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Three Days and Three Nights

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Three Days and Three Nights

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One of the most dramatic, encouraging and gracious events of all time was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God the Father resurrected His Son Jesus, who had been killed and placed in the tomb outside Jerusalem’s walls. His death, allowed by the Father and willingly submitted to by Jesus (John 10:17-18 John 10:17-18 17 Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
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), paid the penalty for all the 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 Himself from the foundation of the world as a necessary part of the salvation of mankind (1 Peter 1:20 1 Peter 1:20Who truly was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
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).

God, in His sovereign justice, mercy and love, thus made it possible for all human beings 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 Matthew 26:28For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
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; Revelation 12:11 Revelation 12:11And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives to the death.
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). But the death of Jesus was not the end of the matter. We are reconciled to God by His death, but we are saved by His life (Romans 5:10 Romans 5:10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
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).

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 1 Timothy 2:5For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
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; Hebrews 4:15-16 Hebrews 4:15-16 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
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; Romans 8:26-27 Romans 8:26-27 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
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). And the fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead gives human beings a very compelling reason to believe in the gospel of the Kingdom of God and to believe that they also can be brought back from death (1 Corinthians 15:14-19 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
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). Christ’s resurrection provides for human beings a solid basis for living in hope that they, too, may inherit eternal life (1 Peter 1:3 1 Peter 1:3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
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).

Jesus offered the fact that the grave would hold Him for only a short period 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 Matthew 12:39-42 39 But he answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
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). He said that He would be three days and three nights—a period of 72 hours (John 11:9-10 John 11:9-10 9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbles, because there is no light in him.
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; Genesis 1:5 Genesis 1:5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
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)—in the heart of the earth (the grave), just as the prophet Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish (Jonah 1:17 Jonah 1:17Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
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). Elsewhere, Jesus said that He would “be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31 Mark 8:31And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
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).

A major problem with the commonly accepted belief regarding the timing of the crucifixion and resurrection is that there are not three days and three nights between Good Friday afternoon and Easter Sunday morning.

The weight of scriptural and historical evidence leads us to conclude:

That Jesus died on Wednesday afternoon;

That His body was hurriedly placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea shortly before sunset that same afternoon—the eve of an annual Sabbath (a holy rest day), the first day of Unleavened Bread (John 19:30-31 John 19:30-31 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. 31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) sought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
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, John 19:42 John 19:42There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulcher was near at hand.
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; Mark 15:42-46 Mark 15:42-46 42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly to Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marveled if he were already dead: and calling to him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone to the door of the sepulcher.
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);

And that Jesus was resurrected by the Father near sunset on Saturday (the end of the weekly Sabbath), 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 morning at sunrise by speculating about parts of days and nights. It also reconciles the accounts of the women and the burial spices found in Mark 16:1 Mark 16:1And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
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and Luke 23:56 Luke 23:56And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
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. In the first account, the women obediently rested on a Sabbath day before procuring the spices. In the second account, they prepared the already-procured spices and afterward rested on a Sabbath day.

These accounts are reconciled by understanding that there were two Sabbath days during the week in question. Jesus was crucified on the Passover (Matthew 26:18-20 Matthew 26:18-20 18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say to him, The Master said, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples. 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. 20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
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; 1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
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), which was the preparation day for a Sabbath that was a “high day” (Mark 15:42 Mark 15:42And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,
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; John 19:31 John 19:31The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) sought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
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). This high day was the first annual Holy Day on the Jewish calendar, the First Day of Unleavened Bread, which always fell on the day after the Passover (Leviticus 23:5-7 Leviticus 23:5-7 5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’s passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread to the LORD: seven days you must eat unleavened bread. 7 In the first day you shall have an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.
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). It was an annual Sabbath, not a weekly Sabbath. Annual Holy Days are also called “Sabbaths” since work was not to be done on them (Leviticus 23:7 Leviticus 23:7In the first day you shall have an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein.
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, Leviticus 23:24 Leviticus 23:24Speak to the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall you have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
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, Leviticus 23:32 Leviticus 23:32It shall be to you a sabbath of rest, and you shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even to even, shall you celebrate your sabbath.
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).

The women waited until this day, the annual Sabbath, was over; then they bought and prepared the spices; then they rested again on God’s weekly Sabbath day; and then they 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 (Matthew 28:1 Matthew 28:1In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.
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, Green’s Literal Translation). The annual Sabbath that year lasted from sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday, and the weekly Sabbath, as always, lasted from sunset Friday to sunset 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 Mark 16:6And he said to them, Be not affrighted: You seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
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).

There is historical and scriptural evidence that points to A.D. 31 as the year of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Among the indicators of the crucifixion year are the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy of the coming of the Messiah (with a specified count of years in Daniel 9:24-26 Daniel 9:24-26 24 Seventy weeks are determined on your people and on your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and three score and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26 And after three score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are determined.
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evidently commencing with the decree of the Persian king Artaxerxes in Ezra 7), 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 Passover of the year Christ died fell on the fourth day of the week (sunset Tuesday to sunset Wednesday), and Jesus Christ’s death on that day fulfilled His role as the true Passover Lamb of God (1 Corinthians 5:7 1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
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). The next day, from sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday, was a holy annual Sabbath.

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 Ephesians 1:19-23 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.
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).