by Bill Somers
There is a special significance to the term 'third day' as it is used in scripture. This phrase is found 67 times in the Bible. I find that in most cases it has a spiritual or allegorical meaning related to end time prophecy.
To see this you have to understand several basic ideas: God's week, the last days and the first principles of the oracles of God. Hebrews chapter 5 makes reference to "the first principles of the oracles of God", saying in effect that to be skillful in understanding the Word, you must know these first principles. The writer of Hebrews does not directly state these principles. He does indicate two levels of understanding. The unskillful is compared to a babe taking milk, the skillful, to one of full age who partakes of strong meat. This is to contrast the immature with the mature and the natural with the spiritual. The deep things of God are spiritual, and must be discerned by the spirit. That is the word is to be understood in its spiritual meaning. Therefore there is potentially a spiritual meaning to the term 'third day'. Another key principle is found is 1st Corinthians. "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." 1 Cor. 10:11. Briefly, this tells us that there is an 'end-time' application to be found throughout scripture. Specifically, it tells us that this term 'third day' might be understood in the context of the end times.
Now what is God's week and what does it have to do with the end times? Simply put, God's week is the notion that God's timeline since the creation of Adam, is divided into seven, one thousand year periods. See Ps. 90:4 and 2nd Pet. 3:8. Each of these one thousand year periods can correspond to a day in a week. Thus from Adam to Abraham are two 'days', from Abraham to Jesus are two 'days', from Jesus till now are two 'days', and the coming millennium will be the last 'day'. It will be the seventh or Sabbath day of God's week.
Now the term 'last days' or 'latter days' is sometimes taken to mean the time period from the day of Pentecost till today; that is the so-called 'church age'. Sometimes it can mean the interval just before the second coming of the Lord. Looking at the first definition, you can see that the last days would then mean the last three days of God's week. And that the third day would be the last day. That is to say, when we are speaking in context of the last days, the 'third day' is the millennium! Thus the 'third day' is the 'seventh day'. To confirm this you can find several references in scripture that link the 'third day' with the 'seventh day'. For example: "He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean." (Num 19:12 KJV) See also Num. 19:19 and 31:19. Our conclusion then is that references to the third day in scripture will very often have a prophetic meaning that speaks of the millennium.
How about some examples. "And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai." (Ex. 19:11 KJV) The end time interpretation of this is that it refers to the second coming when 'every eye shall see him'.
"After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." (Hosea 6:2
KJV) The end time interpretation of this is that it refers to the resurrection, when the dead in Christ shall be raised up.
"And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage." (John 2:1-2 KJV) This can be seen as a reference to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Note that the bridegroom and bride are not mentioned or named but that Jesus and his disciples, the church, are. Here is another reference using 'third day'.
"Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off." (Gen 22:4 KJV) What can this possibly have to do with the end times? If you check this verse in context, you will see that the place referred to is Mt. Moriah. This is where he was to sacrifice his son Isaac. It is the site that the Temple would be built on; and it thereby refers to Jerusalem, the holy city, also. Now consider this verse from Hebrews, speaking of Abraham. "For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Heb 11:10 KJV) This could easily remind one of the passage in Revelations where John sees the Holy City 'afar off'. "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." (Rev 21:2 KJV) This certainly is "a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Now lets look at what Jesus has to say on this subject: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad." (John 8:56 KJV) In this passage, the phrase 'my day' could mean the time of Jesus' earthly ministry, or it could mean the Lord's Day, or the Day of the Lord. So what was it that Abraham saw by faith? He saw the City of God and the Day of the Lord. And this is exactly what John the revelator sees by vision, for he begins his vision telling us "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, " (Rev 1:10 KJV) Which day is the Lord's day? The Day of the Lord. Which day is that? The third day! Abraham, by his obedience, acting in faith, went to sacrifice his son Isaac. This action would ultimately result in God's final victory in the Book of Revelation. So to say "Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off." has prophetic meaning. He lifted up his eyes means he saw prophetically the day of the Lord and the New Jerusalem! Here he is a type of God the Father, who saw the end before the beginning, when He sacrificed His son, Jesus.
Let's look back at a verse we quoted earlier. "He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean." (Num 19:12 KJV) Consider not only how this links the third day with the seventh day, but the ideas of cleanliness and purification. These speak of sanctification or holiness. Now recall what the law says about the seventh day: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Ex. 20:8 KJV) What this tells us is that this coming day must be a day of holiness for the church. She must become a "holy city, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." Earlier we mentioned that God sees the end from the beginning. You can find this principle right in the very beginning of the bible. "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (Gen 2:3 KJV)
In conclusion, the 'third day', is a reference, in many passages, not necessarily all, to the end times. It means the third thousand year period since the birth of Jesus. It is the prophetic Sabbath. The Lords day and the Day of the Lord. It is the millennium where: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." (Rev 20:6 KJV) "This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Ps. 118:24 KJV)
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