Was Jesus resurrected on a Sunday? What does the Bible teach? (For some information about the crucifixion in Spanish, please click on ¿Murió Jesús un día miércoles o un viernes?)
Here is one explanation, primarily using New Testament texts, about the day of the crucifixion and the day of the resurrection, from the 1952, the old Radio Church of God booklet titled The RESURRECTION was NOT on Sunday by the late Herbert W. Armstrong explaining this:
It is commonly supposed, today, Jesus was crucified on FRIDAY, and that the resurrection occurred about sunrise on Easter Sunday morning.
It would seem that no one, until recently, ever thought to question or to PROVE this “Good-Friday-Easter” tradition. Yet the Bible tells us to PROVE 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…
The doubting Pharisees were asking Jesus for a SIGN– a 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.” (Matt. 12:38-40). Now consider, please, the tremendous import — the overwhelming significance — of Jesus’ statements!
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 sepulchre 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 imposter!
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 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 twelve-hour nights.
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 Ninevah 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. See how the BIBLE defines the time required to fulfill “THE THIRD DAY.”
In Genesis 1:4 God “divided the LIGHT from the 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 1:4- 13).
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. We praise God that His plain truths are revealed UNTO BABES, and hidden from the wise and prudent!
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 the PROVE THE SAME THING.
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.”
Our 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 EVENING!
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 your Saviour! 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 is 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 2:18-22, “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 fail.
The TIME OF DAY of the Resurrection
Now notice carefully this fact: In order to be three days and three nights — 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, was at sunrise, then in order 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 was at sunset, the resurrection was at sunset, three days later.
Jesus cried on the cross soon after “the ninth hour” or three o’clock in the afternoon. (Matt. 27:46-50; Mark 15:34-37; Luke 23:44-46).
The crucifixion day was called “the preparation,” or day before “the Sabbath.” (Matt. 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14). This day ended at sunset, according to Bible reckoning (Lev. 23:32).
Yet Jesus was buried before this same day ended — before sunset. (Matt. 27:57; Luke 23:52-54). 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 prove.
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 only sign!
So a time-honored tradition must be shattered! Let us praise God for His TRUTH which has been preserved through the dark ages, so that the true light may now shine forth, if our hearts and minds are still willing to receive it! Praise His name! Do you LOVE the TRUTH as it is revealed, or despise it and love the traditions you have heard? “Whosoever despiseth the Word shall be destroyed!” Let us say with David, “How precious also are THY thoughts unto me, O God!”
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 24:3; John 20:2; Matt. 28:5-6.
Jesus was ALREADY RISEN at sunrise Sunday morning! Of course He was. He rose from the grave IN THE LATE AFTERNOON, near SUNSET!
And since we know the resurrection was just shortly prior to that Sunday morning, and that it occurred in the late afternoon of the day, we now may 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!
Three days prior to Saturday afternoon is Wednesday afternoon. Hence, since Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday and resurrected on a Saturday, there is no biblical reason for “Easter” to be on a Sunday. The resurrection was not on Sunday.
But even some Protestant scholars have long realized that there is biblical support that Jesus’ resurrection may have been on Saturday. Notice what one wrote in 1907:
…the Bible nowhere says or implies that Jesus was crucified and died on Friday. It is said that Jesus was crucified on “the day before the Sabbath“…Now, the Bible does not leave us to speculate which Sabbath is meant in this instance; for John tells us, in so many words, in John 19:14, that the day on which Jesus was tried and crucified was “the preparation of the Passover” (emphasis added). In other words, it was not the day before the weekly Sabbath (that is, Friday), but it was the day before the Passover Sabbath, which came that year on Thursday–that is to say, the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified was Wednesday. John makes this as clear as day…
To sum it all up, Jesus died just about sunset on Wednesday. Seventy two hours later, exactly three days and three nights, at…Saturday at sunset, He arose again from the grave. (Torrey R.A. Difficulties in the Bible. Originally published 1907; Whitaker House; Updated edition, October 2003, pp. 168-169, 173).
Furthermore, see what the late Jerry Falwell, a Sunday-keeper, and others have admitted:
The Bible is actually silent on the precise moment of resurrection. Jesus’ followers came to His tomb before dawn on the first day of the week (Sunday), but they did not witness Him coming back to life. They merely found an empty tomb.
Even the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, a Sunday-keeper and chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., agreed with that timetable, telling WND in 2001, “I personally believe He was crucified on Wednesday evening … and rose after 6 p.m. Saturday evening.”
Most Christians today think Jesus died on a Friday and rose on Sunday. They point to Scriptures indicating a Sabbath day followed Jesus’ execution. But Sabbath-keepers claim it was not the weekly Sabbath of Saturday approaching. Rather, they say it was an annual Sabbath, a “high” holy day in the Hebrew calendar known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which supposedly occurred on a Thursday the week Jesus was killed. The Gospel of John mentions that Sabbath was the annual type.
“The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) … .” (John 19:31)
In other words, Sabbatarians say there was more than one day of rest that week. Their timeline has Jesus slain on Wednesday – the day before the “high day” annual Sabbath on Thursday. They believe Jesus was in the grave for a full three days and three nights, finally arising Saturday evening, the second Sabbath of the week.
The mention of “three days and three nights” is important for many, as Jesus used that phrase to prove His divine identity:
“For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so I, the Son of Man, will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:40, New Living Translation) (Kovac, Joe. ‘Deception’: Christians war over worship day. Posted: March 16, 2008 5:24 pm Eastern. WorldNetDaily).
Hence, some do know the truth. And it is not just some Protestants.
It is interesting to note that even into the 19th century, there was a ceremony in Rome that indicated a Saturday resurrection. Notice:
This ceremony is thus graphically described by the authoress of Rome in the 19th Century:”…the Pope himself, who walked beneath a crimson canopy, with his head uncovered, bearing the Host in a box; and this being, as you know, the real flesh and blood of Christ, was carried from the Sistine chapel through the intermediate hall to the Paulina chapel, where it was deposited in the sepulchre prepared to receive it beneath the altar…I never could learn why Christ was to be buried before He was dead, for, as the crucifixion did not take place till Good Friday, it seems odd to inter Him on Thursday. His body, however, is laid in the sepulchre, in all the churches of Rome, where this rite is practised, on Thursday forenoon, and it remains there till Saturday at mid-day, when, for some reason best known to themselves, He is supposed to rise from the grave amidst the firing of cannon, and blowing of trumpets, and jingling of bells…*”
* The above account referred to the ceremonies as witnessed by the authoress in 1817 and 1818. It would seem that some change has taken place since then, caused probably by the very attention called by her to the gross anomaly mentioned above; for Count Vlodaisky, formerly a Roman Catholic priest, who visited Rome in 1845, has informed me that in that year the resurrection took place, not at mid-day, but at nine o’clock on the evening of Saturday. This may have been intended to make the inconsistency between Roman practice and Scriptural fact appear somewhat less glaring. Still the fact remains, that the resurrection of Christ, as celebrated at Rome, takes place, …on the day of Saturn…(Hislop, Alexander. Two Babylons. Loizeaux, Neptune (NJ), Second American Edition, 1959–originally expanded in 1858).
Whether the above ceremony still exists, this writer does not know. But it is interesting that at least one Roman ceremony involving the pope acknowledged a Saturday resurrection that late. Perhaps, this ceremony was originally adopted by Rome partially because the early Romans knew that Jesus was actually resurrected on Saturday.
Irrespective of that celebration, it is clear that there is evidence outside the Bible that among those that professed Christ, there were some who understood that the crucifixion was on a Wednesday and the resurrection was on a Saturday.
Some articles of related interest may be include:
What Happened in the Crucifixion Week? How long are three days and three nights? Did Jesus die on “Good Friday”? Was the resurrection on Sunday? Do you really know? Who determined the date of Easter?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
Hebrew Calendar This John Ogywn writing explains why we in the Continuing Church of God use the calendar that we do and answers such questions as “Did Jesus Observe the Postponements?”
The Night to Be Observed What is the night to be much observed? When is it? Why do Jews keep Passover twice and emphasize the wrong date? Here is a link to a YouTube video titled The Night to Be Observed.
Melito’s Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well.
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? Do they have any use or meaning now? What is leaven? This article supplies some biblical answers.
Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter? If not, when did this happen? What do scholars and the Bible reveal?
Why Easter? Did early Christians observe Easter? What are the origins of Easter? What does Easter have to do with the goddess Ishtar. Where did the word Easter come from? Where do Easter eggs come from? What do rabbits have to do with Easter? Was Jesus resurrected on a Sunday? This is a video.