What Christians mean when they say that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead may be helpfully clarified by saying what we do not mean.
1. The resurrected Christ is not a ghost. At first, that is what the disciples thought they had seen, but Jesus refuted the notion, (Lk 24:36–43). A ghost is a spirit without a body, but Jesus showed them that he had a real body.
2. The resurrection is not a resuscitation. Lazarus was resuscitated – he was brought back to life in the same body which had died, and he would have to die again. Jesus was brought back to life in a transformed body, never to die again.
3. Resurrection is not reincarnation. Reincarnation, if it were true, would give another mortal body. Jesus’ resurrection body is immortal.
4. Resurrection is not simple immortality. It is not, for example, the freeing of the sould from its bodily prison, as the Platonists thought.
5. Resurrection is not Enlightenment, or Nirvana, or some other state longed for in Eastern religions. Such a state involves the loss of personal identity and the absorbtion of the self into the One. The risen Jesus is a distinct individual, and an embodied one.
6. Resurrection is not translation or assumption into heaven. This happened to Enoch and Elijah, and possibly to Moses. (Catholics also believe that this happened to Mary). But resurrection did not raise Jesus from earth to heaven, but from the realm of the dead back to earth.
7. Resurrection is not a vision. A vision does not occur ‘out there’, in the physical world. It occurs in the psyche. But Jesus was brought back to life in the real world. He was seen in public. He was able to eat, and be touched.
8. Resurrection is not legend. Legends are fictitious stories devised by human minds. The story of Jesus’ resurrection is a true account.
9. Resurrection is not a myth. Myths, somewhat in contrast to legends, contain symbolical truth. For example, the coming of spring may be symbolised by the rising to life of a fertility god. But the resurrection of Jesus occurred in history, and is confirmed by eyewitnesses. See 2 Pet 1:16.
10. The resurrection is not a mere ‘resurrection of faith’. It is not that Jesus ‘lives on in our hearts’, or ‘in our memories’. Such a notion would never have transformed the disciples, or converted the world. Easter faith without Easter resurrection is a delusion.
Based on Kreeft & Tacelli, A Handbook of Christian Apologetics.