Ravi Zacharias on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The theme at the Ligonier National Conference conference this year was standing for the truth of God’s Word. At the conference, Ravi Zacharias gave a message on the resurrection, discussing it’s context, why it matters, and what it means for us today. You can listen or view the rest of the conference talks at Ligonier.org.

10 replies
  1. gary
    gary says:

    Jesus’ resurrection after his death is the ultimate and defining proof of Jesus’ divinity. Just about everyone knows the story, which is summarized in the Apostles’ Creed. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

    There is only one way for Jesus to prove that he rose from the dead. He had to appear to people. Therefore, several different places in the Bible describe Jesus’ appearances after his death:

    •Matthew chapter 28
    •Mark chapter 16
    •Luke chapter 24
    •John Chapter 20 and 21

    1 Corinthians 15:3-6 provides a nice summary of those passages, as written by Paul:

    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. As you can see in this passage, Jesus appeared to hundreds of people a number of different times.

    Being like Paul: When we look at these Bible passages, there is a question that comes to mind — why did Jesus stop making these appearances? Why isn’t Jesus appearing today? It really is odd. Obviously Paul benefitted from a personal meeting with the resurrected Christ. Because of the personal visit, Paul could see for himself the truth of the resurrection, and he could ask Jesus questions. So… Why doesn’t Jesus appear to everyone and prove that he is resurrected, just like he appeared to Paul? There is nothing to stop Jesus from materializing in your kitchen tonight to have a personal chat with you. And if you think about it, Jesus really does need to appear to each of us. If Paul needed a personal visit from Jesus to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why wouldn’t you? It is an important question for the following reasons:

    •We are told by the Bible that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people.

    •We therefore know that it is OK for Jesus to appear to people — it does not take away their free will, for example.

    •We know that it would be easy for Jesus to appear to everyone all through history, since Jesus is all-powerful and timeless.

    •We know that, if Jesus did reappear to everyone, it would be incredibly helpful. We could all know, personally, that Jesus is resurrected and that Jesus is God. If Paul (and all the other people in the Bible) needed a personal visit to know that Jesus was resurrected, then why not you and me?

    •Yet, we all know that Jesus has not appeared to anyone in 2,000 years.

    THINK folks! Which is more likely: A dead man walked out of his grave 2,000 years ago, ate a broiled fish lunch with his fishing buddies and then 40 days later levitated into outer space, or, this entire story of a Resurrection is a legend: a legend based on false sightings and/or visions and hallucinations, of well-intentioned but uneducated, illiterate, hope-shattered, superstitious Galilean peasants, desperately trying to keep alive their only source of hope in their miserable, first century existence?

  2. Bryan
    Bryan says:

    Gary
    You really should just hold your breath for as long as you csn
    If you don’t breath then you will die
    And that may do us all a favour
    But when you consider the everyday occurance of breathing we realise this us very common
    Paul’s encountet was unique and therefore recorded as it holds deep significance and God reveals himself to Paul and to us through the scripture
    Keep breathing Gary and remember you are part of gods creation . Seek him and you will find him. Just not at the pub or in a p pipe

  3. gary
    gary says:

    Which of these two stories has a higher probability of having occurred:

    Jesus of Nazareth is crucified in Jerusalem in circa 30 AD. As he draws his final breath, the entire earth goes dark for three hours, a violent earthquake shakes dead people awake in their graves, and rips the Temple veil down the middle. Jesus’ body is taken down off the cross and placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimethea, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish governing body which the previous night had voted unanimously to execute Jesus. The tomb is sealed with a large stone and Roman guards placed in front of it. Three days later, a second great earthquake shakes Jerusalem, causing the dead who had been shaken awake in the first earthquake to now come out of their tombs to roam the streets of Jerusalem and reconnect with old acquaintances; an angel (or angels) comes and rolls away the great stone in front of the tomb, causing the soldiers to faint, and testifies to one, several, or many women that Jesus’ tomb is empty; that he had risen from the dead. Jesus later appears to the Eleven, and eight days (or forty days) later, ascends into heaven from a mountain in Bethany (or Galilee, or from the Upper Room in Jerusalem). The resurrection appearances of Jesus so emboldened the previously easily-frightened, doubting disciples that they now boldly preach the gospel of Jesus in the temple, Judea, and the world, dying martyrs deaths, refusing to recant their eyewitness testimony that they had seen the resurrected, walking/talking body of Jesus. These same disciples soon write the Gospels and several epistles which would soon become the New Testament of the Bible. The Gospel of Jesus spreads like wildfire, furiously persecuted by both the Jews and Romans, to become the dominant faith of the Western World for two thousand years.

    Or, is this what happened:

    Jesus of Nazareth is crucified. He dies. His body is left on the cross for days, as was the Roman custom, to warn any other “King of the Jews” pretender to think twice about stirring up trouble. After a few days have passed and the birds, dogs (Roman crosses were low to the ground), and other carrion have ravaged the body, the remains are taken down at night and tossed into an unmarked common grave—a hole in the ground— with the bodies of other criminals executed that week. The location of this common grave is known only to a few soldiers, as the Romans do not want to give the “King of the Jews” a proper burial nor do they want a known grave to become a national shrine where Jews can later come to pay homage to their “King”, possible inciting more trouble. Jesus disciples who were already in hiding, go home to Galilee to take up their prior professions—fishing and collecting taxes. The small band is devastated. Their beloved leader is dead; their hopes of reigning over the New Kingdom on twelve thrones with Jesus are dashed to pieces; there will be no overthrow of the hated Romans after all. All hope seems lost. Then…months or a few years after Jesus’ death…a couple of women disciples see a man in the distance, at sunset, and in the silhouette of the fading sun…he looks like Jesus. Is it Jesus? He turns to them, waves with his hand, and then disappears behind a hill. “It was Jesus!” they exclaim. They run and tell the disciples. Soon other disciples are “seeing” Jesus. “He is risen, just as he said he would!” The disciples are ecstatic! They WILL reign in the New Kingdom after all! They begin to preach the Gospel of Jesus, telling everyone how he has risen from the dead, as he had promised.

    …and forty years later, after Jerusalem has been destroyed and most of the disciples are dead, a Greek speaking Christian in Rome writes down the story of Jesus. However, the version of the oral story that this man hears circulating in Rome at the time tells of an empty tomb, the tomb of a member of the Sanhedrin…so “Mark” writes down the story. A decade or so later, “Matthew” in another far away location and “Luke” in another, write down the story of Jesus. They borrow heavily from “Mark’s” story, from another common source (Q), and from other sources that they do not seem to have shared. For instance, “Matthew’s” story contains incredible supernatural tales, such as an earthquake occurring when Jesus died, causing dead people to come back to life…but they don’t come out of their graves until three days later when Jesus walks out of his grave! One wonders what they were doing in their tombs for three days!

    And two thousand years later, every Christian on earth believes that the stories written by “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John” are the historically accurate accounts of the life, death, and miraculous resurrection of Jesus, when all they are are legendary stories. No one lied. No one made anything up. It’s a legend. Now, dear Christian, how many supernatural events such as dead people coming out of their graves to walk around town chatting with friends and family have you seen in your life? Not many, have you? And how many times have you seen a simple story about a missing person or someone’s mysterious death, evolve within days, into the wildest tale, with all kinds of bizarre details and claims?

    So, honestly, friend: Which of the above two stories about Jesus is more probable to be true?

  4. Matt
    Matt says:

    The biblical account…or Gary’s “reasonable” version based upon naturalism…I’ll stick with the biblical account, it just seems more reasonable to do so.

  5. mathew
    mathew says:

    Gary boy * If you are told from the bible then there should be reference from the bible
    *when god has given you free will but it doesn’t mean to lose your self to Hell think about (will mean’s consciousness not abnormality)
    * Yes definitely If you seek HIM diligently and bible says Matthew 5:8″ Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.re in Heart they shall see GOD” <—————–
    Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him
    *suppose "JESUS appeared to your wife or mother yet U will not believe be'cos your are SKEPTIC in nature and arrogant this does not work out, because JESUS is a person – Loving, caring, most compassionate and Sovereign
    * look guy, in which subject U mastered, still it is not comprehensive in the complex world be'cos U lack many many many many things — a finite being
    have U ever been will able to convince your girlfriend / wife, just get long like yes' yes' no' no' ( We cannot convince the convinced mind — JESUS says they are already condemned to HELL for HE is the Almighty GOD
    try stay alive at least 100 years youth from now on, it will be worth, having visited the earth eeeeeeeeeeeeee?

  6. gary
    gary says:

    Were Jesus’ disciples capable of differentiating between a vivid dream and reality?

    In the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appears to Joseph twice, once to tell him that he should go ahead and marry Mary, even though she is pregnant (not by him), and then again a couple of years later to warn him of Herod’s plan to kill Jesus and that he should take the family to Egypt. The author of Matthew tells us that both of these “appearances” occurred in dreams.

    The question is: Did Joseph believe that God had sent a real angel to him to give him real messages?

    If first century Jews were truly able to distinguish dreams/visions from reality, why would Joseph marry a woman who had been impregnated by someone else just because an angel “appeared” to him in a dream? If first century Jews knew that dreams are not reality, Joseph would have ignored the imaginary angel and his imaginary message. For Joseph to go through with his marriage to a pregnant Mary was a very rare exception to the behavior of people in an Honor-Shame society. His act of obeying an angel in a dream is solid proof that he believed that the angel was real and the message was real.

    And if Joseph understood that dreams are not reality, why would he move his family to a foreign country based only on a dream?

    And how about Paul’s dream/vision? Paul saw and heard a talking bright light in a dream. Paul saw the men accompanying him to Damascus collapse to the ground with him…in a dream. Paul reported that these men also saw the light but didn’t hear the voice…or heard some kind of noise but didn’t see the light…in a dream….depending which passage of Acts you read.

    So it is obvious that first century Jews were just as likely to believe that a dream is reality as some people do today! People have been seeing angels, bright lights and dead people for thousands of years…in their dreams…and have believed that these events are reality.

    So the fact that four, anonymous, first century books contain stories of people “seeing” dead people and even “seeing” large groups of people “seeing” dead people, should come as no surprise.

    They were vivid dreams. Visions. Nothing more.

  7. David Billing
    David Billing says:

    Suppose you are right, that a great many of the “dreams” and “visions” people have claimed to see in history have been nothing more than manifestations of an active imagination. What does that prove about the visions and dreams in the Bible? Very little. Just because many people have false dream and visions does not mean that all are false.

    However, the nature of a dream, is that it is unique to an individual. It seems highly improbable, nay almost impossible, that so many people would naturally have experiences of the same person in the same way, as the New Testament records. If one is open to the possibility that there is a supernatural dimension to reality, then the New Testament explanation of the events seems a possible option. However, this possibility seems to be excluded right from the start in your answer.

    So my questions are are:
    What justification do you give for excluding all possibility of a supernatural explanation?
    What explanation of the events in the New Testament can you provide that provides a superior explanation?
    Is it not a more plausible explanation that Joseph in fact did talk with an angel, and as such, went against what he thought was right? Why would his mind make up such a thing when he believed that he ought not to marry Mary?

  8. Wayne Wilson
    Wayne Wilson says:

    Gary curiously omits from his naturalistic tale Paul’s description of the eye-witnesses from 1 Corinthians, which virtually all scholars of every stripe agree was written in the mid-fifties, less than 25 years after the event. What Paul relates is within the lifetime of the numerous eye-witness accounts he relates, and he gives the sequence in which they occurred. This he is relating to Greek Christians far from Judea as common knowledge. Something more happened than a Jesus look-a-like wandering over a hill one day.

  9. David Billing
    David Billing says:

    I agree, hallucinations do not convey detail on the magnitude that Paul provides in his account. The idea that Paul made up everyone who saw the hallucinations, or that they as a group all hallucinated, is not credible. Both lies and hallucinations are simple affairs, not complex. If complex, the former becomes shaky, and the latter ludicrous.

  10. Kerry Campbell
    Kerry Campbell says:

    Who hasn’t had the occasional vivid dream? Who among us has not had a dream so disturbing that we wake in a sweat, or when we wake up are really pleased in the comforting thought that that’s all it was- a dream? However, what if we ask the question, how often have we had a dream which caused us to do something while wide awake- which we would never ordinarily do or (for want of a better turn of phrase) dream of doing? Everything in Joseph’s upbringing and good sense screamed at him- everything that he would have learned from the culture that encompassed him would have been telling him– “Don’t marry that- that girl!” .Obviously something in that dream, or about that dream or both, convinced him so persuasively that he did indeed do the things that were otherwise difficult in the extreme. Same goes for his decision based on the appearance in a dream to leave all that he knew and take his new wife into a strange land away from all his support network. Why? To speak of a culture not understanding or not being able to distinguish a dream from reality is- well sorry, but a bit of a pipe dream. Dreams are the common experience of all humanity and I would warrant that most of them have little bearing on what we do afterwards in our everyday lives and decision making processes. Some indeed may be prompted by our current concerns of the day, such that they plague us at night. But who doesn’t understand that? There had to be something more than met the eye in those dreams to have the effect they did on Joseph. And looking back- as both Mary and Joseph must have done- they would not have been ignorant of the murder of the innocents that occurred after they left for Egypt. There is a realism in that story that does not smack of imagination. And so it is with all the New Testament accounts, they just don’t fit the standard and predictable story line and characteristics of myths as the renowned expert on literature C.S. Lewis commented.

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