Three Days and Three Nights

According to Leviticus 23:5 Passover was to take place on the 14th of Abib/Nisan.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread was to take place on the 15th of Abib/Nisan.  What date is First Fruits?  There is no date given!  The inspired text says that this third feast occurs “…on the day after the Sabbath…”!   Many scholars say the Feast of First Fruits took place on the 16th of Abib/Nisan.  They take the Sabbath here to be the Sabbath of the first day of Unleavened Bread.  If that was true, why not just say, on the 16th?  I believe the biblical evidence is that the Sabbath referred to here is the weekly Sabbath, the seventh day of the week.  Let me try to explain why: if “First Fruits” occurs on the 16th of Abib/Nisan, and it pictures Christ’s resurrection, this only allows Christ to be in the grave for a day and a half at best:

  • “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”  But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;”” (Matthew 12:38-39 NASB)

The word translated “sign” is Greek semeion, which means: “a sign or distinguishing mark whereby something is known, sign, token, or indication.”  It can also mean: “an event that is an indication or confirmation of intervention by transcendent powers, a miracle.”  So they are saying, show us a miracle!

  • “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 NASB)
  • Mark 8:31 is quite clear that Yeshua was to fulfill this antitype exactly, “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (NASB)(See also Matt. 27:63)

I take this to mean 3 full days, or 72 hours.  We know that Jesus was buried at the end of the 14th of Abib/Nisan, just before the sun went down (Matt. 27:57-58, 62; Luke 23:50-54; Mark 15:42; John 19:14, 30-31).  He was in the tomb on the 15th of Abib/Nisan and would have remained in the tomb until the 18th of Abib/Nisan.  There is no date given in Scripture for the Feast of First Fruits, because it is “…on the day after the Sabbath…”!  It is always on a Sunday!   So, the date would change from year to year, but it is always on a Sunday – the first day of the week.  What is interesting is that on the year that Christ was crucified, there had to be three days between the 14th and the first day of the week.  And it just so happens that there was (eschatology “Study Series 8 Lesson 2 God’s Festal Calendar (Fall Feasts)” in Appendix A). 

If Christ spent the full 3 days and 3 nights in the grave, this would mean that the traditional idea of Christ being crucified on Friday is incorrect.  I believe that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday and was buried by the end of the day (before 6 pm Wednesday evening, which would be the start of Thursday for the Hebrews).  He was in the grave by the start of the Hebrew Thursday (6 pm Wednesday for us) at sundown until Saturday at sundown, which is 3 days, and 3 nights, or 72 hours.  He rose from the dead on Sunday – sometime after sundown on Saturday evening (after 6 pm Saturday, which is the start of Sunday for the Hebrews).

Here is a time line: Passover the 14th of Abib/Nisan (Wednesday) Jesus was tried early morning and declared faultless by Pilate.  He was hung on the Cross from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM.  Jesus dies the same time the final Passover lamb is being slaughtered in the Temple.  He is prepared for burial and placed in tomb just before sunset (before 6 pm Wednesday).

Unleavened Bread the 15th of Abib/Nisan (Thursday – starts 6 pm Wednesday for the Hebrews) – the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (which was a High Sabbath), Jesus is in the tomb (1st night and 1st day).  The 16th of Abib/Nisan (Friday) Jesus spends the 2nd night and 2nd day in the tomb (this is the day after the Thursday “annual High” Sabbath that the women bought the spices to anoint Jesus, and then rested on the “weekly” Sabbath according to the commandment, before heading to the tomb on the 1st day of the week à Compare Mark 16:1; Luke 23:56 – 24:1; Matt. 28:1).  The 17th of Abib/Nisan (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath) Jesus spends the 3rd night and 3rd day in the tomb.  The 18th of Abib/Nisan (Sunday – after 6 pm Saturday night for the Hebrews) Jesus is resurrected at the close of the Sabbath, beginning the first day of the week.  This is the day of First Fruits.  Jesus’s body could not be found when the women come to the tomb early Sunday morning, the tomb was empty.

The confusion about Jesus being crucified on Friday may come from:

  • “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)

Remember that the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a special High Sabbath and no work is to be done.  Many have assumed they had to get Jesus’s body in the tomb before the weekly Sabbath, but it wasn’t the weekly Sabbath, it was the High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread.

So, Passover occurs on the 14th; Unleavened Bread occurs on the 15th (and lasts until the 22nd); and “First Fruits” occurs on the day after the weekly Sabbath, or Sunday, the first day of the week.  So First Fruits is ALWAYS on a SUNDAY.  As to the significance of the Feast of First Fruits, as with the other feasts, there is no room for doubt or speculation; it represents Christ’s resurrection:

  • “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,” (1 Cor. 15:20-23 NASB)

On one particular morning, on the first day of the week, the Feast of First Fruits of the harvest were being waved before the alter in the Temple in Jerusalem, and on that same particular morning some women were heading to an empty tomb. (For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 8 Lesson 2 God’s Festal Calendar (Fall Feasts)”*Appendix A “3 days & 3 nights,” Pg 7)


Related full “Study Series” (available upon request if not hyperlinked):

[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 8 Lesson 2 God’s Festal Calendar (Fall Feasts)”]