“Ascension Day” — A Time of Testing and the Number 40

Acts 1:3, 9-11, “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” “…as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?  This Yeshua, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 

According to man-made religious traditions, “The Feast of Ascension” is one of the four “holiest” days in the Christian calendar.  It’s a pretty memorable event, I’ll grant you that, but it’s not one of the 7 truly Holy and permanent appointed times given in Leviticus 23.  So, forgive us for not attending mass. That doesn’t mean that Messiah picked the 40th day of Shavuot willy-nilly, however.  There is a deep meaning behind the number 40 that spans the entire Bible.  It’s a number that reflects a time of testing.   

Here are some examples:

It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, as Yah tested and judged the world in Noah’s flood—but Noah passed the test. 

Jonah preached to Nineveh, warning them to repent as YHWH’s judgement would otherwise come in 40 days. Nineveh passed the test. 

Elijah was fed miracle food, that sustained him for 40 days and 40 nights for his journey to Sinai.  Elijah passed the test.  

Both Gideon and Deborah passed their tests, as during their reigns we are told “the land had rest for 40 years.” 

Moses spent 40 years in Egypt, being tested as a Hebrew raised in Pharaoh’s house. He was then tested another 40 years, as a Hebrew being raised in the house of a Midianite.  And despite dying in the wilderness after 40 years of being tested as the leader of Israel, the manna still fell that entire time, and Moses passed the test.  

Saul is tested as Israel’s king for 40 years.  David is King for the next 40 years. Solomon’s reign is 40 years.  David, at least, passed the test. 

Messiah’s ministry immediately began with 40 days of testing in the wilderness and it ended with 40 days with His believers.  In not a small way, those bookends tell us His entire ministry was a time of testing, of everyone: the world, Israel, even himself.  Messiah passed the test.  

In Exodus 24:18, immediately following Shavuot, Moses goes back up the mountain, along with Joshua, for 40 days and 40 nights. He specifically goes back up to get the download of the instructions for the priesthood and their garments, the tabernacle and it’s décor, the Holy furniture and the instructions for it’s use.  All the tools to assist in helping Israel atone for their sins, and to centralize and standardize a system to show Yah’s mercy and grace to both Israel and the nations.  (And boy, are they are going to need it!) 

During this very same 40 days and 40 nights—without proper supervision, Aaron and the people lawlessly devise their own system of worship—and that day becomes known as the “Golden Calf Incident” in Exodus 32—memorialized forever in a Feast Yah eventually calls  “Yom Teruah’ or “The Day of Shouting” or “The Feast of Trumpets”.   If that’s new to you, read this.

We don’t often think about it this way, but we are currently in a period of testing.  We are currently just short of 4000 years since the first Shavuot.  We Israelites, and even those “God Fearers” who sojourn among us, have been without a flesh-and-blood Moses for this whole time, just like the Israelites who took the law into their own hands during that first “incident”.  

We’ve also been without a flesh-and-blood Yeshua for the most recent 2000 years, just like the Israelites were without Joshua during their time of testing.  

Our ancient counterparts at the base of Sinai were told that Moses and Joshua would return, they just weren’t told the specific day nor the hour.  Only upon their return did everyone realize that Israel had failed the test—the tablets were smashed to pieces, and the first deaths of any Israelites since before Pesach occurred!   The original “Golden Calf Incident” will pale in comparison to the SHOUTING that will occur after our current time of testing is over.  When Messiah descends to see what we’ve been doing while unsupervised.   

This return will be on a future Yom Teruah, the same date as Israel’s original time of testing. Here’s a link to an entire study series on Yom Teruah if you’re interested.

Yah, being loving and merciful, included in His download to Moses a system to account for this travesty, even as they were in the very midst of plotting and actively conspiring their own downfall; even while the High-Priest who would administer that very system was in fact the chief plotter!  All of this damage control is the purpose for the Day of Atonement (another post-Shavuot Feast) added specifically because of our predictable transgressions, and because he knows our hearts and loves us (somehow) anyway. 

So here we are, waiting for Messiah to return after His ascent on the 40th Day of Shavuot—but it’s not Him who is being tested—He already passed his.  It is our turn. Will we?  This is why Ascension Day shouldn’t be a Christian Feast.  It’s a little too early to celebrate.  

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