Ahead of Easter Sunday, Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, shared two key pieces of evidence found outside the Bible for the literal, historical accuracy of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Jeffress told The Christian Post that his Easter Sunday message, "The Resurrection: Foolish, Fake News or Fact?" will use extra biblical sources to make a case for the resurrection of Christ and will hopefully appeal to skeptics who doubt reality of life after death.
"Easter fell on April's Fools day, and I thought it would be interesting to try to combine the two in a message," he told CP. "We're gonna be looking at evidence outside of the Bible for whether Christ really arose from the dead."
The author and Fox News contributor said that one point he will make in his sermon is that the early acceptance of Christianity — and especially the resurrection — argues for the validity of the message.
"Unlike what liberal scholars used to tell us, that the Bible was written, especially the Gospel, many decades after the events of Christ, even the most liberal scholars will tell you now that the Gospels were written within a few years of the events that they purport to tell," he explained.
"So, the fact that the resurrection account came right after Jesus' life and was widely embraced by people I think argues to its authenticity. As experts tell us, a fictitious event, has to be reported maybe several hundred years after an event before it can gain credibility and corrupt the original source. People in the beginning were willing to die for this truth that Jesus was raised from the dead."
Second, Jeffress said a key piece of evidence outside the Bible for the truth of the resurrection is the empty tomb itself.
"People will say, 'Well that's in the Bible.' No, it's actually outside of the Bible as well," he said. "We know from external, extra biblical sources that Jesus actually lived; we know that one of the early claims of Christianity was that He was raised from the dead, and the fact is, for 2,000 years, nobody has been able to produce the body."
The pastor contended that because Christ's body has never been found, the question arises: What happened to the body if it wasn't resurrected?
"Some people say it was stolen; well who stole it? The Romans and Jewish leaders had no motivation to steal it, they wanted to stamp out Christianity before it even started," he said. "The apostles lacked the courage to steal it, they all deserted Christ before his death. Peter, the most courageous apostle, denied the Lord three times before His crucifixion."
"If it wasn't the apostles, if it wasn't the Roman or Jewish leaders, the question is, who moved the stone?" he continued. "I think these are two extra biblical arguments that argue for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead."
In efforts to attract skeptics to the church on Easter Sunday, Jeffress' 13,000-member church is blanketing Dallas with billboards, radio and television ads, advertising the message. First-time visitors will receive a copy of Dr. Jeffress' bestselling book, A Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths about Your Eternal Home, which addresses the 10 most frequently asked questions about heaven.
"As Christians, we're interested in reaching the unconvinced and unsaved, and especially at Easter time, many people are curious about Christianity; they may feel some obligation to attend church on Easter Sunday," Jeffress said. "We want to show the resurrection is not just a case of somebody manufacturing their own personal story, but it is objective reality."
If Jesus was truly raised from the dead, it validates His claim that He was the Son of God, Jeffress said. If Jesus was truly the son of God, it means everything else He said was true as well, including John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Me."
"I think, what we as the Church need to say to the world is, 'Jesus is the ultimate hope for our nation and world,'" the pastor said. "I think it's time for churches to take it to the streets and get outside the four walls of the church and say boldly, when Christianity is trying to be marginalized, that we really believe Jesus has the answer, not just for ourselves, but for everyone."
To learn more about the Easter week experience at First Baptist Dallas, visit firstdallas.org/easter.