In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God —Acts 1:1-3
By the way, the first three verses in the first chapter of Acts is the only place that tells us that the period between the Resurrection and the Ascension was precisely 40 days. Interesting. 40 holds a very significant place in Scripture when God made major changes and transformations after the period of 40:
- The rains fell for 40 days and 40 nights when God wanted to cleanse the world and start over (Genesis 7:12).
- Noah waited another 40 days after it rained before he opened a window in the Ark (Gensis 8:6)
- Embalming required 40 days (although this was an Egyptian custom, the Egyptians recognized the period of 40 for the preparation of going into a new life, what they called the afterlife) (Genesis 50:3)
- Moses spent 40 days in God’s presence on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:18).
- Moses’ face shone after the 40 days on the mountain (Exodus 34:29)
- The 12 spies spent 40 days exploring the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:25).
- A Generation wandered in the wilderness 40 years (Numbers 14:32).
- Goliath came for 40 days before being killed by David (1 Samuel 17:16)
- Elijah was strengthened by one angelic meal, and then went 40 days to Mount Horeb where the Lord passed by and he heard the voice of God (1 Kings 19:8)
- Jonah warned Nineveh of coming judgment in 40 days until God would overthrow the city. The people repented in those 40 days and God spared the city (Jonah 4:4).
- Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness and was tempted the wilderness for 40 days (Matthew 3:17, Luke 4:2)
- Jesus appeared to the disciples for 40 days after his resurrection (Acts 1:3).
As you can see, forty is associated with almost every new development in the history of God’s mighty acts, especially of salvation, e.g. the Flood, redemption from Egypt, Elijah and the prophetic era, the advent of Christ and the birth of the church. It always represents a period of testing, trial, probation, or chastisement (but not judgment) and ends with a period of restoration, revival or renewal
You might say it this way: When you see the number forty, pay attention because it usually means that God is about to do something significant in the world. Christ was tempted after 40 days at the beginning of his ministry and appeared to the disciples for 40 days at the end of his ministry.
So we come to the last days of Jesus Christ on the earth. For 33 years He has made the earth his home. The time draws near to leave. We’re beyond the cross, past the suffering, the torture, the mocking, and even beyond the resurrection. We’re in that mysterious forty day period that we’d like to know more about.
Christ is leaving soon, not to return for at least 2010 years, that we know of so far. He doesn’t speak to thousands—He speaks to only a few. He gives them the responsibility to take the message around the world. He gives them the Gospel—the good news—the best news in history.
Soon enough the incredible burden will fall on their shoulders alone. If they fail, the Christian movement will disappear before it ever begins. In human terms the future of the gospel is in their hands.
Knowing all this, what does Christ talk about? The weather, sports, the latest gossip from Rome? Hardly. He tells that little band of men what they need to know to make it after He’s gone. During the 40 days between the resurrection and his ascension into heaven, he accomplished two important goals: first He proved that he was alive. Secondly, He prepared them for the future.