The Only “Proof” of the Resurrection

For those who do not remember “Watergate,” this is the name of an office building complex, The Watergate Office Buildings and Hotel in Washington, D.C., where the Democratic National Convention housed its headquarters in 1972.  A break-in, most likely authorized by then President Nixon, set the stage for most of the distrust of government currently rampant, resulted in the only resignation of a sitting president of the US and brings me to “The Only ‘Proof’ of the Resurrection” of Jesus.  The metonym Watergate came to encompass any associated activities surrounding the scandal.  The use of the suffix “-gate” after an identifying term has since become synonymous with political or public scandal, including irangate, travelgate, Reagangate and slapgate just to name a few.

One of Nixon’s “henchmen,” Charles Colson, sometimes called “Nixon’s hatchet man,” was one of the “Watergate Seven,” chief architects of the crimes associated to Watergate and its subsequent cover-up.  He was also one of 48 convictions that served prison time as a consequence and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior while in prison, penning Born Again from this experience.

Mr. Colson, as he began to minister to others in the US prison system, said regarding his conversion, “I know the Resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me.  How?  Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead; then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it.  Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned or put in prison.  They would not have endured that if it weren’t true.  Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and we couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks.  You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years?  Absolutely impossible.”  Born Again by Charles Colson.

Following is a brief overview of how each of the twelve original apostles died as well as other martyrs of the first century.  May this remind us that our sufferings in the US (so far) are minor to compare to the intense persecution and cold cruelty faced by the apostles and disciples during their time for the sake Jesus.  Our troubles are also significantly less than many Christ-followers in other nations where simply owning or reading a Bible can result in arrest and death.  Many Chinese Christ-followers do not expect to live 70-80 years, anticipating that perhaps they will be able to lead some of their prison guards to the Lord after they are arrested and before they die for their faith!

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:25-26)
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)

Why do we feel sleepy in prayer, but stay awake through a three-hour movie?  Why are we so bored when we read the Bible, but find it easy to read novels?  Why is it so easy to ignore a Tweet about God, yet forward the latest Kardashian news?  Why is it so easy to praise a celebrity, but so difficult to engage with our Creator?

Next week, I will discuss why Jesus left earth and did not stay to show off His crucifixion wounds to curiosity-seekers to prove His Resurrection.

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Besides the original twelve, this list includes Matthias (elected to replace Judas, the Betrayer), Stephen, the first to die for his faith in Jesus, the apostle Paul (“as one born out of due time”-1 Corinthians 15:8), Mark, the author of The Gospel of Mark, Luke, the author of The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles, and James, the brother of Jesus.  These are recorded in Foxes’ Book of Martyrs (except for Judas Iscariot, recorded in Matthew 25 and Acts 1).

  1. Judas Iscariot (who betrayed Jesus):  He hanged himself in suicide over the guilt of having betrayed “innocent blood.”
  2. Peter: Under Nero’s persecution, he was crucified upside-down (~A.D. 64-68).  He requested the inverted crucifixion because he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
  3. Andrew the brother of Peter: He was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Patras, Greece, hence the name “St. Andrew’s Cross.”  After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords rather than nails, to prolong his agony.  His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words, “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.”  He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired.
  4. James the son of Zebedee: As a strong leader of the church, James was beheaded at Jerusalem in A.D. 44 by Herod Agrippa (see Acts 12:2).  The Roman officer who guarded James was amazed at James’ calm as he defended his faith at his trial.  Later, as the officer walked beside James to the place of execution, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James and was also beheaded as a Christian.
  5. John the son of Zebedee: Facing martyrdom, he was boiled in huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome.  However, he was miraculously delivered from death.  John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison Isle of Patmos.  The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve as the pastor of Edessa in modern Turkey.  He died as an old man (~A.D. 100-105), the only apostle to die peacefully.
  6. Phillip: In Hieropolis, Turkey, he was scourged, imprisoned and eventually crucified in A.D. 54.
  7. Bartholomew: Also known as Nathaniel, he was a missionary to Asia (modern Turkey). Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death with knives.
  8. Matthew: He suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia for preaching about Jesus; killed by a sword in A.D. 60.
  9. Thomas: He was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish another church in the subcontinent (~A.D. 70).
  10. James the son of Alphaeus: He was crucified in Lower Egypt and then sawed in pieces in A.D. 62.
  11. Simon the Zealot: He was crucified in Britain in A.D. 74 for preaching “foreign gods.”
  12. Judas, also called Thaddeus: He was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
  13. Matthias: The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, he was stoned and then beheaded.
  14. Stephen, a deacon of Acts 6: The first martyr was stoned to death, recorded in Acts 7:54-60.
  15. Paul: He was tortured and then beheaded by Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67.  Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write many of his letters to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire.  These epistles, which taught many of the foundational doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.
  16. Mark the author of The Gospel of Mark: He was dragged by horses through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt until he was dead.
  17. Luke: He was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.
  18. James the brother of Jesus: As the respected leader of the church in Jerusalem, he was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.  When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies stoned and beat James to death with a fuller’s club, crushing his skull until his brains spilled out.

“There have been times of late when I have had to hold on to one text with all my might: ‘It is required in stewards that a man may be found faithful.’ Praise God, it does not say ‘successful’.”  Amy Wilson-Carmichael, Things as they Are (1 Corinthians 4:2)

Guest Blog by Thompson Lengels

Personal Meditation on Death and Dying
by ThompsonLengels / March 19, 2022
(with minor edits for spelling, syntax and references)

Fear of Death

Satan has a season when he loves to prick the saint’s conscience — their dying day!  Alas, he comes with all those failing spots to which the saint has succumbed! (Psalm 90:7-8)

When he comes, we may as well say to him:  It is true, Satan. I have failed often, more so, broken asunder to despair and despondency.  But also, listen.  Christ accepted me in my wicked state; died for me while a whore, a swearer, a guiler, an idolater, adulterer, a fornicator, and all the filthy exercises about which you think.  I say Christ died for me in all this mud of sin (Romans 5:8).  All that is good in me is but by His unmerited grace, undeserved mercy.

Death, to a Christian, is a doorway to glory.  To live in Christ is to keep in step with Christ.  So also, he that would die well must never put off the inevitability of death — he must live as a dying man.  The Christian’s death is the ending of his troubling sins, an entrance to a land where sin and sorrow are no more.  We must look at death as a thing we must meet, and look upon ourselves as a thing with which we must part.

It is never too soon to make friendship with death.  We never get what we think we want because God always gives us what we need.  One day our need will be death.

SkullDeath is gain; freedom from doubt and unbelief.  In Heaven our faith will be turned into sight.  Here the best are liable to doubt about their personal piety, and often experience many an anxious hour in reference to this point.  In Heaven doubt will be known no more.

Death is the grave of all temptations.  A Christian’s death delivers them from the second death.  Put another way, a Christian dies natural to live eternal.  In Heaven there are no graves, but eternal grace.

After our death, we will be met by our believing loved ones who went ahead of us to be with Christ.  O beloved Christian, why fear death?  It is natural to fear death, but we may meet it with faith in Christ.

Time PassingWhen death knocks at your door, don’t murmur and grumble about it.  Rejoice, you are going Home at last!  Does the prisoner, long confined in a dungeon, dread the hour which is to open his prison, and permit him to return to his family and friends?  Does the man in a foreign land, long an exile, dread the hour when he shall embark on the ocean [or the sky] to be conveyed to where he may embrace the friends of his youth?  Does the sick man dread the hour which restores him to health; the afflicted, the hour of comfort?  The wanderer at night, the cheering light of returning day?

And why, then, should the Christian dread the hour which will restore him to immortal vigor?  Which shall remove all his sorrows?  Which shall introduce him to everlasting day?  Smile at death when your time draws nigh.

Death is an awful reality to men who have made this world their only home and the things of this world their only possessions.  Do not waste any unnecessary time below here.  Let us live as diligent laborers in a field full of harvest, harvesting men to Christ Jesus.

Live as men who appreciate the world, but let us live like men who are more in love with the world to come, the world of Christ Jesus.  To die and be with Christ is the final pilgrimage of the wounded saint.  The saint finally meets with Eternal Rest and Blessed Felicity.

The door of death is inscribed thus: “Prepare to meet your God!”  Christ is best!

Death is sleep. “The girl is not dead but sleeping.” (Luke 8:52)  The natural man is tempted to laugh.  You’re wise and know how to apply.  Death will very soon reveal the children of God and the devil.

We must have our heart and mind in Heaven if we are to look at death with courage in Christ.  “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).  So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

Beware of head-knowledge in the face of death!  It will not comfort you.  How is your heart and way of life instructed by your accumulated knowledge on the things of God?  Do you know God, or things about God?  That’s the question!  Be honest with yourself!

I’ve observed humble men die well.  Improve life by dying daily to self and enrich the soul by being alive in Christ.  I am homesick for Heaven.

You’re not too young to die.  Make peace with God.  This old fellow knows his time is nigh.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Make no permanent nest in this world.  Death is a golden carriage that lifts the soul to a golden city, a celestial city.  Fellow mortal, cease playing Immortal.

Cemetery at GettysburgThe whole world is a big cemetery of dead men walking.  Those that resolve to repent tomorrow intend to be wicked today.  A delay of repentance breastfeeds and strengthens our sin — and the wages of sin is death!  (Romans 6:23)

The conversion of the thief at the cross is not a canon that all of us are guaranteed conversion to Christ at our death-bed.

We read in the Holy Scriptures of men who were called at their infancy such as Jeremiah, Samuel and John the Baptist.  Some were chosen in their prime age of youth like the four Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel.  Others were called in their advanced adulthood such as the disciples, John, James, Peter, and Andrew.  Other were called while carrying out their business of the day as Matthew, the tax-collector and Luke, the physician.  Others were called while in their sin-business as the forgiven harlot and the woman at Jacob’s well.  Others while gazing at a fig tree or climbing a sycamore as Nathanael and Zacchaeus.  Still others were called in their old age as Joseph of Arimathea and the Jewish scholar, Nicodemus.  And last of all, at their death-bed — the thief at the cross!

Dead TreeThere’s no such thing as purgatory and indulgences.  When you die, you are dead!  And all must die!  If not now, tomorrow.  If not tomorrow, the next day.  If not the next day, then, the following day.  If not the following day, … then the next!

We can only sing, “Death has lost its sting,” (Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:55) if we truly understand what the cross of Christ accomplished for us.

Rest In Peace

Death laughs at bags of gold.  Death is a level ground where the rich and poor; proud and humble; high and low; prince and peasant, all lay and become wholesome meal for the worm. (Job 21:23-26)  A man’s life, however great it was, is always summarized by this little word — Death!

Jesus Christ not only died.  He conquered death by death itself!  Christ stung death to death!
He is our resurrection!

HaHa! Death, So What!?

Again, a diversion from my blogs on prophecy and end times (i.e. eschatology; ); next week.  This came up from a recent discussion with a couple dear friends about death.

2021-08-21 The Resurrection and the Life

Are You Afraid of Death?
Why are we Americans, in particular, so terribly concerned with NOT dying?  Granted I do not look forward to the process of death; disease, disability, reduced physical and mental capacities.  However, death itself will be a welcome relief from the cares of this world. 

Please, do not take this too far.  Christians are opposed to euthanasia and suicide.  These are not in our playbook!  We are the people who follow the Lord of LIFE!  He is the One who has created us, and He made us for His own pleasure. 

However, if following Jesus calls for suffering in this world, James has laid down for Christ-followers this mandate: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)  Or if you prefer the KJV, My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

Do not complain when things are difficult or do not go according to our plans.  Look instead for Father’s hand in how our suffering will lead us to understand the suffering of Jesus more clearly.  Look for the opportunity to represent Jesus to a watching world, differently than the reactions of people who do not know Him.  Look for “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7) to guard your mind against fleshly or demonic influences that will rage against our inconveniences.

And if death is on the horizon for a Christ-follower, we who know the Lord of Life, should be the last to moan and groan, “Why me!?”

2021-08-21 Grim ReaperHow much better to recognize the Spectre with his scythe to collect souls, and laugh at him!?  “O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting?”  This is the victory of LIFE OVER DEATH!  Do we believe Jesus or not when He says, Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”? (Luke 17:33)  Or in John 12:25,  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”?

Dying in the Lord
Christ-followers, we have become far too attached to this world when we resist the idea of dying in the Lord.  The apostle Paul noted to a young church,It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.  Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two.  My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better! (Philippians 1:20-23)  Of course, Paul left the timing of his departure up to the Lord, but his point here was that death held no fear.  He was laughing at the Spectre’s face!

The fictional demon, Screwtape, when instructing his young protégé, Wormwood, taught,  “Prosperity knits a man to the World.  He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him.  His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home on earth… You will notice that the young are generally [more willing] to die than the middle-aged and the old.”  (Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

Have we been fooled into thinking THIS is the life that matters?  Do we really feel “at home on earth”!?  Who would want to spend eternity watching “I Love Lucy” or “Friends” reruns on television, or seeing what Hollywood will come up with next to entertain us?  Do we really want to continue playing video games or working for companies that minimize our contributions in order to maximize profits?  What is THIS life for?  Francis Chan asked, “Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?”

So friend, if you love life, you will love what Jesus offers: eternal life, perfect health, a Home in Heaven more astounding than any beauty this world can show, friends who will never desert you, no more cruelty or death.  Most of all HE will be there, seated on His throne, ever available to hold us in His arms and reveal all that He has planned for us for eternity!  It almost makes one want to die to begin that wonderful LIFE and “be with Christ which is far better.”

But Father has set the times for each of us, and we need not rush it.  But neither should we fear it.  He will call our names and we will rise when He is ready for us.  Laugh at Death and tell him, “Come and get me if my Lord allows!”  Because when we “die in the Lord,” we will live forever with Jesus (Revelation 14:13).