Why Jesus was Raised on the Third Day | Part 3

The Symbolic Week

In this section we will survey the two texts that picture the week as symbolic for history: Genesis 1 and Daniel 9:24-27. Furthermore, we will give special attention to the seventh day in each text. Finally, we will consider the relation between the third day and the seventh day in Daniel. This will serve as a transition to the last section of the paper that will expound the other texts that intimate a relation between the third and seventh day.

From the creation cosmogony of Gen 1, Meredith G. Kline expounds the theology of the seventh day in an important article entitled “Primal Parousia.” I will briefly summarize his argument from the aforementioned article as well as draw on Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview.”

The first third of Kline’s article “Primal Parousia” argues that Gen 3:8 is referring to the coming of the Lord (in the Spirit) in judgment. He argues that “the day” referred to in 3:8 is what later revelation meant with “the day of the Lord.” That is, “the day of the Lord” in later Scripture is the judicial day of judgment when the Lord comes for the judgment of the wicked and the salvation of the righteous.

After he establishes the denotation of “the day of the Lord” in his later revelation, he asks if there is a previous antecedent that links both “the Spirit” and “the day of the Lord” that would indicate or at least motion towards the post-Genesis meaning of “the day of the Lord” in 3:8. He finds this antecedent in the first creation account. Specifically, Kline sees it in the first day and the seventh day. Kline states that: 

It will in fact appear that the seven-day pattern of the creation record as a whole was so constructed that while it was figuratively indicating the temporal dimension and especially the sabbatical structuring of the creation history, it should also serve as a seven-panelled [sic] portrait-paradigm — a prototypal model — of the day of the Lord, which was to be of such great importance in the unfolding biblical revelation of cosmic-redemptive history.

The first occurrence of יום (day) in Genesis is on the first day. Kline observes that “Immediately after the mention of the Glory-Spirit hovering in the darkness over the deep (Gen. 1:2), the Spirit's creative fiat is introduced: ‘Let there be light’ (vs. 3).” The name that is then ascribed to that “light” is “day”. This “conjunction of the Spirit and day” is “a replication of the Glory-Spirit, which is itself, visually, light — the luminosity of the radiant Shekinah.” Kline concludes that “yôm carries with it” the “imagery of the day of judgment [and] is at times that of sun-rise bringing the light of God's Glory from the east. The ‘day’ designation for divine judgment highlights the illuminating judicial penetration of the darkness by the light of the eyes of God, which are their own search-beams, for they are ‘like a flame of fire.’”

This pattern is further corroborated by the rest of the days. Kline notes a number of elements common to the “days” of Genesis. First, “the day of the Spirit is a time when God takes action and pronounces an assessment.” Second, there is a “judicial assessment.” In the seven days of creation this is a positive “judicial assessment”. This judicial assessment “[signifies] that his fiat-decree has been fully executed.”

Kline then moves and considers the additional features that occur on the “prototypal representation of the eschatological [seventh] day of the Lord.” The first thing we see is that “on the seventh day God rested from his work of creation and this Sabbath of God is a royal resting, an enthronement on the judgment seat.” We also have a heighted and a “final summary-verdict.” Genesis 1:31 records this final judicial verdict: “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Kline concludes that “The divine Sabbath was thus a realization in the time field of the judicial sovereignty of God that came to expression in the Glory-Spirit. In the seventh day, the Glory was translated into temporal-eschatological dimensions.”

For our purposes, the most important point of Daniel 9:24-27 is the attention it gives to the climactic week. During the middle of this week (read three days), sacrifices are ended. That is, sacrifices are no longer necessary for purification. Israel has been delivered from this necessity. Daniel 9 fits the third and seventh day pattern. The end of sacrifices is put to end in the middle (third day) of the seventieth (seventh day) week.

Third Day and Seventh Day Conjunction

Numbers

Numbers 19 describes purification laws. In the section giving the prescriptions for cleansing from touching a dead body it says:

He shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean. But if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean. Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from Israel…

The person who touches a dead body and does not cleanse himself defiles the tabernacle and is exiled from Israel. To be delivered from this punishment he must wash both on the third day and the seventh day. We see here a connection between the third and the seventh day to which we will come back. All that needs to be said here is that purification happens on both the third and the seventh day.

Joshua

The chronological markers in chapters 1-3 have generated much discussion. David M. Howard, Jr. has written an important article entitled “‘Three Days’ in Joshua 1-3: Resolving a Chronological Conundrum” that is apropos for this essay. Howard sees “the three-day periods in 1:11 and 3:2 as different from each other, and it sees seven days overall in chaps. 1-3.” He argues this with four points. 

First, he notes that there are two different prepositions used. 1:11 has בעוד while 3:2 has מקצה. Howard concludes that “The references as to when the officers would be passing through the camp are clearly different in the two cases. There is no semantic overlap between these two prepositions, as a detailed analysis of the two demonstrates. Thus 1:11 and 3:2 refer to two different time periods.” 

Second, the people are given different instructions. Howard says that “The first set of instructions (1:11) needed clearly to have been given far enough in advance of the march and the crossing to allow the people to prepare for the trip” while “The second set of instructions (3:2-4), on the other hand, clearly had to do with the more immediate concern of the imminent crossing itself and the ark's role in this.” 

Third, we must remember that the “normal system of time reckoning in the OT was inclusive. [. . .Thus] each day began with the light of the morning and ended with the last hours of darkness of the next morning.” Finally, and connected to that, Howard notices that “the entire first part of the book of Joshua is concerned with proper ritual and cultic concerns.” He infers from this that “the unexpected delay in 3:2 [. . .] had some sort of ritual function.” He concludes with the following paragraph: 

For all of the above reasons, then, I conclude that the three-day period in 3:2 is not the same as the three-day period in 1:11. It actually began on the fourth day of the present complex of events, and it was after the spies' three-day time in Jericho and the hills. It began with the arrival at Shittim (3:1), and it concluded two days later (i.e. on the sixth day) with the officers of the people actually going through the camp with the last-minute instructions about the crossing (3:2-4). Then the actual crossing took place the next day, which was the seventh day.

Judges

Judges 14 opens with Samson desiring a Philistine wife. Despite Samson’s motivation and action and with “brilliant irony”, God will use this to judge the Philistines because he was “seeking an opportunity against the Philistines”. Samson presents a riddle for 30 Philistine men to solve within the seven day feast. Interestingly, the author adds in the comment that “in three days they could not solve the riddle.” This is an initial judicial assessment on the Philistines. The final judgment comes on the seventh day. The third and the seventh day a parallel or correlative in that the author comments that on both days, they could not solve the riddle. Furthermore, there is a heightening that occurs when one moves from the third to the seventh day. James B. Jordan is the only commentator that sees the significance in this pattern.

Synthesis

The theology of the third day within the symbolic week is that God delivers his people in the middle of the week. The relation between this and the seventh day is clear. God delivers on the third day, middle of history and on the seventh, at the end of history. More precisely, it is not just deliverance for God’s people but judgment on God’s and Israel’s enemies. The third day and the seventh day are nothing less than the eschatological Day of the Lord. The only observation that I have found close to this in the scholarly literature is by James B. Jordan. And I close this essay with the citation in full. Jordan comments on Numbers 19:

The man who is unclean from contact with a corpse is to be cleansed on the third day and again on the seventh day. This double resurrection pattern is found all through the Scriptures. For instance, in John 5:21-29, Jesus distinguishes a first resurrection, when those dead in sin will hear the voice of Christ and live (v. 25); and a second resurrection, when those dead in the grave will come forth to a physical resurrection (v. 29). The first resurrection comes in the middleof history to enable men to fulfill the duties of the old creation. The second resurrection comes at the end of history to usher men into the new creation. Jesus was raised on the third day, thereby inaugurating the New Covenant in the midst of the week of history. Christians live between the third and seventh days of history, Spiritually resurrected and in the New Covenant, but physically mortal and assigned to complete the tasks of the Old Adamic Covenant.

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