Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. Luke says as much. Actually it was Jesus explaining it to His disciples this time as He appeared to them
“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,” Luke 24:45-46 NIV
The fact that Jesus remained in the tomb three days (not necessarily a full 72 hours) was not an arbitrary number. This distinct duration of time has direct application from Old Testament prophecy.
There is a generally agreed upon theology of resurrection in the Old Testament. “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” Job 19:25 NIV And, many others (Ps 49:15; 73:23–28; Isa 25:8; 26:19; Ezek 37:1–14; Hos 13:14; Dan 12:1–4.)
Psalm 16:10, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53:10–11 and Daniel 12:2–3 all reveal that the Messiah, in particular, would be raised from the dead.
“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Ps 16:10).
In Psalm 22 the movement is to a victors life after being scorned in deaths affliction.
“For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help…All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.” Psalm 22:24, 27-28 NIV
Isaiah 53 along with the Psalms, confirms that the Messiah would die. But the Davidic Covenant would fail if the Messiah stayed dead.
“ ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2 Samuel 7:11-13 NIV
Jesus resurrection becomes crucial to fulfilling God’s promises.
Now, why three days? That’s crucial too. In 1Corinthians 15:3 Paul says “Scriptures,” referring to multiples but quotes no specific text.
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NIV
So, which one’s? Jonah, acting as Israel’s corporate representative.
“Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17 NIV
“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.” Matthew 12:40 NIV
Just as the swallowing indicates divine judgment, the third day implies Jesus resurrection will be God’s kindness for his people as well.
Hosea here connects Gods people with His Son,
“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. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.” Hosea 6:1-2 NIV
Jonah and Hosea working together builds upon Psalm 16 and look forward to the resurrection of Israel through the resurrection of the Messiah on the third day.
The language of the third day may go back to the third day of creation in Genesis 1:9–13. The imagery of vegetation sprouting up from dry land may form the basis for resurrection on the third day.
Paul in explaining how resurrection works says, “But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.” 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 NIV
Paul may have had the third day of creation in mind when he wrote that Christ was raised “on the third day.”
God doesn’t do anything without cause or purpose. Three day’s means three days. And three days is meaningful.