Did Christ lie about His death and resurrection? How does one fit “three days and three nights” into the Friday to Sunday tradition?
It is popularly believed and taught by most Christians that Christ died on a Friday afternoon, was buried just before sunset, and was resurrected early on a Sunday morning. However, Christ clearly stated that He will be “three days and three nights” in the tomb. The popular Christian belief would have us believe that Christ was only two nights and one day in the tomb (just half of the time!), contrary to what Christ said.
Since these two statements vastly differ and do not agree, we are forced to ask the question: WHO is really telling the truth? Who is blatantly lying — popular Christianity or Christ? It is high time we do a careful study into this very important subject and find out the real TRUTH once and for all.
CHRIST AFFIRMED HIS STATEMENT TWICE
To further affirm His exact stay in the tomb, Christ compared it with the miraculous stay of the prophet Jonah in the belly of the great fish which lasted for three days and three nights. Actually, Christ’s statement came as a result of the Scribes and Pharisees’ challenge to Him to produce a SIGN that He is indeed the Messiah. Matthew reported on the incident when he wrote:
“But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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 12:39,40).
SERIOUS IMPACT OF CHRIST’S WORDS
Most Christians today have not considered the seriousness of accounting for every word they themselves speak, and especially those spoken by Christ Himself.
Christ said, “But I say to you that for every idle [“careless” ESV, NAU, NIV] word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36,37)
[NOTE: If Christ did not really mean: “three days and three nights,” but only meant “one day and two nights,” as most Christians believe; then, He is already condemned by His own words. But please remember that in an earlier encounter with Satan, He Himself said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).]
CRITICAL IMPLICATIONS IF CHRIST’S WORDS FAILED FULFILLMENT
- Christ is another liar, and thus, we have NO Savior to save us from our own sins.
- There is NO God who has the power to resurrect Christ exactly as He claimed.
- Therefore, without a true Savior and without a true God, we all are most hopeless!
A VERY IMPORTANT RELATED QUESTION
Can Christ’s promised resurrection to Eternal Life for us, and God the Father’s assurance to back up that promise be realized if both of them even failed to fulfill what Christ specifically claimed concerning His resurrection? His correctly fulfilled length of time in the tomb is our PROOF and guarantee that such promise is possible and can really be fulfilled.
MAN-MADE IGNORANT INTERPRETATIONS
Rather than BELIEVE what Christ said, there are many false man-made INTERPRETATIONS about what Christ meant:
- Some say it is just a part of a day and just a part of a night.
- Others think Jesus never actually meant what He claimed.
- The rest believe it is just some vague allegory about something else.
HOW DID CHRIST DEFINE A “DAY” AND A “NIGHT”?
Christ actually defined not only the contrast between day and night, but also how long a day and night is in actual number of hours.
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble because he sees the light of this world. But if one walk in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (John 11:9-10)
While Christ included an allegory here, He also clearly said that there are 12 hours in a “day” (a period of brightness when men can walk safely) contrasted with a “night” period (when it is dark wherein men can stumble). In other words, a full day (composed of 12 hours of daylight plus 12 hours of darkness) is 24 hours. “Three days and three nights” under this reckoning means; (3 days x12 hrs. daylight plus 3 nights x12 hrs. darkness) will be 72 hours.
OTHER DEFINING & LIMITING STATEMENTS SAID BY CHRIST:
“… be killed, and AFTER three days rise again.” (John 2:19b)
“… Destroy this temple, and IN three days I will raise it up.” (Luke 9:22b)
“… be killed, and be raised THE third day.” (Luke 13:33b)
[NOTE: By combining the meaning of these three verses, we can see that Christ was defining and limiting the exact time that He will be in the tomb. When He said “after three days” (it can’t be less than three days). When He said, “in three days” (it can’t be more than three days). And when He said,” the third day” (it can’t be on any other, except on the third day).]
DETERMINING THE EXACT LENGTH OF TIME CHRIST WAS IN THE TOMB
Putting together all the statements of Christ: 12 hours of daylight plus 12 hours of night-time, multiplied by three of each day and three of each night, brings us to a total of 72 hours. He also said, it can’t be less than three days, and it can’t also be more than three days, but be raised exactly on THE third day. Therefore, IF Christ was put into the tomb before sunset (following biblical command in Deuteronomy 21:22,23), to be exactly 72 hours, He will need to be resurrected from the tomb before sunset also, but after three days and three nights later.
BIBLICAL (JEWISH) TIME RECKONING USED (NOT ROMAN TIME RECKONING)
One big source of ERROR is that those who attempted to interpret the chronology of Christ’s death and resurrection used the Roman Time reckoning of a day which is midnight to midnight. But the Jewish Gospel writers correctly used the Biblical Time reckoning of a day which starts and ends at sunset [sunset to sunset], (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31b; Leviticus 23:32b).
[COMMENT: The Genesis account of the re-creation week showed this sunset to sunset pattern. God’s obedient people continue to use this system in observing God’s Holy Days today, in the same manner as the present Jewish nation. Surprisingly, even ancient pagans reckoned their own celebrations to start and end at sunset, too. Notice that Christmas (originally called “Saturnalia”) still celebrated on the 25th of December and Halloween on November 1, both start being celebrated the evening before the stated dates (December 24 and October 31 respectively).]
IGNORANCE ABOUT THE HOLY DAY/ FESTIVAL CALENDAR OF GOD
A second major reason for the ERRORS of would-be interpreters is their abysmal ignorance of the Annual Holy Days or Festivals of God revealed to Israel, or their rejection thereof. Knowing and understanding the Holy Days of God and their sequence of observance as practiced by the Jews is very important to the proper understanding and interpretation of these biblical events.
IMPORTANT DEFINITE AND SPECIFIC TIME MARKERS
The Bible says that on the first (day) of the week, while it was still dark, the tomb was already empty. In other words, before anyone ever reached the tomb, He was ALREADY RISEN. Please note that in the Jewish reckoning of time, right after Saturday sunset, it is already the “first day of the week” (which to us familiar with Roman time is considered still early Saturday evening).
“Now on the first day [words in italics in the KJV and NKJ means that such word is not in the original, but merely supplied by the translators] 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.” (John 20:1).
[NOTE: Please notice that in this first event, which is considered still Saturday evening, ever anxious Mary Magdalene went alone. Since it was still dark and she was alone, she did not venture inside the tomb, but noticed that the stone was already taken away.]
Compare that account with this second event:
“Now after the Sabbaths*, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1)
[NOTE: The Greek word here is: *sabbaton, considered plural. The Young’s Literal Translation actually renders the word Sabbath as “Sabbaths” (plural), and thus translated it in the plural form twice in this same verse. [You will understand more why there were TWO Sabbaths during that crucifixion week when you study the Chronological Chart below.] Please note also that in this second event (now Sunday dawn), Mary Magdalene was no longer alone, but went with “the other Mary.”]
So, one thing is clearly established. Many hours before sunrise on the first day of the week, Christ was no longer in the grave. He had risen well before that time as we will see later.
WHEN DID THE MESSIAH DIE?
If Christ was buried Friday night (as erroneously believed) and was resurrected on Sunday morning, He could not have fulfilled the stated “three days and three nights” which He doubly claimed. It would just be one day and two nights. But if we force three days and three nights from Friday sunset, we will end up with a Monday sunset resurrection, for which there is no Scriptural support. So, the very important question now is WHEN did the Messiah die?
We will not attempt to answer this question with our own human opinion, but we need to get biblical information from Prophecy compared with the Sacred Calendar used by the Jews.
CHRIST’S DEATH SYMBOLIZED HIM AS THE PASSOVER LAMB
First, it is very important to establish the true identity of Christ the Messiah in the context of biblical revelation and of prophecy, because it has a vital bearing in trying to understand and clear up the confusion most Christians have. Who really is The Christ we are talking about?
The apostle Paul writes to identify Him:
“…For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. “(1 Corinthians 5:7)
WHEN IS THE PASSOVER LAMB PRESCRIBED TO BE KILLED?
“Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight [“evening” KJV]. (Exodus 12:6, 11)
[NOTE: The “same month” spoken of here is the first month of the Sacred Year, called “Abib” but after the Babylonian captivity was renamed to “Nisan.” It was God [YHWH] Who prescribed these commands to Moses. (Exodus 12:2; 13:4; Esther 3:7)]
WHEN WAS THE MESSIAH PROPHESIED TO BE KILLED?
In the large context of end-time prophetic events, the details and time setting in which the Messiah will be killed can be decoded in the cryptic language written by the prophet Daniel.
Part of the prophecy [with my comments] reads:
“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off [killed], but not for Himself [as a sacrifice for mankind];… Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week [Wednesday] He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering [because The Messiah becomes then the ultimate sacrifice and offering for our sins]…” (Daniel 9:26,27)
CHRONOLOGICAL CHART ABOUT THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF CHRIST (THE MESSIAH)
SUMMARY OF FACTS:
Christ was actually dead in the tomb for three days and three nights just as he claimed.
As the Passover Lamb of God, He was killed on the 14th day of the month Abib/Nisan.
Just as Prophet Daniel predicted, He was killed in the middle of the week (Wednesday).
The following day (Thursday) was a High Day Sabbath (First Day of Unleavened Bread)
The next day (Friday) the women prepared spices; were overtaken by weekly Sabbath.
Biblical chronology shows He was resurrected late Saturday afternoon before sunset.
After Saturday sunset, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb alone and saw the stone rolled away.
Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene returned with “another Mary” bringing spices.
Our Chronology should be correctly based on the Sacred Calendar used by the Jews then.
The accuracy of Christ’s words assures us that He and the Father can resurrect us, too.
The popular belief of a Friday Crucifixion and a Sunday morning Resurrection has been clearly documented to be in grave error and a great deception, yet sadly believed by most Christians.
Christ indeed, to the letter fulfilled the ONLY SIGN He gave about His Being the true Messiah!
We can all be THANKFUL that we can truly believe and trust every word that Christ has said, and all the promises of God contained in the Bible! Which means we can also have assurance of salvation and eternal life because Christ is a living proof that as God the Father was able to raise Him who was once a mortal human back into Spirit Being, we likewise can be changed from our mortal body by the power and love of God our Father to become children in His Divine family!