The Infallible Forty Days
April 11th, 1982 @ 8:15 AM
THE INFALLIBLE FORTY DAYS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-11-82 8:15 a.m.
The title of the message if The Infallible Forty Days. And it is taken from the introduction, a classical introduction, that Dr. Luke wrote to the Book of Acts. And we turn to the Book of Acts and read these verses. "The former treatise have I made" – he is referring to his Gospel, the Gospel of Luke – "the former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach." He says in the days of His flesh He just began His ministry. It continues then. It continues today and forever.
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.
Until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen – that is the Great Commission –
To whom also He showed Himself alive after His passion – after His suffering death – by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the Promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me.
For John truly baptized with water; but the whole world shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence.
So they were waiting for Pentecost. And after the baptism at Pentecost, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, then thereafter the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ, into the circle and communion and fellowship of His church.
Do you notice in that third verse he refers to the many infallible proofs over a period of forty days? Hence the subject of the message, the forty infallible days. That is an unusual word translated here, infallible proofs. It’s one word in the text, tekmerion, a beautiful word, tekmerion. It’s used nowhere else in the New Testament, just here. It’s a classical word. And Dr. Luke wrote in beautiful Greek. It was used tekmerion, by Aeschylus, by Herodotus, by all of those classical Greek authors in the centuries since. It was used by Galen, a brilliant ancient Greek physician. Galen used it to refer to indisputable medical evidence, demonstrable medical proof.
So it is used here, tekmero. The verbal form of that word refers to something that is indubitably true, evidence that is sure. So the doctor uses that to refer to the resurrection appearance of our Lord over a period of forty days. That time period in the Bible is seen so often. For forty days God judged the world in the days of the Flood, pouring out water from heaven, breaking up the fountains of the deep. It was a period of forty days that Moses was in Mt. Sinai receiving from God’s hands the commandments of the old covenant. It was for forty days that Jonah preached in Nineveh saying, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed." It was a time period of forty days in trial and testing that Jesus met Satan in the wilderness.
But of all of the cataclysmic, significant, marvelously meaningful time periods, there is none like this; the infallible forty days; the resurrected appearances of our Lord. There are several reasons for that. The first is this. In those forty days our Lord was returned to us immortalized, resurrected from the grave.
The distance from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, from the village where He was born to the city where He was crucified, is only about six miles. You could walk it in a very small period of time. The distance from Christmas to Easter, from the manger to the tomb, is just a very small space, such as from White Rock Lake to this First Baptist Church or from Love Field to this First Baptist Church. Yet in that span the most significant events in human story occurred. It encompasses the life of our Lord.
In that small village of Bethlehem, God gave in wondrous love His only begotten Son to the world. And in the proud city of Jerusalem, just six miles away, humanity gave back the gift to God on the point of a Roman spear, nailed to a tree [John 19:34]. You would have thought, would you not, that when God saw that He would have said, "It is enough. I am through with the whole race of humanity. As I judged it in the days of the flood, I will surely judge it now in burning and consuming fire." Instead the Lord God in heaven gave us back His only begotten Son, this time immortalized, glorified, resurrected, raised from the dead. It is the days of the second giving.
Again those infallible forty days turned defeat into celestial victory. It would be hard for us to enter into the despair of the disciples when they saw Jesus die, then buried and the tomb sealed with a Roman seal, and guarded by Roman soldiers. It was literally the end of every dream they ever entertained for the kingdom of God. Jesus is dead. The Pharisees and the Sadducees in triumph washed their hands saying, "He is dead. He is dead." And the mother of Jesus, crying with the women, "He is dead." The whole world seemed to echo that sorrowful and tragic refrain. The passersby, "He is dead". And the Roman soldiers just to make sure thrust a spear into His heart. And the centurion made official report to the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, "He is certainly dead."
And the eleven disciples crawled into eleven shadows and sorrowfully said to one another, "He is dead." Nor could we enter into the fear that gripped those apostles when the Roman seal was broken and the soldiers were paid to say they did it. They broke that Roman seal. And they faced certain execution themselves. The depth of their despair is almost difficult for us to enter into.
And the opposite, psychological, rising, glorious, heavenly effect was as high in its zenith glory as it was in its nadir despair. Mary of Magdalene came to the disciples where they were huddled together in abject fear. She said, "I have seen Him. He has called my name. He is alive" [John 20:11-18]. Peter and John ran to the tomb. Just saw it empty.
Then two came to the disciples where they were meeting together, from Emmaus, saying, "He caught step with us. He broke bread with us. He is alive" [Luke 24:13-32].
And while they were speaking, Jesus Himself stood in the midst. They believe not for joy. A phrase, it’s too good to be true [Luke 24:41].
Then the following Sunday night He appeared to the disciples again in that same upper room [John 20:26-31]. Then while they were fishing there He was on the seashore [John 21:1-25]. Then in the mountain where five hundred of His people were gathered in adoration [Matthew 28:16-20]. Then in Jerusalem, then on the mount of ascension, a cloud, not moisture, a rain cloud. But the covering of God, the shekinah glory of the Lord received Him out of their sight [Acts 1:3-11].
Then He appeared to James [1 Corinthians 15:7]. I’m so glad. To leave His family in unbelief would have been sorrowful. He won His own family, His brothers and sisters to the faith. And James became pastor of the church in Jerusalem, His own brother.
Then He appeared to Stephen [Acts 7:56]. Then He appeared to Paul [Acts 9:1-5]. Then He appeared to John on the isle of Patmos [Revelation 1:9-18]. And through the years since He has appeared.
See, right there? Last Friday a woman came up to me and said, "I am a kinswoman of Captain J.C. Arnold," the man that Dr. Truett accidentally killed, the chief of police in the city of Dallas. On a hunting trip, accidentally, his gun went off, and from the wound Captain J.C. Arnold died. And she talked to me about it. And as I listened to her, one of the saddest chapters in the life of the great pastor, in the middle of the night the Lord came to him after he had said from such sorrow, "I could never preach again." The Lord came to him and called him again into his gospel ministry. And then awakening from the vision, going back to sleep, the Lord appeared to him the second time, calling him to the gospel ministry. He awakened, returning to sleep the third time, the Lord appeared to him, setting him aside to the gospel ministry. He lives!
Not only did it turn an abysmal defeat into heavenly victory, but those infallible forty days opened for us and forever a corridor into heaven. As Paul writes it in [2 Timothy 1:10]: He brought light and immortality to life. Have you ever stood by an open grave and have watched some loved one lowered into the heart of the earth and looked up into the eternal sky and wondered what lies beyond the grave? There is so little of life and time that we ever see. Like standing on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, we see so small a segment. It is so vast an ocean. It is thus with time and tideand life and eternity. We see so small a part. And what lies in the infinitude of the beyond? The answer is given to us in these infallible forty days. It is the same Jesus who was raised from the dead, who is here with us, who is there in heaven. And the two there and here are the same. He is the same there as He is here. He is the same here as He is there – the same Lord Jesus.
His human recognitions are ever the same. These infallible forty days were given, were dedicated, to the confirmation in His apostles that it was Jesus Himself raised from among the dead. He said, "Handle Me, and see that it is I Myself; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones such as you see Me have." Then He said, "Have you here anything to eat?" And He ate before them [Luke 24:-43]. And to one of His doubting apostles He said, "Put your finger in the scars in My hand and thrust your hand into My side." It is I, Myself" [John 20:27].
Whether He is there or whether He is here, or here or there, in that open corridor from earth to heaven, like the ladder that Jacob saw, the angels coming and going, ascending and descending; so He opened for us immortality’s door and heaven’s gate. He is preparing a place for us. And our recognitions will be the same there or here. Whether I am here in the flesh or whether I am resurrected, immortalized in the body, if it is I here, it is I. If it is I there, it is I.
Jesus hasn’t changed. Only He has been immortalized, glorified. And He says that as He was raised from the dead, so we also shall be raised from the dead. We. You. The personality, the heart, the life, the spirit, the mind, the thinking that is you, you shall also be immortalized. The only difference that I can find would be this. He never sinned. We shall be perfected in our glorification. We shall be sanctified. We shall stand before Him spotless without fault. But we’ll still be we, here or there. Some of us over there. Some of us still here. But whether there or here, we’re still ourselves in the Lord Jesus.
One time I went to a theological seminary, not of our Baptist communion. And I listened to one of their greatest preachers. That’s why I went. And as I listened to that wonderful, wonderful preacher, he closed his message with a story of his own life that just melted that group of intellectuals into tears. It was this. He said, "I was born in a tar-paper shack, in a blinding blizzard on the plains of western Kansas. When I was born," he said, "my mother held me to her heart that I might not freeze. And my father chopped up the last piece of furniture in the tar-paper shack and placed it on the fire, lest we die. And in that howling blizzard my father kneeled down by my mother who held me next to her heart, lest I die. And my father prayed, ‘Dear God, if You will let us live we will rear this little baby for Thee, and we will dedicate him to the ministry, that he be a preacher of Thy gospel.’"
Then he said, "It will not be long for I am an old man. It will not be long until I shall lay before my father and mother the record of these fifty-five years of ministry, and I shall say, ‘Dear mother and father, this is the answer to your prayers.’"
Well, by nature I am inquisitive. If I were to be honest with you, I am not credulous. I fight doubt ten thousand times. And as I sat there and listened to that wonderful man, I thought, "Do you suppose he is correct? Do you suppose he will see his father and mother again? Do you suppose that he will recognize them, and do you suppose they will see in him their son and the answer to their prayers? Do you think it could really be?"
And as I sat there, I said to myself what I am saying to you, "This is the Christian faith. That’s what it is. The Christian faith is born in the persuasion and the conviction that Jesus was raised from the dead, that He is alive, and because He lives we also shall live. And it will be you who lives. It will be I who lives. We shall live in His sight, and we shall know each other."
I had an illustrious predecessor in the church I pastored before I came here. And one time he was asked, "Pastor, will we know each other in heaven?" And he replied, "My brother, we will not really know each other until we get to heaven. Not really." Then he quoted Paul, "Now I see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as God knows me, even as I am known" [1 Corinthians 13:12].
It’s a beautiful persuasion. It’s a glorious faith. It’s the most triumphant and victorious of all the gospels that might ever be preached. Life has a meaning. It has a purpose. God is in it. He made us. And He made us for Himself, that we might live forever in Him.
May we stand together? Our Lord, when we turn aside from the promise in Christ, life is so meaningless. The grave is so dark. Death is so inextricably certain. But when we turn in faith to Thee, ah, what triumph, what victory. Death is but the open door through which we enter into heaven. Because of the sin of flesh in our mortal bodies, we can’t walk streets made out of gold. We can’t drink at the fountain of living water. We’re sinful. But when we are resurrected, immortalized, raised from the dead like unto our glorious Lord, then are we fit, prepared to enter those gates of solid pearl, to mingle with God’s sainted family, to drink at the river of life, to go in and out in the presence of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus. Oh what a victory! Death, now where is your sting? Grave, now where is your victory? [1 Corinthians 15:55]. We have overcome. We shall live even though we die. We shall live in the power and the glory of our resurrected Lord. God be praised for the faith, for the gospel, for the promise, for the comfort, for the assurance.
And in this moment that our people stand and wait in the presence of our dear Lord, this beautiful Easter morning, a family you, a couple you, just one somebody you; if you are in the balcony, down one of those stairways, in the throng on this floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, we have decided for God and here we stand." On the first note of the first stanza, come. A thousand times welcome. And our Lord bless these who moved by the Spirit of Jesus come to Thee and to us this beautiful Easter morning, in Thy precious name, amen. While we sing, welcome.