The gospel repeatedly claims that Jesus did rise from the dead and that this proves His claims to be valid. It then claims to give historical evidence for the resurrection based on the testimony of witnesses. No other major religion in the world claims that its founder arose from the dead, let alone does it offer historical evidence to validate the claim. If the evidence for the resurrection is valid, the result must establish the gospel of Christ as the one true religion. One of the greatest evidences to the resurrection of Christ is the conversion of Saul/Paul and his later testimony of the events of his conversion.
Saul was born a Roman citizen in the city of Tarsus, a city known for its school of literature and philosophy. He was taught in Jerusalem by Gamaliel, a Pharisee and respected teacher of the law (Acts 5:34-35; 22:3) and grew up to become a member of the party of the Pharisees. He would excel beyond his contemporaries, being zealous for the traditions of his fathers. His early life and training certainly put Saul of Tarsus on the “fast track” when it came to his religious faith. It was zeal in defending his faith that led to his brief but fervent career as a persecutor of Christians. Saul was present at the death of the first Christian martyr named Stephen, consenting to his death (Acts 8:1). This was only the beginning of the havoc that Saul would bring to the church over the coming days and months. His goal was to destroy it. He entered the homes of Christians, dragging them out and throwing them into prison (Acts 8:3). He also beat those who he captured (Acts 22:19) and compelled them to blaspheme (Acts 26:11). He would stop at nothing, even going to foreign cities to capture and imprison the saints.
Now, let Saul of Tarsus tell you the rest of what happened:
12 “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13 at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. 14 “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 ‘But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ 19 “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:12-20).
In a matter of three days, this fierce persecutor of Christians… became a Christian, and right away he got to work preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to try to bring men and women to repentance and faith in Christ. Paul would also suffer many things for his faith in Christ, even losing his life as tradition states by being beheaded.
How can this dramatic change in Saul of Tarsus be accounted for? What explanation can be given? The answer lies in the truth of his testimony. He saw the resurrected Son of God.
Luke wrote his books (Luke and Acts) from the perspective of an historian so people could know the historical facts that would convince them regarding the events of the Life of Christ and the work of the apostles (Luke 1:1-4). His reputation as an accurate historian is well established. In addition, Luke was a traveling companion of Paul, so he would have personally heard the accounts of Paul’s conversion and saw the miracles that Paul did to show that his work and teaching were from God. The evidence of Paul’s conversion from persecutor to apostle is overwhelming and proves that Jesus indeed was raised from His tomb and seen by eyewitnesses, “last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me [Paul] also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them” (1 Cor. 15:8-10).