THE TRUTH ABOUT THE THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS (of Jesus in the heart of the earth)
“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” Matthew 12:40
A dear friend recently sent me this study by Elwin R. Roach into the true timing of the three days and nights that Jesus spent “in the heart of the earth”. Without a doubt this is the best study I have ever seen on this issue and the most biblically supported. Not only that, it has a ring of truth to it that can only be Holy Spirit inspired. There has been so much controversy over these days and when they happened, and the mainstream churches just seem to accept and teach that Christ was crucified on a Friday and rose on a Sunday morning. This cannot be and is not truth in regards to it being 3 days and 3 nights.
Through this study we find out what “the heart of the earth” truly is and how it relates and was foreshadowed by Jonah’s experience in “the belly of the whale”. If you have ever wondered about the truth of this matter and how it is explained in God’s Holy Word, this is the study for you.
Three Days and Three Nights In The Heart of The Earth
Sometime during the month of April, or on a rare occasion in late March, there is an enjoining by multiplied millions throughout the world commemorating Easter and/or Passover. Regardless of which it is called, each has a special place in the hearts and lives of those who recognize them as special holy days. Much could be said about them; but this is not what we wish to address today. It is, rather, the heart of the earth wherein Jesus spent His last three days before His resurrection that we want to look at.
Since Jesus compared Jonah’s account of being in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights with what lay ahead for Him, I believe we can say Jonah was also in the heart of the earth; but his earth was called a whale/fish/sea monster, depending on the translation being used. In Jonah’s earth, as it is in the belly of all living creatures, there was constant churning, grinding, acoustic acids that digested everything that entered therein, reducing it all to its lowest state of formless existence. The unidentifiable mass of contents would then be absorbed into the body of that great leviathan; which, of course, is to become its very image. However, Jonah could not be digested to become a permanent part of that earthy creature from the abyss, that which was from *beneath, and neither could Jesus become one with the earth from beneath while in the center of its heart. *”And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” John 8:32
Jonah fled from his calling and was swallowed by a prepared sea creature. He found himself in the heart of an inescapable, living earth. In contrast, Jesus walked straight into the heart of His destined earth, and there he abode for three days and three nights! Not a day and a half, not parts of three days and nights—but three days and three nights, as did Jonah!
Was Jesus In The Tomb For Three Days and Three Nights?
The New Testament tells us around two dozen times that Jesus would be raised on “the third day.” Yet, none of those verses say anything about three days and three nights. Only one verse mentions this: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” Matthew 12:40 (NAS).
It is believed by most that Jesus described how many days He would be entombed beneath the crust of the earth. However, if Jesus was indicating how long he would be buried, we have a grave problem, really.
There are several explanations that have been promoted with attempts to reconcile that which seems to be a conflict of scriptures. One line of thought is that parts of days and parts of nights can mean full days and full nights. You see, as it is maintained, since Jesus spent parts of two days/nights and one whole day and night in the tomb, this means three days. Out of necessity in connecting the dots, it is said that any part of a day must represent a full day; otherwise, Jesus would have been mistaken, and they know that such an error would be impossible. This reasoning, however, would be like saying that a fourteen month old baby who was born in December of 2012, lived through the entire year of 2013, and then into January of 2014 would be three years old. Simply by having lived in parts of three different years would qualify the baby to be three years old. Folks, this type of math does not add up!
Notwithstanding, we should not be too critical on those who embrace this reasoning, for I was of the same persuasion for quite a number of years, along with many of you. We assumed the Hebrew idiom was in play, and any part of a day can be considered a full day, or any part of a year can be a full year. This would be a fact if, indeed, what Jesus said was an idiom. However, according to that which E.W. Bullinger wrote in his Appendix 144 of the Companion Bible, it cannot be an idiom. He said: “…When the number of ‘nights’ is stated as well as the number of ‘days,’ then the expression ceases to be an idiom, and becomes a literal statement of fact.” And this stands to reason; for since Jesus compared what he was facing with Jonah who spent 72 hours in the heart of hell, 48 hours for Him would not work.
The partial days thought must have troubled others as well; for to have Jesus in the tomb three full days and three full nights, some of the Bible scholars moved His crucifixion back in order to fit the three days and three nights as it is in Matthew 12:40. Therefore, the crucifixion was set back to Wednesday. They indicate that Thursday must have been a special Sabbath, the Passover Sabbath, and not the usual Saturday Sabbath. This could be possible, but only if the Passover Sabbath, Nisan 15, was on Thursday of that year when Jesus was crucified.
We know that the Passover lamb was to be slain on the 14th of Nisan (April), the day before the Passover, and we know that Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem during the time of that feast. But the question remains, upon which day of the week did the 14th of Nisan fall? Was it Wednesday or was it Friday? Or was it perhaps one of the other days of the week? Do we know? The only way of being sure is to know the year in which He was crucified. When this is known, the day of the Passover can then be rightly determined. So let us see if the year can be established.
The destruction of Jerusalem helps in this matter, as well as a verse concerning Ezekiel: “Lie on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.” Ezekiel 4:6. Most Biblical authorities say that this speaks of the forty years of rejection of their Messiah after His crucifixion. And it is certainly by no coincidence that the Romans began their siege on Passover, which was 70 A.D., exactly 40 years to the day after the crucifixion of Jesus according to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in his book, Wars of the Jews (Book V, Chapter 13, Verse 7. Of course, with 40 YEARS SIGNIFYING A GENERATION brings to mind something Jesus said concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, “…THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS AWAY, TIL ALL BE FULFILLED.” Luke 21:32.
Many Bible historians follow this timeline:
1. Jesus was born — 2-4 B.C. [Stephen Jones puts His birth at 2 B.C. while Ernest Martin has it as 3 B.C.]
2. After being baptized His ministry began — 27 A.D.
[In the 3rd chapter of Luke, the Bible gives us a time marker. The 15th year of the Roman Emperor, Tiberius, is specified as the year of Jesus’ baptism, and of His anointing with the Holy Spirit. Another relevant point is that Augustus’ health had been failing for some years, and he was “an invalid at sixty [2 B.C.]” (See, Durant vol.3, p.231). Augustus made Tiberius his co-regent, and in Judea, the reign of Tiberius was dated – not from the death of Augustus (as would normally have been the case) – but from that time, two years prior to the death of Augustus 12 A.D.), when Tiberius was given legal equality with Augustus. Legally, and for all practical purposes, Tiberius was Emperor over the province of Judea even while Augustus was still living. His reign began in 12 A.D., and so the 15th year of Tiberius was 27 A.D., the same year Jesus’ ministry was initiated.]
3. His Ministry lasted — 3 to 3 ½ years
4. He was crucified — on Friday the 14th day of Nisan, or April 7, 30 A.D.
5. The destruction of the temple — 70 A.D., 40 years later
Friday is the most accepted view as to the day of the crucifixion, and one of the reasons has been due to the Roman Catholic Church having instituted the “Good Friday” crucifixion. The “Holy Week” observances as we have them today were established by Rome in the fourth century A.D. when they invented the Easter Sunday resurrection. Even after the Reformation, quite a number of Protestant church organizations carry on with a good amount of the Catholic beliefs and traditions, with some of them being in truth and some not. Such as, the Protestants have rejected the Catholic tradition of the cult of saints and the veneration of Mary. But they continued to embrace the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and died on behalf of the sins of the world. Knowing this to be a sound doctrine, we will not reject it simply on the grounds that the Church of Rome believes it.
There are other substantial reasons why Friday is popularly held as the day of our Lord’s crucifixion. For instance, Matthew 28:1 supplies us with some evidence. This verse says that there were two Sabbaths. Most versions of the Bible render this word “Sabbath” [óá Üôù], that is, in the singular, and this could have been because the translators believed the traditional Saturday/Sabbath premise, even though the Greek manuscripts have it as being plural. This can be verified by anyone with a Greek interlinear translation or a Greek lexicon. Matthew 28:1 therefore should read, “Now after the sabbaths [óá Üôùí], as the first day of the week began to dawn….” That is, “Now after the Passover Sabbath together with the Saturday Sabbath, and as the first day of week began to dawn….”
Those who embrace the Hebrew idiom of partial days being counted as full days are right about one thing, that Friday was the day of the crucifixion; but I believe they erred by assuming “the heart of the earth” was “the grave,” rather than it being “Jerusalem.” If they had known this, I don’t think so many would have used the partial days line of thought.
The heart of something usually speaks of its worth, the most valuable part of a thing. The Greek word for heart is something that is all important to people, and the grave is certainly none of these. The heart is often used as a metaphor, a figure of speech that relates to a thing by its very nature; such as, the heart of a matter, the heart of a novel, as a man thinks in his heart so is he, she has a pure heart, or the central heart of a thought. Although, it can speak of a locality, such as the heart of a watermelon, yet, this is usually not the case whether in the natural or with spiritual matters. Most know that the Heart of Dixie is not a geographical location, but is the intrinsic feeling of the South, or Cigars are said to be the Heart & Soul of Cuba. And Stephen Jones wrote in reference to this: “The phrase, ‘heart of the earth,’ was understood to be Jerusalem. Moslems believe Mecca to be the earth’s center. The Greeks believed this about Delphi on account of its oracle there. Jerusalem, however, has greater claim to being the ‘heart of the earth,’ because it is situated at the midpoint of the land mass of Europe, Africa, and Asia.
The people living in Israel had good reason to believe that JERUSALEM was “THE HEART OF THE EARTH”; for Ezekiel even made a couple of similar references to this: “Thus says the Lord GOD, “This is JERUSALEM; I have set her AT THE CENTER OF THE NATIONS…” Ezekiel 5:5. “…And the people who were gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH.” Ezekiel 38:12 (ESV). This would be the intrinsic center of the earth’s inhabitants, in the center of the nations. We know, of course, they were not located geographically in the dead center of the nations, and they did not live four thousand miles down in the central core of the earth, nor did they live in caves or graves six feet beneath the earth’s surface.
They lived in the heart of the earth, as it was with Jonah in the belly of that great devouring sea creature. They lived in its heart, in its belly where there was constant churning and grinding, where there were caustic political, religious and social acids that digested all who entered and remained therein. They were reduced to the lowest state of existence to be assimilated and absorbed into the body of that great leviathan—Jerusalem. When something cannot be digested, however, the devourer becomes very uncomfortable, in pain, distraught, ill, even unto death and vomits out the indigestible source of indigestion; thus the great fish with Jonah and the religious and political hierarchies of Jerusalem with Jesus. The vomiting out of Jesus, of course, was to crucify Him before their world was destroyed. They could not let His indigestible presence remain in their midst. For that matter, they were so driven by their religious determination, that they were not only conspiring to kill Him but Lazarus as well, the one He had raised from the dead; for they both posed a threat to their existence. It did not matter that they knew Jesus was sent by God, they wanted Him out of there, and by any means possible, especially unto death.
Jesus continually pointed to Jerusalem as the place where He would be swallowed alive, betrayed and crucified: “From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised on the third day.” Matthew 16:21.
There is something to consider concerning Him having been “raised on the third day.” For clarity, it is essential to know the starting point of those three days, and we believe it was when His suffering began. Mark quoted Jesus, saying: “…and they shall mock Him, and shall scourge Him, and shall spit upon Him, and shall kill Him, and the third day He shall rise again.” Mark 10:34. In other words: Three days after He suffers, is mocked, scourged, spat upon, and finally killed, He shall rise again, which will be three days from initial passion of the Lamb.
You see, it was not three days from the time they killed Him, but from the time He began to suffer until he was raised from the dead. Jesus became the sin offering on the night it was determined that He should die, and as a Lamb being led to slaughter, he committed Himself inwardly, soul and spirit, to be slain, and outwardly when He submitted His body and was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. As a sin offering he experienced excruciating mental anguish, enough to sweat as great drops of blood, as well as torturous physical suffering to His body, and ultimately the humiliation of hanging naked for every eye to look upon, even His friends and mother whose heart was breaking. But then, after one more day, His resurrection—totaling three days and three nights in the heart of the earth called Jerusalem.
The suffering, the beginning of the three days and nights, began in Jerusalem—the Heart of the Earth. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him up to the Gentiles to mock and scourge Him, and ON THE THIRD DAY HE WILL BE RAISED” Matthew 20:17–19.
Let us notice a timeline which starts six days before the Passover, or five days before he was sacrificed, which would have been on a Sunday. This would be the case if Jesus was crucified in 30 A.D. as it is proposed by many biblical scholars and what I believe to be from my own research:
“Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.” John 12:1.
With Jesus having been crucified in 30 A.D., the Passover would have been on a Saturday and six days before would be Sunday when he was in Bethany which was walking distance from Jerusalem.
“On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” John 12:12-13.
On the next day would have been Monday, not Sunday as Catholicism practices, that is, Palm Sunday.
After entering Jerusalem riding the colt upon palm branches, He went to the Temple and looked round about, He returned to Bethany, according to Mark 11: 11. “And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany…” Mark 11:12.
This would have been Tuesday after he cursed the fig tree, went back to the Temple, turned over the money changers tables, cleared the courtyard of the animals that were being sold for sacrifice, and accused them of making His Father’s house a den of thieves. (ref. Mark 11:12-17).
“And when even was come, he went out of the city,” Mark 11:19, presumably back to Bethany where he was staying.
“And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.” Mark 11:20.
This would have been Wednesday, and through the rest of the 11th chapter of Mark and chapters 12 and 13, Jesus is speaking in parables, answering questions, and tripping up the Pharisees who were out to kill him. He had a full day before returning to Bethany Wednesday evening, as the first three verses of Mark 14 indicate:
“It was now two days before the feast of the Passover and the unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes made designs how they might take him by deceit and put him to death: But they said, Not while the feast is going on, for fear there may be trouble among the people.” Mark 14:1-2 (BBE – Basic Bible English Translation).t
Now, from Wednesday close to or after sundown to the same time Thursday was one (1) day (24 hours); from sundown Thursday to sundown Friday made two (2) days (48 hours); and from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday was three (3) days—72 hours!
And after three days, Jesus said, the son of man would be raised up. Therefore, that raising was most likely at Saturday’s sunset or shortly thereafter. It could not have been Sunday morning; for that would have been three and a half days in the heart of the earth.
The Greek word for earth is “ge” and can mean either “land” or “earth,” and Jesus said that Jonah is a sign Matthew 12:39. Jesus was a Jonah to Jerusalem. As Jonah was to the sea monster, Jesus was to Jerusalem. Neither was Jonah nor Jesus good for their hosts, and neither were their hosts good for them. And as Jonah was swallowed and suffered for three days and three nights in the belly of that great fish, the heart of the earth, Jesus went into the belly of another fish, “the heart of the earth” called Jerusalem, and His suffering began. Jesus came to His own, to those who lived in the center of the earth, and those who were His own did not receive Him, as we note in John 1:11.
There are many symbolic metaphors and analogies in the Bible. By and large, if this is not known, a vast wealth of understanding will go unnoticed. It can be like a first-time voyager crossing the sea, and the only things he can perceive as real are the winds, a lot of water, the waves, the sea spray, a vast horizon, perhaps a few wayward seagulls, and the splash of a fish now and again. He sees such a minuscule part of what resides beneath. The fathomless depths are teaming with life and death and unfolding beauties of floral and unbounded unity of schools of fish and indescribable creatures of the deep; but he is unaware of any of it.
To read the Bible intellectually alone is like that lowly sailor in his frail catamaran facing almost impossible odds. It is sailing upon the surface, upon knowing only the letter of the word, and not plumbing deep into its mysteries. We may enjoy the voyage, but we will be just as oblivious to the deep things of God as the day we embarked. Let us, therefore, not only venture forth across the sea of scriptures, but let us also plumb the depths so as not to deprive ourselves of easily accessed mysteries that are daily round about us that may pass us by. Let us not forget, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing (Heb. a word): but the honor of kings to search out the matter (Heb. a word).” Proverbs 25:2.
One of those mysteries that has gone unnoticed actually abides on the surface. It is found in Psalm 16:10 and it is quoted in the Acts of the Apostles in Acts 2:27 as well as Acts 13:35-37.
“Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom God raised again, SAW NO CORRUPTION.”
**corruption: Greek, diaphthora; decay. Strong’s Exh. Conc. The Hebrew of Psalm 16:10 shachath; “…go to ruin, decay, be spoiled…be ruined, be rotted.” Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions
You see, “Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption,” and “He…saw no corruption” signifies that the body of Jesus would not be left dead long enough to decay. If Jesus had been in the grave for three days, His body would have seen corruption. The decaying process would have started; but by being there for only a day, there was no decomposition to His body. He was in Jerusalem for three days and three nights, but not in the grave for that amount of time. He suffered in Jerusalem for two days and was in the grave for one day, which was a total of three days and three nights in Jerusalem; that is, in the Heart of the Earth. Two thirds of the time, He was alive and suffering, the other third He was in the tomb. And His uncorrupted body was raised anew after the third day, which would have been shortly after sundown Saturday, not during the dawn Sunday morning. That was when two of the Marys went to the tomb to anoint Him with aromatic spices:
“And 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. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.” Mark 16:1-2.
These two verses help a great deal in placing the crucifixion on Friday afternoon rather than Wednesday. For instance:
The spices were bought after the Sabbath, which could have been ten or eleven hours later just before going to the sepulcher early Sunday morning, or perhaps just after sundown Saturday when the Sabbath ended; that is, if businesses opened for a while after the Saturday Sabbath ended. They may have also known a dealer of spices and had gone to his home to buy them. We are not told where or the hour they were bought, but it is clear from Mark, it was after the Sabbath.
It is very unlikely that they would have gone to anoint Jesus if He had been dead for three days, plus twelve more hours from sundown Saturday to sunrise Sunday morning. For as it was said of Lazarus after he had been dead for four days — “He stinketh.”
We do not think that these women would enter the tomb of a decomposing body to anoint it. To my knowledge, such was never done.
And “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Acts 2:27.
Therefore, since His body was not in repose long enough to see corruption, and the two Marys surely did not expect His body to be stinking, they went to anoint Him around 39hours after His death, i.e. from 3:00 p.m. Friday until 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning is 39 hours.
Let us close by saying this. Although Jesus suffered greatly in that ancient city of Jerusalem, the Heart of that Earth—we praise God that He submitted Himself to it. For as Margit mentioned after proofing this article: “He now dwells FOREVER in the Heart of another Earth, another Jerusalem; that is, IN THE HEART OF HIS BODY, IN THE HEART OF YOU AND ME.”
Before His time of three days and nights in Jerusalem, when His passion began, Jesus knew that He would not only be temporarily in the Heart of the Earth; but He would be dwelling in the hearts of His own. For He told his disciples:
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions (Grk. abodes, living places): if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also….And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be IN YOU.” John 14:1-3 & John 14:16-17.
For three days and three nights, He suffered and died in the old Jerusalem, but the most important matter of all this is that He now rejoices together with you and with me, as He lives forever in the Heart of another Earth, in the New Jerusalem of His many membered body! Praise God!
Elwin R. Roach
Amen to that! New Jerusalem is in the hearts of all His followers there is no other place on this earth where He resides but in our hearts. Old Jerusalem was destroyed and if a 3rd temple is ever built there it will be for the anti-Christ.
As the dark matter descends upon this world I pray we all cling closely to our glorious Lord and Savior.
JESUS IS ALL AND EVERYTHING!!!