He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now.
—-1 Corinthians 15:5-6
Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Let’s consider the eyewitness accounts. In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, Paul said that Jesus “appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” Paul said there were eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ. In a 40-day period the resurrected Jesus appeared to more than 500 people.
How do we know that? Well, it is recorded in the Scriptures. How do we know the Scriptures are true? Let’s use the illustration of a fictitious book about Ronald Reagan. Let’s say this book not only claimed that Ronald Reagan rose from the dead and that he appeared to witnesses, but it also listed the names of those witnesses. We could check out those witnesses very easily. We could determine whether they were credible or not. And if they weren’t credible, then the book wouldn’t survive. Yet Christianity has survived for 2,000 years because it is built not on fantasy but on fact. Can you imagine today a whole movement built around the belief that Ronald Reagan is alive? That would never get off the ground. Yet Christianity started because it was founded on the historical fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead just as He had promised.
Some people say, “Okay, I’ll accept that there were 515 people who thought they saw Jesus, but it was a hallucination.” Really? Hallucinations are like dreams; they are very individual. You don’t share hallucinations. If 515 people all had the same hallucination at the same time, that would be a bigger miracle than the resurrection itself. These eyewitnesses saw the resurrected Jesus. They ate with Him. They conversed with Him.
Another piece of evidence for the historicity of the resurrection is the extraordinary changes in tradition that occurred over a short amount of time. Except for Luke, all the New Testament writers were Jewish. Yet notice how quickly these New Testament writers who were Jewish replaced the basic tenets of their Jewish faith with new beliefs. For example, they abandoned the sacrificial system that had been in place for 1,400 years. They changed their day of worship from Saturday, the Sabbath day, to Sunday, the resurrection day. They replaced the sign of their faith from circumcision to water baptism. And they abandoned the Mosaic Law that the Jews had been following for 1,400 years as a shadow of a new covenant from Jesus Christ. There were thousands of Jews who almost overnight gave up their most cherished beliefs in Judaism to follow Jesus Christ. The only explanation for this is that Jesus really resurrected from the dead.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Easter: Fact or Fantasy?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.