The Meaning of Numbers: The Number 49
The meaning of the number 49 is derived from the fact that it is 7 times 7. Seven is a Biblically perfect numeral representing spiritual perfection.
Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a person who sinned against him. He suggested that forgiving someone seven times seemed fairly generous to him. The Lord's response, however, was "I do not say to you until seven times, but until seventy times seven (490 or 49 x 10)" (Matthew 18:22). Christians are not to limit themselves in regards to forgiveness and mercy. If they are to be perfect, like their heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48), believers are required to offer unlimited forgiveness.
The name of the Apostle John is recorded forty-nine times in the KJV version of the Gospels.
Appearances of the number forty-nine
God first commanded his people to keep the Feast of Weeks (also known as Pentecost) in Exodus 34.
The determination of Pentecost, each year, begins by counting seven complete weeks (49 days total) starting within the spring Feast season (Numbers 28:26, Deuteronomy 16:9 - 10). The day after this perfect cycle of days is the fiftieth day, which is designated a holy convocation before God. No servile work is to be done on the day and special offerings were made to God in thankfulness of his blessings from the wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22).
Pentecost, which continued to be kept by the New Testament church (Acts 2:1), is a special day of rejoicing. Its Old Testament meaning was enhanced when it became the day God kept his promise (Acts 1:4 - 5) and poured out his Holy Spirit on his people. This act not only makes them true Christians but also gives them the power to build righteous character.
In modern times, many Christians celebrate Pentecost from late May to the middle of June (it varies due to the Biblical calendar) each year.
The Jubilee year
God commanded his people to proclaim a unique yearlong period after the completion of seven sets of seven years (49 total). This fiftieth year, proclaimed with a trumpet on the Feast of Atonement (Yom Kippur), is known as the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:9).
And you shall number seven Sabbaths of years to you, seven times seven years. And the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be forty-nine years to you.
Then you shall cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; in the Day of Atonement . . . And you shall make the fiftieth year holy, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee to you . . . (Leviticus 25:8 - 10).
In the Jubilee year, all the land God gave the Israelites was to return to their original owners. Additionally, Israelites who were slaves were to be set free and allowed to go back home (see Leviticus 25). The completion of each 49 year time cycle marked a period of freedom, liberty and rejoicing for God's people.
The number 49 and prophecy
Daniel's famous 70 weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24 - 26) is divided into three periods. These distinct time spans are seven weeks (49 days), sixty-two weeks (434 days) and one week (7 days). Please see our article on the number 490 for an overview of the entire prophecy.
Seventy weeks are decreed upon your people and upon your holy city to finish the transgression and to make an end of sin . . .
Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, to Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks . . . And after sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off but not for Himself . . . (Daniel 9:24 - 26).
The first period of seven weeks is, as stated above, composed of 49 days. Using the prophetic principle of a day representing a year (see Ezekiel 4:1 - 5), it represents forty-nine years "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem." This proclamation took place in 539 B.C. when Persian king Cyrus the Great, after conquering the Babylonians, declared that Jerusalem and its temple should be rebuilt (Ezra 1:1 - 4).
Additional info on the Biblical Meaning of 49
The number 49 is significant in that it is also the year the simmering controversy regarding circumcision and its relationship to salvation finally boils over. The belief that Gentile Christians must be circumcised to be saved is thrust out in the open when intense arguments erupt in Syrian Antioch (Acts 15). The divisiveness of this controversy causes a unique gathering of church elders known as the Jerusalem Conference, a gathering which ultimately settles the issue.
In late Autumn 49 A.D., just before his second missionary journey, Paul has a heated argument with Barnabas regarding taking Mark on their upcoming evangelistic tour. The disagreement is so sharp that Paul takes Silas on his evangelistic travels while Barnabas takes Mark and goes in another direction (Acts 15).