Celebrating Jesus’ Ascension

May 17 is the day that we will celebrate Jesus’ ascension to heaven as the culmination of the Easter season.  In the worship of many modern Christian churches, Jesus’ ascension to heaven is a neglected and forgotten reality.  However, it has not always been so.  As the annual liturgical calendar developed in the fourth century, churches began to devote a special day to commemorate Jesus’ ascension within the Easter season prior to Pentecost.  Not only the calendar but also the early Christian creeds signified the ascension’s prominent place in early Christian thought and life.  Both the baptismal creed that later developed into the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed formulated in the first two ecumenical councils at Nicea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.) list Jesus’ ascension among the most fundamental articles of the Christian gospel. Continue reading

Beautiful Savior

During the month of May, the sermon series will highlight the various spiritual benefits that we receive from Jesus because he is risen from the dead.  At the 11:15 service, we will sing a new song, “Beautiful Savior,” to celebrate the many victories Jesus won for us in his resurrection.  If we are united to the risen Jesus by faith, then we can sing of “sins forgiven, of conscience cleansed and of death defeated and life without end.”  Jesus’ resurrection shows that he is the “Lord of history” and “heaven’s champion” who “reigns over all,” and it will be our greatest joy to celebrate his victory eternally with the whole company of heaven where “the glory never fades” and “cries of ‘worthy’ will honor the Lamb” forever. Continue reading

The Fact of Easter

The season of Easter rests upon a historical claim: Jesus died, and on the third day he rose from the dead.  But is this historical claim true, and is it rational to believe it?  Was Jesus’ resurrection an actual historical event?  Is Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection the best rational explanation of the historical testimony about Jesus in the New Testament?

The apostle Paul himself said that not only the season of Easter but the credibility of the entire Christian faith rests upon this issue:

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:14–19 [ESV])

The following collection of resources demonstrates that there are strong historical arguments and evidence that support belief in Jesus’ resurrection.  The four Christian scholars who produced the articles, videos, and books in the following list (Craig, Habermas, Wright, and Licona) have all devoted a substantial portion of their scholarly careers in research and writing about Jesus’ resurrection and are widely recognized experts in the historical and philosophical issues involved in studying the historical Jesus.

1.  Introductory defenses of Jesus’ resurrection

Articles

William Lane Craig, “The Resurrection of Jesus”

Gary Habermas, “The Case for Jesus’ Resurrection”

William Lane Craig, “Forum on the Resurrection”

Video

Gary Habermas, “Teaching on the Resurrection of Jesus”

N. T. Wright, “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?”

Books

Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004).

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