Because Jesus rose from the dead, in fulfillment of the words of the ancient prophets (Acts 3:24), and because He did so in fulfillment of His own confident pronouncements that He would rise (Matt. 20:18-19), the gospel message of the resurrected Christ has true authority. It is not the thing that must be proven, it is the ultimate and most glorious proof. Moreover, the preached message of the resurrection is not something to be placed under a microscope and examined in order to be proven. Rather, the declared message is also itself a proof. The resurrection proves, and also the preaching of the resurrection proves.
“And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (Acts 4:1–4).
Summary of the Text
In the early chapters of Acts, the apostles and early disciples had received the power of the Spirit poured out upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2). Remember that this Holy Spirit who is poured out upon them is the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11). So all this activity is all part of the same “motion,” as it were. As a result, all of Jerusalem was in a churn. Thousands were coming into the church, three thousand on the first day alone (Acts 2:41).
On one of these early occasions, they were preaching Christ (Acts 3), and in the course of that message, Peter said something really profound, something that goes down to the bedrock of all reality. He preached to the crowd that they were the culprits, and that they were the ones who “killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15). One might ask how the Prince of life could ever be killed, but apparently the real question should be how the Prince of life could possibly remain dead.
As this was going on, the authorities stepped in with an attempt to regain control of the situation (Acts 4:1). They were deeply pained that the apostles were teaching the people, and were preaching “through Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (v. 2). Apart from the Sadducees, the Jews were firmly convinced of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. And these followers of Christ were preaching that this doctrine had just been accomplished through Jesus. The end of the world had broken out in the middle of history through Jesus. So the authorities laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, because it was getting late (v. 3). But even though the preachers were hauled off, many still believed. Believed what? They believed in the resurrection of the dead through Jesus. The number of men in the church by this point was about five thousand (v. 4), which means the whole church was likely well over ten thousand. The church was exploding. And the next day, when Peter is explaining how the cripple was made whole, he does it by naming “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead . . .” (v. 10). He simply declares it as an accomplished fact.
Proving the Proofs
Christ was truly kind to His disciples after the resurrection. In one place it says that they disbelieved on account of their joy (Luke 24:41). He condescended to invite Thomas to put his finger in the wound in His side (John. 20:27), which should be considered a proof. And we find this in the opening verses of Acts:
“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”
Acts 1:3 (KJV)
All this was Christ’s condescension and kindness. Remember what He said to Thomas:
“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
John 20:29 (KJV)
So it is not the case that Thomas had the best of it. It is not the case that he had all the epistemic security he could wish for, but then we, two millennia later, have to walk across that lake on thin ice. No—we are under the express blessing of Christ. We have not seen, and yet we have believed. But although we have not seen, what do we have? We have heard, which is best of all. He is the Word made flesh, and so we have heard Him.
Hearing about the resurrection when it is preached is not the tail end of two thousand years of playing the telephone game. No. The Spirit inhabits the preaching of the resurrection, and when Christ risen is preached, the work of resurrection is ongoing and continuing. The risen Lord Jesus is seated at the right hand of the power (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69), and what has He poured out upon us? He has poured out the Spirit of that same power. You will receive power, He said, when the Spirit is poured out upon you (Acts 1:8). This is the anointing.
Declared with Power
How do we know that Jesus will judge the whole world? We know because God raised Him up. The resurrection here is the proof, it is the evidence.
“Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” ().
Acts 17:31 (KJV)
Jesus is declared to be the Son of God, and what is it that cinches that declaration? It is the resurrection from the dead.
“And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
Romans 1:4 (KJV)
The Lord Jesus came back to life after He had been killed, but we have to note the context. In what world was He killed? He came to life again after having been killed in a world governed by death. “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19, ESV). It was a world ruled by death (Heb. 2:15).
So that resurrection was like sticking a piece of paper into the fire, and setting the corner of the sheet of paper on fire. You watch it glow, and then catch, and then spread. As it spreads, please remember that it is all the same fire.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Rom. 6:4 (KJV)
When the resurrection is preached, and as people come to life under the hearing of it, it is the same life that brought Jesus out of the grave again. Not a different life, but the same life. The Christ has been raised, and we know that He has been raised because He is here with us now, in us, under us, and above us. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.