Resurrection Seen in the New Testament

30 Mar

There is a beautiful moment in John 11:25-26 when Jesus decides to raise Lazarus from the dead. He looks at Martha and says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” This is the gospel message – Jesus is the resurrection, He is the life. Even though believers in Him will die, they will live eternally in Heaven because of Him.

Jesus resurrected three people during his ministry on earth. He raised the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-17), the daughter of Jairus (Matthew 9:18-26Mark 5:21-43Luke 8:40-56), and Lazarus (John 11:1-44). Although these individuals were given an extended life on earth, they would each still face death again. What Jesus offered through His death and resurrection was eternal relationship and security through Him.

If you have ever participated in an Easter church service, then you might be familiar with the call and response, “He has risen” “He has risen indeed.” This comes from the message of the angel at Jesus’ tomb. In multiple places we read “He is not here; he has risen” (Matthew 28:5-6Mark 16:6Luke 24:7). Jesus was on a mission, we see His death, resurrection, and ascension in Scripture. Jesus raised Himself back to life and then ascended to Heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we too will be resurrected one day. The Gospel Project says, “Our resurrection will take place at the future return of Christ. When we die, we immediately enter the presence of the Lord, but the final resurrection has not yet happened. When it does, we will know it because Christ’s return will be known by all.”

New Testament Verse about Resurrection

1 Peter 1:3-5 – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

2 Corinthians 5:15 – “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

Romans 6:4 – “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Although resurrection literally means to rise up or stand up, to a believer, resurrection means that their eternity is sealed in Jesus. Resurrection is one of the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. It is by the grace of God that we have been saved though faith in Jesus and we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. This means that we can live in victory – today, right now, in this moment – because of the finished work of Christ. Romans 8:11 says, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”

Just as Jesus resurrected Lazarus from his dead state, maybe there is an area that is dead in your faith right now? Ask the Holy Spirit for help, for anything idle in your faith to be renewed and that your life can be one of victory in Jesus. It is by His resurrection that we can live life in victory each day.

Jesus’ Resurrection as Evidence of His Divinity

What are other proofs that Jesus is God? One of the greatest proofs is the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:14, Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty.” Without the resurrection, there is no Christian faith. It is the crux of Christianity.

What are evidences for Christ’s resurrection? Specifically, there are documented eye-witness testimonies. It has often been said that there is more historical evidence for Christ’s resurrection than that Julius Caesar lived.[1]  In fact, Brooke Foss Westcott, a British scholar who lived from 1825-1901, said this: “Indeed taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ.”[2] If we reject the evidence of Christ’s resurrection, then we will have to reject much of what we know about ancient history. We’ll consider evidences for the resurrection below.

The Case of the Empty Tomb

It is well attested historically that Christ died on the cross. Not only do we have the testimony of New Testament authors, but also ancient, secular historians like Josephus and Tacitus who recorded the event in their writings.[3] In addition, medical experts, using scientific research, have examined the circumstances of Christ’s crucifixion, including the fact that he was beaten to disfigurement before his crucifixion (Is 52:14, John 19:1-3), that people crucified typically died by asphyxiation (not being able to breath), and that he was pierced by a professional executioner to confirm his death (John 19:34), and concluded that Christ couldn’t have survived.[4]

After Christ’s crucifixion, he was buried in a rich man’s tomb. The tomb was sealed and guarded by soldiers. When Christ resurrected, there was a great earthquake, an angel appeared and rolled away the stone, and the guards ran away. Christ was no longer present in the grave, but his clothes laid on the ground (Matt 28:1-10, Mk 16:1-8, Lk 24:1-8, John 20:1-18). The empty grave was first found by some women followers, and then, they told Christ’s disciples. To account for the missing body, the Pharisees accused the disciples of stealing it and paid the guards a large sum to remain quiet (Matt 28:11-15).

Since Christ, without a doubt, died and was buried, we must ask the question, “Was there really an empty tomb?” This is a fundamental question that must be answered affirmatively to prove that Christ did in fact rise from the dead. We’ll consider a few evidences below:

  1. Proof of an empty tomb is the fact that Christ’s body was never produced as evidence against the resurrection. Paul taught that the resurrection is the crux of the Christian faith. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, our faith is in vain (1 Cor 15:14, 17). Therefore, in order to stop Christianity from growing, all the authorities had to do was prosecute the disciples (including having the soldiers testify) and produce the body. However, there is no historical record of the disciples ever being charged for stealing Christ’s body.[5] Instead, the disciples were threatened to stop preaching the resurrection, flogged, jailed, exiled, and most were ultimately martyred. If the Jews had produced the body or even given an adequate explanation for the fact that it was missing, it would have ended Christianity before it began. However, they didn’t. The tomb was empty, and the body was never found.
  2. Proof of an empty tomb is the fact that women were the first and primary witnesses of Christ’s resurrection (Matt 28:1-10, John 20:1, 14-18). Since women had such a low standing in ancient Jewish and Roman societies, it wouldn’t make sense for the disciples to fabricate a resurrection story with women witnesses. In fact, in a Jewish court of law, a woman’s testimony was not even admissible.[6] If the disciples were going to fabricate a resurrection story, they would have surely chosen the initial witnesses to be male. This shows that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened even if it would have been embarrassing or unconvincing in their culture.[7] When women went to see Christ’s body at the tomb, it was empty. Christ had resurrected.
  3. Proof of an empty tomb is the historical lack of tomb veneration. During the period Jesus lived, there were at least fifty tombs of prophets or holy persons which served as sites of religious worship and veneration.[8] With Jesus being the founder of Christianity, certainly early followers would have regularly visited his grave if his body was still there. However, there is no record of that.[9] This is further proof that the body was never found and that the tomb was empty.

The empty tomb is a necessary evidence of Christ’s resurrection. What are other evidences?

The Case of the Original Apostles

A strong evidence is that of the original apostles. Who were the apostles? They were twelve devoted followers of Christ who lived and served with him during his three years of ministry. However, when Christ was betrayed by Judas (one of the twelve) and taken by the Jewish and Roman authorities to be put to death for claiming to be the messiah, they all ran away, and some denied him overtly. Though they believed in him, they were not willing to die with him.

While the disciples served Christ, he spent a considerable part of his ministry preparing them for his death. He told them that he was going to die and be raised from the dead three days later (John 2:19). He told them that the Jewish authorities were going to put him to death (Matt 16:21) and warned that they would be persecuted for following him (Matt 24:9). He even taught them that to be his disciples, they had to be willing to take up their crosses—being willing to die for their faith (Lk 14:27). However, when everything Christ taught them happened, they fled. None were willing to die with him.

With that said, this leads to one of the strongest evidences for the resurrection. After Christ rose from the dead and appeared to his apostles, each of the remaining eleven were willing to be hated, beaten, jailed, exiled, and even die for their belief. Each of the remaining eleven died for Christ—declaring that he had been resurrected—with the exception of John, who spent the last part of his life exiled on an island for prisoners because of his faith (Rev 1).

If the resurrection were not true and was simply made up, one must ask, “Why would they die for something they knew was a lie?” If the resurrection was false, surely somebody would have broken and said, “OK, OK! We lied! We stole the body and hid him!” But none did. Not only Peter, the head apostle, but also his wife died for Christ. When his wife was being taken to be crucified, he encouraged her with, “Remember the Lord!” And when it was his time to die, he requested to be crucified upside down because he didn’t deserve to die like Christ. From a historical perspective, the apostle’s willingness to die for their belief in the resurrection means that they truly believed it. The apostles suffering for their belief in the resurrection is a strong proof that it really happened, especially when considering that each of them fled or denied him while he was still alive.

Michael Green, Principal of St. John College, Nottingham, said this:

[The resurrection] was the belief that turned heart broken followers of a crucified rabbi into the courageous witnesses and martyrs of the early church.  This was the one belief that separated the followers of Jesus from the Jews and turned them into the community of the resurrection.  You could imprison them, flog them, kill them, but you could not make them deny their conviction that on the third day he rose again.[10]

The Case of James, Jesus’ Brother

Further support for the resurrection is the conversion and martyrdom of James, the brother of Jesus. During Christ’s ministry, James did not believe in him, even though he witnessed the miracles. In fact, John 7:3-5 shares this about James’ and Christ’s other brother, Jude:

 So Jesus’ brothers advised him, “Leave here and go to Judea so your disciples may see your miracles that you are performing. For no one who seeks to make a reputation for himself does anything in secret. If you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his own brothers believed in him.)

However, after Christ’s resurrection, he appeared to James. First Corinthians 15:3-7 says:

For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

After seeing the resurrected Christ, James converted. He not only became a follower of Christ but also an apostle—an official witness of the resurrection. He became the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13-21) and was known as “James the Just” because of his righteous character. Tradition says his knees were hard like a camel’s knees because of the callouses developed from long periods in prayer.

James even wrote his own epistle which begins with “From James, a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes dispersed abroad…” (Jam 1:1). James considered himself a slave of Christ. His belief in Christ not only attests to the resurrection but also to many other doctrines about Christ. It provides evidence for Christ’s sinless life and the virgin birth. James would have known more about these things than anybody else, and yet, he still believed in Christ. He not only believed in Christ, but tradition says he died a martyr, stoned by the Jews around AD 62.[11]

The Case of the Apostle Paul

Another evidence that must be considered is that of the apostle Paul. Paul was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). He was raised knowing Jewish law and the Greek and Hebrew languages. He studied under a renowned rabbi named Gamaliel (Acts 22:3 cf. Acts 5:34). As Christianity grew in popularity among the Jews, Paul zealously persecuted all who believed and taught it. He believed Christians were perverting the true way to salvation which came through the law, and not through faith in Jesus Christ. When Stephen attempted to preach the gospel to the Jews and was stoned for it, the Jews threw his clothes at Paul’s feet (Acts 7:58, 8:1)—demonstrating his consent of their actions. Later, Paul received permission from the Jewish authorities to imprison anybody who professed Christ. However, while on his way to Damascus, Paul had a vision of the resurrected Christ which blinded him. Acts 9:3-5 describes this experience:

As he was going along, approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” So he said, “Who are you, Lord?” He replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!

In addition, in 1 Corinthians 15:7-8, Paul shared this about seeing the resurrected Christ and his call to apostleship: “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.” Paul considered himself “born at the wrong time” or “abnormally born” (NIV) because his call to apostleship happened after the resurrection, not before, like the original apostles.

Historians throughout the ages have been baffled at the historic figure of Paul—a Pharisee persecuting Christians, who professed to have seen the resurrected Christ, consequently converting, then becoming an apostle who preached to the Gentiles. He wrote almost half of the New Testament, was constantly persecuted for his faith, and died a martyr. It’s like the historical figure of Hitler, who persecuted Jews, becoming a Jew and the greatest proponent of Judaism because he claimed to have seen a resurrected Moses. It sounds ridiculous! Yet, that is what Paul claimed about Christ, which has always baffled historians.

Consider how drastic Paul’s change was: Not only did he profess Christ who he previously hated, but he also began to love Gentiles. Faithful Jews despised Gentiles. Jewish men commonly prayed a morning blessing thanking God they were Jews and not Gentile dogs, men and not women. But, after Paul’s conversion, he was now the apostle to the Gentiles, spending his life on missionary journeys throughout Asia and Europe, seeking to reach them. In addition, Paul was considered the liberator of women. Most Jewish teachers would not teach women, and some wouldn’t even look at them, to prevent lust; however, Paul championed the teaching of women and their dignity. In 1 Timothy 2:11, he says, “A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness.” This was radical during those days. Paul the persecutor of Christians, the racist, and misogynist now loved Jesus, Christians, Gentiles, and women!

Elias Andrews, a noted historian, said this:

Many have found the radical transformation of this Pharisee of the Pharisees the most convincing evidence of the truth and power of religion to which he was converted, as well as the ultimate worth and place of the Person of Christ.[12]

In Paul’s writings, he constantly spoke of his conversion and commitment to the resurrected Christ:

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ

Philippians 3:7-8

But not only did Paul preach the resurrection, he also died for it. Tradition says he was decapitated in his second Roman imprisonment, around the mid-60s AD. His life is a tremendous evidence for the resurrection.

In fact, a story about two professors at Oxford who were initially antagonistic to Christianity shows the importance of Paul’s conversion. As stated by Josh McDowell in his book, More than a Carpenter:

Two professors at Oxford, Gilbert West and Lord Lyttleton, were determined to destroy the basis of the Christian faith. West was going to demonstrate the fallacy of the resurrection and Lyttleton was going to prove that Saul of Tarsus had never converted to Christianity. Both men came to the opposite conclusion and became ardent followers of Jesus. Lord Lyttleton writes:

The conversion and apostleship of Saint Paul alone, duly considered, was of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to be a Divine Revelation.

He concludes that if Paul’s twenty-five years of suffering and service for Christ were a reality, then his conversion was true, for everything he did began with that sudden change. And if his conversion was true, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, for everything Paul was and did he attributed to the sight of the risen Christ.[13]

The Case of the Jews in Acts

Possibly, the strongest evidence for the resurrection is the conversion of many of the Jews who convinced Pilate to murder Christ. How is it possible that only weeks after Christ died, these Jews became followers of Christ? In Acts 2, Peter proclaimed the resurrection of the one they killed and called for their repentance and 3,000 of them were converted. Consider the following verses:

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know—this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles. But God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power. Acts 2:22-24

Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What should we do, brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36-38

So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added. They  ere devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:41-42

Why were they converted? They had to be convinced that the resurrection was true. Not only did 3,000 convert, but in Acts 4:4, the number grew to 5,000. Historically, the early church boomed in Jerusalem, and then because of persecution, it spread throughout the ancient world and exists today as the biggest religion in the world.

How is this possible? It’s baffling. (1) Some have tried to explain it away as a mass hallucination or dream. However, that makes no sense. How can thousands of people have the same hallucination? (2) Some have tried to explain it away as the development of a myth or legend. But again, that is illogical. Myths and legends can take generations to develop. They don’t develop while the original audience is still alive and, certainly, not a few weeks after the event. Conclusions that deny a literal resurrection just don’t make sense.

Again, the New Testament declares that after the resurrection, Christ appeared to the apostles and then 500 people over a period of forty days (1 Cor 15:6, Acts 1:3). These witnesses were throughout Jerusalem. The tomb was empty. The Roman soldiers, who typically would have been executed for failing to protect the tomb apparently were still alive (Matt 28:11-15), and the body of Christ was never found. The Jews who consented to Christ’s death had to be totally convinced of his resurrection, because after publicly committing to Christ, they would have been persecuted for their newfound faith. Probably, contributing to their quick conversion was the fact that right after Christ’s death, there was a major earthquake in Jerusalem and the bodies of other believers were resurrected (Matt 27:50-54). These Jews were convinced that Jesus was the Son of God and that he had resurrected.

Now it must be remembered, this isn’t just something the Bible teaches. These are historical facts about the birth of the early church, well-attested by ancient Jewish and Roman historians. Jesus resurrected from the grave! No other conclusion makes sense.


How do we know Jesus is God? What are some evidences?

Evidence for Jesus’ deity is his teachings. It is impossible to accept him as a good man, moral teacher, or prophet, which are the most common views of Jesus, while knowing the things he claimed, including being the Son of God. With the things he said and taught, he would either be a liar, lunatic, or demon.

Evidence for Jesus’ deity is the resurrection. As mentioned, there is no ancient historical event more variously supported than the resurrection. If we reject the historical evidence for the resurrection, we must reject much of what we know about ancient history, including the fact that Julius Caesar lived.

[1] Accessed 7/22/20 from

[2] Bright, Bill. A Journey Home. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2003.

[3] McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict (p. 276). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[4] McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict (p. 276-277). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[5] McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict (p. 268). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[6] Accessed 7/24/2020 from

[7] Accessed 7/24/2020 from

[8] McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict (p. 262). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[9] McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict (p. 262). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[10] Accessed 1/13/2020 from

[11] Accessed 1/13/2019 from

[12] McDowell, Joshua. More Than a Carpenter. Chapter “Did You Hear What Happened to Saul?”

[13] McDowell, Joshua. More Than a Carpenter. Chapter “Did You Hear What Happened to Saul?”

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Posted by on March 30, 2023 in Resurrection


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