God, I Want to Ask You

Seven Questions When Facing Death

The Fifth Question

"Jesus, Can I Trust You?"

Note to God:
Lord, can I really trust You with my life? Death is so frightening. What assurance is there that there is anything beyond it?

There is a story about a conversation several centuries ago between the King of Siam and an ambassador from Holland. Siam being in the tropics, the king had never experienced cold weather. Neither had he ever learned about the changes in water when it freezes. So, when the Dutch ambassador remarked that it got so cold in his country that lakes became hard enough for elephants to walk upon, the king replied, "Now I know that you are a liar!"

We are in a position similar to that of the king. The Bible, like an ambassador, tells us about things we do not understand and places we have never seen. Specifically, it tells us that someday we will be raised from the dead, and that if we have put our faith in Christ, we will live with Him in a place of unimaginable beauty called "heaven." It is no wonder that we ask, "Dare I believe all that?"

No question is more important to a dying person, for no question has more bearing on whether we approach death with hope or despair. Is heaven real and resurrection coming? Or is it self-deception to believe such things? Dare we believe His promises?

Go back to the king and the ambassador. Imagine for a moment that the ambassador could have shown the king a block of ice. Seeing ice would not have been the same as going to Holland to see a frozen lake, but it would have been evidence that water can become hard enough for elephants to walk upon. Without understanding the physics of frozen water, or having seen Holland, the king would have had reason to believe the ambassador. A single experience with ice would have had the power to change the king's attitude from hostile skepticism to genuine belief. Then he could have confidently told others of his experience with ice, giving them reason to believe that there was a place called Holland with frozen lakes.

Likewise, there is reason to believe that what the Bible says about resurrection and heaven is true. We have not yet seen resurrection, nor visited heaven. But, we know of someone who has - Jesus Christ. There is solid evidence that Jesus, having predicted His death and resurrection, physically rose from the dead and appeared to people as reported in the New Testament.


The Reliability of the New Testament

Since we are dealing with testimony, we must ask if that testimony, the New Testament, is reliable. There are three tests for establishing the reliability of any historical document.

The bibliographical test asks, "How reliable are the copies we have, and how close in time do they come to the original?" The answer to both is "very." The New Testament exceeds any other ancient document in this respect. The following chart shows how the New Testament bibliographical evidence surpasses that of other writings of the same period.


Date written

# of copies

Years after original of earliest copy

Caesar, Gallic Wars

50 BC



Livy, History

AD 17



Tacitus, Annals and History

AD 100



Thucydides, History

400 BC



Herodotus, History

428 BC



New Testament

AD 95



From Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, pg. 408

Such evidence led Sir Frederic Kenyon, a keeper of manuscripts and head librarian of the British Museum, to write in The Bible and Archaeology:

...the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.

The internal evidence test asks, "Are there indications of fraud or error within the document itself'?" This question can perhaps best be answered by noting that the New Testament is not just one witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but a collection of multiple witnesses. All agree that Jesus died, and that He rose again. Error seems highly unlikely. Fraud is out of the question since all these early witnesses suffered for their testimony, and most died for it. Had the authors of the New Testament conspired to propagate a lie, we would expect at least one of them to have confessed in order to escape torture and death.

Finally, there is the external evidence test. This asks, "Is there evidence from outside the New Testament that supports what is said there?" Indeed, there is. Four types of evidence are found outside the New Testament. First, Jewish writers of the period (Josephus and the Talmud). acknowledged the existence of Jesus and His following, and did not deny the central contention of the Apostles that His tomb Was empty. Second, Roman writers such as Pliny the Younger and Tacitus referred to Christ as an historical figure crucified under Pilate. Third, Christian documents from the generation immediately following the Apostles support the New Testament account.

Finally, archaeology provides a strong support for the accuracy of the Gospels and Acts.

We can conclude that the New Testament presents us with solid evidence that Christ arose from the dead. And if God raised Christ from the dead, can He not also raise us?


The Evidence Itself

So far, we have seen that the New Testament presents reliable testimony concerning the resurrection. But what is the testimony? ‘What does the New Testament actually say that would lead us to believe that Jesus rose from the dead? The Bible makes four points.

First, the body was gone. All accounts agree that the tomb, where Jesus' friends laid His body, was empty just days later. The easiest way in which the authorities could have quenched the early preaching of the resurrection would have been to open the tomb and produce the body. Armed Roman guards had been posted to prevent Jesus' body from being stolen. The authorities had no reason to move it. The only explanation for the empty tomb is that Jesus was raised.

Second, the grave clothes were undisturbed. The first to enter the tomb were Peter and John, who recorded an interesting detail: the condition of the grave clothes in which Jesus was buried. Writing of himself, John said, "And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. {6} Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, {7} And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself" (John 20:5-7)

With details only an eyewitness could provide, John tells us that when Jesus was buried, His body was wrapped in bandage-like pieces of cloth. His head was wrapped in another piece of cloth, perhaps woven like a turban. After the body was wrapped, it was covered with a sticky mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about 100 Roman pounds (equivalent to 75 English pounds, John 19:38-42). Having witnessed these preparations for burial, John must have been amazed at the sight that greeted him inside the empty tomb. Twice he mentions that the grave clothes were lying there. They were not torn apart as they would have been had Jesus fought to free Himself, or if others had removed His body. Rather, they were collapsed in place under the weight of the spices. Likewise, the head covering was neatly folded up. Mysteriously, the body of Jesus had been freed from the burial clothes Without any struggle. What else besides a genuine resurrection could explain this?

Third, the Lord was seen. Not only the empty tomb and the mysterious grave clothes convinced the disciples that Jesus was alive. They report that at various times He appeared to them. About these appearances, two things are noteworthy. First, many appearances of Jesus were to groups, ruling out the possibility of hallucination. Second, Jesus was tangibly present. They touched Him, and He also ate with them (Luke 24:39-43).

These reports were neither lies nor myths. Early Christians suffered greatly for their insistence that Jesus was raised. Myths develop over centuries, not over a few years. Critics might say that the Church developed a resurrection "myth," but they put the cart before the horse. If not the resurrection, what was the power that started the Church?

Fourth, the disciples were changed. A compelling reason to believe is the unflattering portrayal they give of the Apostles. Before His crucifixion, none seemed to grasp the nature of Jesus' mission. They quarreled about who was the greatest. They jockeyed for position. When He was arrested, they ran. When confronted, Peter denied Him. When told of the resurrection, Thomas doubted. These are not flattering descriptions that religious followers normally give of their most revered leaders. Yet, within days of witnessing the brutal death of their Master, these same men were fearlessly proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem (Acts 2). What could account for this change but the resurrection?


The Meaning for Us

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ gives us a strong reason to believe that death is not the end, but a beginning. We cannot take out a telescope and see beyond death, or ride a spaceship to heaven. But we have Jesus. By looking to His resurrection, we can find reason to hope that as Jesus died but lived again, so will all who believe in Him.

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