In a couple of days, the Christian world will celebrate the Passover or Easter weekend.  I am fully aware of the ongoing fights about whether it is a celebration of the Passover or Easter or anything else and about the specific regulations of various church groups in this regard.  But the purpose of this discussion is not about these disputes, but on another matter.

The point I want to raise is one that also has been ongoing for centuries and the skeptics, atheists and other faiths utilize this fact to create disputes and doubts in the hearts of many Christians about the truth of the Word of God and the doctrines that the Church is proclaiming.  And it is all about the day when Jesus Christ was crucified and whether He was in the grave for 3 days and 3 nights, or not.

Does it really matter? Yes, because we cannot proclaim truth as truth if it has flaws in it or if it is not practical. The Church in general is proclaiming that Christ was crucified on the Friday, because the Bible teaches us that He had to be removed from the cross and buried before sunset, as the following day (starting at 18:00) would be a Sabbath.  This general understanding of the Sabbath being on the 7th day (starting from 18:00 on the Friday until 18:00 on the Saturday) further enhanced this believe that Christ was crucified on the Friday.  This fact was accepted by millions of people without any proof and even in my younger days, we accepted it without questioning it.  It was a case of faith without proof.  But God don’t expect me and you to accept things blindly, especially not when it is doctrines from man and when it don’t match up with His Word.  All doctrines should be tested against the Word of God and at least two to three other scriptures should attest to the truth being proclaimed.

From this perspective, we find then a couple of unanswered questions regarding the length of time that Christ had spend in the grave.  Did He lie?  Under no circumstances is He capable of lying! Scripture says on more than one occasion that He had spent 3 days and 3 nights in the grave – in the same manner as what Jonah was in the belly of the fish.  And furthermore, He had risen on the first day of the week, which is now the Sunday.  Let’s examine some scriptures to prove this point:

  • For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of  Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Mat 12:40
  • In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. Mat 28:1

When we examine the scriptures from all Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) it seems that the story sequence differs somewhat between the different writers.  But the main story line (narrative) about the burial and resurrection of
Jesus is that:

  • He rose on the third day – after being buried for 3 days and 3 nights;
  • Mary was the first one to see Him and who came to the knowledge that He has risen;
  • She was the first one who spoke to Jesus after His resurrection;
  • Whether the other woman with Mary also saw what she saw and heard, is not important as the Bible only reflects/conveys the message what she experienced on this first day.

Calculating 3 days and 3 nights pose a problem to the statement from Christ and the other scriptures, that He could then not have risen on the first day – if He was to be crucified on the Friday.  The Bible is a factual Book and most facts from the Bible has been collaborated by science through the years.  Looking then at facts, if Christ was crucified on the Friday, then the earliest possible day He could rose from the grave was on Monday after 18:00 – which is in all practical terms Tuesday, the 3rd day of the week. Seeing that this reasoning is not based upon scripture, we will have to revert back and calculate backwards in order to find another answer. By doing this we find then:

  • Remember scripture reveals that Mary went to the tomb early in the morning of the first day and found that Christ has already risen. The Word of God does not say that He has risen on this time of the day.  It could have been any time      after 18:00 on the Saturday afternoon, as this is when the first day of the week already starts.  The Bible only collaborates the time (early in the morning before sunrise) when Mary went to the grave.
  • Calculating 3 days and 3 nights backwards  (72 hours),  (according to the Jewish principle of day time – 18:00 to 18:00 the following day), we then come to Wednesday as the most probable day on which Jesus was crucified.

But then again, where does the scripture then feature which clearly indicate that He had to be buried before the Sabbath?

  • And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,       Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. (Mar 15:42 -43)

From the account of these two verses, it is quite clear that Christ was crucified on a specific day and laid into the tomb before the onset of the Sabbath at 18:00 for the following day.  The “preparation” refers to the fact that the people had to prepare for food, water, etc. for the next day as the law did not allow them to prepare any food on a Sabbath.  In order to completely understand the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we must also understand the Gospel.   The Apostle Paul declares the main message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, by which:

  • We are saved through faith; and
  • “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 scriptures. (1Co 15:1-4)

Let’s refer back to the time of Israel in Egypt – their deliverance from bondage – and the initial implementation of the 7 Feasts of Israel.  We need to do this in order to fully comprehend the plan of deliverance that God has brought for His people on their way to the promised land.  But their deliverance from Egypt was only a foreshadow of the final deliverance and salvation plan of God for all mankind through Christ.

There is a deep revelation in connection with the three feasts that is celebrated at the same time and it starts with the feast of Passover (14th day) and continues over the next 7 days and includes 2 other feasts, such as the Feast of Unleavened Bread and First fruits (Barley harvest).  All these feasts refer to and is a type of the work and ministry of Jesus Christ.

With Passover,  they would kill a lamb (which originated in Egypt with the last plague and the blood had to be smeared on the door posts), and eat the Unleavened Bread also as a reminder of the same time when they did not have the time to leaven the bread because of the haste to leave Egypt.  But all three feasts refer to Jesus Christ as follows:





First   Month,

14th   Day

Israel’s   Deliverance

out   of Egyptian


Death   of the true Lamb of God on the Cross

Justification   by faith in the

 Blood. Repentance, regeneration, redemption   adoption


Unleavened Bread

First   Month,

15th-21nd   Day

The   going out of Egypt

The   burial of Christ

Sanctification   and Separation from evil. Water Baptism


First fruits

First   Month,

18th   Day

Crossing   the Red Sea

The   Resurrection of  Christ

Walking   in resurrection and newness of life

Jesus Christ was crucified exactly on the Feast of Passover to completely fulfill the feast and the true meaning behind it all – to finally bring salvation and redemption through His blood and sacrifice.  He is also the Unleavened Bread being broken and eaten by His people, because He is the Bread of Life (Joh 6:48) and also the First Fruit from the resurrection from death.

The 1st century people in Judea measured their days from sunset to sunset.  After sunset on the 13th day (which in actual fact is the start (evening to day) of the 14th day, Jesus ate the Passover with his disciples and introduced the New Testament Passover (the Lord’s Supper).  He was in actual fact then taken into custody the same night and then whipped and crucified on Wednesday the 14th and died before 15:00 the same day and buried before sunset.

The next day (Thursday) of the feast (first day of Unleavened Bread) was a special “high day” and also a Sabbath.  (See Lev 23:6-7).  The first day of the feast of unleavened Bread was also seen from the Law as a holy day and therefore also a High Sabbath.  Therefore, in the week of Jesus’s crucifixion there were two Sabbath’s (the annual Sabbath (Wednesday/Thursday) of the Feast and the weekly one on Friday/Saturday).   Then Jesus also rose on the third day {which is now the 18th day of the feast when they celebrated the Feast of First fruits (Barley harvest)} and therefore Christ completely fulfilled all three feasts.

13th day of month 14th day 15Th day 16Th day 17Th day 18th day






High Sabbath Normal Sabbath 1st day of week
Ate   Passover with disciples evening after 18:00


Feast of Unleavened Bread

First Fruits

Was   arrested and imprisoned Whipped and   crucified

Buried   before sundown

In the   grave In the   grave In the   grave

Rose again after 3 days and 3 nights (72 hours) – just after sunset

Met with:

Mary in   the morning

The 11 in   evening

The Word of God gives true evidence in this regard from the book of John:

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. (Joh 19:30-31)

So, the real answer about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was all along written in the Word of God but unfortunately it was the Roman Catholic Church who changed the celebration dates of it all – for whatever reason I don’t know.  He was never crucified on a Friday, but on the Wednesday and buried before sunset and rose again after sunset on Saturday evening – which makes it three days and three nights (72 hours).   The women who went to the tomb only arrived on the morning of the first day, but by then Jesus had already risen to fulfill His word.  They did not see the resurrection – they only found an empty tomb.

 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. (Mar 16:6 – ESV)

Keeping the Sabbath:

This is also another important point to consider here.  Keeping/celebrating the Sabbath is an ongoing point of debate which recently once again gained a lot of momentum as specific groups are pushing this theology. First of all, you do not “celebrate” the Sabbath, you have to “keep it” according to the Jewish Law and all of its stipulations. Through various debates and discussions I have seen how Christians try to blend the aspects of the Law with the principles of Grace through the Sabbath, which of course is not correct according to scripture.  The Sabbath was never given to the heathen nations who accepted Christ – they received righteousness through faith in Christ.

According to the 7th day Adventists, the day of worship was changed by a Roman king from the Sabbath to the Sunday, being the 1st day of the week.  They would even go as far as to proclaim that it is due to the worshipping of the Sun – referring to Sunday.  What does the Word teaches us?

Yes, man should only work 6 days and rest upon the 7th and also to use this day to glorify God for all of His provision and protection.  It is also a time to spend with family and with the Word of God. I don’t want to go much deeper in the way it should be spend, but more so on the specific day.

When we look once again at the introduction of the Feasts of Israel in the book of Leviticus, we see the following:

  • The declaration of the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits;
  • On the 18th day the Feast of First Fruits should be celebrated; (Lev 23:11-14)
  • Then from verse 15:
    • And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
    • Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.
    • This refer to the Feast of Pentecost.  The time when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the people in the upper room. The time when the Church of Christ was born in the fire of the Holy Spirit. The time when Peter spoke one message and 3000 people came to repentance and was baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ.  (See Acts chapter 1 and 2).   

Counting then 7 full weeks makes it 49 days and the Feast of Pentecost to be held on the next day – the 50th day.  Jesus Christ ascended to heaven on the 40th day after His resurrection and 10 days later, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples in the upper room.  Christ has fulfilled this Feast as well by fulfilling His promise of not leaving them or forsaking them, but by coming back again through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in His children.  But the good part to remove any doubt about which day to use as the “sabbath” or the day of worship for the Church dispensation, please consider the following:

  • Christ rose on the 1st day of the week – which is also an important day for us who believes in His resurrection;
  • The 50th day – on which the Holy Spirit was poured out – the very day on which the Church was born in the Fire of the Holy Spirit, is also the 1st day of the week. In our terminology, a Sunday!
  • Lev 23:21 declares that this day (according to the Law) should also be a “holy convocation unto you” – which means a Sabbath.
  • Which basically means and confirms that when you have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, you have already received/came into His rest (sabbath).  This 1st day of the week (or 8th day), rather refer to the last Feast still to be fulfilled, and that is the Feast of Tabernacles. This Feast is the only Feast that has 8 days – and the 1st day on which the Church has been born and on which we CELEBRATE Christ and His awesome grace towards us, is in actual fact the fulfillment of the 8th day which is still to come. The number 8 stands for “new beginnings”.
  • We celebrate Christ in the power of His resurrection on the 8th day.  A day of new beginnings.

Because we have received Grace and been delivered from the bondage of the Law, we serve Jesus in the Spirit and therefore we should do it any day and every day.  It is not a Sunday-thing – it is an everyday-thing!

Past Eric Heath (D.Th) is the President of Galilee International Ministries (SA) in Pretoria and is available to lecture or minister on specific subjects as required. He can be contacted through this website. 

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