Why did Christ stay three days in the tomb?


Three Days in the Tomb

The question of why Jesus Christ remained in the tomb for three days holds significant theological and symbolic importance in Christian faith. Numerous reasons can be drawn from scripture, tradition, and theological reflection to understand the significance of this period. Below, we examine some of the key reasons why Christ stayed 3 days in the tomb, supported by references from the Bible.

1. Fulfillment of Prophecy

Jesusdeath and resurrection were foretold in the Old Testament scriptures. One of the most prominent prophecies regarding this time frame is found in:

Reference:

  • Matthew 12:40: “For 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.”

This prophecy compares Jesus’ time in the tomb to Jonah’s time in the belly of the fish. Just as Jonah’s experience prefigured his eventual release, Jesus’ 3 days in the tomb foreshadowed His resurrection.

2. Completing the Sign of Jonah

In addition to fulfilling prophecy, Jesus’ stay in the tomb for three days served as a sign to those who would witness His resurrection. It was a demonstration of His authority and power over death.

Reference:

  • John 2:19-22: Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ … But He was speaking of the temple of His body.”

3. Confirming His Death

The duration of Jesus’ stay in the tomb confirmed His death, which was essential for the validity of His resurrection. His body remained in there for a significant period, removing any doubt about the reality of His crucifixion.

Reference:

  • John 19:33-34: “But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.”

4. Accomplishing Redemption

During His time in the tomb, Jesus accomplished the work of redemption for humanity. His death served as the atoning sacrifice for sin, and His resurrection secured victory over sin and death.

Reference:

  • Hebrews 9:12: “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

5. Defeating Death

By staying 3 days, Jesus entered into the realm of death and emerged victorious. His resurrection demonstrated His power over death and inaugurated a new era of eternal life for believers.

Reference:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:54-55: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?'”

6. Why Not Shorter than Three Days?

Some may ask why did the Lord stay 3 days – why that long? The answer is: if it was shorter, people could claim that “Jesus just fainted.” This is called the Swoon theory which proposes that Jesus survived the crucifixion, despite the severe trauma inflicted upon him. However, the Roman soldiers, experienced executioners, certified Jesus’ death before allowing his body to be taken down from the cross.

Reference:

  • John 19:33-34: “But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” By being in the grave for 3 days, God showed the world that Jesus was truly dead.

7. Why Not Longer than Three Days?

The body begins to decay as soon as you die, but it takes several days before the decay becomes severe. When Lazarus died and Jesus asked for the tomb to be opened, Lazarus’ sister objected, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39). One of the prophecies about Jesus was that God would not allow Him to see corruption.

Reference:

  • For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). “Sheol” is the Hebrew word for the grave. Thus, there was a prophecy to be fulfilled that Jesus would not be buried so long that His body would decay. Three days is more than enough time to prove Jesus was truly dead, but just short of the time for severe decay.

Conclusion

The significance of Jesus’ three days in the tomb encompasses a range of theological themes, including fulfillment of prophecy, confirmation of His death, accomplishment of redemption and defeat of death. These reasons, supported by biblical references, underscore the central importance of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the Christian faith, offering hope and salvation to all who believe.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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