Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection on the third day are considered central to the gospel message. Paul said that he preached “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”(I Cor. 1:23;2:2). During his public ministry, Jesus foretold his own death and resurrection on many occasions, but no one understood the significance of what he was saying (Mk. 8:31;9:30-32).
When he was asked for a sign of his authority, he said that the only sign he would give them was the sign of Jonah. Just as “Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”(Matt. 12:39-40). He said that he came not to be ministered to, but to minister to others and give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28;Mk. 10:45) He was giving his life that others might live in a true spiritual sense, for God is spirit (John 4:24). He approached his death in the attitude of the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (John 10:11) and as one who is willing to sacrifice his own life for a friend (John 15:13). In his death both the Father and the Son are glorified (John 12:23-28). Jesus assured his disciples that while he was returning to the Father who sent him, he was laying down his life that he might take it again; he will yet live, that others might live and will come again; that on being lifted up, he will draw everyone to himself. It was necessary that he depart so that the Holy Spirit might begin his ministry (John 16:7).
It was this that the Christian movement became based upon: the teaching that Jesus lives and he sits at the right hand of the heavenly Father, making intercession for the human race (Mk. 16:19). This is apparent in the books of Acts, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation. For example, Peter told Cornelius, “That word, I say, ye know, which was published through-out all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree (cross). Him God rose up the third day and shewed him openly not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify fully that it is he who was ordained of God to be the judge of the quick and the dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins”(Acts 10:37-43).
The New Testament teaches that every individual will also experience a resurrection. Jesus said, “Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they who have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they who have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation”(John 5:28-29). After Jesus’ resurrection, he demonstrated several aspects of his “glorified” resurrection-body. He showed the marks of his crucifixion; he ate with the disciples and continued to teach them for 40 days. The miraculous nature of his being was shown by his appearing and vanishing instantly, and in his ascension. Jesus said that in the resurrection, believers will be as the angels of God in heaven (Matt. 22:30). Paul says, “The body which was sown a natural body” will be raised “a spiritual body” in power and glory (I Cor. 15:42-44), a body like Jesus’ own glorious body (Phil. 3:21).