The main point in today’s reading is that the reception Muhammad is receiving is not unlike that given to many prophets before him.  We have seen this message many times already. 

The most interesting part of the reading, though, is what the disbelievers say to an unnamed prophet before Muhammad’s time when he claims that we will be resurrected on the Last Day:

The leading disbelievers . . . said, “He is just a  mortal like you — he eats what you eat and drinks what you drink — and you will really be losers if you obey a mortal like yourselves.  How can he promise you that after you die and become dust and bones you will be brought out alive?  What you are promised is very far-fetched.  There is only the life of this world: we die, we live, but we will never be resurrected.  He is just a man making lies up about God.  We will never believe in him.”  (23:33-38)

How can this prophet or Muhammad after him promise the dead will be resurrected? 

It is claimed that the topic of the Hereafter is discussed more than any topic in the Qur’an with the sole exception of monotheism and idolatry.  Resurrection is foundational to the Islamic worldview, so it begs the question “what is the basis for believing this claim?”  This is a religious belief, so it will have a degree of faith involved, to be sure.  But one can hope that there is some reason to believe that this faith is more than wishful thinking.  I do hope that those better versed in Islam can provide evidence for faith in the claim of resurrection.  All I have found is this: 1) Allah has revealed the truth of resurrection in the Qur’an, thus it is true; and 2) as is said in this passage, the truth will be shown in the end (23:40).  If one believes that the Qur’an is the inspired word of God, then yes these arguments would be persuasive.  But it is not realistic to think that #1 would mean much to a person who does not yet trust the Qur’an.  It is not like Muhammad was raised from the dead.   

Resurrection is also foundational to Christianity, so it is only fair to ask what basis do Christians have to believe that they will be resurrected on the Last Day.  Is it because the Bible claims it to be true?  Again, this argument alone does not hold water with someone who does not yet believe the Bible is the word of God.  Does the Bible offer any better reason for believing that resurrection is a reality?

The Apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter to exactly this point.  It seems there were some in his time who were saying something similar to what the disbelievers above were saying.  Paul’s response is the foundational argument for the resurrection in Christianity.  How can we know that we will be resurrected?  Jesus’ resurrection.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.  But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)

Why should we believe in resurrection?  Because Jesus was raised from the dead.  Jesus wasn’t just resuscitated in the same body; he received a renewed, resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:44).  If Jesus was not resurrected, then Christianity falls apart.  Resurrection is the linchpin.  Why can a Christian believe that resurrection will be a reality?  Not simply because a book says so.  We have been given proof that God has this power and desire in that He raised Jesus from the dead during our time.  We know we can be resurrected in the future because God has already resurrected in the past. 

This argument can be charged with the same circular reason I mentioned earlier in regards to the Qur’an, can’t it?  Christians believe the Bible’s claim of resurrection because the Bible describes a resurrected Jesus.  Isn’t that the same as saying, “I believe the Bible because of the Bible”?

This is where further reasoning and research bolsters the faith one can have in what we read in the Bible.  Why should we believe that Jesus was resurrected? 

  1. If the resurrection of Jesus were nothing more than a hoax, the apostles who started that hoax went on to suffer and die for Jesus.  Would you die for a lie?  What did the apostles stand to gain from the hoax: popularity, fame, money, women?  The apostles received none of these in their life-time.  Consider this verse from 1 Corinthians 15:30, “And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour?”
  2. Maybe Jesus just passed out and never really died.  We know from history that a great number of people being flogged before resurrection (as Jesus was) actually died during the beating.  The suffering Jesus endured was simply too severe to live through.  Also, the mixture of water and blood oozing from Jesus’ wound is a tell-tale sign of a fatal wound. 
  3. Maybe the people who thought they saw a resurrected Jesus were just hallucinating.  But over 500 people claimed to see the same resurrected Jesus.  It is illogical that there would be such a mass hallucination.  In addition, the closeness between event and writing made it possible for people who doubted the resurrection account to actually find and talk with these supposed eyewitnesses. 
  4. Maybe someone stole Jesus’ body?  Who?  The only people who would want to do so would be the apostles.  It is illogical to think they could get past an armed battalion of Roman guards who were trained to kill and would be killed themselves if they failed or fell asleep.  It is also not likely that they would be able to move the stone. 
  5. The resurrection accounts are actually crafted as weak arguments if they are fake.  Women are claimed to be the first eyewitnesses.  The testimony of women was not even accepted in a court of law at that time.  Why create such a story?
  6. How did the apostles go from timid fishermen so afraid of dying that they hid to fearless messengers who all died a martyr’s death (except John who died in exile on the island of Patmos)?  How did Paul have such an about-face that he went from murderer to martyr in such a short amount of time?  The best explanation is a miraculous event. 
  7. Anyone who wished to disprove the resurrection could have done so easily.  All they had to do was produce Jesus’ body.  The Jewish religious leaders had every reason to do so as the Christian group grew in popularity after Pentecost only two months after the Crucifixion.  But no one ever did.   

The best and most logical explanation is that Jesus of Nazareth truly was resurrected from the dead as claimed.  And because of that we can have a confidence that we too will be resurrected.    

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
   Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

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