There are some who doubt the truth of the resurrection. They doubt the entire Bible, in fact, but most especially the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To cast disbelief on this vital point is to negate the entire New Testament . “Maybe He didn’t really die, He just passed out from the pain and from being beaten and going so long without food and water”, they rationalize. And in their human logic, they reason, “How could a man come back from death and live again?” It defies human logic, for sure.
But look at the hard evidence: Jesus DID die. He did not merely pass out from the pain or faint from hunger. The brutal Roman soldiers were no strangers to death, they saw it and dealt it regularly. Death was their business, and you can believe they knew the difference between a dead man and one who had merely fainted! And just to make certain, one of these Roman soldiers even pierced Jesus’ side with his spear: that big weapon of war these soldiers used to inflict death. There can be no doubt that such a stroke from the strong arm of a Roman soldier would have killed Jesus, if He had not been dead already. This was conclusive proof that Jesus was actually dead.
Then, Jesus was seen after His resurrection by over 500 different people, in various places. Is it even remotely possible that that many people could keep their stories straight, if it had not really happened?
Charles W. Colson was an aide to former President Richard Nixon. He was known as the White House “hatchet man”, feared by even the most powerful politicos during his four years of service to Nixon. Colson was sentenced to prison for his part in the Watergate scandal. He had been agnostic, but became a Christian in 1973. He had this to say about the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me.
How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised
from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years,
never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned,
and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true.
Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world -
and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me
12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
Not only did they proclaim the truth of Christ’s resurrection for all those years, not only were they beaten, tortured, stoned, and imprisoned, but these followers of Jesus also died for the truth they proclaimed. They stuck to their stories to the very end of their lives, and then died for their cause. No one is willing to suffer torture and death for a lie. And for so many of them to do so? It had to be true! Look at how each one of these men died, and see the truth for yourself!
Simon (aka Peter, also Cephas) - Simon Peter was appointed by Jesus to be the leader of the new church. He was
martyred in Rome during the reign of the evil and cruel emperor Nero. He was also crucified on a cross, as Jesus was, but according to church tradition,
Peter asked to be crucified upside down, because he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died. The Romans obliged him,
and he got his last request, he was crucified upside down.
Jesus had predicted this very event when He told Peter:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God. (John 21:18-19)
- Andrew (brother of Peter) - Andrew went on a missionary trip to Patras in western Greece in 69 AD,
There the Roman proconsul Aegeates debated religion with him. Aegeates tried to convince Andrew to forsake Christianity, so that he would not
have to torture and execute him. When Andrew refused to renounce his Lord and Savior, it angered Aegeates so much that he apparently decided to
give Andrew the full treatment. He had Andrew whipped severely by seven soldiers, who then tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his
His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words:
'I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.' He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he finally died.
- James (son of Zebedee, aka James the Greater) - Acts 12:1-19 says that James was beheaded
with a sword by the newly-appointed governor of Judea, Herod Agrippa, who had decided to ingratiate himself with the Romans by persecuting leaders
of this new sect. After James was arrested, the Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial. Later, the officer walked beside James to the place of execution. Overcome by conviction, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian. The Roman executioners obliged, and both men were beheaded simultaneously.
(* It is important to note that there are three different men named James: this apostle James who was the son of Zebedee, the apostle called James the Less, son of Alphaeus , and James as the brother of Jesus. All three followed Jesus, and all three were martyred.)
- John (aka "the beloved disciple") - During Domitian's persecution of Christians in the
middle 90's, John faced martyrdom when he was to be boiled alive in huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution In Rome. However, he was
miraculously delivered from this tortuous death.
He was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos, where he wrote the only prophetic book in the New Testament, the Book of
Revelations. John was the only one of the original disciples to live to old age, and to die from natural causes rather than be martyred. He died in
Patmos in his old age, sometime around 100 AD.
- Philip - Philip, the very first of Jesus’ disciples, became a missionary in Asia. Eventually, he
traveled to the Egyptian city of Heliopolis. He converted the wife of a Roman proconsul in 54 AD. In retaliation, the proconsul had Philip arrested
and cruelly put to death, ordering him to be was scourged, thrown into prison, and crucified. According to most historians, Philip’s death was
exceedingly cruel. He was impaled by iron hooks in his ankles and hung upside down to die.
- Thomas (aka Doubting Thomas) - Thomas was preaching the gospel in Greece and India, and was establishing a church there. Not very much is known about the method of Thomas’ execution but that he angered local religious authorities, who martyred him by running him through with a spear and he died from the wound.
It is rather ironic that this disciple died from the same kind of wound he demanded to see as proof that Jesus was resurrected. He had refused to believed the testimony of the other disciples, saying that the only way he would believe was if he could see the nail prints in Jesus’s hands and touch the spear wound in Jesus’ side.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. (John 20:25)
- 7) Matthew - According to tradition, the former tax collector became a missionary and was
arrested in Ethiopia, where he was stabbed in the back by an swordsman sent by King Hertacus, after he criticized the king’s morals.
He was staked or impaled to the earth by spears and then beheaded. Not much beyond this is known since Matthew was in such a remote place in Africa and went where few historians or Christians ventured to go.
- Bartholomew (aka Nathaniel0 - There is very little known about how he died but it appears that since he was martyred in Armenia, he too must have been involved in the Great Commission and taking the good news into that part of the world. Most scholars agree that he was flogged to death by whip, where he was literally torn to shreds.
- James (son of Alphaeus, aka James the Less) - The leader of the church in Jerusalem , was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle* of the Temple by the scribes and Pharisees; when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, they beat him to death with a fuller's club, dashing his brains out. His death was also recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus.
* This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the Temptation.
- Simon (aka Simon the Zealot) - The apostle Simon is not Simon Peter (Andrew’s brother) but Simon the Zealot. Very little is known about him inside or outside of the Bible. All that is known about his death is that he was also was crucified.
- Thaddaeus (AKA Lebbaeus, Judas or Jude) - The apostle Jude, who wrote the next to the last book in the New Testament by the same name, went all the way to Persia, apparently on a missionary trip, and it was there that he was crucified.
It is said he was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
- Judas Iscariot According to Matthew 27:3-6, the treacherous apostle quickly felt remorse over his betrayal of Jesus and went to the Temple to recant. When the high priests ignored his plea, he threw down the 30 pieces of silver that he had been paid, and went off and hanged himself. But Acts 1:15-20, gives a different and even grislier version of Judas’ demise. He says that Judas used the blood money to purchase a piece of land and then fell headlong from a high place there, so that “he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” Jerusalem residents subsequently named the place Aceldama, which means “the field of blood.”
- Matthias - The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded,
late in the 1st century.
- James (the brother of Jesus) - This James was not an apostle, but was one of the early church leaders. He died early in the church history while the New Testament was still being compiled. He was martyred in a fashion very much like the apostle James, who was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and then beaten to death. This James was believed to have been thrown some 100 feet off a wall, after he repeatedly refused to deny his faith in Jesus. After the fall, he was somehow still alive and when they discovered this, his enemies circled him and beat him to death with clubs.
- Paul - Originally known as Saul, Paul not only did not believe in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, he actually persecuted those members of the early church who did.
He was changed completely by a dramatic encounter with the risen Jesus on the Road to Damascus. This encounter so changed Saul that he was given a new name, and he went from persecuting the church to
helping spread the gospel and establishing new churches in at least three missionary trips.
Before he was martyred, Paul had already suffered tremendously, repeatedly, for the truth of the gospel. He endured a lengthy imprisonment, during which he wrote his many
epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire. These letters, teaching the foundational Doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.
Read everything he went through, all that he suffered for the sake of Jesus, and ask yourself: would ANYONE continue to suffer like this for something that was not true? Listen to his own words:
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes less one. Three times was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (II Corinthians 11:24-27)
After his unusual and dramatic conversion, Paul spent the rest of his life preaching about the risen Savior. He preached the gospel message, even as he faced all these beatings, stonings, improsonment, and even his own death.
He stuck to this truth even to the very end of his life. Like Peter, Paul was tortured and then beheaded by Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. He knew that
because Jesus lives, he would receive the reward for his faithfulness. Knowing his death was near, Paul wrote:
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me,
but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
These men all stuck to their stories, without faltering, all the days of their lives, in the face of intense persecution.
By the simple fact that these followers of Jesus Christ were all willing to die for the gospel message, we can be assured
that their message is indeed true. And their message is simple: Jesus Christ died to pay for the sins of all who would believe, and was resurrected so that we might also have eternal life through Him.
This is why we celebrate Easter: it commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death into life everlasting.
The disciples all believed so much in the message of Easter they were willing to suffer and die for it. What about you?
Do you believe Jesus died to pay for your sins? Do you believe He rose again, resurrected to eternal life, and that because He did,
you can also have eternal life? If you have never before believed, there is no better time than now, as we celebrate the resurrection, to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and receive the gift of eternal life!
For if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.