The derivation of the word “Easter” is somewhat uncertain, but it had to do with a pagan festival and seems to have been connected with an Anglo-Saxon spring goddess named Eostre. It would be far better if in English some other word of less questionable derivation could be applied to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There is nothing uncertain about the language the New Testament uses when speaking of the event we call Easter: “resurrection” and “raised from the dead.” Those terms assume, of course, that there was a death. If Jesus had not died on the cross at Calvary, there could be no talk about resurrection. The phrase “God raised him from the dead” is used again and again in Scripture. In First Corinthians where Paul defines the Gospel he speaks of Jesus as having died, been buried, and been raised again.

Those who do not want to believe in the Resurrection will not do so no matter how much evidence is presented to show that the empty tomb means that Jesus was physically raised from the dead. When the theories of wrong tomb, stolen body, fraud, and hallucination have been shown to be untenable, the non-believer is still unlikely to accept the Resurrection.

What is really important about the bodily resurrection of Jesus (and Scripture knows no other kind) is its identification with salvation. The preaching of the early Church was based upon the solid conviction that Christ’s resurrection was an essential part of the saving message of Scripture—that no one can be saved who does not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Paul says: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, ...

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