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The Resurrection

The traditional view of the resurrection of Christ Jesus, through the centuries to the present, places the crucifixion of Christ on "good" Friday and the actual resurrection having taken place early on Sunday morning about sunrise, nearly two millennia ago. Millions each year rise early in the pre-dawn hours to attend their sunrise services to honor the most important and central event to the Christian faith--the physical resurrection of Christ Jesus.

Paul declares this well in his letter to the Corinthians: "Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Cor. 15:12-19 NASB).

Yet according to Jesus' own words, His resurrection was to take place after "three days and three nights" in the tomb, just as Jonah: "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" (Matt. 12:40 NASB; cf. Jonah 1:17; italicizing mine for emphasis). Tradition states that a literal translation, of a 72 hour period from Christ's burial to His resurrection, is not necessary; it's enough that this period of time merely touches upon the three days only (Friday afternoon through Sunday morning). Is God then not consistent in doing what He says or have the holy scriptures been misinterpreted by tradition? Let's closely examine God's word to see what it reveals.

"In the first month (Nisan or Abib), on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight (note: the Jewish day begins in the evening after sunset) is the LORD'S Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work." (Leviticus 23:5-7 NASB; italicizing added). This first day of Feast of Unleavened Bread (of seven days and the day after Passover begins) is the "holy convocation" or the "high day" and was considered a special Sabbath because they could "not do any laborious work"; the day preceding this Sabbath is the "day of preparation" and the beginning of Passover (John 19:14; Luke 23:54; which is eight days) which included the sacrifice of the lamb for their Passover meal as "a memorial" (Deut. 16:1-8; Exodus 12:1-51). The "high day" Sabbath is not to be confused with the weekly Jewish Sabbath, our Saturday. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus was then crucified on the "day of preparation", the first day (of eight) of the Passover: "The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away" (John 19:31 NASB). Therefore, Jesus' body was laid in the tomb just prior to sunset and still on the "day of preparation" which so happened to fall on our Wednesday (this will be demonstrated later) of that year. It may also be interesting to note that Jesus' "last supper" with His disciples was the Passover meal (not the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread) and was eaten on the evening beginning the "day of preparation" (after sunset, our Tuesday); Jesus Himself was to be the Passover "lamb" for the sins of the world, being crucified on the day of preparation, our Wednesday (Luke 22:7-20).

But what of His resurrection? Did Jesus then rise from the tomb as tradition states on Sunday morning? According to Berry's interlinear we find the following literal translation from the Greek for Matthew 28:1: "Now late on Sabbath, as it was getting dusk toward [the] first [day] of the week, came Mary the Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre." Matthew continues to describe the women finding the tomb empty "for He is risen" (Matt. 28:2-10). Now the Jewish weekly "Sabbath" is our Saturday and "the first day of the week" is our Sunday beginning at sunset Saturday, Jewish reckoning. Therefore the resurrection of Jesus was not at sunrise Sunday morning as is traditional thought, but it was at sunset the Saturday evening prior. E. W. Bullinger is quoted (see: appendix 156, p. 182) from "The Companion Bible" stating: "Thus, the Resurrection of the Lord took place at our Saturday sunset, or thereabouts, on 'the third day'; cp. 'after three days' (Matt. 27:63; Mark 8:31). It follows, therefore, that the Lord was crucified on our Wednesday; was buried on that day before sunset; and remained 'three days and three nights' in the tomb, as foretold by Him in Matt. 12:40; rising from the dead on 'the third day', 'the first day of the week'."

We see now that God's word is true in keeping with a literally 72 hour period of time ("three days and three nights") between His burial and His resurrection. Why then is tradition in error as to the true timing of Jesus' resurrection and why does it not hold to a literal "three days and three nights?" Perhaps it's due to a lack of understanding of Jewish observance; or perhaps because Jesus "appeared" to His disciples later on "the first day of the week", our Sunday (John 20:19-23). No wonder cynics are skeptical as to the word of God when it does not jell with actual historical events. The resurrection of Christ is the most important and central event to the Christian faith. It is to our advantage to understand and rightly divide the word of God in defense of our faith.

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