In one of the most pivotal passages on the resurrection in all of the New Testament, Paul writes:
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 to be pitied more than all men. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19
How important is it that the resurrection is a historical reality? Can't we just believe in an eternal God who grants forgiveness of sins and makes us right with God? Is it a deal-breaker to believe in the resurrection?
It seems clear that Paul and the early church said an emphatic YES!
Theologian Michael Horton recalled a time when he was asked "When were you saved?" He responded, not trying to be coy, "Two thousand years ago."
It was the resurrection that made salvation a reality. Salvation was offered when Jesus walked out of the tomb. His death was a sacrifice for sin and His resurrected life defeated death (meaning there is never a time when we must be separated from God) and offers salvation to everyone. The resurrection as an historical fact is the proof of that. If Jesus was not raised, then he was just a religious martyr to a lost cause.
The Gospel isn't a present-day scheme to get you converted to a religion called Christianity. It is the announcement of the news that God offers salvation and transformation in and through Jesus Christ. The act happened long ago in history. Nothing more needs to be done by God because Jesus did it all. Now its up to us to respond in faith, receiving Christ's sacrifice for us and living for Him, or to choose a different path away from and ultimately against God.
In any case, it all hinges on the resurrection and our response to it.
How do you react to this? Have you ever thought about the resurrection like that before?