealed until there was a felt need for it. When the Jews had no present (because of the captivity) they had to look to the future. The revelation of the resurrection came at precisely the time when the people of God needed hope for the future.

What is significant about this is how masterful are God’s insights into human nature. In the NT era, one religious group in Palestine did not embrace the resurrection as a true doctrine: the Sadducees (cf. Mark 12:18)–that is why they were “sad, you see!” The Sadducees were in charge of the temple. They derived their income from the sacrifices. In a sense, they were the precursors to modern TV evangelists. They had it good! They were the rich aristocracy that ran the place.

Those who have it good in this life don’t often long for the next. The Sadducees illustrate this. The resurrection is a truth especially precious to those who are poor and those who are hopeless. It is precious to those who long for heaven enough that earth holds no sway over them.

Many things that I wanted to achieve in this life never happened. I wanted to do great things for God, not the least of which was getting married, having a family, getting a PhD and teaching computer science in a secular university. It seems like everything takes so long to do, and secular leftists in government keep making everything I wanted to try to do more expensive and more risky. I’ll never have enough time to do everything!

I often find myself thinking of Heaven, and having that eternal perspective on this life. On Sunday, I was on the treadmill listening to 1st Corinthians, and Paul was talking about how difficult the Christian life is supposed to be because of negative reaction from the people around you. I’m glad my salvation doesn’t depend on what people think of me, or whether I was able to get enough done for God.

Significance for apologetics

Did you know that Jesus provided the resurrection as evidence for those who were skeptical of his claims to be God stepping into history?

Here’s an article from Got Questions? on the “Sign of Jonah”, which appears in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

It says:

The phrase “sign of Jonah” was used by Jesus as a typological metaphor for His future crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Jesus answered with this expression when asked by the Pharisees for miraculous proof the He was indeed the Messiah. The Pharisees remained unconvinced of Jesus’ claims about Himself, despite His having just cured a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute. Shortly after the Pharisees accused Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Satan, they said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:38–41).

To fully appreciate the answer that Jesus gave, we must go to the Old Testament book of Jonah. In its first chapter, we read that God commanded the prophet Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and warn its people that He was going to destroy it for its wickedness. Jonah disobediently ran from the Lord and headed for the city of Tarshish by boat. The Lord then sent a severe storm that caused the crew of the ship to fear for their lives. Jonah was soon thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish where he remained for “three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:15–17). After the three-day period, the Lord caused the great fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land (Jonah 2:10).

It is this three days that Jesus was referring to when He spoke of the sign of Jonah.

I often bring up the Sign of Jonah when I am dealing with Christians who don’t want to learn how to explain their faith to non-Christians persuasively. I’m glad that story is in there!

The resurrection is a very important part of the life of the Christian. I argued in this post that it makes a difference to your feelings about your own life, and it makes a difference to your case-making with non-Christians.

5 thoughts on “Bible study: what difference does the resurrection of Jesus make?”

  1. If someone could convince me beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus did not rise from the dead, I would give up my Christian faith. A dead Savior who claimed to be God is no savior at all.

    1. That’s in 1 Corinthians 15 even. That’s what makes Christianity different. It’s not undertaken to please family or community. It’s not life enhancement. It’s not about feelings.

    2. Mark,

      You wouldn’t believe all the ridiculous beliefs atheists and other biblical critics have came up with, regarding Jesus’ Resurrection. Here are a few (all from Dr. William Lane Craig’s book ‘Reasonable Faith’, 2008 ed.):

      Conspiracy Theories: ‘The disciples stole the body of Jesus and lied about his postmortem appearances, thus faking the resurrection.’

      Apparent Death Theories: ‘Jesus was not completely dead when he was taken down from the cross. He revived in the tomb and escaped to convince his disciples he had risen from the dead.’

      Wrong Tomb Theories: ‘Jesus’ empty tomb was based on a simple mistake. The women lost their way that Sunday morning and happened upon a caretaker at an unoccupied tomb in the garden. The caretaker said something like, “You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here.” The women, however, were so unnerved that they fled. After the disciples had experienced visions of Jesus alive, the women’s story developed into the account of their discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb.’

      Displaced Body Theories: ‘Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus’ body in his tomb temporarily, due to the lateness of the hour and the proximity of his family tomb. But then moved the corpse later to the criminals’ graveyard. Unaware of the displacement of the body, the disciples erroneously inferred Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.’

      1. That’s the funny thing about atheists. While Dawkins, Hitchens, Boghossian et al. are constantly squawking about faith being “belief without evidence”, and “faith is believing what you know ain’t so!”, etc. etc., they forget one thing:


        They said they SAW Him

        They TALKED to Him (and He to them)

        They TOUCHED Him

        They HANDLED Him

        They ATE with Him

        They WALKED with Him

        They were TAUGHT by Him

        And every one of them, except John, DIED for what they proclaimed.

        They would have to have been crazy NOT to believe in the testimony of their own five senses.

        We Christians would do well to remember that proof of the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is based upon HARD EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE (hands-on, if you will) and NOT “faith”, blind or otherwise.

        And referring to Eleanor’s post below, I believe Josh McDowell’s son Sean is working on a book proving that (almost) all the disciples WERE martyred for their testimony.

  2. I’m reading Josh McDowell’s testimony, Undaunted, in which he recounts how he was challenged by a Christian student at college to disprove Jesus’ resurrection. That set him on a quest that eventually led him to believe in Jesus Christ.
    When one considers how the Lord has since used Josh McDowell through his books and TV programmes, one realises how seeds that one sows can grow and bear an abundant harvest.
    In the early years of my walk with the Lord, I used to watch Josh McDowell’s TV programmes, including his Why Wait? series (pre-1994 and the ANC stopping most Christian broadcasting) and I bought a number of his books, my favourite being Christianity: A Ready Defense.

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