Three Days & Three Nights
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19
“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.” Matthew 12:40
By traditional Biblical scholarship it is believed that Jesus was crucified in the morning around 8 to 9 o’clock and that He died around the 9th hour 2 to 3 o’clock in the afternoon. So His crucifixion beginning on Thursday day to Thursday night would be one day, Thursday night to Friday morning would be one night, Friday morning to Friday night would be two days and so on, through Saturday night, making three nights. Sunday morning then becomes Resurrection Day. Day in this case refers to the daylight hours and night to the time from sun down to sun up. The first hour is generally considered to be 6 to 7 in the morning.
“And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” Luke 23:45-46
Following that moment Jesus’ was buried and remained in the earth three days and three nights. But, He was not dormant for those three days. During those days and nights He descended into the lower parts of the earth, a metaphor for the place where the souls of those who had died having faith in the covenants of Abraham but had not yet received the promise, waiting for the Messiah to come. There was also a place there called hell located at a great distance away. The story of Abraham and Lazarus gives us a picture of this place. [Luke 16:19-31]
“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)” Ephesians 4:8-10
“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Revelation 1:18
The sum of all this is that in those three days and three nights Jesus, under the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit descended into the domain of the place reserved for the devil and all who are cursed with sin, unwilling to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. There he took the keys of death by which the devil held the souls of those in bondage to him. Jesus released the devils prisoners and triumphed over him in an open display of power by restoring life to many who had died at the hand of Satan.
“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:15
“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose…” Matthew 27:52
From that moment until now and throughout all time to come death no longer has unchecked dominion over mankind. The devil no longer has dominion over us who are born again in Jesus’ name. The grave could not hold Jesus and it will not hold us. Hell could not be conquered by Jesus until He died, so His death was necessary for Him to be able to take authority away from the devil because He had no sin and had been condemned unjustly.
All of humankind was stained with the sin of Adam’s disobedience and were, therefore, from that moment subject to sin and death. But Jesus was and is the sinless Lamb of God, full of light with no darkness at all. His entrance into hell brought the blinding fire of God’s all consuming power and glory that eclipsed all the power of hell, overwhelming death and the grave.
The radiance of His countenance was a blinding light to the devil from which he could not escape or protect himself. Jesus did all this for us to free us from the devil’s tyranny and bondage to sin, death, hell and the grave.
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:13-15
Whatever else Jesus may have done in the bowels of the earth during those three days we do know one thing. He preached to those who had died waiting for His coming and for the revealing of God’s plan of salvation.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison…” 1 Peter 3:18-19
Those who died in hope of the Messiah heard the good news of Salvation through faith and those who died in rebellion and denial of the Messiah heard the message of His judgment against all sin.