Denying the Resurrection
By: Scott Morton
As we are entering the Easter season (the traditional Lent season started a couple of weeks ago), the minds of a lot of people turn to things related to Jesus Christ. This is one of two times in the year, Christmas being the other, that people start thinking about Jesus Christ. This is true even of those that are not a part of the Body of Christ. People who do not consider themselves to be Christians will even think about Jesus Christ and the resurrection that occurred.
For some, it is hard to believe there are those who would deny the resurrection and what was accomplished on the cross at Calvary. When a person truly understands what happened on the cross, the feeling is that everyone should be able to see what occurred, understand fully what this means, and that they would be able to put their trust in this work. We often think it is so simple, how could a person deny this. However, it is true that there are those who do not have a belief in this work and do not believe that a resurrection occurred.
Some would say this is a new concept, as there has been an increase in those that consider themselves to be atheists. An example of this is the fact that there is a facility close to where I live called the Center for Inquiry. This is a facility for those that believe there is no God and this organization works to promote this belief. It is unfortunate that a lot of the people that are involved in organizations such as this are not even open to the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins, that He was buried, and He rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
While this may appear to be a new belief, the Apostle Paul shows this is otherwise. He discusses in his epistles those who do not have a belief in the resurrection and what this means to them. We will be looking at one of the major passages where he discusses this:
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  Yea, and 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.  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
When this text is read, it is sad to think of those being described. How sad is it if this life is all we have? With everything that goes wrong in this life, there can be no hope and this would lead to nothing but depression. This is the reality of things and the resurrection needs to be proclaimed. This is where the true victory is and helps to get rid of things that seem to be going wrong in our lives.
Paul starts out in the text challenging the members of the church of Corinth. He states if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead. It is clear from the first four verses of the chapter that this had been taught to them. The gospel for today is clearly laid out in these verses and they had an understanding of this. Since they understood this, the love that comes from this compels people to teach this fact. If this is being taught, how come people can not have an understanding of this truth.
The first fact to note is where does the evidence come from. The evidence comes from the Word of God. The Word of God is truth, as God cannot lie (Romans 3:4). Since God only tells the truth, we can understand that everything written in His Word is the truth. This is why faith can only come from the Word (Romans 10:17). When we hear the Word, it produces the faith in what it says.
The Scripture clearly talks about resurrection from the dead starting in the book of Genesis. Abraham clearly understood there was going to be a resurrection from the dead. God had made a covenant with Abraham discussing the fact that there would be a nation coming from him, there would be an inheritance in the land, and this would happen through his seed (Genesis 17:6). This means the seed of Abraham would receive the blessings discussed in the covenant. The promised seed of Abraham was Isaac, meaning the covenant would run through Isaac and his seed. If everything God had said to Abraham was true, just think about what must have been going through his mind as the following was going on:
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.  And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.  And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.  Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.  And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.  And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
God asked Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice. If there was no resurrection, this would have caused a great conflict in the mind of Abraham. He would have thought that God was asking for his son, the one to whom the promise would go through, to be offered up. Without a resurrection, this would have caused God to have been a liar. The one who the promise was going to go through would have been killed and the seed line would have been destroyed. In order for there to have been a willingness to have made this offering of Isaac, Abraham would have to have understood the concept of a resurrection. If Abraham had the understanding, how come there are those that seem to have already lost such an important truth?
In Psalm 16:10 we see some further evidence of this. David identifies that the soul will not be left in hell. It also states that Christ will not see corruption. If this is the case, there would have to be a resurrection to have occurred. This means that those who were witnesses of the cross should have known this as well. They should not have walked away from the cross being depressed. They should have known there would be a resurrection and would have known Jesus Christ would have risen. They are even challenged about this when they come to the tomb:
And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:  And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
It is sad to see the fact that even those who had ordered the crucifixion had a better understanding of the resurrection than many do today. In Matthew 27:62-66 there is a discussion of this fact. They understood some of the things that were accomplished and knew Jesus Christ had spoke of His resurrection. Since they did not have a belief of God and what He could do, they felt this would be done by the disciples, as they thought they would take the body and make a claim of His resurrection. They therefore place some guards at the tomb in order to prevent this from occurring.
However, man cannot prevent God from accomplishing His plans. Jesus Christ rose from the dead and his body was gone. There was a conspiracy of those that did not believe, as they knew the consequences. They knew this pointed to the fact that Jesus Christ was who He said He was and that they were wrong. This is why they came up with the plan of the guards having fallen asleep and the disciples coming and stealing the body (Matthew 28:11-15). There is a big implication with this that shows how much people were willing to reject what God says. The penalty for falling asleep on duty as a guard was death. They were willing to risk this penalty and protection was being offered in order to attempt to prove God to be a liar.
Even today there are those that deny this. Paul states the reason this occurs very clearly in 1 Corinthians 1:18. It appears to be foolish to those that do not believe. People want to have literal, physical evidence and cannot accept the Word of God. This is a sad indictment of man today.
Verse 13 clearly states if there is no resurrection then Christ is not risen. If Christ has not rose from the dead, we have a huge problem. This would mean the cross did not accomplish everything that God states it did. The cross takes care of the sin issue and allows us to be able to be identified with the death, burial, and resurrection (see Romans 6:3-6). If there is no resurrection we are still in our sin and we cannot have the hope the Bible speaks of.
This means the belief in the fact there is no resurrection does have an impact on their lives. There would be a vanity that comes from this fact. Vanity refers to the fact there is an emptiness in something. There is an emptiness in preaching if the resurrection has not occurred. There is an issue Paul has already addressed in this letter that speaks of what happens.
1Corinthians 1:18, 23-24
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
There is a power that comes from the cross. This power is taken away when someone denies the resurrection. Would the cross have accomplished anything if Jesus was crucified and then buried, but never rose from the dead? The answer to this is no, it would not have had any impact on the life of a believer. This is the only way that there is a victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:55-58). This victory, if it was taken away, would also take away the hope we have as believers today.
It also creates a vain faith. Hebrews 11:1 states that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We have not seen the resurrection ourselves and can only believe the evidence provided for us. The evidence comes from the Word of God, which produces faith for an individual (Romans 10:17). To deny the resurrection, is to deny the Word of God. This would be an attempt to make God a liar, which is not possible as His Word says (Romans 3:4).
This is one of the reasons why Paul talks so much in his epistles about standing fast in the form of sound words. The doctrine is something we should hold dear and should not be trying to make changes like this in what the Word says. We have the truth and should be able to share this with others. When people have the belief that there is no such thing as the resurrection, it becomes our responsibility to show them the truth as the following verse states:
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
Let us use the Bible to teach man the truth, in order to bring them to the saving knowledge that Godís Word contains. Since people are open to discussing this now, use the opportunity to share the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) with someone today.