Did Jesus Rise?

By Wm. Avery McClure

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


One certain indication of coming apostasy is the increasing disbelief in the resurrection of the body. Faith in this scriptural fact so far from being regarded as fundamental to the Christian doctrine, as it formerly was, has come to be regarded as fanciful and impossible. The evil is not confined to any one locality, one denomination or people, but is widespread and uncircumrcribed. Let him who doubts this make inquiry in almost any church and he will find that the doctrine and the fact of literal resurrection are scouted and repudiated on the ground of being gross, material and unscientific.

The Holy Spirit has inseparably linked the resurrection of the saints with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Together they stand or fall. If there was no resurrection of Jesus Christ, there will be no resurrection of the saints. This form of infidelity, then, which today indwells our churches, begins with the denial of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In all ages the resurrection of Jesus has been a subject of controversy. Perhaps it is more so today because the actual event of His bursting the bonds of death and liberating Himself from the tomb is removed by twenty long centuries, and the miraculous nature of His resurrection is therefore made more difficult to accept in this age when science and reason have been unduly magnified. But the story which Matthew tells us was circulated among the Jews — that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus — reveals that His resurrection from the beginning was contested. Some of the newer theories made in attempt to do away with the miraculous are that Jesus swooned, or that the disciples merely imagined that He was dead. These are but the futile efforts of man to explain the event on non-miraculous grounds.

The Corinthian Church thought literal resurrection was gross and material, so they offered scientific objections, saying, "How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come?" Paul, writing "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth," could only answer, "Fool!" Then he enumerates seven frightful consequences of denying the resurrection of the body:

  1. "If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen."

  2. "Then is our preaching vain." There is nothing to preach about since the entire structure of revelation falls.

  3. "Your faith is also vain," for Christ's work is not complete if He did not rise.

  4. "Yea, we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ; whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not."

  5. "Ye are yet in your sins."

  6. "Then they also which have fallen asleep in Christ are perished," for they have mouldered into dust with no hope of ever living again.

  7. "We are of all men most miserable."

But there is no doubt in the Apostle's mind whether Christ has risen or not. He follows this list of horrible consequences with a triumphant declaration, — "But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept." (I Cor. 15:20.)

The inspired Scriptures teach that Jesus came from the grave. If such a passage as this does not teach bodily resurrection, then it is impossible to teach that doctrine in human language. And a great many other passages can be adduced which declare this fact with as much certainty as the passage quoted. "The resurrection of Jesus is directly in the New Testament, 'raise,' 1; 'rise,' 10; 'risen, 1; 'alive,' 2; 'liveth,' 6; 'brought,' 1; 'quickened,' 3; 'begotten,' 1; 'resurrection,' 11."1

To deny the doctrine of literal resurrection in the face of such abundant Scripture evidence is the height of absurdity. He who persists in it should properly be enrolled in the ranks of the infidels, for he who repudiates the resurrection of Jesus is no less an infidel and a denier of God's Holy Word than one who denies His virgin birth. Furthermore to deny the resurrection of Christ is to disclaim and dishonor Him as Saviour. If He did not rise, He was not the Christ; He was not the Son of God; and He could not have been the Saviour of mankind. Again, if He did not rise, He was the greatest impostor and the most outspoken liar the world has ever seen, for He boldly declared that He would die and in three days rise again. God vindicated that claim and raised Him up. He is "declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection." (Rom. 1:4.)

Not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but He was also seen by eye-witnesses after the resurrection. Paul declares that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, many of whom were yet alive in Paul's day. Since many were still alive when Paul wrote concerning the appearance, his statement was subject to challenge and would have been challenged had it been untrue. It was not challenged. Hence, it must have been true. The gospel accounts omit all reference to this appearance to the five hundred brethren, but Paul, on the other hand, makes no mention of other appearances to which Luke and the other gospel writers refer. He however, strengthens his testimony by adding to his list, an appearance of which perhaps he was the most certain — the appearance to himself: "And last of all he was seen of me also." (I Cor. 15:8.) The combined testimonies of Paul and the gospel writers then, demonstrate that He was seen by at least five hundred and twenty persons after the resurrection. It is not unreasonable to believe that He was seen of more of whom we are not told. Some of these talked with Him. Some beheld the wounds in His hands and in His side. Others were with Him at different intervals until the ascension.

There are three New Testament characters who testify to having seen Jesus after the ascension. These are Stephen (Acts 7); Paul (II Cor. 12:1-21); and John (Rev. 1.)

These immediate witnesses held the firm conviction, which nothing could shake, that their Lord had been crucified, had risen, and had been exalted to heavenly dominion. The effect of their faith in the lives of Christians in every epoch since their time has been of such a nature as to establish forever that they were the victims of no illusion or hallucination, but that they had in reality beheld the risen Christ.

Another reason for believing in the resurrection of Jesus is the evidence of the tomb. The stone, the seal, the guard set to watch were the precautions of man taken against His coming forth. The argument that His body was stolen by the disciples is thus answered. To have stolen the body under such conditions would have been a physical impossibility. When Peter and John came to the tomb after the stone had been rolled back by the angel, not to set free the Son of God, but to prove that He was not there, that He was already free as the angel himself testified, "He is not here; for He is risen," they found the grave clothes lying as they had been left when Jesus arose. "The napkin that was about His head was not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself." (Jno. 20:7.) It is significant that the grave clothes were found undisturbed by human hands, not cut nor torn, but lying just as they had fallen from the transformed body of the Lord. Had He been liberated by cutting or tearing, or had He escaped in haste, this evidence could not have been there. The resurrection body was not subject to human limitations. The grave, the stone, the seal, the guard were as naught. He came forth at the appointed moment in resurrection glory by His own mighty power, leaving behind Him the sepulchre and all that it contained. The angel could truthfully say, "Come and see the place where the Lord lay." (Matt. 28:15.)

There is no explanation by which the infidels can get rid of the fact that the tomb was empty. If stands as an incontestable testimony to the truth of the message that the Lord had risen. The disciples fearlessly preached a risen Christ, yet no enemy or critic ever attempted to silence them, as they might easily have done had their testimony been false, by pointing out the place where the body of the Lord lay, or by proving the manner in which it had been removed from the tomb in which, to the knowledge of all, it had been placed. Since the fact of the empty tomb cannot be explained away, there is but one sen:^ible conclusion — He arose as the Scriptures declare.

The arguments that Jesus swooned and that the disciples merely, imagined Him to be dead are answered in that the soldiers did not brake His legs because they found Him already dead. "But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not His legs; but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." (Jno. 19:33-34.)

Butt there is some valuable evidence of the resurrection of Jesus to be found outside of the Bible. The testimony of Josephus is considered by all to be reliable. Concerning him Joseph Scaliger, considered by Wm. Whiston to be the most learned and competent judge as to the authority of Josephus, has said, "Josephus is the most diligent and the greatest lover of truth of all writers, nor are we afraid to affirm of him that it is more safe to believe him, not only as to the affairs of the Jews, but also as to those that are foreign to them, than all the Greek and Latin writers; and this because his fidelity and compass of learning are everywhere conspicuous." Josephus is conceded to be an authority, and he believed in the resurrection of Jesus. His testimony follows:

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man; for He was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at the first did not forsake Him; for He appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from Him, are not extinct at this day."2

This statement coming from the pen of one who was not a Bible writer, and who did not even pretend to be a follower of Christ, but gives his testimony merely as a recorder of facts, is most convincing. Away with "scientific" nonsense. Jesus rose! "He was a doer of wonderful works." luring Him onto the scene and scientific difficulties vanish like mist before the rising sun.

The late Dr. Arnold of Rugby, a scholar and historian of no mean ability, adding his testimony, said, "I have been used for many years to study the history of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them; and I know of no fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us, that Christ died and rose again from the dead."3

These historical facts however, do not constitute all the evidence. The evidence that is furnished by the results of the resurrection must not be overlooked. One of the most striking results was the great transformation wrought in the disciples. Pentecost was another result; the conversion of Paul was another; the change in the day of worship from the Sabbath to the first day of the week was another. Paul speaks of the "power" of the resurrection. Its power is felt to this day.

Those therefore, who deny the resurrection do not believe the Bible, but form their opinions from other books or repeat what they have learned from modernistic leaders. There is to be a time when no skepticism as to the resurrection will remain in the mind of anyone, for as surely as Jesus came forth, "The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." (Jno. 5:28-29.)



1) What the Bible Teaches, R. A. Torrey. p. 176.

2) Wm. Whiston's Josephus. p. 641.

3) The Resurrection of Jesus, James Orr. p. 10.