The resurrection of the dead is the cornerstone doctrine that Christianity is built upon; at least that’s how the apostles felt about it. Paul put it all out on the table by plainly, and soberly, telling the church at Corinth:
“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
In the midst of the church at Corinth there were enemies of the resurrection, but when you think about it, the resurrection had enemies before the church was even established.
Even though the Old Testament gave evidence of the resurrection to the Jews, there were still doubters and deniers. They had the example of Elisha and the young child (2 Kings 4), the example of the “raising” of Samuel’s soul (1 Samuel 28), the example of the dead bones of Elisha and the living man (2 Kings 13) and the example of the prophecies in Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2, and this is not to mention the example Peter used from Psalm 16:10 while preaching Jesus as the resurrected Christ and Lord. Despite these repeated examples there were enemies who still contradicted the plain evidence of the scriptures…and people, even religious people, think they’re breaking new ground when they take on the examples of the Bible today???
On one occasion, Jesus told the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection but came to him sarcastically asking questions about it, in Matthew 22:23 that they were in error because they did not know the scriptures or the power of God (Matthew 22:29). What scriptures did they not know? It surely wasn’t the Gospel According to Matthew! It was in part, the very scriptures noted above. It was the scriptures of the very Law they were living under that said death is not the end all be all. In Matthew 22:32 Jesus proved by the language that God used with Moses, the writer of their Law, that man will live…does live beyond the grave:
“‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”” (Matthew 22:32)
What some people forget is that believers in the resurrection preceded the empty tomb of Jesus. Paul used the “pro-resurrection” beliefs of the Pharisees against the Sadducees to avoid an unjust trial against him (Acts 23:1-10) and he used the Old Testament scriptures to defend his teaching concerning the resurrection showing that the early fathers of the Jews believed in the resurrection too (Acts 24:15-16). So believers in the resurrection preceded the empty tomb for sure, but the empty tomb is what fulfills the hope that it takes to hold on to it! (1 Peter 1:3)
The resurrection brings hope to God’s people, but the resurrection brings fear to God’s enemies. This is why the resurrection was such a big “target” to people in the past who did not want to answer for what they had done; and why it remains the “target” that it is today even though God makes His grace available.
As soon as the good news of the empty tomb began to spread, people began to attack the resurrection (Matthew 28:1-15), but they didn’t win in the past and they won’t win in the future. As a matter of fact, to fight the fact of a resurrection is a losing battle that is not lost by the word win – it is lost by the word when!!! Read Colossians 3:4 if you don’t get it. EA
“Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:24-26)
Why the Early Church Grew by Larry Miles (includes a chart about the Pharisees and Sadducees)