Many world leaders have left their marks on the pages of history. Religious gurus have helped shape culture and thought. But regardless of what they taught, accomplished, or believed, they all have one thing in common—they are all dead. There was a point at which each mystic, emperor, and philosopher came into being and another point at which they exited this world. We can visit their grave sites or memorials, and beneath the ground their corpses or bone fragments are still there. Every leader, prophet, or king has died or will die, and, once they die, that’s it. They face the judgment of God just like every other human being (Hebrews 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10)—with one exception. Jesus Christ, the One upon whom the entire world’s dating system is based, is not dead.
Because He was not just a mere man, Jesus did not come into existence at a specific point in time. He has always existed as the Son of God (John 1:1–5; 8:58). He chose to leave heaven and enter this world in the form of a human baby (Luke 1:35; Philippians 2:5–8). And, although His mother was human, His Father was God. Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man living this earthly life so that He could become the intermediary between sinful mankind and a holy Creator (1 Timothy 2:5). He suffered as we do, yet He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). He always did what pleased His Father (John 8:29; 14:31). And when the time came, He offered Himself as the final sacrifice for our sins (John 10:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus was arrested and put on trial because He claimed to be God (John 5:18; 10:33). They crucified Him as it had been prophesied in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 (Luke 22:37). As He hung on the cross, Jesus became every sin that humanity has invented (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2). He paid in full the price we owe God so that we could be considered righteous and forgiven. When He cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), He was not referring to His earthly life, because He had already told His followers that God would raise Him from the dead in three days (Mark 9:31; 10:33–34). He meant that the plan to redeem fallen man, which He and the Father had known from the beginning, had now been completed (1 Peter 1:18–20; Acts 2:23; Ephesians 1:4). Jesus really did die physically and stayed dead for the better part of three days.
Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb, because He would not be needing it for long (Matthew 27:59–60). The tomb was secured by Roman officials with a seal and a heavy boulder, making it nearly impossible to open. Then guards were assigned to keep watch for fear the disciples would try to steal the body and pretend He had risen as He had promised (Matthew 27:62–66). Everyone was familiar with Jesus’ prediction, even though no one understood exactly what it meant (Mark 9:31–32). The guards were an extra precaution requested by the Jewish religious leaders in an effort to silence forever the new teachings Jesus of Nazareth had introduced into their culture. They figured that, once the Leader was dead and gone, the fervor of His followers would die down and things could go back to the way they had been.
Things would have settled down if Jesus had stayed in the tomb. If Jesus had not risen from the dead, He would have been no different from any other zealous reformer. In fact, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:14 that, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Then in verses 17–19 he writes, “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 of all people most to be pitied.”
But Jesus did not stay dead. On the third day, just as He had said, He walked out of that tomb (Matthew 28:2–10; Mark 16:4–7; Luke 24:1–8; John 20:1–8, 19). An angel knocked the guards out, kicked the stone out of the way, and sat on it, waiting for Jesus’ friends to show up (Matthew 28:2; John 20:1, 11–12). For the next forty days, Jesus appeared to over five hundred people (1 Corinthians 15:3–7), demonstrating that He was indeed fully, physically alive (Luke 24:36–42). He then ascended back into heaven in the sight of His disciples (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9–11).
Jesus is very much alive and is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:3). He “ever lives” to make intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:25) and has promised that He will come again (John 14:3; Revelation 22:2). He endured separation from God (Matthew 27:46) so that we don’t have to and conquered death so that we can, too (1 Corinthians 15:55). He has set Himself apart from every other religious leader because there is no grave with His name on it. There is no tomb with a body in it. Only the Son of God could die for the sins of the world and then rise from the dead. Because of His resurrection, all who place their trust in Him can have hope of a similar resurrection. Jesus is not dead, and because He lives, we can live in eternity with Him (John 3:16–18; 14:19).