Three Days and Three Nights
We believe that the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead after His body lay three days and three nights in the grave, thus making immortality possible for mortal man. He thereafter ascended into heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate (1 Peter 1:17-21; 3:22; Matthew 12:40; 1 Corinthians 15:53; 2 Timothy 1:10; John 20:17; Hebrews 8:1; 12:2).
One of the most dramatic, encouraging and gracious events of all time was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God the Father resurrected His only Son, Jesus the Christ, who had been killed and placed in the tomb just outside Jerusalem. His death, allowed by the Father and willingly submitted to by Jesus (John 10:17-18), paid the penalty for all sins of all human beings who will have ever lived, on the condition that they truly repent of those sins. His death was preordained by the Father and the Word from the foundation of the world as a necessary part of the salvation of mankind (1 Peter 1:20).
God, in His sovereign justice, mercy and love, thus made it possible for all humans to have their sins forgiven (upon repentance and faith) and to be reconciled to Him by the blood of Christ as the Lamb of God (Matthew 26:28; Revelation 12:11). But the death of Jesus Christ was not the end of the matter. We are reconciled to God by Jesus' death, but we are saved by His life (Romans 5:10).
Only through Christ's resurrection to immortality could we have a living Savior who, as High Priest, intercedes for us with the Father (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:15-16; Romans 8:26-27). Only because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead do human beings have any reason to believe in the gospel of the Kingdom of God or to believe that they can be saved from eternal death (1 Corinthians 15:14-19). His resurrection provides for humans a basis for living hope that they, too, may inherit eternal life (1 Peter 1:3).
Jesus offered both the fact and the details of His resurrection as the only divine sign to His generation that he was "greater than Jonah" and "greater than Solomon" and that His message should lead its hearers to repentance (Matthew 12:39-42). He said that He would be three days and three nights—a period of 72 hours (John 11:9-10; Genesis 1:5)—in the heart of the earth (the grave), just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish (Jonah 1:17). Elsewhere, He said that He would "be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mark 8:31).
The problem with the commonly accepted belief regarding the crucifixion and resurrection is that there are not three days and three nights between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. We believe the weight of scriptural and historical evidence leads to the conclusion that Jesus died on Wednesday afternoon, was hurriedly placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea shortly before sunset that same afternoon (the eve of an annual Sabbath, the first day of Unleavened Bread; John 19:30-31, 42; Mark 15:42-46) and was resurrected by the Father shortly before sunset on Saturday, three days and three nights after being placed in the tomb, exactly as He had said.
This explanation is consistent with the details found in Scripture. It does not require a strained fitting of three days and three nights between Friday evening and Sunday by speculating about parts of days and nights. It reconciles the accounts of the women and the spices, found in Mark 16:1 and Luke 23:56. In the first account, the faithful women obediently rested during holy time and afterward procured the spices. In the second account, the women prepared the spices and afterward rested during holy time.
These accounts are reconciled by understanding that there were two periods of holy time during the week in question. Jesus was crucified on the Passover (Matthew 26:18-20; 1 Corinthians 5:7), which was the preparation day (Mark 15:42) for the first annual Holy Day on the Jewish calendar, the first day of Unleavened Bread. The women waited until this day was over, then bought and prepared the spices, then rested again on God's weekly Sabbath day, and then proceeded to the tomb to apply the spices to Jesus' body early on Sunday morning.
They visited the tomb after the holy Sabbaths (plural) of that week (as the original Greek of Matthew 28:1 should be translated). The annual Sabbath (annual Holy Days also are called "Sabbaths" [Leviticus 16:31; 23:24]) was Thursday, and the weekly Sabbath was Saturday. When they arrived at the tomb early Sunday morning, they found it empty and heard the announcement from the angel that Jesus was alive and was not there (Mark 16:6).
A significant amount of historical and scriptural evidence points to A.D. 31 as the year of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Among these indicators of an A.D. 31 crucifixion are the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy of the coming of the Messiah (Daniel 9:24-26; Ezra 7 [Artaxerxes' decree]), and a careful consideration of three milestones: the likely date of Jesus' birth, His age when He began His ministry and the duration of His ministry.
The calculated calendar of the Jews places the Passover in A.D. 31 on Wednesday, and Jesus Christ's death on that day fulfilled His role as the true Passover Lamb of God (1 Corinthians 5:7). The next day, Thursday, was a holy (annual) Sabbath. On that Thursday, the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate to secure permission to seal and guard Jesus' tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). Later, on Sunday, the resurrected Jesus walked along the road to Emmaus and talked with two of His disciples, who discussed all the things that had happened, including the Thursday visit by the leaders to Pilate (Luke 24:13-14, 20). They mentioned that this day, Sunday, was the third day since all these things had happened (verse 21).
In summary, we believe that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, died for our sins on the Passover, was entombed for three days and three nights (72 hours) and then was resurrected and, after a period of further contact with the disciples, ascended to heaven to sit at the Father's right hand, far above all others in power, glory and honor (Ephesians 1:19-23).
(For more details, request Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Keep?)
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