Summary: The life, and crucifixion of Christ are historical facts as is the empty tomb. Christianity is rooted in historical events.
What is the most significant event in world history? No doubt, you can receive as many answers to that question as there are people. But for the Christian, the answer is simple. The most significant event in the history of mankind is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Some religions, both ancient and modern, require no historical basis, or they depend upon ideas rather than events. Christianity is not one of these.” - E.F. Harrison, Historian
Scholars agree that to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was not an actual figure of history is an untenable position (Note: I elected to reference liberal scholars and skeptics through-out the message to show that the idea of Christ being a real figure of history isn;t just an idea promoted and accepted by conservative, evangelical Christians).
“This view [that Jesus didn’t exist] is demonstrably false. It is fuelled by a regrettable form of atheist prejudice, which holds all the main primary sources, and Christian people, in contempt. Most of its proponents are also extraordinarily incompetent.” - Maurice Casey, Liberal Professor of N.T., Nottingham University
“I don’t think there’s any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus . . . We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody from his time period.” - Prof Bart Ehrman, Liberal Professor, Religion Dept., University of North Carolina
“Some judgments are so probable as to be certain; for example, Jesus really existed, and he really was crucified, just as Julius Caesar really existed and was assassinated. We can in fact know as much about Jesus as we can about any figure in the ancient world.” - Marcus Borg, Liberal Professor, Jesus Seminar Member
And among the undeniable facts of history is that after Christ’s crucifixion, the tomb He had been buried in was found to be empty on the third day following His death.
“If we apply the same sort of criteria that we would apply to any other ancient literary sources, then the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was, indeed, found empty.” - Historian & Skeptic, Michael Grant
That the empty tomb is an event of history is also affirmed by means of just applying common sense. When the disciples found the empty tomb, they didn't go to Athens or Rome to spread the news. No, they went to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were claiming was false, it could have been denied and easily proven by the authorities. That the tomb was empty . . . “could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.” - Paul Althaus, German Theologian
That Jesus lived, was crucified, & His tomb found empty on the third day afterward are undeniable facts. But, “Why was the tomb empty?”
Various efforts have been made to provide explanations for the empty tomb - the disciples went to the wrong tomb; the disciples hallucinated - again, if these had been the case, their claims of an empty tomb could have easily been disproven by the authorities producing Jesus’ body.
Others say that the body was stolen by the disciples while the guards slept. Not only does the depression and cowardice of the disciples as a result of Christ’s crucifixion argue against them making such a bold move; but so does their bravery in the fact of later persecution and
martyrdom. People will give their lives for what they believe to be true, but not for what they know to be false. Then there are those who contend that Jesus didn't really die on the cross. They say He merely “swooned,” was mistaken for dead, then awoke once He was placed in the tomb and then escaped.
“It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulcher, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to His sufferings, could have given to the disciples the
impression that He was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry. Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which He had made upon them in life and in death, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship.” - David Friedrich Strauss, Skeptic and Writer
What other explanation might there be?
“I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.” - Professor Thomas Arnold, Chair of modern history at Oxford