Resurrection, part 17
The fourth and final argument for the bodily resurrection of Jesus comes from the empty tomb. We just have to ask ourselves, Why was the tomb empty? Jehovah's Witnesses say it was empty because Jehovah disposed of the body. The Bible gives an entirely different answer.
In all three synoptic gospels, the angels at the tomb explain that the reason the tomb is empty is because Jesus is risen.
He is not here, for he is risen (Matthew 28:6).In John's gospel, it's a little different, but John makes the same point. Everybody checks out the tomb, and they are baffled by the fact that it's empty. John explains, "For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead" (John 20:9). So even in John's gospel, the reason the tomb is empty is because Jesus has risen from the dead.
He has risen; he is not here (Mark 16:6).
He is not here, but he has risen (Luke 24:6).
Finally, in Acts 2:24-32, Peter points to the empty tomb as evidence of Jesus' resurrection. Peter says that after Jesus was put to death, "God raised him up again." To explain, he quotes David who said, "Because you will not abandon my soul to hades, nor allow your holy one to undergo decay." Then Peter said, "I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day." Peter's point was that David wasn't talking about himself; he was talking about Jesus. He said that since David was a prophet and that God had promised the messiah, David "looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to hades, nor did his flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again."
Peter is arguing here that the words, "not abandoned to hades," and "flesh did not suffer decay," indicate resurrection. If so, then resurrection must be what prevents flesh from undergoing decay. The resurrection must be bodily if that is the case.
What was the point of Peter saying so confidently that David's tomb was with them to that day? The point was to show that David was still dead. And since David was still dead, the passage Peter quoted did not apply to David. Peter's argument only works if an occupied tomb indicates a dead person. A person cannot rise from the dead if their body is still in the grave. If Jesus' tomb were also occupied, then by Peter's reasoning, Jesus must be dead, too, and the passage can't be about Jesus anymore than it can be about David. So Peter is assuming everybody knows that Jesus' tomb was empty, and the explanation is that Jesus has risen from the dead.
You should see now how very different the Biblical view is from the Jeohvah's Witness view. In their view, the resurrection has nothing to do with the body in the tomb. The empty tomb has nothing whatsoever to do with the resurrection. They are two separate events. Jesus was raised a spirit creature, and Jehovah disposed of the body in the tomb. There's no cause and effect relationship between the resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb on the Jehovah's Witness view. But on the Biblical view they have everything to do with each other. The tomb is empty because Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus' resurrection caused the tomb to become empty. That means his body literally came back to life and vacated the tomb, leaving it empty.
Tomorrow, I'm going to address one more passage Jehovah's Witnesses use to deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus.