The Lord's Resurrection and The Lord's Day
There is a group of religious teachers in the land today who are claiming that Christ was resurrected on the sabbath day after spending exactly 72 hours in the tomb. Although it would seem to us that this doctrine would find few believers, such is not the case. By means of a nation wide radio program this false doctrine, along with many others, is gaining ground. Let us study together and see if there be any truth in it.
First, let us determine how long Christ was in the grave. It is argued that since Christ said in Mat. 12:40 that he would be in the heart of the earth "three davs and three nights," he must have remained in the grave exactly 72 hours or the sign of Jonah was not fulfilled. We see, however, that there are three expressions used interchangeably in reference to Christ's resurrection, They are: "three days and three nights," Mat. 12:40, "after three days" Mark 8:31; and "the third day," Mat. 16:21. If Christ was resurrected after exactly 72 hours in the grave, how could he arise on the third day? After 72 hours had passed, he would come forth on the fourth day. Yet Mat. 16:21 says he would rise "the third day."
The reason we have these different expressions is because according to Jewish usage any part of a day was counted a whole day. Any part of three days could be called "three days and three nights" or either of the synonymous terms, "after three days" and "the third day." An example of such usage is Esther 4:15, "Fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day." This involves three days and three nights. Yet Esther 5:1 reads, "Now it came to pass on the third day . . ." So the three days and three nights simply reached to the third day. That this is true of the Lord's resurrection as shown in Mat. 27:63, 64. In verse 63 Christ is quoted as saving, "After three days I rise again." In the next verse the chief priests ask that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day. Had the phrase "after three days" meant exactly 72 hours or three full days, they would have said "until the fourth day."
If Christ had intended for us to believe that he would remain in the tomb 72 hours, he would have said that he would come forth on "the fourth day." To prove this we have the example of Acts 10. Exactly 72 hours passed between the time the angel appeared to Cornelius and the time Peter came to preach Christ. Cornelius tells us that the day Peter arrived was "the fourth day" since the angel appeared. Acts 10:30. From this it should be evident that Christ was not in the grave exactly 72 hours, yet was resurrected after "three days and three nights," and the sign of Jonah was fulfilled. Thus Christ has been declared the Son of God. Rom. 1:4.
Let us now consider whether or not Christ arose on the sabbath. Christ stated that he would "be killed and be raised again the third day." He would be raised "the third day" from the time he was killed. Turning to Luke 24:1 we see that certain ones came to the tomb "upon the first day of the week." Then verse 13 says, "that same day" two of them went to Emmaus. That was still the first day of the week. While these two disciples were on their way Christ appeared to them. They did not recognize Him and began discussing the death of Jesus, verses 14-20. Then they said, "But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, TODAY IS THE THIRD DAY since these things were done." Verse 21. Thus "the first day of the week" that the women went to the tomb was the third day after the Lord's death. Christ must then have been resurrected on the first day of the week which was "the third day." If Christ had been resurrected on the sabbath, he would have come forth on the second day and not the third as he promised.
When did Christ arise" Mark 16:9 reads, "Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene." To avoid the weight of this passage, it is said that the comma should be placed between risen and early thus making "early the first dav of the week" tell when he appeared to Mary rather than when he arose. Even if this were done, it would not change the truth of Luke 24.
Understanding that Christ was resurrected on the first day of the week, we can understand the expression "the Lord's day" as used in Rev. 4:10. The word "Lord's" in Rev.1:10 is used only two times in the New Testament. It is used to point out something that belongs to Jesus. Consequently, "the Lord's day" points out a day that has a special reference to Jesus Christ just as the expression "Lord's supper" in I Cor. 11:20 refers to a supper that belongs to Christ. What day would then be the "Lord's day?" Certainly the day on which he arose from the grave, the first day of the week.
Truth Magazine IV:7; p. 11-12