“Christianity hinges not only on the empty cross but also on an empty tomb,” writes Adrian Warnock in Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything (p. 29). Warnock, a medical doctor, preacher and long-time staple of the Christian blogosphere, seeks to remind readers that the gospel isn’t just that Christ died, but He also rose again—and His resurrection changes everything.
For such an important doctrine, there are shockingly few books written about it. Warnock discovered this for himself when he was asked to preach on Easter Sunday at his church in 2007. His study revealed that of all the sermons recorded in Acts, only one doesn’t overtly focus on the resurrection of Christ (Acts 7)—but “the risen Jesus opened heaven and appeared to Stephen was preaching” (p. 21). His study of Scripture led him to realize that he’d not been giving the resurrection the attention it deserved.
He, like many of us, had assumed the resurrection. Because it’s not been at the center of a major controversy or heresy throughout the history of the church, so there’s never been a “need” to flesh out the doctrine and underline its importance in the same way that it’s been necessary to with the atonement, the Trinity and the nature of Christ.
But this should not be, according to Warnock.
[W]ithout the resurrection we would still be in our sins. Without the resurrection we are lost and there is no hope! There is no salvation without a living Jesus. We need the resurrection to have its power-generating effect inside of us if we are to be born again. We really are “saved by his life” (Romans 5:10). [p.67]
The Empty Tomb was Really Empty
As he builds his argument, Warnock takes us through a journey through history and the Scriptures seeking to answer the crucial question: Did the resurrection actually happen or is it a bit of mythologizing? And if so, does it matter?
“Any contrary theory needs to explain how a small group of Jews became passionately convinced of the truth of the resurrection and spread it rapidly across the Middle East and into Europe,” challenges Warnock (p. 47). And the reality is that no alternate explanation can adequately explain it.
History supports the validity of the resurrection. Roman Administrator Pliny describes Christians (who we was persecuting due to their growing number) as worshipping Christ “’a god,’ by people raised as Jews would only be possible if had risen from the dead” (p. 53). Justyn Martyr wrote to the Roman emperor c. AD 150 citing that the Christians’ claims about Jesus could be verified in the official reports of Pontius Pilate—something that could have been easily disproven had it actually been false. Celsus’ The True Word, written c. AD 175,“tried to discredit the resurrection as being witnessed by ‘a hysterical woman’” (p. 54). The examples are numerous and compelling.
It wasn’t a later addition to Christianity as “there are no traces of early Christians who denied the resurrection” (p.45). The disciples didn’t steal the body and lie about the resurrection. While people die for lies they genuinely believe to be true, it’s ludicrous to suggest that anyone would endure horrible persecution, boiling in oil, beheading and crucifixion if they were knowingly deceiving people.
The authorities didn’t steal the body; if they had, they would have produced the body at their earliest opportunity to refute the disciples’ claim.
Jesus didn’t have a near-death experience or faint on the cross, as some suggestion in a theory that lacks any degree of historical plausibility.
Mass hallucinations? Warnock, a psychiatrist, confirms that hallucinations tend to make one weak, rather than embolden. To suggest that hallucinations drove the disciples to boldly preach the gospel throughout the Roman Empire “is completely inconsistent with the results of hallucinations as described in any medical textbook” (p 51).
What it boils down to, as Warnock writes is that, “[t]he church did not create the resurrection stories; instead the resurrection stories created the church” (p.47).
Without the Resurrection, We Have Nothing
This is critical for Christians to remember, as it’s tempting to shuffle the resurrection off into a corner and ignore it, or suggest that if we learned that if Jesus didn’t rise physically, but only spiritually, we wouldn’t lose anything. But the fact is, if Christ didn’t rise, we have lost everything.
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins,” wrote the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:17. There is no hope for us outside of the resurrection of Christ. If He did not rise, then no one else is going to, and we should be pitied above all others. Hope for this world alone is no hope at all.
But the resurrection gives us everything.
It is the practical application of Christ’s work of the cross.
Because Christ rose from death and ascended to the right hand of the Father, we have an advocate, a great High Priest who intercedes before the Father on our behalf. We can pray to Him and He hears us, and He speaks to us.
And He sent the Holy Spirit, who raised Him from the dead, to live inside us.
A dead man can’t do these things.
But the God-man can, because Christ rose—and He’s coming again. This is why we can have confidence in Christ. And that’s what Adrian Warnock seeks to remind us of in this book.
Raised with Christ is an important book. That’s not something I say that lightly. Warnock’s passion for the resurrection of Jesus saturates this book. It’s what makes the good news “good news.” And to neglect it would be to our folly. Read this book and be inspired to see how the resurrection changes everything.
Title: Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything
Author: Adrian Warnock
Publisher: Crossway (2010)
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review by Crossway Books