United Church of God, ia
Portland and Hood River Oregon

Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

The Length of Jesus' Time in the Tomb Proves He Was the Messiah

Jesus gave one sign that would be proof of His resurrection as our Savior--the amount of time He would spend in the tomb. Jesus state:

"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth"(Matthew 12:40).

"And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights" (Jonah 1:17).

The timing then of Jonah's experience is the same amount of time Jesus would be in the grave. Jesus said this length of time would be proof that He is our living Savior.

If you want proof as to whether Easter represents Jesus' resurrection from the dead, all you have to do is count correctly. Following the traditional reckoning of a late-afternoon Good Friday crucifixion to an Easter Sunday morning resurrection, at best one can only come up with one full day, two small parts of daytime and two nights. Yet Jesus said the proof that He was the Messiah was that He would be in the grave or tomb three days and three nights.

Something is obviously wrong with the traditional Good Friday--Easter Sunday timing. It simply doesn't work, no matter how you try.

A key to counting this time correctly is found in a proper translation of Matthew 28:1. The Ferrar Fenton translation correctly renders this verse:

"After the Sabbaths [plural], towards the dawn of the day following the Sabbaths [plural], Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, came to examine the tomb."

There were, in fact, two Sabbaths that particular week. Putting all the information together, Jesus died in the middle of the week, on a Wednesday afternoon, and was laid in the tomb close to sunset (John 19:31-42). He had to be laid in the tomb by sunset because the night and day that followed were holy (Verse 31), the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:4-7), a Holy Day Sabbath that could fall on any day of the week.

Then came Friday, a regular work day, followed by Friday night and Saturday day time as God's weekly seventh-day Sabbath. Ferrar Fenton gets it right, translating the plural Greek word Sabbaton in Matthew 28:1 as sabbaths.

Once we understand that two different Sabbaths were involved, it becomes clear that Jesus was indeed three days and three nights in the tomb, fulfilling the only sign He gave that He was the Messiah. From sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday was the first night and day; from sunset Thursday to sunset Friday was the second night and day; and from Sunset Friday to sunset on the weekly Sabbath was the third night and day--three days and three nights, just as He said.

The prophesied three days and three nights is also the all-important key to recognizing the fact that Jesus was resurrected at the end of the weekly Sabbath and not on Sunday morning.

John 20:1 tells us:

"Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb."

She found the tomb already empty, and the angel told Mary that Jesus had already risen (Matthew 28:5).

This means He was resurrected before the sunlight of dawn, which puts us back to the actual time of resurrection as being the end of the weekly Sabbath at the time of sunset on Saturday. Comparing and correctly understanding the Gospel accounts make s it clear that Easter sunrise cannot be the time of Jesus' resurrection. Jesus' time in the grave--the same amount of time that Jonah was in the belly of the fish--indeed proves that Jesus was the Messiah.

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