The Third Day

The Third Day Series: Part 8 – Moses

In the days of Joseph, a three day period played a pivotal role in getting Jacob and his progeny into Egypt. In the days of Moses, a three day period played a pivotal role in getting the progeny out of Egypt. God told Moses to ask Pharoah if Israel could leave Egypt and go on a three day journey into the wilderness, to worship God.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt. So I said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ They will pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go. Exodus 3: 14 – 20

God told Moses to request Pharaoh’s permission to go on a three day journey, knowing full well that Pharaoh would not allow it except under compulsion. God compelled Pharaoh by smiting Egypt with ten plagues; and it just so happened that one of the plagues, the ninth, occurred over three days.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings. Exodus 10: 21 – 23

The Scripture says that God not only caused darkness to fall upon Egypt, but that Israel had light in their dwellings. This is doubly insulting to Pharaoh, for not only was his god Ra (a sun god) unable to keep the Egyptians in light, Ra was unable to keep God’s people in darkness.

Moving ahead now, from the days of Moses to our own, we can take these two three day references in the account of the exodus and parallel them with New Testament themes; themes deriving from the death, burial and third day resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The first reference was the request for a three day journey into the wilderness, which God ultimately used as a means of complete deliverance for Israel from Egypt. This looks ahead to how Christ’s third day resurrection secured complete deliverance for His people from sin and from the wrath of God.

The second reference was the three days of darkness for Egypt, while Israel’s dwellings remained lit. This points ahead to the New Testament theme of Christ being the light for HIs people, while those who don’t believe in Jesus are in darkness.

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. John 3: 19 – 21
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8: 12
And I (Paul) said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ Acts 26: 15 – 18

We should not be surprised that Moses and the exodus can be counted among the third day types pointing to the resurrection of the Messiah. As important as Moses was, and as important as the exodus from Egypt was, it might have been more surprising to find that they did not point ahead to Jesus. For as we have already discussed, the pattern that emerges when studying the third day theme is major Old Testament figures involved in spectacular events, which at some point involve a three day period of time. Certainly Moses and the exodus fit the description.


The Third Day Series: Part 7 – Joseph

Joseph, son of Jacob, led an extraordinary life:

  • He was his father’s favorite son
  • He was given a dream that he would rule over his family
  • He was sold into slavery by his brothers
  • He became a beloved slave of his Egyptian master
  • He was unjustly imprisoned because his master’s wife was angry he wouldn’t sleep with her
  • He was exalted to the right hand of Pharaoh
  • He was able to use his power to provide for his family during a seven year famine

Of the things just listed, his exaltation to the side of Pharaoh is our focus. It should be considered no small thing that a lowly foreigner attained a high position within the Egyptian government. He did not achieve that position through hard work, but because of God. While Joseph was imprisoned, God gave him the gift of dream interpretation, and it was his ability to interpret dreams that caused Pharaoh to notice him.

Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream…Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh. Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, “I would make mention today of my own offenses. Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. We had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him. Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. Genesis 41: 1, 8 – 14

God gave Joseph the ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, and Pharaoh was so impressed he appointed Joseph to a high position. Joseph used his power to bring his family to Egypt, keeping them well fed during a seven year famine. Included in Joseph’s family, included amongst those who may have starved to death if not for Joseph’s provision, was Judah, ancestor of Christ. Therefore, it is not inaccurate to say that through Joseph God preserved the Messianic line.

It is also not inaccurate to say that the starting point of the plotline to get Judah and the Messianic seed into the haven of Egypt was Joseph’s interaction with the cupbearer, while in prison. This interaction, in which Joseph interpreted the cupbearer’s dream, was the basis of Joseph’s future audience with Pharoah, and “coincidentally” involved a three day span of time. Thus Joseph can be added to the list of Old Testament saints who typified Christ’s third day resurrection. For just as Jesus’ promise of resurrection was validated on the third day, so was Joseph’s interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream. The entire account is documented in Genesis 40:

Then it came about after these things, the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. So he put them in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, in the jail, the same place where Joseph was imprisoned. The captain of the bodyguard put Joseph in charge of them, and he took care of them; and they were in confinement for some time. Then the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt, who were confined in jail, both had a dream the same night, each man with his own dream and each dream with its own interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected. He asked Pharaoh’s officials who were with him in confinement in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?” Then they said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.”

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “In my dream, behold, there was a vine in front of me; and on the vine were three branches. And as it was budding, its blossoms came out, and its clusters produced ripe grapes. Now Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; so I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.” Then Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh’s cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer. Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house. For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”

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; 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.” Then Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; 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.” 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. He restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand; but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

The Third Day Series: Part 6 – Creation

It is axiomatic that for every teaching in Scripture, there is a place where that teaching is first mentioned. For example, the whole of the Bible teaches that there is one particular and specific God who has created us and all things; the first mention of this teaching is the first line of the Bible.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

So we know that somewhere in Scripture is the first typological reference to Christ’s third day resurrection. Where is this prototype? As with so many foundational doctrines, it is found in Genesis, the book of beginnings, in the account of creation.

There was evening and there was morning, a third day. Genesis 1: 13

Now in what sense is this reference to the third day a prototype of Christ’s resurrection? We must look at the details of the account of creation.

Day God’s Assessment of Goodness
1 “God saw that the light was good”
2 none
3 “God saw that it was good” (dry land and sea)
“God saw that it was good” (vegetation)
4 “God saw that it was good”
5 “God saw that it was good”
6 “God saw that it was good”

The text itself gives the third day preeminence, in so much as the third day received two “it was good” assessments from God. No other day received two, and the second day did not even receive one. At some point the Jews recognized this textual detail and referred to the third day of creation as the Day of Double Blessing.

Although I haven’t read primary source materials regarding the Jewish regard for the Day of Double Blessing, I have read acknowledgments of the doctrine from both Christians and Jews. It is said that the third day (Tuesday) became so revered that it was the preferred day for Jewish weddings. The wedding in Cana, where Jesus performed His water to wine miracle, might have been on a Tuesday, for the Scripture says “the third day.”

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; (John 2: 1)

From a Biblical perspective, the third day was given preeminence in the first chapter of Genesis, and is the prototype of the third day theme. This theme is developed over the course of the Scripture, culminating with the third day resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

From a non-Biblical perspective, if we accept as true the cultural data about the Jewish regard for weddings on the third day, how much more potent are the parables of the wedding feasts, and the theme of Christ as the groom and His church as the bride? In a sense, we were married to Christ on the third day – the Jewish wedding day – for that was the day He paid the dowry for His bride – that was the day His blood purchased the forgiveness of our sins.

The Third Day Series: Part 5 – Esther

We previously established our method for identifying types of the third day resurrection:

  1. We read an Old Testament passage with a keyword such as “third day” or “three days”.
  2. We stop, knowing that such a keyword may be pointing to a prophetic foreshadow of Christ’s resurrection.
  3. We examine the passage and see if it qualifies as a type.

Applying this method when reading through Scripture, we would stop at a certain point in the book of Esther. The summary of Esther’s story is that she was a Jew who ascended to the position of queen of Persia, by God’s providence. When a plot to kill the Jews came to her knowledge, she was in a position as queen to approach the king, foil the plot, save her people, and keep the Messianic hope alive.

Even though she was queen, it was not without risk that she approached the king to try to save her people, for the custom of the land was that the king was never approached without him first summoning the person who approached. Here is what Esther said about the custom:

“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.” Esther 4: 11

Despite the law, Esther decided to risk her own life and approach the king without a summons, to try to save the Jews. But, before she approached the king, she requested a fast of the Jews.

“Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4: 16

After this fast, she approached the king.

“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. 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 scepter. Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you.” Esther 5: 1 – 3

Those familiar with the story know that Esther was able to successfully arrange for the preservation of her people, by making the king aware of Haman’s plot. As we ponder these events in Esther’s life, the three day fast and her third day audience with the king, we can draw parallels between her account and that of Christ’s resurrection.

Event in Esther New Testament Parallel
Haman plotted to kill the Jews Satan plotted to kill all humanity by successfully tempting Adam and Eve to sin
The plot became known to Esther God knew that Adam and Eve sinned against Him and that all humanity had now become condemned
Esther, as queen, was in a position to intercede on behalf of her people Christ, as Son of God and the Messianic King, was in a position to intercede on behalf of His people
For three days, there was mystery as to whether Esther would be killed or granted life by the king For three days, there was mystery as to whether Christ would rise from the dead
On the third day, the king granted Esther life On the third day, Christ was raised from the dead
Because of the third day, Esther successfully interceded for her people Because of the third day, Christ successfully interceded for His people

Just like the account of Elijah and Elisha that we previously looked at, these parallels are sufficient to conclude that the account of Esther and the three day fast are a type of Christ’s third day resurrection. This places Esther on our growing list of major Old Testament figures who were involved in a spectacular circumstance involving a three day span of time.

The Third Day Series: Part 4 – Elijah and Elisha

In our prior two studies on Jonah and Abraham/Isaac, we relied upon New Testament passages to validate a typological interpretation of the Old Testament texts. But what if there is no New Testament reference? Can an Old Testament passage still be interpreted as a type of the third day resurrection?

Given the limited New Testament references to third day prophecies, and the fact that both Jesus and Paul indicate the third day is an Old Testament prophetic theme, I think we have to answer “yes”, it is okay to interpret an Old Testament passage as a type of the third day resurrection, even without a clear New Testament reference.

So how do we do this?

If we can identify an Old Testament account that references the third day, or a three day interval, and if we can draw parallels between that account and Jesus’ death and third day resurrection, then we can conclude that the passage functions as a type. If we do this carefully and soberly, we are doing no more to the text than what Jesus did when interpreting Jonah. With this in mind, let us look at the prophet Elijah, when he was taken up into heaven and his ministry bequeathed to Elisha.

As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more…Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him. They said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men, please let them go and search for your master; perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has taken him up and cast him on some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send.” But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” They sent therefore fifty men; and they searched three days but did not find him. They returned to him while he was staying at Jericho; and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?” 2 Kings 2: 11 – 12, 15 – 18

In this text there is a reference to a three day search for Elijah; the three day interval is our first clue that perhaps the passage is a third day type. But we must be able to draw parallels between this account and the account of Christ, similar to how Jesus compared Himself to Jonah. Consider the following:

Old Testament Event New Testament Parallel
1 The day of Elijah’s ascension into heaven was ordained by God The day of Christ’s death was ordained by God
2 Elisha was told in advance that Elijah would be taken up into heaven The disciples were told in advance that Jesus would be crucified and rise on the third day
3 Not believing God’s word, fifty men searched for Elijah for three days Not believing Jesus’ word, the disciples did not expect an empty tomb on the third day
4 In accordance with God’s word, Elijah was not found In accordance with God’s word, Jesus rose from the dead

It turns out we are able to draw reasonable parallels between the account of Elijah/Elisha and Jesus’ death/resurrection. Even though there is no New Testament passage that supports this interpretation, the parallels we have drawn are safe. Is there anything wrong with pointing out that God ordained the day of Elijah’s ascension, just as He ordained the day of Christ’s death? Is there anything wrong with pointing out prophets in Elisha’s day did not believe that Elijah was taken up, and comparing that to the disciples’ lack of faith in Jesus’ promise to rise from the dead?

To become even more sure that this passage is a type, let us look at, in a little more detail, the parallels between the three day search for Elijah and the third day resurrection of Christ. In the Old Testament account, God’s word was given ahead of time to Elisha, that Elijah would be taken to heaven.

Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; be still.” 2 Kings 2: 3
The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be still.” 2 Kings 2: 5

Even though this event was prophesied in advance, there were those who did not believe, and so fifty men were sent to conduct a three day search for Elijah. When their search ended in failure, Elisha essentially said “I told you so,” and it was on the third day that God’s word was vindicated. This is similar to what happened with Jesus and the disciples. Jesus told them in advance about His crucifixion, and they did not believe, even after the women reported Jesus had risen.

…Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” Matthew 17: 22
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'”…She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it. Mark 16: 1 – 7, 10 – 11

When Jesus appeared to the disciples on the day of His resurrection, God’s word was vindicated, and prophecy was fulfilled. In both the Old Testament and New Testament accounts, God’s word was proven true on the third day, and this is the thrust of the type. God performed a miracle in taking Elijah to heaven, and the fifty men did not believe until the third day. God performed a miracle in raising Jesus from the dead, and the disciples did not believe until the third day, when Jesus appeared to them.

So our typological interpretation of this text is justified. There is no new doctrine being purported, there is nothing outrageous being claimed. We have simply demonstrated parallels between the two accounts, similar to what Jesus did with Jonah and the author of Hebrews did with Isaac.

The Third Day Series: Part 3 – Abraham and Isaac

Typology is the study of types, and what we are doing is studying the Old Testament types that point to Jesus and His third day resurrection. The author of Hebrews tells us that the account of Abraham, when he was asked to kill Isaac, is a type of the resurrection.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. Hebrews 11: 17 – 19

The author of Hebrews points out what many overlook when pondering God’s command to kill Isaac. Prior to that command, prior to God asking Abraham to slay the son of promise, God had told Abraham that through Isaac his descendants would be named. This promise came when Abraham was concerned about the enmity between Hagar and Sarah.

Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. Therefore she said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. Genesis 21: 9 – 12

This promise was given to Abraham in advance of the command to kill Isaac. Therefore, when God asked Abraham to kill Isaac, Abraham was confronted with a divinely ordained paradox. How could God ask him to kill Isaac prior to Isaac bearing children? Abraham determined, as we learn from Hebrews, that God could raise Isaac from the dead. Is there really any other solution to the paradox? If indeed God allowed Abraham to kill Isaac, then God would have to raise Isaac from the dead in order for him to have children. So this is a foreshadow of the resurrection from the dead.

But what about a three day interval? Hebrews speaks of Abraham and Isaac as a type of the resurrection of Christ, but not as a type of the third day resurrection. To understand where the three day interval comes into play, we must go to the text in Genesis and look at the details in more depth.

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Genesis 22: 1 – 5

The text says that Abraham departed in the morning to the place where he would kill Isaac, and on the third day arrived at the destination. To make sense of this, we must understand that in the faithful mind of Abraham, he had determined to kill his son upon the command from God. So as far as Abraham was concerned, Isaac was dead. In fact, Isaac was dead to Abraham, so to speak, during the entire three day journey to Moriah. But on the third day, when they ascended the mountain, when Abraham was prevented from killing Isaac by the cry of the angel, when the plan of God was revealed and Abraham learned Isaac was not to die, at that moment on the third day Isaac was figuratively resurrected in the mind of Abraham. Abraham at that moment knew his son would remain alive and a literal resurrection was not needed, although in his heart he was prepared for God to do such a thing.

It is in this way, then, that the story of the binding of Isaac points ahead to the Messiah and His own binding upon a cross, and subsequent resurrection – on the third day.

The Third Day Series: Part 2 – Jonah

We are attempting to understand how Jesus and Paul could say that the Old Testament prophesied a third day resurrection, when in fact there is not one direct statement in the Old Testament that says something like “the Messiah will die and rise on the third day.” Thankfully, we have the words of Jesus to shed light on the mystery.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12: 38 – 40

A very interesting thing happened in this encounter with the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus took the book of Jonah, which had nothing to do with messianic prophecy, and He made it messianic. How could Jesus do such a thing? Isn’t that an incorrect way to interpret the Bible, to take Scripture out of context to prove a point?

The reason Jesus could say what He said is because He was speaking of “signs.” To use another word, Jesus was speaking of “patterns.” The scribes and Pharisees would certainly agree that Jonah was a prophet of God. And they would agree that Jonah was put into the sea monster for three days and three nights by the will of God, for that is what Jonah’s book clearly states.

And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1: 17
Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land. Jonah 2: 10

So Jesus compared Himself to Jonah. Just as Jonah was God’s prophet, Jesus was too. Just as Jonah was appointed by God to be in the fish, so too will God appoint Jesus to be in the earth. And just as Jonah came out of the fish on the third day, so too will Jesus come out of the earth on the third day. Jesus used Jonah as a pattern to support the credibility of His own ministry. God established a pattern in Jonah, and God will culminate or fulfill the pattern in Jesus. This is what Jesus was communicating to the Pharisees and scribes, and it is what is being communicated to us by Matthew as we read what he recorded about Christ.

If we can understand how Jesus applied Jonah to Himself, then we are well on our way to understanding how other Old Testament passages can be applied to Christ and His third day resurrection.