Bible Studies in Book of Jonah
Jonah Chapter 1:17 Jonah, Jesus & the three days
by I Gordon
Jonah 1:17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and
Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.
When we left our friend Jonah last time, he was treading water. Well,
for a while anyway. That lasted until the time that a God-appointed
great fish came and swallowed him whole. We read in our text above that
Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.
Three days and three nights... That, I'm sure you will agree, is an
interesting period of time. It is this number 'three' that I want to
explore in this study today. It will be a different type of study but
one that is profitable, I hope. It is one that will span the Bible and
hopefully show more of God's amazing book. Let's start with how this
passage in Jonah relates to Jesus.
Jesus and the sign of Jonah
Matthew 12:38-41 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law
said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."
(39) He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a
miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the
prophet Jonah. (40) For as Jonah was three days and three nights in
the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and
three nights in the heart of the earth. (41) The men of Nineveh
will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it;
for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater
than Jonah is here.
The Jews always wanted to see a sign from Jesus to prove that He was
the Messiah. Jesus of course had performed countless miracles up until
this point that clearly proved the claims He was making about Himself.
But for the hard-hearted Pharisees and Jewish leaders it was never
enough. Things came to a head in Mathew 12. Having 'blasphemed the Holy
Spirit' Jesus clearly tells them that the only sign He will give them
from now on is the 'sign of the prophet Jonah'. This sign, Jesus tells
them, involves the Son of Man being in the heart of the earth for three
days and three nights just as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish
for three days and three nights. That is the only sign He will give to
this wicked generation. So let me ask you... what is the sign of Jonah?
What actually does this sign involve? The sign of Jonah is one of death
and resurrection. Specifically it involves going down into the place of
death and finding new life on the third day. Jonah went down into the
belly of the great fish and was there for three days and nights before
being delivered and coming forth from this place of certain death (in
normal circumstances!) In the same manner, the only sign Jesus would
give is that of His resurrection. He would go down into the place of
death and remain there for three days and three nights
before coming forth in resurrection life!
So what scripture spoke of the three days?
Now Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15:4 concerning Jesus:
1 Corinthians 15:4 '...that he was buried, that he was raised on the
third day according to the Scriptures...'
So here is a question for you. What scriptures did Paul or those in
Corinth have at this time? That's right, the Old Testament scriptures.
The New Testament wasn't formed yet. So the second question is 'what
Old Testament scriptures spoke about Jesus being raised on the third
day?' There must be some for Paul says that Jesus was raised on the
third day according to the scriptures. So what scriptures are they? Can
you think of any Messianic prophecies that spoke of the resurrection
occurring on the third day? Believe me... it is an interesting question
to explore! And that is what we shall do. In doing so we should bear in
mind that the Jewish mind interpreted the scriptures somewhat
differently that what most do today. The Jewish mind looked for
repeated patterns of events throughout scripture (a method of
interpretation called 'Midrash'). Let's apply this concerning the
resurrection on the third day (the sign of Jonah) and see what patterns
the Old Testament scriptures held.
The number three and its connection to resurrection
Firstly, let's look at this number three and see if it is related to
resurrection and new life. The first ever mention of 'three' or 'third'
goes right back to Genesis 1:13. It was on this third day of creation
that land emerged from the waters that covered it and life first
appeared on the earth in the form of trees, plants, seeds etc. So it
was the start of new life on planet earth on the third day.
What about an actual resurrection?Can you think of the first mention of
a resurrection in the Old Testament? There are actually three resurrections in the Old Testament (1 Kings
17:21-22, 2 Kings 4:32-36, 2 Kings 13:21). The first mention of a
resurrection involved the prophet Elijah where we see the number three
strangely related to resurrection. We read:
1 Kings 17:20-22 Then he cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God,
have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by
causing her son to die?" (21)
Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times
and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return
to him!" (22)
The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to
him, and he lived.
Just as there were three resurrections in the Old Testament, you also
find that there were three resurrections in the
ministry of Jesus. They were the son of the widow at Nain (Luke 7:15),
Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:49-45) and of course Lazarus (John 11:43-44).
In the book of Acts, there are also three accounts of
resurrection. In Acts 9:40 Peter raised Tabitha; Paul himself 'might'
have been raised
(Acts 14:19-20) and Paul's resurrection of Eutychus (after he fell
asleep listening to Paul preach on and on and on! and fell, strangely,
from the third floor) in Acts 20:9-12.
What about the 'third day' specifically? Is it significant?
The 'third day' is highly significant. There are a number of key
stories that involve this phrase and teach us something more concerning
new life and resurrection. Sometimes they are pointing to the
resurrection of Jesus on the third day. Sometimes they are pointing to
the resurrection and new life at the end of the age that occurs in the
third day (where one day is like one thousand years) since Jesus'
resurrection. The first story involves the father of the Jewish faith...
Genesis 22:1-4 Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him,
"Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. (2) Then God said, "Take your
son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of
Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the
mountains I will tell you about." (4) On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the
place in the distance.
God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son as a test. Clearly this
whole event is a type of what God the Father would have to do in giving
Jesus over, His only begotten Son, to be a sacrifice for our sin. The
interesting point to this story is that having come to the place
designated (Mount Moriah - the same region as Jesus would be later
crucified) and with Isaac as good as dead in Abraham's eyes, it was
specifically on the third day that Isaac was allowed to go free.
Scripture reveals that'
Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively
speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.' (Heb.11:19)
And this happened on the third day!
Crossing the Jordan
Joshua 1:10-11 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people,
saying, (11) "Pass through the midst of the camp and command the
people, saying, 'Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan
, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving
you, to possess it.'"
When the children of Israel came to the Promised Land they had to first
pause and prepare. Crossing the Jordan would be the dividing line
between leaving their old life in the wilderness behind and entering
into the new life in the Promised Land. It was a monumental time in the
life of this nation. And it would happen in three days! This is no
coincidence. The Jordan River speaks of death and resurrection. Death
to what they were as they go down into the river, and resurrection to
new life as they come out. It again is another type in countless
patterns that God has put in His word that point to the resurrection of
His Son still to come!
Esther comes before the King!
Esther 5:1-2 Now it
came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes
and stood in the inner court of the king's palace in front of the
king's rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the
throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace. (2) When the king
saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in
his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter which
was in his hand. So Esther came near and touched the top of the
Hopefully you remember the story of Esther. A decree had been passed
which called for the Jews to be killed. Esther, who was Jewish herself,
had risen to be Queen and was called upon by Mordecai to intercede on
behalf of the Jewish people before the Medo-Persian king. To come
before the king uncalled could mean death as Esther herself had earlier
declared saying 'If I perish, I perish'. So she asked the Jews to fast
for three days and on the third day she put on her royal robes and came
before the king! The law called for her death with such an act but the
grace and mercy of the king could annul that. And so it was that she
found grace on the third day! Here is another picture in scripture that
teaches of death and resurrection on the third day. This example points
to the grace which the bride of Christ will experience, following the
resurrection on the famous third day where the law was annulled and
favor with the king was obtained.
An extension of life for a king
2 Kings 20:1-6
In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet
the son of Amos came to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD,
'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'" (2)
Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying,
(3) 'Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before
You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in
Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (4) Before Isaiah had gone
out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
(5) "Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says
the LORD, the God of your father David, "I have heard your prayer,
I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you.
On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. (6)
"I will add fifteen years to your life
, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of
Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My
servant David's sake."'"
The prophet Isaiah was sent to King Hezekiah to tell him to put his
house in order for he is about to die. Hezekiah cries out to the Lord
for His mercy, reminding Him how he has served Him with a whole heart
and in response the Lord sends Isaiah back to Hezekiah to tell him some
good news! The Lord will heal Hezekiah and add 15 years to his life.
When will this happen? On the third day! On the third day Hezekiah has
to go to the house of the Lord to receive his healing and the extension
on his life. In like manner most thought that Jesus' life was over as
well when He was in the tomb. It is fair to say that not many come back
from the dead! But on the third day He rose and His life extended
Third day scriptures concerning the end time resurrection / new
life still to come
As mentioned earlier, some of the references to events 'on the third
day' relate to the end of the age. I believe that God is working to a
timetable that sees the third day (third millennium) since the
resurrection of Christ as the day of rest when Jesus reigns in peace
and justice from Jerusalem in His Messianic Kingdom.
Let's look at some examples of this...
God came down on the third day
Exodus 19:10-11 And the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and
consecrate them today and tomorrow.
Have them wash their clothes (11) and be ready by the third
day, because on that day the LORD will come down
on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
In the days of Moses, the people had to wash their clothes and be ready
for God to come down from Heaven onto Mount Sinai on the third day. So
it will be with the return of Jesus,we need to be found ready, wearing
the garments of salvation that He provides, this is critical!
Matthew 22:11-13 But when the king came in to see the guests, he
noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. (12)
'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding
clothes?' The man was speechless. (13) Then the king told the
attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the
darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Those invited unto the wedding supper/feast
When Jesus returns, His reign will start by judging and separating the
people from the nations (not his bride!) into two groups - the sheep
and the goats (according to Mathew 25:31-46). The 'sheep' will be
allowed to go into His kingdom and participate in the wedding feast at
the beginning of Jesus' Messianic reign. One example of this is given
in the book of Genesis during the life of Joseph.
Genesis 40:16-22 When the chief baker saw that he had interpreted
favorably, he said to Joseph, "I also saw in my dream, and behold,
there were three baskets of white bread on my head; (17) and in the
top basket there were some of all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh,
and the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head." (18)
Then Joseph answered and said, "
This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days
; (19) within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head from
you and will hang you on a tree, and the birds will eat your flesh
off you." (20) Thus it came about on the third day
, which was Pharaoh's birthday; that he made a feast for all his servants; and he
lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief
baker among his servants. (21)
He restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the
cup into Pharaoh's hand; (22) but he hanged the chief baker,
just as Joseph had interpreted to them.
This is an interesting, and sobering, story. The king, Pharaoh, was
having a feast for his servants (just as Jesus' kingdom will start with
the wedding feast), and so Pharaoh judges his two servants that were
placed in prison. One, the chief cupbearer, is released from prison and
is allowed to enter into the feast. The other, the chief baker, is
condemned to die. All this happens, according to Joseph, on the third
day! So it will be when Jesus returns on the third day (third
millennium I believe). There will be a judgment and some will be raised
and restored into true life in His kingdom while others will be
It is on the third day that Israel will live in His presence!
Hosea 5:15-6:3 Then I will go back to my place until they admit
their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will
earnestly seek me." (6:1) Come let us return to the LORD. He has
torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he
will bind up our wounds. (2) After two days he will revive us; on
the third day he will restore us that we may live in his presence.
(3) Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge
him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us
like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth."
Here is avery interesting passage. God is speaking at the start of
it.He says that He will return to His place UNTIL they (Israel)
acknowledge their guilt... and in their misery they will earnestly seek
me! This was the word of the Lord Jesus to the nation of Israel (Mathew
23:36-39). In Hosea chapter 6 we have the nation of Israel responding.
They say 'come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us but He will
heal us.' They go on to say that they will be revived AFTER two days
and that on the THIRD day He will restore us and we will live in His
presence! That is remarkable because this is what we are heading into
right now. There is an unrelenting pressure coming upon the nation of
Israel... the time of Jacob's trouble is close. But it will be a time
that is used of God to get that nation to seek and call out for their
Messiah Jesus once again. And He will come! He will return! He will
heal and revive them and in the third day (the Messianic Kingdom) they
will live in His presence. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear!
On the third day there will be a wedding!
John 2:1-10 On the third day a wedding took place
at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, (2) and Jesus and his
disciples had also been invited to the wedding. (3) When the wine
was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine.'... (7)
Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they
filled them to the brim. (8) Then he told them, "Now draw some out
and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, (9) and the
master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into
wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the
servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the
bridegroom aside (10) and said, "Everyone brings out the choice
wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too
much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
Everyone likes a good wedding! But this wedding had something very
memorable. At this wedding Jesus performed His first miracle of
changing the water into wine. I'm sure this was a day that was talked
about for some time! Well, we are still talking about it today! But
there is more than just a literal wedding going on here. It is also a
picture, a type, of what is to come. Wine in the Bible often speaks of
joy and this wedding is a reminder of the joy that will occur when the
true ultimate wedding takes place - the wedding of Jesus and His bride,
Revelation 19:7-9 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory--- For
the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
(8) Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen
stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (9) Then the angel said
to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper
of the Lamb!' And he added, "These are the true words of God."
The wedding of the Lamb, like this wedding at Cana, will also occur 'on
the third day'. And, as is written above, 'blessed are those who are
invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'On that day, like at the
wedding at Cana, it will be said that He has saved His best for last!
Conclusion - It is on the third day that Jesus would reach His goal
Luke 13:31-32 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to
him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill
you." (32) He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons
and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'
Finally, I'll draw to your attention this scripture from Luke 13.
According to the Pharisees Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus' response
was that He will carry on His healing ministry for the next two days
and then on the third day He would reach His goal. This probably had a
literal meaning at that time but it is also interesting in connection
to what we have seen about the third day scriptures in general. With
these in mind we see that Jesus would carry on healing humanity before
finally reaching His goal on the third day which is His return and the
establishment of His Messianic Kingdom. That is the 'third day' goal
and it shall all come to pass.
So I hope you have seen something new in these 'third day' passages.
These passages span the entire length of the Bible and they are not a
coincidence. They are put there by the hand of God. Look up 'four' days
or 'five' days etc. and you will not find the
same pattern. But the 'third day' passages consistently speak, through
many stories, of the resurrection and return of Jesus Christ. Whether
it is from the life of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Hezekiah, Esther
or our good friend Jonah... it matters not. It is a consistent message
that all points to the ultimate being - the Lord Jesus!