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Ephesians 4:8-10

When He Ascended

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)


The measures of the gift of Christ that are mentioned in verse 7 are listed in verse 11 and explained in the subsequent verses. Verses 8-10 constitute a parenthesis referring to Christ who was mentioned at the end of verse 7. This is the typical style of writing that Paul employs, as we have seen in earlier passages.

"Wherefore he saith..." or "About whom it is said..." This introduces a quotation which Paul has taken from Psalms 68:18 and has modified it slightly to make his point. There has been quite a bit of argument about this, because the Psalm was written to celebrate the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant from Kirjath-jearim to Mount Zion in 2 Samuel 6. The Psalm celebrates the power and victory of God over His enemies. Many, however, claim that the 18th verse describes the ascension of the ark and that Paul misquoted it. To this author, however, it is clear that it is God who ascended the mount in victory.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is God. He is also the antitype of the ark. His ascension into heaven was a greater ascension, a greater victory over the enemy, than when David brought the ark to Mount Zion. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul was led to see the imagery in the ascension of the ark and the relevance of this verse to what he was going to say to the Ephesians.

Jesus led captivity captive. Those who were the servants of sin were set free to be the servants of Christ. The enemy of God who held His people captive was defeated by Christ and was himself placed into captivity.

Psalm s 68:18 says, "...thou hast received gifts for men." Rather than "for men," it would be better translated as "in men." The Father gave to the Son the people for His church. All that should be saved were given to Christ as His inheritance for His suffering. (John 6:37; 17:6) Paul, however, writes in Ephesians 4:8, saying, "...and gave gifts unto men." There is nothing wrong with the fact that he misquoted the Psalm in order to further explain the spiritual truth hidden therein. It is this: "All who are Christ's are indeed the recipients of the spiritual gifts, a measure of His grace. You cannot be Christ's without the benefits." The Psalmist also continues with that idea, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah." (Psalms 68:19)

Paul then continues with a passage that has also caused much confusion. "(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" (Ephesians 4:9) He assumes that, if Christ had ascended, He must have first descended, because He is not from this world. The "lower parts of the earth" have often been inaccurately interpreted to mean hell. There is no other passage in scripture to support such a claim. Jesus certainly experienced a separation from the Father, while He was dying on the cross. That was truly hell for Him, but it does not mean that He was cast into the lake of fire or into outer darkness or into the mythical fires of the underworld.

Jesus, who was equal with God the Father, left the comforts of heaven and descended to the earth to take the form of a servant and the likeness of man. (Philippians 2:7) He was made into the likeness of a man in the womb of His mother, Mary, and that is referred to as the lowest parts of the earth. "My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth." (Psalms 139:15)

He again ascended into the lower parts of the earth when He was buried. "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:40)

So, we can see what the meaning of this phrase is. It simply means that Jesus descended from heaven to earth, which is the lower part of creation. He ascended again so "that he might fill all things." He returned to His glorious position in heaven where is is all in all. (See 1:23 Notes)

You worship a Savior who is more than just another man or another great prophet. He is the God of all creation who descended to the uttermost position of humility and suffering for your sake. Then, He ascended in victory to the right hand of the Father. His gifts were in the people whom the Father had given Him (hopefully you are one), and to each He has given the proper measure of grace.

Before The Throne:

Praise God for the gift of life that you have received through Jesus Christ. Pray for Him to increase your faith and to make you aware of the gifts He has given you. Commit your life to serving Him with those gifts.

For Further Study:

(v.8 )
** When: Psa 68:18; ** he led: Jdg 5:12; Col 2:15; ** and: 1Sa 30:26; Est 2:18;

(v.9) ** he ascended: Pro 30:4; Joh 3:13; 6:33, 62; 20:17; Act 2:34-36; ** he also: Gen 11:5; Exo 19:20; Joh 6:33, 38, 41, 51, 58; 8:14; 16:27-28; ** the lower: Psa 8:5; 63:9, Psa 139:15; Mat 12:40; Heb 2:7, 9;

(v.10) ** ascended: Eph 1:20-23; Act 1:9, 11; 1Ti 3:16; Heb 4:14; 7:26; 8:1; 9:23-24; ** that he: Eph 3:19; Joh 1:16; Act 2:33; Col 1:19; 2:9; ** fill: Mat 24:34; Luk 24:44; Joh 19:24, 28, 36 ** Gr: Act 3:18; 13:32-33; Rom 9:25-30; 15:9-13; 16:25-26;

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