Jesus’ 3 Days and 3 Nights in the Grave Don’t Add Up

3 days and nights in the graveby Greg on February 29, 2012

Matthew 12:40- For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus died and was buried on a Friday during daylight. He rose from death Sunday morning. This fact has caused many – both unbelievers and believers – to question the realness of the Bible. That’s because the math doesn’t calculate to match the popular belief that Jesus was referring to the grave. And they are right in their belief. Jesus was entombed for a period of one day and two nights. There is no getting around it if it is believed that Jesus was speaking of His death. And therein lies the problem; the premise of the grave is wrong.

Notice that Jesus said, “in the heart of the earth.” That is so different than “in the grave or tomb.” According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “heart” comes from the Greek word “kardia.” Now that just doesn’t mean in the middle of the body, but can also mean thoughts or feelings that come from the mind.

In the Greek, the word for earth is “ge,” which means the globe or world. And, of course, that would include the world’s nations or inhabitants. So, put together, the phrase, “in the heart of the earth” could be translated as “in the midst of the world.” Or in context, “in the possession of the sinful, murderous culture.”

The Bible concurs with the Concordance when one searches for context in other similar verses in the Bible. The term “in the heart of the earth” appears only once in the Bible. However, related verses with the term “in the earth” appears 66 times in the King James Bible. A couple of examples are, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” And “… make no graven image or likeness of anything in heaven above or in the earth beneath.” These verses indicate that God’s will is to be done in the world, or rather among the people of the world; not the grave.

To put into context Jesus’ three day/night statement, take a look at then Hebrew law. The Jewish people would place their sins on the Passover Lamb before it was slain. So Jesus, the lamb, had placed upon Him the sins of the world before He was slain on the cross. This happened in the garden of Gethsemane when he drank that bitter cup of God’s wrath against sin and said, “Not my will, but your will be done.”

That was said on the night before His crucifixion. Five verses refer to that Thursday night as being the time that Jesus said His hour had come; that the time had arrived for Him to be given over to the world. The verses are Matt. 26:45, Mark 14:41, Luke 22:14, John 16:32, and John 17:1.

In the heart or grip of the world, Jesus was a prisoner just as Jonah was a prisoner in the belly of the sea monster. Jonah went wherever the fish took him; Jesus went wherever the satanically controlled mob took Him.

Another point that “in the heart of the earth” doesn’t mean “in the grave” is this. In the midst of the world, Jesus was punished before being killed. That’s because the sins of the world were upon Him. Consequently, He had to experience Luke 12:47 and II Peter 2:9, in which it is understood that punishment and suffering are attendants to sin. In other words, the total penalty of sin is both suffering and death.

In Mark 9:31, Jesus said that He would rise on the third day. Jesus spoke this from the Jewish mindset from which it is figured in such a way that if an event touched any part of the third day, it was considered a three-day event. This is much like the thinking that rental car companies employ. For instance, if there is possession of their car for any part of the day, one pays for the entire day.

What this all boils down to is that the three days and nights Jesus speaks of is referring to His time of finally being turned over to the heart of the world, which is the grip of Satan. Recall the many times prior when the mob could not touch Jesus to kill Him. That is because His hour had not come. But on that Thursday night it did.

And so He was “in the heart of the earth” for three days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; and for three nights: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.