The Infallible Forty Days
March 26th, 1989 @ 8:15 AM
THE INFALLIBLE FORTY DAYS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-26-89 8:15 a.m.
Once again welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Infallible Forty Days.
Out of the passage you just read, Dr. Luke writes: “The former treatise have I made,” that is the Gospel of Luke, “O Theophilus,” a Roman patron, “of all that Jesus began” —began, He is still working; the Lord is still omnipotent—
Of all that He began to do and to teach,
Until the day in which He was taken up, after that through the Holy Spirit He had given commandments unto the apostles . . .
To whom also He showed Himself alive after His passion, after His suffering and death, by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
Forty days, The Infallible Forty Days.
Often times in Scripture is that period of time set apart, set aside, to present some mighty cataclysmic act of Almighty God. In the days of Noah, it rained forty days and forty nights [Genesis 7:4,12]. God punctured the canopy that covered the earth. It was as tropical at the North and South Pole’s as it was in the Congo of Africa. The earth had been watered by the dew. And when God punctured that canopy, it fell to the earth. First time the world had ever seen rain. And it rained forty days and forty nights [Genesis 7:12].
When Moses ascended Mt. Sinai and received the law from the hand of God, he communed face to face with Jehovah Lord forty days [Exodus 34:27-29].
When Jonah was sent to Nineveh, he entered the city and cried, saying, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed” [Jonah 3:4], the capital of the Assyrian Empire.
And when the Lord was tried and temped by the devil, He was in the wilderness with His arch-adversary, Satan, forty days [Luke 4:1-12].
But out of all of the periods in the Bible, none is so meaningful as these forty days that presented in infallible proofs the resurrection of our living Lord; these forty infallible days [Acts 1:3]. First they gave to us our crucified Savior [Matthew 27:32-50], now raised and risen from the dead [Matthew 28:5-10; Acts 1:3]. From the place where our Lord was born to [Matthew 2:1], the place where He was crucified in the proud city [Matthew 27:33], there is a distance of less than six miles—from Christmas to Easter, from the manger to the tomb, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, no further than White Rock Lake to our First Baptist Church here in Dallas. There in Bethlehem in the little village of David, God gave to the earth the preciousest and sweetest and divinest, heavenly gift mankind has ever received [Matthew 1:18-2:1]. With angel love and songs, did God bestow upon us His only begotten Son [Luke 2:1-16].
And there in Jerusalem, on the point of a Roman spear and nailed to a cross, mankind handed back God’s heavenly gift to the Lord [John 19:16-34]. But God is merciful to the uttermost. He raised the crucified Lord Jesus from the dead and gave Him back to us [Luke 24:1-7]. And that second blessing we call Easter. And that’s why, on this Lord’s day, throughout Christendom, we praise God’s name for His wonderful gift of love and salvation to us. Thus did the forty days bring to us the risen, resurrected, glorified, triumphant Lord Jesus [Acts 1:3].
Number two, the infallible forty days; they turned defeat into victory. The tragedy of the cross and the silence of the tomb; those Pharisees and scribes who had marched up and down in front of Him, as He suffered and died [Matthew 27:32-50], they now said to one another, “He is dead. He is dead.” The soldiers who crucified Him said, “He is dead.” And thus to ensure His demise, one of them took his spear and thrust it into His heart [John 19:34]. “He is dead.”
And the Roman centurion who presided over the execution made his official pronouncement to the Roman procurator. “He is dead” [Mark 15:44-45]. And His sweet and precious mother, with many tears and broken heart, taken to the home of John [John 19:25-27], bowed her heart and cried, “He is dead.” And the disciples, eleven of them, crawling into eleven shadows, every hope that they ever entertained for the kingdom of God [Matthew 26:56], bowed in despair and cried, saying, “He is dead. He is dead.”
Then an electric and glorifying announcement; Mary Magdalene runs to Peter and John saying, “He is not there. He is gone” [John 20:1-2]. And Peter and John, running to the tomb, look inside [John 20:3-8]. “He is gone. He is gone.” Then the women announce to the apostles, “We have seen Him. He is alive! He’s alive!” [Matthew 28:9-10]. And Cleopas and his friend on the way to Emmaus return to Jerusalem saying, “We have seen Him [Luke 24:33-35]. He is alive! He is alive!”
And in the upper room, ten of the apostles, He suddenly appeared [John 20:19-25], “He is alive.” And the next Sunday evening, to the eleven apostles, He appeared again [John 20:26-29]. “He is alive. He is alive.”
And as they were fishing on the shore of the Sea of [Tiberias], suddenly He is there [John 21:1-14]. “He is alive. He is alive.” And on a mountain in Galilee and in Bethany [Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6] and at His ascension, He lifted His hands in blessing and was hid out of their sight [Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9]. “He is alive. He is alive.”
And in the years continuing since, He appeared to His half-brother James [1 Corinthians 15:7]. He appeared to Stephen, God’s first Christian martyr [Acts 7:55-56]. And He appeared to the apostle Paul [Acts 9:1-5]. And He appeared to the John on the isle of Patmos [Revelation 1:9-18]. “He is alive. He is alive.”
One of the most dramatic stories I’ve ever heard in our dear church: in the days of the great pastor Dr. Truett, on a hunting trip, he accidentally shot and killed J. C. Arnold, the Chief of Police of the city of Dallas. So devastating was the horror of the experience, the great pastor said in his heart, “I’ll never stand here again. I’ll never preach again.”
But in the despair of that awesome week, the Lord Jesus appeared to him. Thrice the Lord Jesus appeared to him and said, “Be of good courage. From now on, you are My preacher. You are My man.” He is alive! He is alive! He can hear us if we pray. He can stand by us in the day of our need. And He will open for us the gates of heaven. He is alive. He is alive.
And last, those forty days [Acts 1:3] brought to us a delineation and a definition of our life that is yet to come. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:10, He not only conquered death, but He brought life and immortality to light. You see, it was the same Jesus, the same Lord who was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-10], as the Lord who lived in the days of His flesh. It was the same Jesus. Death did not change it [Matthew 27:32-50], and the resurrection did not remove Him [Matthew 28:5-10]. It is the same Lord Jesus [Acts 1:3].
Mary Magdalene recognized Him by the way that He pronounced her name [John 20:16]. There was an inflection to the voice of our Lord, unlike any other. And she recognized Him by the inflection in calling her name. The apostle John, when he ran into that tomb, saw the napkin folded and placed by itself, and he recognized the living Lord by the way that Jesus folded a napkin [John 20:6-8]. Cleopas and his friend, as they walked to Emmaus and a stranger walked by their side [Luke 24:13-16], Cleopas recognized the living Lord by the way that He said the blessing in the breaking of bread. Jesus had a way of saying grace at the table, and Cleopas recognized Him by the way that He said the blessing [Luke 24:30-31, 35].
Thomas the doubting apostle recognized Him by the scars in His hands and in His side [John 20:25-28]. And in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, when our Lord suddenly appeared to His apostles they were affrighted, thinking they were seeing a spirit. But our Lord said, “Do not be afraid. A spirit hath not flesh and blood, such as ye see Me have. And He said, Come, handle Me and see that it is I Myself” [Luke 24:36-40]. And then to add to the affirmation He is still the same, He said, “Have you here anything to eat?” And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb, and our Lord did eat before them [Luke 24:41-43]. The same Lord Jesus, the same [Acts 1:3].
And when He introduced Himself to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, our Lord said, “I am Jesus of Nazareth” [Acts 22:8]. The same Lord Jesus [Acts 1:3].
My sweet people, all of this is to avow and to affirm and to assure to us that death makes no difference in us. We just exchange these old corrupting bodies for a new and a resurrected body, created by the omnipotent hands of God [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]. But you’ll still be the same. You’ll be you and I’ll be I. And I’ll know you and you’ll know me.
Ten thousand times am I asked, “Pastor, will we know each other in heaven?” When we stand by an open grave and they look up to the eternal sky, “Will we be together in heaven?” That’s why the infallible forty days [Acts 1:3]; it was the same Lord Jesus.
And you’ll be the same. Only difference, we won’t be sinners. And we won’t be culpable. And we won’t be guilty. And we won’t be condemned. And we won’t be sick, and we won’t grow old, and we won’t die [Revelation 21:4], but we’ll be like our Lord. And you’ll be like you, forever and ever.
May I add one final word? It’s that same Lord Jesus who will be receiving us into glory on the day of our great pilgrimage in this earth is done. “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again to receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” [John 14:1-3]. Waiting for me at the gate of heaven is that same, loving, compassionate Lord Jesus. He will be the first One we’ll see. He will be the one who greets us and welcomes us as we walk through those pearly gates into the city of God [Revelation 22:3-5].
O Lord, what a gospel and what a promise and what a triumph, that the end of this life is not in the dust of the grave, but the end is in the triumph of our Savior in heaven, with whom we shall live and reign forever and ever and ever! [Revelation 22:3-5]. O God, O Christ, blessed be the name of the Lord!
We’re going to sing us a hymn. And while we sing the song of appeal, a family you coming into the fellowship of our wonderful church, a couple you, dedicating your house and home to the Lord Jesus, a one somebody you, giving your heart in faith to our precious Lord [Romans 10:9-10], on the first note of the first stanza, come and welcome. Down one of these stairways from the balcony, down one of these aisles on the lower floor, as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now. And on the first note of the first stanza, come. Welcome. May the angels attend you in the way and God bless as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.
INFALLIBLE FORTY DAYS
I. Forty days
period oft seen in Bible presenting cataclysmic, marvelous results (Genesis
7:4, Exodus 24:18, 34:29, Jonah 3:4, Matthew 4:1-2)
Jesus showed Himself by infallible proofs as being raised
II. Gave back to us our risen Lord
A. From Bethlehem to
B. God’s gift to fallen
III. Turned defeat into victory
A. Despair and fear of
B. He is risen!
1. Appears to
individuals and to groups
2. Continues to
appear after His ascension
IV. Opened corridor into heaven
A. The same Jesus (Luke
24:39-43, John 20:27)