The Resurrection Was Not On Sundayby Herbert W. Armstrong
Was Jesus three days and three nights in the grave, as He said in Matthew
1 2:40? Can you figure three days and three nights between sunset "Good
Friday" and sunrise Easter Sunday?
It is commonly supposed today that Jesus was crucified on Friday, and
that the resurrection occurred about sunrise on Easter Sunday morning.
Few professing Christians have ever thought to question or to prove
this "Good-Friday-Easter" tradition. Yet the Bible tells us to prove (test)
all things. And you will be literally astounded by this proof.
For proof there is but one dependable authority, a sole historical record
-- the Bible.
Tradition No Proof
There were no eye-witnesses to the resurrection. Even so-called "apostolic
fathers" had no source of information save that record which is today available
to us -- the biblical revelation. Any tradition, then, which conflicts
with God's revelation must be dismissed.
What are the recorded facts? The doubting Pharisees were asking Jesus
for a sign -- supernatural evidence -- in proof of His Messiahship.
Jesus answered: "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign;
and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
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"
Now consider, please, the tremendous import -- the overwhelming significance
-- of Jesus' statement.
He expressly declared that the only sign He would give to prove He was
the Messiah was that He should be just three days and three nights in the
rock-hewn sepulcher in "the heart of the earth."
The Significance of the Sign
These Christ-rejecting Pharisees demanded proof. Jesus offered but one
evidence. That evidence was not the fact of the resurrection itself. It
was the length of time He would repose in His grave, before being resurrected.
Think what this means! Jesus staked His claim to being your Saviour
and mine upon remaining exactly three days and three nights in the tomb.
If He remained just three days and three nights inside the earth, He would
prove Himself the Saviour -- if He failed in this sign, He must be rejected
as an impostor!
No wonder Satan has caused unbelievers to scoff at the story of Jonah
and the "whale"! No wonder the devil has set up a tradition that denies
Jesus is the Messiah!
The Dilemma of the Higher Critics
This one and only supernatural PROOF ever given by Jesus for His Messiahship
has greatly bothered the commentators and the higher critics. Their attempts
to explain away this sole proof for Christ's divinity (deity) are ludicrous
in the extreme. For explain this away they must, or their "Good-Friday-Easter"
One commentator says, "Of course we know that Jesus was actually in
the tomb only half as long as He thought He would be!" Some expositors
impose upon our credulity to the extent of asking us to believe that "in
the Greek language, in which the New Testament was written, the expression
'three days and three nights' means three periods, either of day or of
Jesus, they say, was placed in the tomb shortly before sunset Friday,
and rose at sunrise Sunday morning -- two nights and one day.
The Bible Definition
But the Bible definition of the duration of "nights and days" is simple.
Even these same higher critics admit that in the Hebrew language, in
which the book of Jonah was written, the expression "three days and three
nights" means a period of 72 hours -- three twelve-hour days and three
Notice Jonah 1:17: "And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days
and three nights." This, they admit, was a period of 72 hours. And Jesus
distinctly said that AS Jonah was three days and three nights in the great
fish's belly, so He would be the same length of time in His grave.
As Jonah was in the "grave" (see marginal reference, Jonah 2:2) 72 hours,
after which he was supernaturally resurrected by God, by being vomited
up, to become a saviour to the people of Nineveh upon proclaiming the warning
to them, so should Jesus be 72 hours in His grave, thereupon being resurrected
by God to become the saviour of the world.
Did Jesus know how much time was in a "day" and in a "night"? Jesus
answered, "Are there not twelve hours in a day ... but if a man walk in
the night, he stumbleth" (John 11:9-10).
Notice the Bible definition of the expression, "the third day." Text
after text tells us that Jesus rose the third day. Notice how the Bible
defines the time required to fulfill "the third day."
In Genesis 1:4 God "divided the light from darkness. And God called
the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening [darkness]
and the morning [light] were the first day .... And the evening [darkness]
and the morning [light] were the second day .... And the evening [now three
periods of darkness called night -- three nights] and the morning [now
three periods of light called day -- three days] were the third day" (Gen.
Here we have the only Bible definition which explains and counts up
the amount of time involved in the expression "the third day." It includes
three dark periods called "night," and three light periods called "day"
-- three days and three nights, and Jesus said they contained twelve hours
for each period -- a total of 72 hours.
That ought to be conclusive! Any seven-year-old, near the end of the
second grade, could figure it easily.
What Is Wrong?
What is wrong with these plain, simple words of Jesus? How do these
wise and prudent theologians know Jesus was crucified "Good Friday" and
rose "Easter Sunday"?
The simple answer is, they do not know it -- for it is not true! It
is merely tradition, a tradition we have been taught from childhood and
carelessly assumed! Jesus warns against "making the word of God of none
effect through your tradition" (Mark 7:13).
We have examined two scriptural witnesses, in Matthew and in Jonah,
both setting the duration of the body of Jesus in the tomb as three days
and three nights, which the Scriptures plainly define as 72 hours of time.
Now let us examine four other scriptural witnesses that prove the same
Notice Mark 8:31. "And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must
suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests,
and scribes, and be killed, and AFTER three days rise again."
(Any young second grader can figure this.) If Jesus had been killed
on Friday, and then after one day He had risen, the resurrection would
have occurred on Saturday evening. If after two days, it would have occurred
Sunday evening, and if after three days, it would have occurred Monday
Examine this text carefully. You cannot, by any process of arithmetic,
figure any less than a full 72 hours -- three days and three nights --
in a resurrection which occurred three days after the crucifixion. If Jesus
was in the grave only from Friday sunset to Sunday sunrise, then this text
too, must be torn out of your Bible or else you must reject Jesus Christ
as an impostor! If He rose after three days, it might have been more than
72 hours, but it could not have been a second less.
Notice now Mark 9:31. "... They shall kill him; and after that he is
killed, he shall rise the third day." The duration expressed here must
be between 48 and 72 hours. It could not be one second past 72 hours, and
Jesus still rise the third day. And it could not be Friday sunset to Sunday
sunrise, because that it only 36 hours, carrying us into the middle of
the second day, after He was killed.
In Matthew 27:63 Jesus is quoted as saying, "After three days I will
rise again." This cannot possibly be figured as less than 72 full hours.
And in John 2:19-21, "Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this
temple, and IN three days I will raise it up .... But he spake of the temple
of his body." To be raised up IN three days after being destroyed, or crucified
and buried, could not be more than 72 hours.
If we are to accept all the testimony of the Bible, we must conclude
that Jesus was exactly three days and three nights -- three full 24-hour
days -- 72 hours in the grave, or the only supernatural proof He gave must
The Time of Day of Resurrection
Now notice carefully this fact: In order to be three days and three
nights -- exactly 72 hours -- in the tomb, our Lord had to be resurrected
at exactly the same time of day that His body was buried in the tomb.
Let us realize that very vital fact. If we can find the time of day
of the burial, then we have found the time of day of the resurrection.
If the burial, for instance, were at sunrise, then for the body to be left
an even three days and three nights in the tomb, the resurrection likewise
had to occur at sunrise, three days later. If the burial were at noon,
the resurrection was at noon. If the burial were at sunset, the resurrection
was at sunset, three days later.
The crucifixion day was called "the preparation," or day before "the
sabbath" (Matt. 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54). This day ended at sunset,
according to Bible reckoning (Lev. 23:32).
Jesus cried out soon after "the ninth hour" or three o'clock in the
afternoon (Matt. 27:46-50; Mark 15:34-37; Luke 23:44-46).
Yet Jesus was buried before this same day ended -- before sunset (Matt.
27:57; Luke 23:52-54; John 19:42). John adds, "There laid they Jesus therefore
because of the Jews' preparation day." According to the laws observed by
the Jews all dead bodies must be buried before the beginning of a Sabbath
or feast day. Hence Jesus was buried before sunset on the same day He died.
He died shortly after 3 p.m.
Therefore -- notice carefully -- the burial of Christ's body was in
the late afternoon! It was between 3 p.m. and sunset as these scriptures
And since the resurrection had to occur at the same time of day, three
days later, the resurrection of Christ occurred, not at sunrise, but in
the late afternoon, near sunset. Startling as this fact may be, it is the
plain Bible truth!
If Jesus rose at any other time of day, He could not have been three
days and three nights in His grave. If He rose at any other time of day,
He failed to prove, by the only sign He gave that He was the true Messiah,
the Son of the living Creator. Either He rose near the END of a day near
sunset, or else He is not the Christ! He staked His claim on that one and
So a time-honored tradition must be shattered.
What Sabbath Followed the Crucifixion?
Now we come to an objection some may raise, yet the very point which
proves this truth. Perhaps you have noticed that the Scriptures say the
day after the crucifixion was a Sabbath. Hence, for centuries, people have
blindly assumed the crucifixion was on Friday.
Now we have shown by all four Gospels that the crucifixion day was called
"the preparation." The preparation day for the Sabbath. But for what Sabbath?
John's Gospel gives the definite answer: "It was the preparation of
"For that sabbath day was an high day" (John 19:14, 31) Just what is
a "high day"? Ask any Jew! He will tell you it is one of the annual holy
days, or feast days The Israelites observed seven of these every year --
every one called a Sabbath! Annual Sabbaths fall on certain annual calendar
dates, and on different days of the week in different years, just like
the Roman holidays now observed. These Sabbaths might fall on Monday, on
Thursday, or on Sunday.
If you will notice the following texts, you will see these annual holy
days were all called Sabbath days: Leviticus 16:31; 23:24, 26-32, 39.
Notice Matthew 26:2: "Ye know that after two days is the feast of the
passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified." And if you will
follow through this chapter you will see that Jesus was crucified on the
And what was the Passover? In the twelfth chapter of Exodus you will
find the story of the original Passover. The children of Israel killed
the lambs, and struck the blood over the doorposts and on the side posts
of their houses, and wherever the blood had thus been applied the death
angel passed over that house, sparing it from death. Following the Passover
was a holy convocation or annual Sabbath.
Observe the dates: "And in the fourteenth day of the first month is
THE PASSOVER of the Lord. And in the fifteenth day of this month is the
FEAST" (Num. 28:16-17).
The Passover lamb, killed every year on the 14th of the first month
called "Abib," was a type of Christ, the Lamb of God that taketh away the
sin of the world. Christ is our Passover, sacrificed for us (I Cor. 5:7).
Jesus was slain on the very same day the Passover had been slain every
year. He was crucified on the 14th of Abib, the first Hebrew month of the
year. And this day, the Passover, was the day before -- and the preparation
for -- the Feast day, or annual high day Sabbath, which occurred on the
15th of Abib. This Sabbath might occur on any day of the week. Frequently
it occurs, and is observed even today, on Thursday. For instance, this
"high-day" Sabbath came on Thursday in 1972, 1975 and 1979, and will occur
on Thursday in 1982, 1986 and 1989.
And the Hebrew calendar shows that in the year Jesus was crucified,
the 14th of Abib, Passover day, the day Jesus was crucified, was Wednesday.
And the annual Sabbath was Thursday. This was the Sabbath that drew on
as Joseph of Arimathea hastened to bury the body of Jesus late that Wednesday
afternoon. There were two separate Sabbaths that week!
What Day Was the Resurrection?
Now which day of the week was the resurrection day? The first investigators,
Mary Magdalene and her companions, came to the sepulcher on the first day
of the week (Sunday) very early, while it was yet dark, as the sun was
beginning to rise, at dawn (Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20: 1).
Now here are the texts most people have supposed stated the resurrection
was at sunrise Sunday morning. But they do not say that!
When the women arrived, the tomb was already open! At that time Sunday
morning while it was yet dark, Jesus was not there! Notice how the angel
says, "He is not here, but is risen" (see Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6; Matt. 28:5-6).
Jesus was already risen at sunset Sunday morning! Of course He was.
He rose from the grave in the late afternoon, near sunset!
And since we know Christ was buried late Wednesday afternoon, and that
the resurrection took place at the same time of day three days later, we
now know the resurrection of Christ occurred late Saturday afternoon.
The Sabbath day ended at sunset. It was late on that day, before the
beginning of the first day of the week. It was not, then, a Sunday resurrection
at all. It was a Sabbath resurrection!
Did Christ Fulfill His Sign?
Now all this is based on the supposition that Jesus did fulfill His
only sign of being three days and three nights in the grave. All our evidence
is based on the claims of Jesus before His crucifixion. But some of the
higher critics and doctors of divinity tell us that Jesus made a mistake
-- that He was only in the tomb half as long as He expected to be. Let
us have proof as to whether He did spend the exact amount of time in the
grave He said He would.
Notice that in Matthew 28:6, the angel of the Lord gives this testimony,
which we now present as evidence. "He is not here: for he is risen, as
he said." And He certainly did not rise AS He said unless He rose at the
precise TIME that He had said! So we have the proof of the angel of the
Lord, recorded in the sacred Word of God that Jesus did fulfill His sign
-- He was three days and three nights in the earth -- He did rise Sabbath
afternoon, and not on Sunday morning.
Another proof that Christ was in the grave the full length of time He
expected to be is found in I Corinthians 15:3-4: "For I delivered unto
you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our
sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose
again the third day according to the scriptures."
His death and burial were according to the Scriptures -- not contrary
The third day following His Wednesday burial was the Sabbath; three
full days spent in the grave ended Saturday afternoon just prior to sunset,
not Sunday morning.
Which Day Was the Crucifixion?
Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, the middle day of the week. He died
shortly after 3 p.m. that afternoon; was buried before sunset Wednesday
evening. Now count the three days and three nights. His body was Wednesday,
Thursday and Friday nights in the grave -- three nights. It also was there
through the daylight part of Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- three days.
He rose Saturday the Sabbath -- late afternoon, shortly before sunset,
at the same time of day that He was buried!
It is significant that in Daniel's prophecy of the "seventy weeks" (Dan.
9:24-27), Jesus was to be cut off "in the midst of the week." While this
prophecy has the application of a day for a year, so that this 70th week
became a literal seven years, Christ being "cut off" after three-and-a-half
years' ministry, as He was, yet it is significant that He was also "cut
off" on the middle day of a literal week.
Honest Objections Examined
Someone is sure to notice Mark 16:9, thinking this text says the resurrection
was upon Sunday. But if you read the whole sentence, it does not say that
at all. The expression "was risen" is in the perfect tense. What was Jesus'
condition early the first day of the week? Does it say He "was rising"
or that He "did rise" from the grave? No, early the first day of the week,
at the time He appeared to Mary Magdalene, He was risen. Of course He was!
He had risen the late afternoon before, so naturally He was risen Sunday
morning. The text does not in any way refute the other texts we have given.
Another passage that might confuse is Luke 24:21: "... And beside all
this, today is the third day since these things were done." "These things"
included all the events pertaining to the resurrection -- the seizing of
Jesus, delivering Him to be tried, the actual crucifixion, and, finally,
the setting of the seal and the watch over the tomb the following day,
or Thursday. Study verses 18-20, telling of "these things" and also Matthew
27:62-66. "These things" were not completed until the watch was set, Thursday.
And the text says Sunday was the third day since these things were done.
Sunday truly was the third day since Thursday. But it was not the third
day since Friday, so this text could not prove a Friday crucifixion.
There is yet one final clinching proof of this truth. A vital text proving
that there were two Sabbaths in that week has been obscured by almost every
translation into English. Only Ferrar Fenton's version has this point correct.
Turn to Matthew 28:1. In the common versions it says, "In the end of
the Sabbath," or more correctly, "after the Sabbath." Notice that both
of these renderings use the singular -- Sabbath. But in the original Greek
the word is in the plural. Fenton renders it correctly by saying, "After
the SABBATHS," although the remaining part of the verse he has not translated
quite correctly. In a footnote to this text, he says, "The Greek original
is in the plural, 'Sabbaths.'"
According to Mark 16:1, Mary Magdalene and her companions did not buy
their spices to anoint the body of Jesus until after the Sabbath was past.
They could not prepare them until after this -- yet after preparing the
spices they rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment! (Luke
Study these two texts carefully. There is only one possible explanation:
After the annual high-day Sabbath, the feast day of the days of Unleavened
Bread -- which was Thursday -- these women purchased and prepared their
spices on Friday, and then they rested on the weekly Sabbath, Saturday,
according to the commandment (Ex. 20:8-11).
A comparison of these two texts proves there were TWO Sabbaths that
week, with a day in between. Otherwise, these texts contradict themselves.
For proof of the pagan origin of such long-cherished days as Easter
and Christmas, request our free booklets on those two subjects. The shocking
truth is that nowhere can you find sanctions for those two holidays in
the Bible. It is time we discovered the source of our religious beliefs
and found out whether we ought to observe them.