Acts 17:31…”For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.” Christ proved that He was the one appointed by God to judge the world by conquering death. He validated His claims of being supernatural by overcoming the one thing that none of us can overcome as finite humans. Death came into the world through the sin of one man, and persists because of our sin as well. Creation was broken, but will be restored on that day when He returns. How can we stand before Him on the day of reckoning? By repenting and believing in Him. This changed life will produce fruit, which is how the elect are identified. Love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is the one characteristic Jesus points out in describing His people (John 13:35). For the elect, they will persevere until they are finally glorified (Romans 8:30 – And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified). However, where there is no fruit through conscious rebellion, practical unbelief, or following false gospels, there will be eternal punishment (Matthew 13:47-50).
Acts 7:51…”You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” Stephen uses the example of the hard-heartedness of the Israelites to show the Sanhedrin their own sin. It’s easy to read this passage and to quickly gloss over applying it to our own hearts. However, we all are stiff-necked, rebellious, and resistant to the Holy Spirit. All of us are in need of Christ’s perfect righteousness. Our hearts and ears need to be softened and humbled increasingly. Therefore, we should pray for a better understanding of our smallness and God’s bigness.
Acts 5:32…”We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” These things include the most important question in the history of the world: Was Jesus really raised from the dead? Christ’s resurrection is the key to whether or not Christianity is true. If He was raised from the dead, then all the OT prophecies including God’s plan of salvation through Him are miraculously consistent. If He was raised from the dead, then He does have exclusive authority over every human being; past, present, and future, including you. If He was raised from the dead, then we all will bow before Him one day, and He will judge whether or not we actually submitted to Him with our hearts. In addition to the 12 references in the NT regarding Christ’s resurrection, here is an excerpt from the first century historian, Josephus, an extra-biblical source:
The standard text of Josephus reads as follows:
About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When he was indicted by the principal men among us and Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him, and the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day. (All Josephus citations, are from P. L. Maier, ed./trans., Josephus –The Essential Works; Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1994).
Also, in the NT:
Jesus appeared 12 times to different group sizes ranging from just one person to 500 people.
1) Mary Magdalene (Mark 16.9-11; John 20.11-18), Peter in Jerusalem (Luke 24.34; 1 Cor. 15.5), Jesus’ brother (insider skeptic) James (1 Cor. 15.7). “And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any [man]; for they were afraid” (Mark 16.8). Some of the New Testament authors explicitly claimed to be eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection (and transfiguration). Peter said, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 2.16). John also said, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched…we proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (1 John 1.1,3).
2) The other women at the tomb (Matthew 28.8-10).
3) The two travelers on the road (Mark 16.12,13; Luke 24.13-34).
4) Ten disciples behind closed doors (Mark 16.14; Luke 24.35-43; John 20.19-25).
5) All the disciples, with Thomas, excluding Judas Iscariot (John 20.26-31; 1 Cor. 15.5).
6) Seven disciples while fishing (John 21.1-14).
7) Eleven disciples on the mountain (Matthew 28.16-20).
8) A crowd of 500 “most of whom are still alive” at the time of Paul writing (1 Cor. 15.6). This may have been the same group as in Matt. 28.16: the rendezvous was “to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.” Unlike the other accounts which were unexpected and by surprise, and to gather such a large number of people, this meeting was held outdoors. The women were told to tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee as well. “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matt. 28.17) may be a reference to many present, both believers and non-believers. Paul had firsthand contact with them. So it was not a legend. He knew some of the people had died in the interim, but most were still alive. He is saying in effect they are still around to be questioned. You can talk to some of the witnesses. He never could have made this challenge if this event had not occurred.
9) “Then to all the apostles” (1 Cor. 15.7) which includes the Twelve plus all the other apostles.
10) Jesus appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24.44-49).
11) Those who watched Jesus ascend to heaven (Mark 16.19,20; Luke 24.50-53; Acts 1.3-8).
12) Least of all Paul (outsider skeptic) with others present and as though he was not living in the proper time (1 Cor. 15.8-9; Gal. 1.13-16; Acts 9.1-8, 22.9, read all of chapters 22 and 26; 13.30-37; 1 Cor. 15.10-20; Gal. 2.1-10).