What if Christ was not Raised?
What if Jesus of Nazareth did not rise from the dead? What if His bones have long since rotted and retuned to dust? Have you ever stopped to consider and contemplate that question? According to 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 there are serious implications if Christ did not in fact rise from the dead.
“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain. Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified 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.” (NAS)
When we take that passage and boil it down to its essence if Christ has been raised from the dead then two things are true: The Apostles were liars and our faith is worthless.
The Apostles were Liars
If Christ has not been raised then the Apostles are found to have been liars. “Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses….” (1 Cor 15:15 NAS). The Apostles of Christ were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ and were called to to bear personal testimony to that experience. Peter preaching the resurrection of Christ on the Day of Pentecost said in Acts 2:32,“This Jesus God raised up again”…then he underscores it with this, “to which we are all witnesses.” (NAS) He is careful to do the same thing again when proclaiming the resurrection to house of Cornelius. In Acts 10:40-41 he said, “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” (NAS) Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 15 is that if Christ did not rise from the dead then they are false witnesses-they lied. This would mean nothing less than that the Apostles perpetrated the greatest hoax in history. They have effectively pulled the wool over the eyes of millions.
Someone might pipe up and ask, “Is it not possible for a person to be an official witness, bear testimony, but be severely mistaken about what he saw and experienced? Yes. To bear false witness means to premeditatedly tell something you know is not true. So, why could Paul not have said that if Christ was not raised from the dead then the Apostles were merely mistaken? Because he knew that was not an option. Think carefully about this. What if Peter, James and John were so distraught after the crucifixion that they got drunk as skunks one evening and while under the influence they saw Jesus? Then they reported this to the other downcast disciples and began preaching it to the people and thus the greatest urban legend of all time was born-Jesus arose from the dead and appeared to some of His disciples. However, the Apostles’ claim was not that Jesus appeared to one, two or a few of them and the rest of them believed their story. They claimed that Jesus personally appeared to them as a group (1 Cor 15:5), and that more than once. It is that claim that either makes them eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ or bold face liars.
The most striking example of this is in John 20:19-29. 10 of the disciples were in the Upper Room with the doors shut and Jesus appeared to them and showed them the scars in His hands and side. Thomas was not present and they told him later that they had seen the Lord. Do you remember his response? “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails and put my finger into the place of the nails and put my hand into His side I will not believe.” (John 20:25 NAS) A week later later Jesus appeared to them again in the same place but this time Thomas was present. Jesus said to him, “Reach here with your finger; and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving by believing.” (John 20:27 NAS) Thomas responded, “My Lord and My God.” (John 20:28 NAS) That account backs us into a corner. Either the resurrected Christ really appeared in their midst or they made up the whole story. Maybe they were hallucinating? What is the likely hood that 10 disciples simultaneously had the same emotionally induced hallucination so that all 10 accounts perfectly matched? Impossible? Exactly. That just does not happen. Furthermore, is it possible that a week later, this time doubting Thomas present, all 11 of them had the same hallucination? Impossible? Exactly. That just does not happen. Either they were eyewitnesses to Christ or they were liars.
Were the Apostles bearing false witness? If they did then Christ did not rise. Interestingly, it is this either or scenario that provides one of the powerful proofs that the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive. How so? Tune in next time to find out!