Why was Jesus in the tomb for three days?
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Jesus was in the tomb for three days following His death prior to His resurrection (a length of time of which Jesus spoke even prior to His death) in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecy. When the scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus in Matthew 12:38-40 to show them a sign to prove that He was the Messiah, Jesus told them that the only sign that would be given to them was the sign of the prophet Jonah, and that, just as Jonah had been in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17), Jesus would be in the heart of the earth (that is, in the tomb following His death on the cross) for three days and three nights prior to His resurrection from the dead, which was the supreme validation, or visible sign, of His identity as the Messiah. (In addition to fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, the interval between Jesus' death and resurrection also complied with the Law by the fact of His body "resting" in the tomb on the Jewish Sabbath, prior to His resurrection on the first day of the week.)
I don't believe Jesus was in the tomb, dead or asleep, for 3 days. Let's remember who Jesus is. He is the Son of God, a spiritual being, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus chose to become a human being, a man, but he did not stop being a Spiritual Being. He was both Son of God and Son of Man. When the man died the Spirit of Jesus was still alive. So what did Jesus do for 3 days before his resurrection. Scripture doesn't give us a lot of information but we do have a few clues. My belief, expressed below, is based on my interpretation of the following verses: 1) Genesis 6:4, 2) Matthew 27:52-53, 3) Luke 4:18, 4) Luke 16:19-31, 5) 2 Corinthians 2:14, 6) Ephesians 4:8, 7) 1 Peter 3:19. Jesus had several missions to complete during those 3 days. Mission 1 He descended into the spirit world to a place called "Abraham's Bosom". This is the resting place for the spirits of the millions of Old Testament saints. We get a picture of this place in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Jesus went there to testify that he was their long awaited Messiah. These saints had put their faith in God. They knew their were sinners, but they believed God's promise that he would forgive their sins and cover them with the blood of the animal sacrifices. They had put their faith in God so Jesus applied the blood of his own human sacrifice to wash away all their sins and make them holy. After his resurrection the spirits of many of these holy ones appeared in Jerusalem. When Jesus ascended into heaven he took all the spirits of the old testament saints with him. They were his captives. He had set the prisoners free by paying the penalty for their sin and by his resurrection victory over death. Mission 2 Jesus descended into the spirit world to a place called Sheol, the location of the human spirits of the damned. These are the billions of people from Adam until the coming of Christ who rejected God's plan to save them. Jesus proclaimed their coming judgment and eternal punishment in hell. Mission 3 Jesus descended into hell (mentioned in the Apostle's creed) to the place where the spirits (demons) were sent, who had disobeyed God by leaving their permitted habitation in the heavens, and became human beings so they could marry the daughters of men and create the race known as the Nephilim. These beings died in Noah's flood and the demonic spirits were sent to hell. Jesus descended into hell to proclaim his victory as the Messiah and to proclaim God's coming judgement and the demons' eternal punishment in hell. O how amazing and marvellous is his victory. I am so glad that Jesus is my Saviour and Lord. He could be yours too.
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