What if you were approached by a respectable businessman that wants you to invest in a software idea that could be the next wave of prosperity in the technological world? The only fact he gives you is a guarantee that you are going to make millions and you will not have to worry about work for the rest of your life. I am sure that many of us would initially get excited and may even inquire more. I do not know anyone who will hand over any amount of cash without asking some important questions. "How is this really going to work"? "Are there any hidden fees"? "What is the time frame"? "Is the product really reliable"? These are questions that are natural to ask when such an investment is going to be made with the hope of a great return at the end. Suppose the businessman refuses to give any more information, he just simply says that you will be wealthy and care free after your investment. I am sorry, but I do not do business with that limited amount of information, neither do you, I hope!
The gospel of Jesus Christ is much more than an eternal home in Heaven, in fact, that is not the gospel, that is only a result of belief in the gospel. The gospel, or good news, according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 is the fact that Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and that He rose again three days later. Unfortunately, the majority of gospel presentations and gospel literature today eliminates 2/3's of the gospel message! We quickly speak about the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross, but somehow we forget to mention that He was buried and three days later arose from the grave. Preaching the cross of Christ without preaching the burial and resurrection is like asking you to invest in a software company without giving any details apart from promising an awesome return at the end. It is insufficient information.
When we share the good news of Christ, we must be mindful of the fact that the gospel is not complete if Christ is still dead and in the tomb. Our presentation of the gospel must include the fact that Jesus Christ was buried. The burial was so vital because it proved that Jesus Christ actually died. We do not bury people who are still alive, we reserve this practice only for the dead. If Christ was not buried, then He really did not die. One famous theory in the late 60's being promoted was "The Swoon Theory." This theory stated that Christ did not actually die, but He merely swooned while on the cross into a comatose state. When He was laid in the empty tomb, the cold temperatures of the tomb resuscitated Him back to life. If we believe the Biblical account, we must accept that He actually died, stopped breathing, and that He was buried according to the custom of the day to prove and verify that He had actually tasted death.
Our presentation of the gospel must not only include the death and burial, but we must also include the glorious resurrection from the dead! In fact, if you study Early Church history in the book of Acts, Resurrection preaching was the theme and basis of Peter and Paul's preaching. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the approval of God given due to His sacrifice on the cross. The resurrection of Jesus Christ verified to all people then and now that He truly is God the Son who has power over death, hell, and the grave. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is so relevant to us today because only a living Saviour can deliver us from the bondage of sin and give us eternal life. The resurrection is more than an Easter Sunday message, the resurrection is the backbone of our Christian faith!
Why then do we eliminate the preaching of the burial and resurrection in our presentation of the gospel? In 1999, a friend and I went to the University of Tennessee and were sharing the gospel with students on the campus. We were speaking to two young ladies about Christ and sharing the gospel with them. I remember as I was going through the gospel, I emphasized that Christ was buried and that He rose again on the third day. When I made that statement, one of the young ladies, stated: "I can go for the cross thing, but the resurrection thing is just too far out there! It is almost like a fairy tale to me." Truthfully, I think she would have prayed the sinner's prayer five hundred times over if I would have stopped at the Cross; unfortunately, she denied the burial and resurrection, therefore she denied the gospel. When you bring people to the burial and resurrection, they are forced to either believe that Jesus is God or that this whole thing is just a "fairy tale."
Do not stop short in your evangelism efforts, do not try to give people a quick and abbreviated version of the gospel. People are only saved when they believe the whole message. The gospel is not ours, it is Gods; we are simply stewards of it. Do not take for granted that people believe in the resurrection of Christ, teach them, show them Scripture, and verify that Christ is a living Saviour and is able to save today because the tomb is empty. If a man rejects one part of the gospel, he rejects the entire gospel.
I chatted with an Anglican priest once in London that said he believed that Christ died a necessary death to satisfy God. His next statement shocked me, "I am not so sure about the resurrection bit, I think history has misplaced the emphasis from the cross to the empty tomb." What is that! History has not placed the emphasis on the empty tomb, God Almighty did! This priest is in denial of the true gospel of Christ. Let us be faithful to share the entire gospel as we preach the gospel to our culture. Do not stop short, go all the way to the empty tomb, it is not only wonderful it is necessary!