Did Jesus really rise on the third day?

      Yes, Jesus died, was buried, descended and preached the gospel to the dead (1 Peter 3:18-19), and then rose from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father. This answer addresses two parts of the question: Did Jesus rise from the dead and was it on the third day?

        "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear." (Acts 2:29-33)
        For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also -- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand -- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (2 Peter 3:18-22)

      Many times Jesus prophesied his own death and resurrection on the third day (Matthew 12:39-40, 16:21, 17:22, 20:18-19, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34, Luke 9:22, 11:30, 18:31-33, John 2:18-22). Even after the resurrection his disciples were reminded of this fact (Luke 24:4-8, 24:45-49). If we believe the testimonies of Jesus, then we are to believe what he said about his death and resurrection, which wasn't taught in parables, but spoken plainly and bluntly.

        From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21, Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22)
        Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:18-22)

      There were several witnesses to the resurrection and ascention (1 Corinthians 15:3-8), not to mention the twelve disciples (Matthew 28:16-17, Mark 16:12-14, Luke 24:36-53, John 20:19-20, Acts 1:1-11, 10:39-41). And although some doubted (Matthew 28:17, Mark 16:14, Luke 24:38-41, John 20:25), Jesus reassured them by showing his nail marks (Luke 24:39, John 20:26-29) and by opening their minds to his fulfillment of the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-49). To guard against the deception of Jesus' disciples removing the body from his tomb and giving false witness about the resurrection, the Pharisees had Pilate order the tomb to be sealed and a Roman guard posted for three days after the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-65). This deception, however, was indeed circulated by the Pharisees after the Roman guards reported the account about how the angel of the Lord had rolled away the stone during an earthquake (Matthew 28:1-15), and who were then paid by the Pharisees to bear false witness with the assurance that they would not be put to death for their incompetence. "And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day" (Matthew 28:15).

        For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

      It is not surprising that the resurrection from the dead was in question and not the ascension, since the prophet Elijah was taken up to heaven at the end of his ministry (2 Kings 2:11-12) and since the Saducees didn't believe that the dead were resurrected (Matthew 22:23, Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27). But this was the miracle Jesus gave to the Pharisees and Saducees that would prove his claim as the Messiah (Matthew 12:38-42, John 2:18-22), which is why some false teachings claim that Jesus somehow cheated death on the cross and ascended straight to heaven. But if anyone can be convinced that the resurrection really took place, then when it happened comes under scrutiny because this also attests to the miracle (Jonah 1:17).

        Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here." (Mathew 12:38-42, Luke 11:29-30, 11:32)

      If Jesus was crucified on a Friday, which was Preparation Day, the day before the Sabbath (Matthew 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:42), and raised on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1), then this qualifies as three Hebrew days. This would have been Friday night (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33-34, 15:42-44, Luke 23:44), all day Saturday and Saturday night, and Sunday morning (Matthew 28:1, Luke 24:1). Traditionally, the crucifixion is held as Good Friday and the resurrection as Easter Sunday.

        But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

      Note: This does not seem to account for three complete, 24-hour days. If not, there is an alternative view which holds that this particular Sabbath was special (John 19:31), and possibly not just because it was Passover (John 19:14). Passover didn't necessarily fall on Saturday, the Sabbath, but began on the fourteenth day of the first month (Leviticus 23:5, Numbers 19:2-5), which may not have been the regular Sabbath. The first and last days of Passover, however, were treated much like a sabbath day (Leviticus 23:7-8). So, if Passover didn't fall on a Saturday, then a special Sabbath would have to have been designated and the regular weekly Sabbath observed as well. This special Sabbath may have been the Thursday prior to the Sabbath Saturday, in which case it would've allowed for three full days and nights between the death and resurrection of Jesus (some time between Wednesday night/Thursday morning and Saturday night/Sunday morning).