In the world of Bible Prophecy, there is sometimes a tendency to not emphasize enough of the rest of the Biblical record. But without the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the field of Bible Prophecy would be a rather vain study. Everything in the Bible hinges squaely upon the resurrection of Jesus, and him ascended to Heaven. As we approach the week of celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, it might do us all well to once again consider the defense and reliability of the historical reality of his literal resurrection. Without the resurrection, there would simply be no real dynamic need to study the subject regarding the second coming of our Lord. Afterall, it was he himself who legitimated the whole prophetic arena of Last Days Bible Prophecy when he stated as it to be a matter of fact that he would return immediately after his resurrection and ensuing ascension; "I will come again"! The crucifixion of Jesus has been well documented by the Gospel writers. The crucial question for people today is, Did Jesus rise from the dead, verifying his divinity, or did something else happen? Was his body stolen, or perhaps Jesus orchestrated a fake resurrection and never really died at all?
The absolute death of Jesus and the ensuing evidence against any possibility of a hoax are critical, since Jesus had previously to his claimed to his disciples that he would rise from the dead. Either Jesus had to fulfill the resurrection drama or he could be exposed as the biggest braggart and phony in all of recorded history. To demonstrate that he had power over death Jesus had already raised other people from the dead. His raising of Lazarus exemplified that he indeed had the power over the grave. Because of those realities, the Romans and the Sanhedrin took every precaution to ensure that a resurrection-conspiracy could not flourish after his death. And if Jesus wasn't really dead, why would his enemies secure his grave? It seems to me that God allowed the enemies of Jesus to have complete jurisdiction over the corpse, which in turn tended to work to corroborate his resurrection! The Bible implies that the cause of Jesus' death was cardiac arrest, as indicated by the blood and water that spilled forth from his side after the puncture from a Roman spear. ( See "A Physicians View in the Library section of FOJ ) Many witnesses attested to that event. To secure the body, a Roman guard was placed outside his tomb. A Roman guard consisted of 16 soldiers, with a disciplined rotation for sleeping at night (every four hours, four would switch). The guards all faced the stringent Roman penalty of crucifixion themselves if they fell asleep while on watch or if they deserted their post. To further ensure corpse-security, a two-ton stone was rolled in front of Jesus tomb with Pontius Pilate's seal on it. Rome was the superpower of its day. It would have taken a powerful and overwhelming military force to subvert the Roman garrison and the many attachments it could have called upon in the event of theft attempt. Breaking the seal without the official Roman guard's approval also meant upside down crucifixion for any grave-robbers, that might have been apprehended. Thus the motivation and incentive for the theft of a dead corpse was very risky.
So, if Jesus did not arise from the dead, then what became of his corpse? The official explanation is that the disciples stole the body while the Roman guards fell asleep. This story was concocted only because no one could literally produce the dead body of Jesus, which would have stopped the resurrection story forever. In fact no one has ever produced even a trace of his body. Is a theft of Jesus body even remotely possible given that:
1. All 16 guards would have had to risk the penalty of crucifixion by sleeping while on duty or deserting.
2. The disciples were in a state of shock, fear, and disarray, having seen Jesus being crucified. Is it reasonable to think they quickly concocted a plan and flawlessly executed it on the Sabbath day of rest? Peter, the bravest of the lot even denied that he knew Jesus out of fear for his own life. For what possible reason would Peter have summoned up the courage to lead the Disciples on a mission to steal the corpse?
3. What possible motive could the disciples have had to steal a corpse? If Jesus was not the Son of God as He claimed, stealing the body would create a lie with no apparent benefit, and death for no purpose for the disciples. When Jesus asked the disciples, "Who do men say that I am", only Peter realized the actual truth of Jesus being the Christ, the son of the living God.
Did Jesus really die? Jesus was crucified in public. There were many witnesses. A Roman Centurion remarked that he must have been the "Son of God", out of his personal astonishment at the supernatural events of darkness in mid-day, and an earthquake as Jesus died. The final Roman spear thrust into his heart area was to ensure his death. When the Romans came to Jesus to break his legs to prevent his pushing himself upwards for the ability to receive another breath, they judged that he was already dead. If Jesus was not dead, then what are the chances that a barely living person, scourged and beaten could move a two-ton rock from the inside of a tomb and escape a full Roman guard unnoticed after hanging on a cross for a whole day?
Was his body stolen at night? Martyrdom for a belief is not unique. But what kind of person would die for a known lie? Why would all of the disciples face hardship and death for something they knew to be a lie? Historical record and reports about the disciples indicated they all died cruel deaths for their belief that Jesus did in fact arise from the dead. And since there were no brave souls to defend Jesus at his trial, why would they suddenly be so brave to fight for his corpse?
Peter preached the gospel for many more years after Jesus died, and for the crime of preaching a resurrected Jesus, Peter, when put on trial and granted an opportunity to recant the reality of Jesus resurrection, boldly testified to his captors that Jesus did indeed arise. By going to his own cross and being crucified upside down for the simple reason that he believed that he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as the risen Lord, he demonstrated a true witness to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Many people today visit a variety of prospective grave-sites that contained the body of Jesus. Many writers and historians have scoured through records and researched all the possibilities of the exact location of tomb of Jesus. But in the end analysis, the verifiable location of Jesus tomb remains a mystery because there are no remains whatsoever. Perhaps the garden tomb is the actual site of Jesus burial. Who knows for sure? But one thing is certain. Jesus is not there. He is arisen. You may ask me how I know. I know because he sits at the right hand of his Father and intercedes on my behalf. I talk to him and he replies. His spirit quickens my heart and soul. I like Peter know he is arisen, because he lives within my heart.
He is Alive, and he is coming back!