“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.”
I wish to share with us something that has been of concern to me. For I am convinced that Jesus, being God, ought to have 100% precision in the accuracy of his prophecies. This issue of how many days Christ was in the grave has been a source of contention in many spheres and even the cause of doctrinal divisions. The statement of Christ in Matthew 12:40 seemed to contradict the actual amount of time he spent in the grave. I was so confused that, being almost convinced that there was a contradiction, I was in between three bad options I never chose from though. One was to conclude that Christ wasn’t really bothered about being 100% accurate. By this I mean he prophesied based on estimates. That is, though he was buried in the evening of a Friday, he took that for a day and a night and though he resurrected in the morning, he also took that for a day and a night. The second was to conclude that Matthew got something wrong in his record. And lastly was that something else happened, probably Christ accomplished his assignment in the grave way before the three days and three nights were completed. By this I mean he had looked at the magnitude of what he was to accomplish in the grave and had estimated that to accomplish that would take three days and three nights, but on getting there he discovered the task was way too easy that he resurrected too early. This should have been to his praise, but he should have known too before prophesying.
These options contradict my bigger conviction that Christ and the whole Bible is 100% inerrant. I was so relieved when I finally got to understand the passage to see that there was no contradictions and that both Christ, Matthew, and the Bible were all correct. So it is what I got to understand that I wish to share here. And it is with much gladness that I do so.
—The Seeming Contradiction—
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
(1 Corinthians 15:3 – 4)
So here is a brief explanation of the seeming contradiction. Jesus said he’d spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, but he died on the evening of a Friday. Was in the grave for the whole of a Saturday. And resurrected early on a Sunday morning. This means he didn’t spend even up to two full days. He spent only one and the half days, half the amount of time he prophesied that he would be in the heart of the earth.
—Explanation of The Prophecy—
“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
(John 17:11 – 12)
Firstly, to rightly understand his prophecy, we must know that what he said that he’d be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth is not to be understood that he referred to the grave, rather he meant something different which is quite a mystery. While he was still in Gethsemane, he said these words, “now I am no more in the world…” And all through his prayer he kept referring to his being in the world in the past tense like when he says, “While I was with them in the world…” So even at this time he, in a sense that remains a mystery had departed from the world.
The exact time when he departed we can’t say definitely. So what he meant by being in the heart of the earth could have referred to the time of the last supper in which Judas went out to betray him to the time of his revelation to his disciples again. His prayer makes it obvious that he did not refer to being in the grave when he said he’d be in the heart of the earth.
The prophecy he gave concerning the duration between his death and resurrection can be found where it is written, “Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.” (Luke 18:31 – 33). This is the prophecy talking about the actual duration between his death and resurrection, and that was in complete consonance with what eventually happened. To resurrect on the third day is completely different from resurrecting after three days and three nights. All what we see in scriptures about his death and resurrection say he shall resurrect on the third day, not that he’d resurrect after three days and three nights.
Please read the following passages, Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:23, Matthew 20:19, Matthew 27:64, Mark 9:31, Mark 10:34, Luke 9:22, we’ve read Luke 18:31-33, Luke 24;6-8, Luke 24:19-21, Luke 24:45-46, Acts 10:40, and 1 Corinthians 15:4.
All these speaks of Christ being risen on the third day and not after three days and three nights. So when he said he would be in the heart of the earth, he by no means meant that he’d be in the grave for that duration of time.
So brethren, as we celebrate the death and resurrection of our blessed Lord and Saviour, let it not be clouded with a doubt of the correctness of Jesus prophecy or scriptures. Let celebrate our dear Lord who was always correct in all his utterances. God bless you. Amen. Let’s pray.
Prayer: Dear Lord and Father. Thank you for giving us a Saviour who we can believe even when our understanding fails us. Thank you also for your inerrant word. Thank you for helping us to see the truthfulness of the prophecy of your Son Jesus Christ. As we remember his death and resurrection, let no doubt about the truth of his words dwell in hearts. May this Easter season have a lasting reviving impression on our hearts. This I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.