What If Jesus Was Not Raised from the Dead?

Empty Tomb

Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

The “Christian” world uses the Easter holiday to remember the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is certainly good to remember the resurrection. After all, it is part of the foundation of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Even so, the observance of “Easter” as a religious holy day is nowhere authorized in the Bible.

However, while people’s minds are turned to the resurrection during this time of year, we often find opportunities to discuss this important event. So in this article, I want us to consider the following question: What if Jesus was not raised from the dead? Paul gave an answer to this in his first letter to Corinth:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

Without Jesus’ resurrection, our faith would be in vain. But why? Let us notice six reasons for this.

Jesus Would Have Been an Imposter

Jesus claimed to the be Son of God. He indicated this when He said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (John 5:17). The Jews knew exactly what He implied in His statement; therefore, they “were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He…was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). However, His claim was verified when He was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). If He was not raised from the dead, He would have been what His enemies claimed of Him – a “deceiver” (Matthew 27:63-64).

We Would Not Know Who Jesus Was

The rulers of the Jews wanted Jesus to be forgotten. When the apostles were teaching about Jesus and His resurrection, they “commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). When they continued, they called them in again and reminded them of their “strict orders not to continue teaching in this name” because they had “filled Jerusalem with [their] teaching” (Acts 5:28). Yet the apostles could not “stop speaking” because of what they had “seen” (Acts 4:19-20). There were other “messiahs” who had come along, built a following, but amounted to nothing (Acts 5:36-37). If Jesus was like them and had remained dead, the same thing would have happened to Him and His followers. Without the resurrection, Jesus would have been forgotten.

The Disciples Would Have Gone Back to Their Normal Lives

Initially after Jesus was crucified, this is what they did. “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. So the disciples went away again to their own homes” (John 20:9-10). At this time they were afraid to be known as Jesus’ disciples (John 20:19). If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, they would be “false witnesses” (1 Corinthians 15:15). The consequences of this would not have been worth it. They would have tried to resume their lives before they started following Jesus.

Jerusalem Still Would Have Been Destroyed

The rulers thought Jesus’ death would save the nation. They were afraid that if Jesus continued “performing many signs…the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:47-48). The high priest Caiaphas counseled them that it was “expedient” for Jesus to die and “the whole nation not perish” (John 11:50). “So from that day on they planned together to kill Him” (John 11:53). Yet God’s preservation of the nation of Israel was for Jesus’ sake. He was the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that “in [his] seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). He was sent “when the fullness of the time came” in order to fulfill this promise (Galatians 4:4). Without Jesus’ resurrection, there was no reason for God to be working to fulfill His promise to Abraham. If you take away God’s special providence in carrying out that plan, then there was no reason for Rome to tolerate or spare the Jews. Jerusalem would have still be destroyed, with a good possibility it would have been destroyed before the A.D. 70 date.

The Old Covenant Would Have Passed without the New One to Replace It

The old law was “nailed…to the cross” of Jesus (Colossians 2:14). The old law itself was a “tutor to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24). Jesus told His disciples about the fulfillment of “all things which are written about [Him] in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). He came to take away the old covenant and replace it with the new covenant (Hebrews 10:9). Without the resurrection, His “will” would have been without authority. He was placed in the seat of authority after His resurrection and ascension (Acts 2:32-36). This was the reason He had “all authority” and could commission the apostles to teach the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:18-20). But without His resurrection, there would be no reason for anyone to obey His will.

There Would Be No Hope

Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). In that verse, the apostle explained two consequences to Jesus not being raised from the dead. First, our faith would be worthless. There would be no point in believing because there would be no salvation by faith. Second, we would still be in our sins, despite the crucifixion and sacrifice of Christ. With no hope beyond this world, our only hope would be in this life. Paul said of this, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Any benefit to following Christ would be temporary, limited, and ultimately in vain; especially when the suffering and persecution that comes from following Christ are factored into the equation. Without the resurrection, we would have nothing to look forward to after this life.

Conclusion

The resurrection of Christ is not just a great story of the Bible – it is fundamental to our faith. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, our faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14). But since He has been raised from the dead, we have hope through Him. So let us now faithfully obey Him.


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