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Circumstantial Evidence of the Resurrection
Page 8: The Success of the Church

Imagine... from a tiny clan of timid followers in Jerusalem, thousands, tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands were persuaded that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Doesn't that strike you as odd? Doesn't it seem strange that Peter, a fisherman who was prone to backing down when the going got tough, was able to speak so powerfully that a whirlwind of frenzy was created so compelling that it spread throughout Palestine and the known world within a few short years?

In spite of ruthless opposition, the church was launched at an explosive rate. Furthermore, it happened right in the heart of Jerusalem, the city of the empty tomb. This was the same city where the enemies of Christ had crucified Him only a few weeks before. And His church was founded on the very fact of the resurrection. If this resurrection was a farce there is no way the disciples could hope to convince the Jewish listeners of the deity of Christ.

The success of the early church should not be underestimated. It is perhaps the most far reaching of all the evidence. Further, it was done in the face of incredible persecution. Peter Gomes of Harvard University considers this to be of great significance,

"What is Christianity's greatest accomplishment in our century? It survived." 2

Even the apostles themselves would have been skeptical if their faith had not been firmly rooted in a point of undeniable historical fact. And here we have the response to the very odd circumstance. People, faced with the question of Jesus as Lord, could not deny this simple yet so profound fact.

Little is known about the apostles beyond the writing of the New Testament, but according to historical church tradition and secular writings all but John died as martyrs. These are torturous and horrific deaths, which they suffered for naming Jesus Christ as Lord.



Peter Crucified upside down
Andrew Crucified
James Killed with sword (Acts 12:1-2)
John Natural Causes
Philip Crucified
Bartholomew Crucified
Thomas Killed by spear
Matthew Killed by axe
James Killed by club
Thaddeus Crucified
Simon the Zealot Crucified
Paul Beheaded
Matthias Stoned and beheaded

Even more amazing is that Jewish followers had to be persuaded in the face of pending persecution. Based solely on the truth of Christ's victory over death, the disciples were convicted to teach of His resurrection and power, and the listeners were compelled to respond. Skeptics will be hard pressed to produce, from the historical facts, an explanation for the three thousand converts at Pentecost. Something amazing and powerful caused that response... something undeniable.

Jesus Foretold His Death and Resurrection -->

Life Magazine, 2000 Years of Christianity, December 1999, p.53

 Article info: 
By: Bill Smith
This article is adapted from Bill's book Firmly Rooted. Click here to learn how to get a copy.
 This Series: 
1 The Silence of Jewish Leaders
2 The Change in the Disciples' Attitude
3 And then there Was Saul
4 It Was Taken for Granted in Scripture
5 The Change to Sunday Worship
6 The Sacrament of Baptism
7 Disregard for the Tomb
8 The Success of the Church
9 Jesus Foretold His Death and Resurrection
10 Women Saw Him First
11 The Grave Clothes Were Left Behind
12 What Happened on Pentecost

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