Recently a Christian told me her adult child had challenged her about her faith, asking questions like: How do you know Christianity is true? How do you know for sure there’s a heaven or hell? How do we know that what Buddha or Mohammed taught isn’t the truth? How do we know we don’t simply cease to exist? In the first century, men similarly challenged the Corinthians, teaching there was nothing after this life, so Paul said:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 1 CO 15:1-2
“Unless you believed in vain.” Would the Corinthians simply cease to exist after death? Was all this stuff about Jesus an empty hope? How did they know it was true? Paul went on:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 CO 15:3-8
There’s nothing more important to build our lives on and put our hope in than the gospel. It is “of first importance” because what we believe about Jesus will affect our eternity. If we believe in him we have eternal life (JN 3:16). If we don’t we perish. Our eternity hangs in the balance on whether we believe in Christ or not. So Paul reviewed what he’d taught them:
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. Jesus Christ, God himself, was born a human and lived a life of perfect obedience to his Father. Then he took our sins upon himself, paid for them, endured God’s wrath, and died on a Roman cross. The Creator of the universe DIED so we could LIVE. And this was “in accordance with the Scriptures.” 700 years before Christ, Isaiah predicted:
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. IS 53:5
Not only did Christ die for our sins, but he was buried and raised:
that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures
Jesus didn’t faint on the cross. He died. A centurion plunged a spear into his heart and a tiny bit of blood mixed with water trickled out. Eyewitnesses saw him laid in a tomb and a massive rock rolled over the opening. But he was raised on the third day as the Old Testament Scriptures predicted. In Acts 2, Peter quotes David in Psalm 16:8-11:
For David says concerning him…
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption…
he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. (25, 27, 31)
Paul reminded the Corinthians that numerous eyewitnesses saw the risen Christ:
…and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 CO 15:5-8)
After he rose Jesus appeared to numerous individuals, groups and even a crowd of 500. This was not a mass hallucination. Paul said most of these five hundred were still alive. In other words, he said, “Go ask them. Check it out.” Jesus appeared in all kinds of settings – indoors and out. He ate with the disciples and invited Thomas to touch him. So Jesus’ resurrection guarantees that we haven’t believed in vain.
If Jesus hadn’t risen we’d have no idea if anything he said was true. He said there’s a heaven. How would we know if he hadn’t come back? He said whoever believes in him has eternal life. How could we be sure? But we can be sure that all Jesus said is true because he rose from the dead.
Anyone can give their opinion about what comes after this life – Buddha, Mohammed, L. Ron Hubbard – but they all died and none rose. Not one could verify his teaching. But Jesus rose from the dead, so we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything he said about himself, heaven, judgment, and how to receive forgiveness and eternal life is true.
Have you believed in Jesus? Then you’ve believed the truth. Still unsure? Read the book of John. Check out Matthew, Mark and Luke too. Read the eyewitness testimony. You can be sure.