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The Bible by the Numbers > Day 22

Probation (Jonah 3)

The number forty has long been seen as a significant number in Scripture. Its significance is gleaned from the frequency of its occurrence and from its association with periods of probation, trial, chastisement and judgment. 


When it comes to probation, a good scriptural example is the Prophet Jonah’s message to the capital city of Assyria, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4). Although this “forty days” could be associated with judgment, it is best seen as probation, due to the subsequent repentance of the city. The fact that a repentant Nineveh was not destroyed turned the ticking clock of judgment into a grace period that afforded the Ninevites an opportunity to be saved.


The Apostle Peter predicted that there would be no lack of “last days scoffers” questioning “the promise of” Christ’s Second Coming (2 Peter 3-4). According to Peter, these end-time scoffers will scoff at “the promise of His coming” by saying that “all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” Interestingly, Peter attributes such scoffing to ignorance. He accuses these future mockers of the Second Coming of being “ignorant” of the fact that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (1 Peter 1:9).


The ticking clock between now and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is the world’s “forty day” grace period. It affords sinners with the opportunity to be saved. Once Christ comes, the window of opportunity will be closed and all who have turned their nose up at God’s offer of grace will be eternally lost. Think about it; this includes your lost loved ones, friends and acquaintances. 


As Peter makes plain in 2 Peter 3:10, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” We don’t know when Jesus will come; it could be today. In light of such imminence, we should be sharing our faith with great urgency. Remember, the Bible teaches, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2). 


Just as Nineveh’s grace period ran out—they eventually repented of their repentance and were judged and destroyed by God (Nahum 1-3)—today’s age of grace will one day run out. How tragic it will be for “last days scoffers” when Christ returns. Instead of taking advantage of their opportunity to repent of their iniquity and be saved, many will be found to have squandered their opportunity by poking fun at the very Savior who had patently waited to return because of His unwillingness for them “to perish.”

Don Walton