By: Dr. Hank Lindstrom
esus Christ laid His credibility on the line when He said, “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 (Matthew 12:40).” If, therefore, the story of Jonah is not true then the story of Christ is not true. If the story of Jonah is fiction, then the story of Christ is fiction.
We believe that all Scripture is inspired of God and is without error (II Timothy 3:16). Jesus Christ stated clearly that Jonah was a prophet of God in Matthew 12:39 and in Luke 11:29. Also, II Kings 14:25 states that Jonah is a prophet. Jesus said, “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken (Luke 24:25).” We are to believe all that the prophets have spoken.
Contrary to what many people have heard, Jonah was not swallowed by a whale. The Bible states, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17).” A fish does not breath air. It has no lungs, but takes oxygen from the water through its gills. A whale is not a fish, but a mammal. A whale has lungs and breathes air through its nostrils or vents leading to its lungs. Someone might say, “Well, what about Matthew 12:40?” In the King James translation the word whale is used, but the Greek word is “ketos” which means a large fish. Certainly God could have prepared a minnow if He had wanted to. All too often the picture we have is a distortion of what the Bible really says.
Many think the story of Jonah is a fairy tale. That Jonah sat in a chair at a table in the fish’s belly. That there was a candle burning on the table and pictures hung about on the wall of the fish’s belly. That Jonah patiently waited out the three days and three nights until he was vomited out onto dry land.
Jonah died in the fish’s belly. It is amazing how many persons think that Jonah lived in the fish’s belly and therefore many well-meaning Christians seek high and low, turn heaven and earth upside down in a search for a fish it would prove nothing because Jonah died in the fish.
Jonah said that he went to sheol (the place in the heart of the earth where Jesus went) in Jonah 2:2. Jonah also said, “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 (Jonah 2:6).” Jonah’s soul was in the heart of the earth three days and three nights exactly as Christ was in the heart of the earth three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40).
The Bible teaches that there is a hollow place in the center of the earth called “sheol” in the Old Testament and “hades” in the New Testament. There is a place of comfort called paradise and a place of torment in sheol or hades separated by a huge gulf (Luke 16:26). All of the dead saved and lost went to hades and sheol prior to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The saved were waiting for the payment for sin to be made. The lost are still waiting to be cast into hell (Revelation 20:14).
When Jesus died he went to hades or sheol to the paradise side. When the dying thief crucified with Christ asked to be saved, Jesus replied, “Verily I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” So we learn that paradise was in the heart of the earth. When Jesus was resurrected He emptied paradise out and took the Old Testament believers to heaven. Since Calvary, the believer at death enters directly into the presence of the Lord.
“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
II Corinthians 5:8.
The Gospel and Jonah
Jonah pictured the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jonah booked passage on a ship to flee from the presence of the Lord. God sent a great storm that threatened the lives of all that were on board. The attempts of the seamen to save themselves were futile. When the seamen asked how to be saved from the storm, Jonah said, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you (Jonah 1:12).” Jonah had to die for those on the ship to be saved. Jesus had to die for those on the earth to be saved. Jonah gave up his life. Jesus gave His life.
Jonah’s body was entombed in the fish’s belly, while Jonah’s soul was in the heart of the earth. Jesus’ body was entombed in a rich man’s tomb while His soul was in the heart of the earth. Jonah was resurrected and his soul was brought up from sheol and re-entered his body which was in the fish’s belly. Jesus was resurrected and His soul was brought up from hades or sheol and re-entered His body which was in the rich man’s tomb.
Jonah was then seen alive and preached to the people of Ninevah. Jesus was also seen alive and preached to His disciples.
The one sign that Jesus gave to prove His identity was the sign of Jonah. His critics demanded a sign. “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 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: 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 (Matthew 12:38-40).”
The Bible tells us that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites. Jonas body carried the marks of his death. His body was in a fish that tried to digest him for three days or 72 hours. Jonah probably had no hair anywhere on his body–No eyelashes, no eyebrows, no hair on his head or on his body. His skin must have been wrinkled and bleached by the powerful stomach acids. He was a sign. He had been resurrected, and it was obvious!
“For as Jonah was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of Man be to this generation.” Luke 11:30.
Jesus also carried the marks of His death in His body. Jesus said, “Behold my hands and my feet that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me have.” (Luke 24:39).
Without a doubt Jesus Christ is who He claims that He is. His critics will all one day confess that Jesus Christ is Jehovah and bow their knees to Him. Have you accepted Him?
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life (John 6:47).”