The proof that Jesus gave to the unbelieving Pharisees that he was in fact the true Messiah was the “sign of the prophet Jonah. The Bible tells us clearly that Jesus our Savior, “died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” I Cor 15:3&4. So then the “sign ” of Jonah was a forshadowing of our Lord’s death burial & resurrection. In fact, the cornerstone belief of Christianity is resurrection.
38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. Matthew 12:38-41
In order for the sign of Jonah to be correct and accurate, I believe that it must also include resurrection and that there is Biblical evidence of this is in the Book of Jonah. Matthew 12 tells us that Jesus spent 3 days & nights in the heart of the earth and we also know from other Scriptures that he was physically dead. His resurrection is the victory over hell and death for all that believe. As Jonah spent the same amount of time in the belly of a great fish, I believe that he too was also resurrected.
Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, 2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. 3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. 4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. 5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. 6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. 7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. 8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. 9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. He is delivered from the fish 10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. Jonah 2:1-10
Many unbelievers ask the question, “how could a man live for three full days submerged under water in the belly of a fish?” That is a great question! Eventhough I believe that ALL things are possible with God, I think that the Biblical answer regarding Jonah is that he didn’t. When Jonah prayed in verse one, he cried out of the fish’s belly. That word simply means “hollow place.” In verse 2 he gives more detail and says that he cried out of the belly of hell. This is the OT word sheol equivalent to the NT hades which simply means “underworld.” In verses 3&5 he speaks of being “compassed about” in the depths. Verse 6 gives the clearest evidence where he states that he “went down to the bottoms of the mountains,” and that the “bars of the earth” were about him for ever. This certainly speaks of an “out of the belly experience” (please excuse the pun). He also claims that the Lord brought his life up from “corruption.” I Cor 15 also uses this word to speak of physical death. I believe that the context here and that the sign Jesus gave clearly imply that Jonah had died physically and was resurrected. Chew on that for awhile, if you don’t like it, you can always spit it out.
I also believe that when the apostle Paul was stoned at Lystra in 46AD, that he actually died and was brought to life again as the disciples stood round about him.
19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. 20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:19-22
In 60AD, Paul humbly writes about this experience in the third person so that people wouldn’t not glory in him, but in the Lord.
1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. II Cor 12:1-7
In verse 2, Paul states that it was 14 years previous. If you examine the context you will discover that he was trying to deflect all attention away from him personally. If you read the previous chapter you will be amazed at what Paul suffered to serve Christ and establish the churches. I have no doubt that this “glimpse of Glory” is what motivated him and kept him going unto the very end. Paul said in Romans 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
The Bible does not teach “soul sleep.” It clearly states that when we are “absent from the body,” we are “present with the Lord.” II Cor 5:8. We are created in God’s image and likeness, we are tri-partate being consisting of body, soul and spirit. When we die, our soul & spirit go directly to Heaven (if we are saved) and our bodies go into the grave. I Thess 4:13-18 explains this perfectly:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
The Bible teaches that the bodies of the dead in Christ are in a state of “sleep” while waiting to be resurrected and glorified when united with the soul & spirit at Christ’s return. Christ’s resurrection makes it possible and even immutable for Christians to take part in the “sign of Jonah.” The next time some zodiac loving unbeliever asks me what my sign is – I think I’ll be like Jesus and just say, Jonah.