Caller:  I was wondering about the three days and the three nights you find where like Jonah's in the belly of the whale, so shall the Lord be in the belly of the earth?
Pastor Doug:  Yes that's found in Matthew chapter 12.  It's a prophecy that Jesus makes talking about the sign of Jonah.  Were you wondering how was Jesus in the tomb three days and three nights?
Caller:  Yes I hear a lot Ministers, they use inclusive reckoning and stuff like that and I was wondering what your opinion on it was.
Pastor Doug:  Well I'm going to come at this from a different point of view and so bear with me.  This is a very important issue.  Matter of fact, I wrote a book on the subject.  I wrote an article actually, and it's called The Sign of Jonah.  If you call the Amazing Facts office or you call our resource number, tell them you'd like the article called The Sign of Jonah and it has much more than I can share in a brief answer here.
But, in essence, there's only one place in the Bible where Jesus addresses this.  And He says in Matthew chapter 12 verse 40, 'As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth' - and people immediately do some mental calculations.  And they say, 'Okay Jesus died Friday, that's why they call it Good Friday.  He spent Friday night in the tomb, Saturday night in the tomb, and He rose Sunday.  Well that's two nights and a part of three days.  No way in the world is it three nights.  How can the Bible accurate?'  And I've had people who have given up their faith in the Bible.  They try to move the date of the Crucifixion, all kinds of gymnastics trying to deal with this Scripture.
Well let me come at it from a different angle.  There is a major misconception here regarding the heart of the earth.  Everyone's assuming that means the tomb but if you let the Bible explain itself, nowhere else in the Bible is the heart of the earth called the tomb.  For instance, in Matthew when we say the Lord's Prayer, 'Thy will be done, in earth, as it is in Heaven' - that's how the King James renders it - does that mean Thy will be done in the tomb?
Pastor Doug:  No.  When Jesus said the prince of this world comes, He was speaking of the devil.  When Jesus said as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish or the whale, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, He wasn't talking about the tomb or vault.  He was talking about the heart of the earth meaning the clutches of the world.
You see, every time the mob tried to destroy Jesus or stone Jesus or throw Him off a cliff through His whole Ministry, He was untouchable.  He walked right through their midst, He disappeared, He became invisible they never were able to harm Him in any way because He was under His Father's protection.  But in the Garden of Gethsemane Thursday night when He said quite specifically, 'Now is the hour of darkness...' then the mob came.  They tied Him up, they beat Him, and He began suffering for the sins of the world.
See He didn't start suffering for the sins of the world when He was on the Cross and the nails pierced His flesh.  The suffering began in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was taken from place to place and beaten and mobbed.  He went from Pilate to Herod and back to Pilate again.  He went from Caiaphas to Anna and back to Caiaphas and  - He was just drug all over the place during that period - and being mocked and whipped and thorns on His head and, He was suffering for the sins of the world.  He was a captive to the devil the same way Jonah went wherever the whale went.  See Jonah was a captive to the whale.  He was in that dark, hopeless environment for three days and three nights the same way that Jesus was in the clutches of the world, the clutches of the lost world, for three days and three nights.
Pastor Doug:  When He prayed the third time, 'Not my will Thy will be done', and He said to His disciples you can sleep on because now is the hour of darkness - He made it very clear - this is the starting point.  The mob came.  He told Peter put away your sword this is why I came into the world.  From Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night He was taking the penalty for our sins, which is punishment and death, not just death - punishment and death.  And He suffered and He died, starting Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday.  So that's the crux of that misunderstanding.  It has nothing to do with the tomb.
Pastor Doug:  And I challenge if I'm mistaken - if anybody out there wants to call in and show me one other place in the Bible where the heart of the earth is called the tomb, I'll retract it.  But I think you're going to be challenged to find that.  Thanks so much Matthew.
Caller:  Thank you!
Pastor Doug:  And call for that article if you can get a free minute to dial 835-6747, that's an 800 toll-free call.  God bless.