Leading Captivity Captive

2 06 2014

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:4-13

As a child I was always taught that this passage was speaking of Christ going into the center of the earth and leading the redeemed from Paradise into Heaven while He was in the grave. When I read the passage for myself and thought about what it’s saying that interpretation no longer makes sense. When you read the verses together instead of isolating a small portion then you get a better picture. Context is key and you must put this passage back into the chapter.

In verses 4-6 Paul is stressing the unity of all believers. There is one body-the body of Christ. There is one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism then the next verse throws a curve ball and starts with “but” so now he is moving his focus as we will see from believers as a group to believers as individuals. He says that to each believer is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. It goes on to say that “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” There can be no doubt that the ascending on high refers to Christ’s ascension after His earthly ministry.

Paul then says, “(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)” (Ephesians 4:9-10) The descending and the ascending are put in comparison meaning they are in relation to one another. Just as He first descended so He also ascended. The descending is not in reference to His death or gong to Paradise. There is no mention in this passage of taking believers out of Paradise to Heaven. All of that happened after His resurrection according to Matthew 27:52-53.

The reference to descending to the lower parts of the earth is a reference to Christ coming to this world. It explains His ascending by pointing out that He first descended to the lower parts of the earth. Some would say this term “lower parts of the earth” references Him going somewhere after His death. I believe Scripture teaches that He did but this is not the context of what Paul is saying. The term “lower parts of the earth” is common in the Bible and is not exclusive of the lower regions or Hades. David uses the term in reference to the womb.

“My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” (Psalm 139:15)

Isaiah used it in regards to the creation.

“Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.” (Isaiah 44:23)

Ezekiel uses the term in relation to hell or the pit but in other passages the reference is different. There is no argument from Scripture that the term is consistently used of the nether regions. The context in Ephesians in light of the verses around it and the comparison to His ascension tell us that the term is being used to speak of His coming to earth.


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2 06 2014
godinterestuk

AMEN. Extremely thought provoking. Reading passages our of context can be dangerous. Please feel free to re-post your blogs at Godinterest as we move through the year. God Bless Your Ministry




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