What if Jesus Never Rose from the Dead?

I Corinthians 15:12-19

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
May 2012

We have been studying I Corinthians and the last two weeks we have been in chapter 15. The topic of this chapter is the resurrection. It is often read at funerals. I Corinthians 15 is important for a few reasons.

First, it is the LONGEST chapter in the entire book.  I Corinthians 7 was a very long chapter but this chapter is about two hundred words longer.

Second, it is the ONLY time in the book that Paul deals with a doctrinal error.

Most of the time in this book, Paul has been talking to the Corinthians about the way they lived. He has been correcting moral errors (members of the church visiting prostitutes or sleeping with their step mammas).

In this chapter he corrects a doctrinal error. There was something that some members of the church at Corinth believed that was false and Paul is going to tell why it is false.

What did some of the Corinthians believe? They believed that the future bodily resurrection of believers. We see this in 15:12: “How do some OF YOU (notice those two words) say there is no resurrection of the dead? (15:12).

Now they did not deny life after death. They believed that after you die, you go to be with Jesus if you are saved. What they did not believe is that their body would one day be resurrected. They believed that after you died, your body just rotted in the tomb never be seen again.

Why did they believe this? Who is Paul writing to? Most of the members of the church were Gentiles, not Jews. The Jews believed in the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees, one group of the Jews, did not believe in the resurrection (see Acts 23:8; Luke 20:27) but most Jews did.

The Pharisees in particular did (Acts 23:6, 9) and Paul was a Pharisee before he became a Christian (Acts 23:6; 26:5). The Jews believed in the resurrection of the dead. It is a biblical doctrine. It comes right out of the OT. What did Job say? “Though worms destroy my flesh (By now they have. It has been thousands of years since he said that), yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25-26; Daniel 12:2).

The Bible teaches that everyone is going to die. Death is universal (except for believers who will be alive when Jesus returns). Everyone will die and everyone who has died will one day be resurrected. Every sinner will one day be resurrected. Every mass murderer and serial killer (Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Jack the Ripper, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Jim Jones, John Wayne Gacy), as well as every saint will one day be resurrected.

Steven who was killed by a mob with rocks and stones will one day be raised from the dead. The Apostle Peter was crucified will one day be raised. The Apostle Paul who was beheaded will one day be raised from the dead.

Other people who were fed to hungry lions or burned at the stake (like Joan of Arc) will one day come back to life. Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out” (John 5:28-29)

The ancient Greek did not. Many of the Corinthians had a Greek background and thought like Greeks. To a Greek the resurrection of the body was offensive. When Paul preached in the city of Athens, they listened to him until he started talking about the resurrection (Acts 17:30-32). They thought that matter was evil.

They called the body a tomb. They saw the body as a prison of the soul. A Greek welcomed death. They believed that death opened the prison doors. They believed that death released and liberated your soul from your body. The Greeks believed that the resurrection of the body was not only impossible, it was undesirable, because they thought that the body was evil.

Some of the Corinthians had some wrong views on the resurrection because they were Greeks and because they were overly influenced by the philosophy of the day.

They came from a Greek culture and after they became Christians they still had Greek influences on their thinking. We can do the same thing today. After we become believers, we can become more American than Christian and can be overly influenced by our culture.

That is why the Bible tells us not to be conformed to the world, not to do everything that is socially acceptable, because what the world says is right, what society says is perfectly fine to do, is not necessarily what God says is right. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. What the world says is wise, God says is foolish. What God says is wise, the world says is foolish.

So how does Paul correct this error? What does he say? He uses LOGIC to correct their error. Paul responds with sheer logic. Notice what he says in 15:13 (“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised”).

The Corinthians believed that Christ rose from the dead but did not believe that they would one day rise from the dead. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the exact opposite. They believe that they will one day be physically resurrected but deny that Jesus rose from the dead bodily. They believe that just his spirit arose.

What is Paul saying? He is saying that the view of the Corinthians was illogical. It was completely inconsistent. The Corinthians were logically wrong because they hold two contradictory statements to be true at the same time.

First, they hold the resurrection of Christ from the dead to be true. Second, they hold the resurrection of anyone from the dead to be false. They must choose one or the other. Logically one cannot affirm and deny the resurrection of the dead at the same time.

Major Premise: People do not rise from the dead,
Minor Premise: Jesus was a person
Conclusion: Jesus did NOT rise from the dead.

If you say that men can’t rise from the dead, then you have to say that Jesus did not rise from the dead, because he was a man. To say that there is no resurrection of the dead, and yet to affirm that Christ rose from the dead is a logical impossibility.

Then Paul answers a second question. Last Sunday was Easter. In 15:14-19, Paul asks this question: What difference does Easter really make?

What if Jesus did NOT rise from the dead? What difference would that make? What if the body of Jesus was discovered in Jerusalem? What if some archaeologist dug up his bones? Have they already done so? That is what supposedly happened in 1980.

Was the Body of Jesus Recently Discovered?

On March 28, 1980, just outside of Jerusalem, some construction workers accidentally uncovered a 2000 year old cave holding 10 coffins. Six of the 10 ossuaries had names on them: “Jesus, son of Joseph; Maria; Mariamene; Matthew; Judas, son of Jesus; and Jose, a diminutive of Joseph.”

The bones were said to be 2000 years old and were found in Israel. On March 4, 2007, the Discovery Channel put out a documentary called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”.

It was produced by James Cameron, the Oscar winning Hollywood director who brought us the True Lies, Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens, The Titanic, Avatar and others. What did the documentary say?

It said that this was actually Jesus’ tomb. It had the names Jesus, Joseph and Mary. In fact, Jesus is the son of Joseph in the coffin. There is a Mary buried there as well. It said that Mariamene is Mary Magdalene. This person was also married and had a child.

The show claimed that not only was this the body of Jesus but that Jesus got married to Mary Magdalene and had a child named Judas because Judas is called “The son of Jesus”. The show brought forth all kinds of experts.

Did they find the body of Jesus? No. After the show came out there were all kinds of criticisms. The interesting thing is that the criticism did not merely come from Christians, it came from archaeologists. The show made all kinds of claims but did not prove any of them. None of the experts on the show were even archaeologists.

In fact, Amos Kloner, the archaeologist who had supervised the initial 1980 dig of the tomb, completely repudiated it. He oversaw the excavation of the site and said that this is not the bones of Jesus and said that Cameron may be a great film producer but knows absolutely nothing about archaeology.

There is absolutely no historical evidence that Jesus was ever married. There is not a shred of evidence that Jesus ever had a child. The name Mariamne is never used of Mary Magdalene in the New Testament. The name Mariamne, in fact, never occurs in the NT. That name is not found in any literature until the second century.

All of these names found in the coffin were actually quite common during the time of Jesus. The names “Mary,” “Joseph,” and “Jesus” are among the most popular names in the ancient Jewish world.

James Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary says that there a first-century letter written by someone named Jesus, addressed to someone else named Jesus and witnessed by a third party named Jesus.” Mary” is the most common female name in the ancient Jewish world. About one in every four women in first century Judea had the name Mary.

So the program was completely discredited. It made really good TV but bad history and terrible archaeology. It was so discredited that when it was going to be re-broadcast, it was cancelled but that does not stop some from believing in it. There is a website that still promotes the theory and tries to sell the DVD. If you like conspiracy theories, this involves a huge conspiracy.

Let’s go back to our original question. What if the body of Jesus were discovered? Would it make any difference to our faith? The German scholar Rudolf Bultmann tried to completely separate faith from history. He believed that events in the past had absolutely no bearing on our Christian faith.

There are liberals today who would say that if someone dug up the bones of Jesus today, it would not change their faith at all. The Apostle Paul had a different view. He said that If Jesus did not rise from the dead, it would make a big difference. In fact, he said that if Jesus did not raise from the dead, we have five problems.

Five Results of Denying the Resurrection

1. If Christ did not raise from the dead, our preaching is VAIN (15:14).

If Jesus did not raise from the dead, then preaching about Christ is useless. Evangelism is a big waste of time. Paul devoted his entire life to preaching the gospel. If Christ is not risen, then Paul has been wasting his time. Christianity is worthless. The skeptics are right. Close the doors and sell the church. All of the missionaries should come home.

2. If Christ did not raise from the dead, our faith is VAIN (15:14, 17).

Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection. If Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the whole Christian faith is destroyed. Some say that it doesn’t matter what happened to his body.

Paul says if Jesus did not rise, your Christian faith is vain. It is worthless. It is completely pointless to preach and it is pointless to believe the message that is preached about Jesus.

It does you absolutely no good. It accomplished nothing. It saves no one. A dead Christ cannot save anyone. If there is no resurrection, there is no redemption.

If there is no resurrection, sinners will have to stand before a holy God who hates sin and must judge it. Without the resurrection, We are without hope. The resurrection is the proof that we have that God accepted Christ’s payment for our sins (Romans 4:25).

3. If Christ did not raise from the dead, Christians are FALSE witnesses of God (15:15).

Paul uses courtroom language here. A false witness is someone who goes into the courtroom and under oath commits perjury. Paul is saying that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, all of the apostles are liars.

They concocted a story that they knew was false. They went and preached to the world that he rose from the dead and that they had personally seen him when they know that he did not. If that is not true, that would make Peter and Paul liars.

It would put the apostles in the same category as Joseph Smith and Muhammad. It would make them false teachers and deceivers. They not only say things that are false, they have said things that are false about God. If there is no resurrection, Christians are just con artists.

4. If Christ did not raise, those who died believing in Christ have PERISHED (15:18).

What does that mean? It means that they went to Hell. They not only lived all their lives in sin, but the dying ones have perished. They stood before God as a sinner and without a savior. There is no hope even for Christians who died. You will never see them again. They are gone forever.

5. If Christ did not raise, we are to be PITIED more than all human beings (15:19).

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, why would Christians be pitied by the world? They are not just wrong there are stupid. They are not only deluded and deceived, they are risking their life and being martyred for a lie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *