40 Days and 40 Nights ?
Ken McDonald B.D., Th.M.
As I have stated in other articles, I enjoy the discussion of the word of God. When done properly it is an example of iron sharpening iron. For some, when it comes to the discussion of the word of God, they get very insecure and agitated. Usually this is due to the fact that they are not sure of their position, and my reply to that is study and get rooted and grounded in the word of God so that you are sure of your position. For others, the discussion of the word of God turns into personal attacks upon the person who has a differing opinion. This is just due to pride and the inability to either say, “I don’t know” or “I was wrong.” But the word of God states that, (Prov. 6:23) “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” So I am going to write about a teaching that has been going around for a few years. I do not agree with it and you could say that I believe it is heresy, but this article has nothing to do with those who believe it. This is merely a discussion of what the word of God says.
There is a teaching going around that states the dead in Christ are going to be walking around on this earth for forty days and nights before, “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air… (1 Thess. 4:17) This teaching also states that we will know perfectly when the Lord Jesus Christ is coming for we will have had the dead in Christ, who look just like Jesus Christ, including holes in their hands and feet, walking around for forty days and nights warning us and others of the Rapture. (I have the sermons with these statements in them, as well as the pages from his commentary on the gospel of John which covers the same teaching. I am not making this up.)
Along with this teaching is another heresy taught that as a type of this forty days walking of the dead there is a precedence of this in the resurrection of Jesus Christ where in Matthew it states that: Matt. 27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. It is then taught that since Jesus was on this earth forty days and nights after His resurrection, that these risen dead were also on this earth forty days and nights walking and talking with people, and then ascended with Christ when He ascended up to Heaven in Acts 1.
So lets deal with this first. Were the dead of Matt. 27 walking this earth for forty days and nights?
There is no doubt that many bodies of the saints which slept arose and came out of the graves for this is what it says. But how long were they on this earth? Was it Forty days and nights, or merely a few hours at most?
Notice in John 20:1 that Mary Magdalene comes to the sepulcher “when it was yet dark.” It appears that she comes alone and is the first one to examine the sepulcher. Matthew 28 says, “dawn”, Mark 16 says “rising of the sun,” and Luke says, “very early in the morning.”
The important thing to see though is that when she sees Jesus He says to her, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father:” Jesus Christ warns her not to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to His Father. At this point there are resurrected saints walking into Jerusalem and appearing to many, though it is still twilight at best for she came when it was yet dark.
Not long after appearing to Mary Magdalene Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven. How do I know that? I know that because the same day they touch Him and He does not stop them.
In Matt 28 it is the angels that speak and say, “He is not here: for he is risen…” The “…He is not here” can refer to more than just that He is not in the sepulcher any more. If you want to limit the statement to that it is OK, but there is an implication that He has left for Heaven. Regardless we know that He did leave and go to Heaven. The angels tell them to go quickly and tell his disciples that, “he is risen from the dead.”
In Matt 28:8 they run with fear and great joy! Oh Yeah! He is alive! He is alive! Glory to God He is alive! They run with a message from God in their hearts and tears of joy running down their cheeks. But on the way guess who stops them? In verse 9 the Lord stops them on the road. It had to be less than an hour and more like fifteen minutes from when the angels told them to go quickly. Matt. 28:9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
He didn’t stop them from touching Him! Why? He had already ascended and returned to the earth. That is plain from what He said to Mary in John 20, “touch me not, for I have not yet ascended.” From the time He appears to Mary in john 20, and she came while it was yet dark, to here in Matt. 28:9, which was morning, there may have been two hours. I obviously am speculating, but it was still morning when they held Him by the feet.
Now Ephesians states that, Eph. 4:8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive… He took the saints that were resurrected in Matt 27 to Heaven that same day of His resurrection. How do we know this? Look at the resurrection order. 1Cor. 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. The firstfruits is a plural so that they ascended up with Him that day. But if you are still not convinced there is one more very important thing to notice.
Acts 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Acts 1:10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Acts 1:11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
If the resurrected dead ascended with Jesus Christ after forty days and forty nights where are they? There is a minimum of eleven earthly witnesses, not counting the angels, who are present when He ascends and they are steadfastly looking up into Heaven, and guess what! There is nobody else ascending with Him into Heaven. “…They looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up…”. To claim that the resurrected saints of Matt 27 ascended with Christ in Acts 1 is to plainly ignore what the scriptures say.
So the answer is no. The resurrected saints of Matt 27 ARE NOT a precedence of the dead in Christ walking on this earth for forty days and nights.
Part 2 - The Rapture
The second part of this heresy, and the main subject of it, is that the dead in Christ are going to be walking on this earth for forty days and nights before they are translated with those alive in Christ to meet the Lord in the air.
Well, let’s see what the word of God says about it!
1Cor. 15:51 ¶ Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
1Cor. 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Both the dead in Christ and those alive are referred to in verse 51. The first thing to notice in the resurrection order is that the dead in Christ and the saints who are alive are both “changed in a moment…at the last trump.” Do you see that? It does not say “by” the last trump, it says, “at the last trump.” According to what it says the changing that takes place for the sleeping and those alive, happens at the last trump.
To claim there is a forty day difference from when the dead in Christ are changed to when those alive at His coming are changed is simply not to believe what it says! It does not say there is a trump for the dead in Christ and a trump later for those alive in Christ, it says, “…at the last trump.” The sounding of the trumpet, the resurrecting of the dead, and the changing of the saints that are living all happen at once. There is no time frame, according to these scriptures, between them. The key here is, “…at the last trump.”
1Th. 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
1Th. 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1Th. 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1Th. 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Now, notice the use of the word “remain.” In verse 15 both the living and them which sleep are referred to. Both “groups” are referred to. (I have a problem saying there are two groups because we are all one in Christ.) The word remain is used to designate those who are still alive. The dead in Christ have gone on before us into the clouds. So we are not geographically together, ie. in the presence of each other. The important thing to see is that those who remain are not together with those who have gone on before.
16 – “The dead in Christ shall rise first” - they do not stop at the surface of the earth. Nowhere does it state that they stop rising at the surface of the earth. Why would they?
17 - “Remain” - the dead in Christ are not together with us at this point.
The following thought was added 7/8/2017 - Unless the "remain" refers to remaining to be changed. If so then the dead in Christ rise from the ground and as they are rising we are not changed yet. But as they reach top side, then we are changed and caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Either way both events happen at the last trump and are not separated by 40 days and nights.
What you have is the dead in Christ getting their new bodies, some of which are in the oceans, under the dirt etc. They get their new bodies and are raised incorruptible. That happens first. As they are rising up from where they were buried, then we which remain, are changed in the twinkling of an eye and are caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. There is an order to the rapture, but that order takes place at the last trump in the twinkling of an eye.
A bomb explodes but there is an order that takes place when it explodes. The order is very fast but it is still an order of events that take place. So, too, it is in the rapture. There is an order of events according to 1 Thess. 4, but that order of events takes place in the twinkling of an eye, according to 1 Cor. 15.
The grave danger I see in the heresy of teaching that there will be a forty days and nights of the dead in Christ walking on this earth is that it steals your blessed hope. If you believed that there was going to be forty days and nights of the dead in Christ walking around before the rapture then you would not be looking for His coming. You believe you know when He is coming.
By the way, when this teaching is taught he quotes that yourselves “know perfectly,” 1 Thess 5:2, but that is a reference to the Second Advent. What they know perfectly is that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night, and there is no need to write about the times and seasons.
An excellent book on this is The Two Raptures by Dr. Ruckman.
To believe this 40 days and nights heresy is to cause you to:
1. Loose the blessed hope that Jesus may come today. Yet you are commanded to look for that blessed hope.
Titus 2:11 ¶ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Titus 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
2. You will begin to live dirty.
1John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
1John 3:3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
3. You may lose a crown.
2Tim. 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.