Was Jesus Dead for
Three Days and Three Nights?

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Was Jesus dead for three days and three nights (72 hours) or was he dead for only part of them? Why was the duration of his death critical to his mission and purpose?

During his ministry, the Jews demanded a sign from Jesus to prove He was the promised Messiah. If the sign were not perfectly fulfilled, however, it would prove that He was not the Savior. What Jesus offered as proof positive that he was the Son of God was the sign of Jonah and the three days he spent in the depths of the sea!

Jesus prophesied his own death and resurrection when He stated, "For just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, in like manner the Son of man shall be in the heart of the earth (buried in a grave) . . . (Matthew 12:40, HBFV throughout unless stated)

Did Christ mean what He said? Did He really expect his burial in the earth to be a complete three days and three nights (72 hours)?

Note that Jesus did not say in Matthew 12:40, "After two nights and one day I will rise again." He meant that for three whole days he would be dead and buried, a full seventy-two hours! Upon Jesus' crucifixion, the Jewish leaders who hated him remembered this sign (see Matthew 27).

Jonah the Prophet, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel
Jonah the Prophet
Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel

Many teachers of the Bible state that Jesus' crucifixion took place on Good Friday. They also state he was resurrected early on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately, both of these teachings are not true! The time period from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning does not remotely constitute three days and three nights! In fact, if the crucifixion took place on Good Friday and the resurrection on Sunday morning, then Christ is not the Messiah!

Jesus clearly stated how long he would be dead. He declared He would rise again "after three days" (Matthew 27:63, Mark 8:31, etc.). How do Bible teachers, however, reconcile a Good Friday to Easter morning time period (less than 40 hours) with Jesus' declaration he would be dead for 72 HOURS?

Some say that Jews count parts of a day as a complete twenty-four hour period. Passages cited include Genesis 42:17 - 18, 1Samuel 30:12 and Esther 4:15 - 16. Unfortunately, these passages do not show that three distinct twenty-four hour periods are the same as a two nights and one complete span of time between Good Friday to Easter morning! The periods mentioned in the above verses are to be taken literally!

The big lie

The Bible nowhere states that Jesus' crucifixion was on a Friday! Because the Jewish weekly Sabbath came on Saturday, scholars assume Jesus died on Friday, thus promoting a Good Friday hoax!

The Bible clearly states the Jews kept other Holy times besides the weekly Sabbath. The Jews also kept the annual Feast Days God had given Israel (Exodus 23:14 - 17, Leviticus 23, Numbers 28 - 29, etc.).

Scripture teaches there were two Sabbaths between the time when Jesus entered the tomb and the moment, three complete days later, his resurrection took place! This is the key to understanding the correct sequence of events of what happened to Jesus our Savior!

"According to Jewish law, to be declared legally dead, a person had to be dead for three FULL days or more. Therefore, if Jesus had risen from the dead before 3 PM on the afternoon of Nisan 17, a weekly Sabbath (Saturday), He would not have been considered legally dead . . .

"If He had been crucified on a Friday and restored to life on Sunday morning at sunrise (what Christianity calls Easter morning), His death would not have been "valid" . . .

"In order for His death to be publicly recognized and acknowledged, it was necessary for Jesus to remain in the grave for three nights and three days before He was raised from the dead." (HBFV, Appendix J).

The Sabbath after Jesus died

After Tuesday sunset in 30 A.D. (when the Biblical day ended) Jesus took part of his last meal with his twelve disciples (Luke 22:14 - 15, etc.). His crucifixion occurs between noon and 3 pm Wednesday. He dies at 3 pm.

According to the Bible, work was allowed in order to prepare for the next day, a high Holy Sabbath where no work was permitted called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This Holy time began at Wednesday sunset. Jesus was very quickly taken from the cross after his death as there were only a few short hours before God's annual Feast day began (Mark 15:42 - 43).

The second Sabbath

The Bible states that after the annual Sabbath known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread had ended (on sunset Thursday), three women went to buy spices for Jesus' body (Mark 16:1). After buying spices, the women spent the rest of Friday preparing them.

When the weekly Sabbath started at sunset Friday, the women rested (Luke 23:56). After resting two of the women, Mary Magdalene and another Mary, go to observe Jesus' tomb late on the weekly Sabbath, which approaches three complete days of Jesus being in the tomb (Matthew 28:1).

The resurrection

Some Scriptures speak of Jesus' resurrection "after three days" (Mark 8:31; Matthew 27:63). Other verses say "in three days" (Matthew 26:61, 27:40, John 2:19 - 20, Mark 14:58, 15:29).

Still others speak of "the third day" (Mark 9:31, 10:34, Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, 27:64, Luke 9:22, 18:33, 24:7, 21, 46, Acts 10:40, 1Corinthians 15:4). Do these phrases contradict each other?

"When we understand Jesus statements, we find that instead of being contradictory, they reveal the EXACT time that he was raised from the dead. Jesus made it clear that he would be raised AFTER He had been dead for three days.

"The other statements, "in three days" . . . do not include the total time that he was dead but only the time that he was buried in the tomb" (The Day Jesus the Christ Died, Chapter 6).

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead took place at sunset Saturday, April 8, 30 A.D. This is three complete days and nights, or seventy-two hours, after he died and was placed in the heart of the earth (i.e. tomb). This fulfilled the sign of Jonah the prophet he gave in Matthew 12:38 - 40 and proved He was the TRUE Messiah!

Our Savior was dead and buried in the earth a full three days and three nights, proving for all ages that he is our Messiah.

Recommended Articles
Timeline of Jesus' Last Days
Meaning of the Christian Passover
Who Was Resurrected With Christ?
Seating Arrangement at Last Supper
Jesus' Ministry After His Resurrection!
Why Is It Called Good Friday?
Prophecies Fulfilled When Jesus Died!

The Day Jesus the Christ Died
Holy Bible, a Faithful Version