Bible Study Tools / Jesus Christ

The Only Sign of Authenticity

by Anthony Wasilkoff
Photo by David Selbert on Pexels

People in Christ's day and age repeatedly pressed him for a “sign.” They wanted some spectacular supernatural visual display that would prove He was who He claimed to be. Jesus offered His generation one proof and one proof only. That proof was the length of time He would spend in His burial tomb. “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” (Matthew 12:40).

In Matthew 16 we read how the people again pressed Christ for a sign. They didn’t give up easily. They wanted what they wanted and were not easily dissuaded. Jesus, however, was not to be intimidated, and replied, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 16:4).

There was only one proof offered with respect to the Messiahship of Jesus Christ. How could people really know for sure that Jesus really was the begotten Son of God? There was only one way to know for certain, and that was to observe how long he was to remain in his tomb before he was resurrected again.

Some explain that the “three days and three nights” are not to be taken literally. They say that the terminology is merely a figure of speech and that it is no different than saying it is raining cats and dogs outside. Is that correct?

In appendix 144 of the Companion Bible, John Bullinger perceptively writes, “The fact that ‘three days’ is used by Hebrew idiom for any part of three days and three nights is not disputed; because that was the common way of reckoning, just as it was when used of years…. But, when the number of ‘nights’ is stated as well as the number of ‘days’, then the expression ceases to be an idiom, and becomes a literal statement of fact.”

Jonah 1:17 states, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

This can mean one thing and one thing only. Jonah was inside this specially prepared fish for three consecutive 24-hour days. Jonah was incarcerated in an aquatic creature for 72 consecutive hours. Similarly, that can be the only meaning of the expression used in Matthew 12:40.

There is another argument that appears right about now. It goes something like this. “Does it really matter how long Christ spent in the tomb? Does the exact length of time in the tomb really matter? No. What really matters is that Jesus actually died, was buried and was raised again to save humanity from its sins. That’s what really matters. That’s what really counts. The length of time in the tomb is a moot point.” Is this argument correct? Does it hold water?

In I Corinthians 15:1-4 the Apostle Paul described the gospel message that he had been preaching. He explained how the genuine gospel must have an emphasis on Jesus Christ. He explained how that Jesus Christ died for our sins, not in any old way at all, but “according to the Scriptures.” He further emphasized how Christ “was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Jesus didn’t rise again on any old day and any old time. It had to be “the third day.” And it had to be according to the Scriptures. Which “Scriptures?” There are only one set of Scriptures that define this all-important point: Matthew 12:40 and Jonah 1:17.

The only one who predicted the exact length of time Jesus would spend in the tomb was Jesus himself. None of the prophets of old did. Not even Jonah, who was the model used for the three days and three nights duration. Certainly none of the apostles prophesied the length of their leader's internment.

Since Jesus was the only one who ever prophesied how long He would be in the tomb, and His statements must be true, anything more or less would make Jesus out to be a liar. If Jesus lied, intentionally or not, that would have been a sin, and we would have no Saviour.

However, we know that we do have a living Lord and Saviour at the right hand of the Father. He was resurrected after three days and three nights in the tomb. He gave his word, He kept his word, and so He shall forever more.

As we examine God’s Word with renewed focus at this time of year, we also examine ourselves in keeping with I Corinthians 11:29 which states, “For if he eats the bread and drinks from the cup unworthily, not thinking about the body of Christ and what it means, he is eating and drinking God’s judgement upon himself; for he is trifling with the death of Christ” (Living Bible).

© 1995- United Church of God-Canada

Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. All correspondence and questions should be sent to info@ucg.ca. Send inquiries regarding the operation of this Web site to webmaster@ucg.ca.

To Page Top
  • Vision & Mission Statements
  • Fundamental Beliefs
  • Donations
  • National Office
  • National Council
  • Local Congregations
  • Home Office
  • Privacy Policy
  • Literature
  • Bible Study Lessons
  • Booklets
  • Français
  • Beyond Today Magazine
  • United News Canada
  • Resources
  • Bible Study Tools
  • Daily Bible Reading Schedule
  • Change of Address
  • Festival Information
  •   >> Festival Calendar
  •   >> Festival Locations
  • Local Congregations
  • Bible Scripture Flash Cards
  • Online Bible
  • Updates
  • Congregations