The Consequences of the Resurrection
This blog post is an adaptation of a sermon preached at Tate Springs’ young adult ministry, The Spring on March 7, 2021.
Hoaxes Have Consequences
Depending on your age, you may recall the late-eighties/early-nineties pop group Milli Vanilli. Milli Vanilli was founded in 1988 and consisted of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus. Their debut album, Girl You Know It’s True, achieved international success and brought them a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in February of 1990.
In case you’re not familiar with Milli Vanilli, here’s their most famous song:
If you were brave enough to click on the video, you no doubt will have this song stuck in your head for days. The song, Girl You Know It’s True, was (seemingly) always on the radio in 1989 and 1990 (it was brutal). Even though I don’t particularly care for the song, it’s been etched in my memory. Sadly, I even know the song’s lyrics.
Rob and Fab found huge success in 1989, leading to many interviews with the music media. Since Rob and Fab were from Germany and France, respectively, their English wasn’t very good. Honestly, it was bad. This made many people suspicious—considering how well they rapped and sang in English. Still, the Milli Vanilli machine rolled on, crushing everything in its path.
The beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli came in July 1989 during a performance on MTV. A computer glitch caused the song Girl You Know it’s True to skip repeatedly:
“Girl, you know it’s… Girl, you know it’s… Girl, you know it’s… Girl, you know it’s…Girl, you know it’s…”.
Rob later said, “I knew right then and there, it was the beginning of the end for Milli Vanilli; When my voice got stuck in the computer, and it just kept repeating and repeating, I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. I just ran off the stage.”
After some time, it was revealed that others had recorded the vocals for all of Milli Vanilli’s recordings. Rob and Fab were nothing more than handsome faces with world-class dancing skills. The fact is that their singing voices, while pretty good, weren’t quite good enough for mainstream music. Tempted by money and fame, they both agreed to participate in a hoax whereby they would lip sync the songs recorded by others. If you’ll recall what I said above, they won a Grammy in 1990. In fact, they performed at the Grammys that year! Today, it remains the biggest hoax in music history.
Rob and Fab, who were quite talented despite the controversy, pressed on, completing three subsequent albums. But in the end, the hoax undermined every effort they made. Success would continue to elude them. In the end, Milli Vanilli was unable to overcome the scandal that they are best known for.
In a way, that’s what this blog post is about: the consequences of hoaxes and controversy.
Let’s take a look at something that some would say is along a similar vein: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection has been called the greatest hoax the world has ever seen. Several different theories that attempt to debunk the resurrection have been posited. Common examples include:
· The “Swoon” Theory – This boasts that Jesus didn't really die, he only "swooned," and was later resuscitated by the disciples.
· The Hallucination Theory - This theory alleges that those that claimed to see the risen Christ were victims of a hallucination. As such, Jesus never really rose.
· The Impersonation Theory - This view holds that the that post-crucifixion appearances were not really Jesus at all, but someone impersonating Him.
· The Theft Theory - As you’d expect, this theory claims that the disciples stole Jesus' body and claimed that He rose from the dead.
This blog post isn’t intended to address the veracity of the resurrection, but rather what it would mean for us today if it wasn't true—and then what it means for us today because it is true.
Let’s look at the chapter that deals with the resurrection most extensively—1 Cor. 15:
Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, so we proclaim and so you have believed. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith. Moreover, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified wrongly about God that he raised up Christ—whom he did not raise up, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Those, then, who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. (1 Corinthians 15:1–19, Christian Standard Bible)
During this time in the Greco-Roman world, society was influenced by several religious philosophies. Even though those in the Corinthian church believed in Christ, they struggled to overcome the cultural influences of the world in which they lived (just like we do). One of the most common influences of the day was Dualism. In essence, Dualism held that physical matter is evil--and spiritual things are good.
So, here was the struggle the Corinthian believers had: Jesus, if raised from the dead, would be raised into a physical body. This boggled their mind. It was hard for them to reconcile this fact. THIS IS WHY PAUL WROTE THIS CHAPTER! More specifically, Paul needed them to know the consequences of an untrue resurrection. Let me point out six things about this passage. Bear with me, we'll come back to Milli Vanilli.
Six Consequences if the Resurrection isn’t Real
1. The preaching of Christ would be senseless and totally without meaning (v.14a). We would come to church on Sundays to hear a message that isn’t true. The day that many of us use as an anchor for our weeks would become much less meaningful.
2. Our faith in Christ would be without any value (v.14b). Christ would have died and remained dead. There would be no new life for believers, making belief worthless.
3. Those of us that have ever shared Christ would be liars (v.15)! We would be guilty of propagating the world's greatest hoax.
4. Sin would still reign over us (v.17). No one would be free from sin's consequences. We'd all be liable for a debt that we’re hopelessly unable to pay. The Bible teaches that Jesus was a propitiation for our sins. If the resurrection didn't happen, there's no propitiation.
5. Our loved ones that died as believers, died--and they would remain dead (v.18). There would be no hope for them; they died, and that's it. They would have died as fools, placing their hope in a lie. When we lose loved ones that are in Christ, we're comforted by the hope they have (and we have) in salvation. The saddest of all funerals are those in which the deceased didn't know Christ. Why? Because there's no hope! All funerals would be this sad, without hope.
6. Christians would be the biggest joke the world has ever known (v.19). We would have placed our hope in a hoax. No one would be as pitiful as we would be. We would be the world's most gullible, foolish people. Everything that we now believe--that the Gospel is foolishness to those that don't believe—would become foolishness to those that do believe.
These six consequences would destroy the very foundation that our faith it built upon! Everything—all of it--falls apart without the resurrection.
So... we started with the story of Milli Vanilli. What does that have to do with this? Well... more than you'd think! Let's look at the consequences of Milli Vanilli's hoax:
Remember, they were really, really popular. Their music was on the radio ALL THE TIME. They were making money hand over fist. They had every benefit that you'd that imagine fame and fortune bring. Then, in an instant, it was all gone. Their careers were over.
I mentioned earlier that they were very talented. After the hoax was revealed, their immense talent wasn't enough. Remember, they put out two subsequent albums--that FLOPPED! The hoax was simply too much to overcome. All the talent in the world couldn’t repair the damage caused by the hoax.
Before the scandal was revealed, they were famous. Once the hoax had been revealed, they were infamous. Even today, they are known not for the music they were involved with, but rather the hoax with which they were involved. I’m hoping that you’ll be able to imagine the consequences if the resurrection is a hoax, a la Milli Vanilli. Our “talents” in righteousness will never overcome the loss of the benefit of Christ’s righteousness. Our sin nature would leave us dead (Rom. 6:23), without the means to be risen into new life. The hope that fuels our day-to-day lives would evaporate—leaving us to our own methods (which we know are grossly insufficient). In short, it would be terrible.
The Resurrection is the Lynchpin
Here’s the thing: without the resurrection, the wheels literally fall off our faith! Without the resurrection, Christianity would be nothing more than a cheap philosophy that offers no hope. But… thank God for hope! As believers, we don’t find ourselves in a situation like Milli Vanilli. We don’t live with the consequences of a hoax. The resurrection is as real as these words on your screen. It is my sincere hope that as you are greeted this Easter with “He is risen!”, you will have found a new understanding of the consequences of the resurrection as you reply with newfound thanksgiving in your heart, “He is risen indeed!”