The early preachers of the gospel gave great prominence to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul may well have summed up the matter when he said in Philippians 3:10 that he sought to "know him and the power of his resurrection". They recognized the power of his resurrection. In Romans 1:4 Paul said that Christ was "declared to be the Son of God with power..... by the resurrection from the dead". The resurrection from the dead was a conclusive demonstration that Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God.
Not only was it that but they regarded the resurrection as conclusive proof that the atoning blood of Jesus Christ had the necessary power to save lost men from their sins. They regarded the resurrection of Jesus Christ as conclusive proof that, in the end, all will be raised from the dead. Paul said, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain". He said, "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins". And furthermore, he said, "Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished if Christ has not been raised from the dead" I Corinthians 15:12-20. Paul, therefore, placed supreme emphasis on the resurrection of Christ.
Notwithstanding the New Testament emphasis on the resurrection, there have been men down through the years who have tried to destroy our faith in the resurrection. They have advanced various explanations to account for the open and empty tomb. But there is only one adequate explanation of the empty tomb, and that is the one that the Bible presents - that the angel rolled away the stone and that our Lord rose from the dead. And then he appeared to his apostles for a period of forty days.. He appeared to others as well.
THE APOSTLES WERE WITNESSES
These men had been with Christ before his death; a number of them had been with him for about three and a half years. They had seen him during the trial; some of them had seen him die on the cross. After his resurrection, these men associated with him for about forty days. They talked with him; they handled him; they saw him. They had every reason for believing that the Christ whom they saw was the one who had been crucified.
In fact, at first, some of them, notably Thomas, doubted. Why he said, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe". And later Thomas did examine these wounds, and he said, "My Lord and my God" John 20:24-28.
Now if Jesus was not really raised from the dead these apostles, were either deceivers or they were deceived. Is it likely that these men would be deceived, men who had known Jesus so well before his death and had been associated with him after his resurrection? Would these men have had any reason to be deliberate deceivers? What was there to gain from preaching that Christ was risen from the dead if he really hadn't risen from the dead? There was no financial gain; there was no social prestige; there was no political power to come as a result of their preaching the resurrection. The only prospect that they had insofar as human rewards were concerned was the prospect of peril and persecution, of imprisonment and death. Yet all these apostles went out and preached that Christ had been raised from the dead.
They all suffered for this testimony and all but one died for it. If they were deliberate deceivers, is it not remarkable that not one of them under the most trying circumstances - such as imprisonment, stoning, and death - ever reversed his testimony? Men do not manifest this kind of steadfastness and loyalty to a known falsehood. They all asserted right up to the end that they saw Jesus after he was raised from the dead.
And the conduct of these men is such as to demonstrate that what they were teaching was the truth. When they preached the resurrection, they did not begin in Galilee; they began in Jerusalem where Christ had been crucified. When they began preaching the resurrection, it was not to men who knew nothing about the death of Christ; it was to men who had been guilty of crucifying the Lord (Acts 2:22-23). These men deported themselves as men who knew what they were talking about. They deported themselves as men who were under a tremendous conviction. You can't account for the changed attitude of these men. You can't account for their restored hope. You can't account for their renewed courage. You can't account for their long lives of toil and sacrifice and suffering apart from the fact that they were prompted by the undying conviction that Christ was raised from the dead. It is more difficult to believe that these men acted a lie, suffered for it, and died for it, than it is to believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead.