Two-thirds of Americans say they believe Jesus physically rose from the dead, with nearly half of Americans saying they strongly believe in the historical event that forms the core of Easter, according to a Lifeway Research survey.

The survey found that 66 percent of Americans agree that the biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. A total of 47 percent of Americans say they strongly agree with the statement.Among Americans who attend a religious service at least once or twice a month, 90 percent agree.

But many Americans dont agree with the statement, with 23 percent saying they either somewhat or strongly disagree with it.

Jeremiah Johnston, author of Body of Proof: A Study on the Resurrection of Jesus, says the resurrection is key to the Christian faith. Johnston serves as the pastor of apologetics and cultural engagement at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Lifeway recently spotlighted Johnstons book on its website.

For the early church, Johnston says a belief in the resurrection was no mere footnote but rather a focal point. Every Sunday was resurrection Sunday, the Lifeway story said. Flowing out from this, he notes Jesus resurrection is a central focus of our New Testament Scripture with over 300 verses referencing this truth. When we study what the Bible teaches about the resurrection of Jesus, we are struck by the power this singular historical event had on the early followers of Jesus.

Too often, Johnston says, the resurrection is under-lived because it is under-preached and under-studied by most pastors. The result: A significant percentage of churchgoers — even if it is a minority — dont believe in the resurrection. According to the Lifeway data, 26 percent of Christians associated with mainline churches dont believe in a bodily resurrection.

You cannot be a follower of Jesus if you deny the historical, physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, Johnston says. I am surprised at how controversial this answer has been in modern media.

The early Christians, he said, turned the world upside down because they saw Jesus after He rose from the dead.

Our living hope is based on the historical, unchangeable fact of Jesus physical, bodily resurrection from the dead, he said. The Bible teaches us that in the resurrected Christ we have a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), a better hope (Hebrews 7:19), and a sure hope (Hebrews 6:19).

Image credit: Getty Images/jchizhe

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

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