Waking with The Word | Ephesians 8-10
: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.)
Verses 8-10 tell us of the long journey Christ took to give these gifts to men. The verse Paul is referencing is Psalms 68:18 Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.
Something important to look for when reading the New testament is when the author references Old Testament scripture. Keep in mind Paul nor any of the New Testament authors had the complete canon of Scripture and when they preached the gospel they preached it from the Old testament scripture. Here Paul reaches back to Psalms 68 and realizes and teaches that Psalms 68 was speaking of Jesus' victory over death, hell and the grave and through that victory He lead captivity captive and gave gifts unto men.
Now concerning the ascension and descension of Christ there is many varying views on what happened and exactly where Christ descended to. I will touch on this briefly for sake of thoroughness but it isn't the drive of our study today. Some think that Jesus descended into hell and others believe He descended into paradise or Abrahams bosom where Lazarus was. There is also some controversy over the term lower parts of the earth, whether that phrase is referring to the womb of Mary or indeed is speaking of the place of departed souls, Hades. Which is not the same as hell but is consisted of all departed souls, some in the place of torment and some in Abrahams bosom. The reason that people believe that Paul could be referring to Mary's womb is because of Psalms 139:15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
In that verse it is clear that it is the womb that is being spoken of but there are other verses in scripture where the same phrase is used and it is clear that it is not referring to the womb.
Both are true, but I do believe that Paul was referring to hades the place of departed souls of the righteous and wicked, separated by a great gulf fixed between the side of torment for the wicked and a side of comfort for the ones who died in faith. It is true that Christ descended into the womb of Mary prior to his birth but at His death He descended into the paradise side of hades. Remember Jesus' words to the repentant thief? "Today thou shalt be with me in paradise." I will state my belief according to what I have studied and encourage you to study for your self what you believe the scripture teaches about Christ descension into the lower parts of the earth. I believe that the Old testament saints where being kept in the paradise side of hades/sheol, hades is the Greek word and sheol is the Hebrew word but both indicate the same place.(Luke 16:22-26, Hebrews 11:39-40)
I also believe that Christ descended into the Paradise side of hades/sheol and lead those who were being kept captive there to the new place of rest, Heaven.(Luke 23:43, Ephesians 4:9-10) Now when believers die we are carried immediately into the presence of Christ and not held in a secondary place like the Old testament saints were.(2 Cor 5:8, Philippians 1:23) These are my beliefs and encourage you to study for yourself and come to your own conclusion by prayer and study.
When I was making trips to Africa and my family was living in the States I was always sure to pick up gifts to bring back home after my long journey to the other side of the world. I would bring home things that you couldn't find in the States, only the most African things I could find. Jesus took a similar journey into the life beyond this life and brought back gifts not found in this world but only in the next and today I can enjoy some of the gifts in part that i will one day enjoy in whole. The long Journey Jesus took to give this gifts unto men, Gifts like eternal life, Gifts like the righteousness of Christ, Gifts like the fruits of the Spirit, Gifts that come from another world. Joy unspeakable, peace that passeth understanding all these gifts were free to us but cost our savior a great deal and and long journey from Heaven to the womb of a women, then to a crib in a manger then to a cross on Calvary and then as far down as any man can go, into the grave and the world of departed souls, where He lead free all the captive should who were kept until the redemption price was paid in the fulness of time. Then from there he ascended from death, unto a glorious resurrection . From there He ascended to the right hand of God and has given gifts unto men. He descended as low as any man can descend and He ascended higher than any man could ever ascend. Underneath are the everlasting arms and above there is a place He has prepared for us. He reached lower than our sin and is going to bring us up to heaven higher than any bliss we could every experience. So wonderful a place that we will have to have a new body to live there. The gifts He has given you come at a high price and He travelled a long way to get them, let's be appreciative of the price that was paid, the lightyears that were travelled and the Love that would provoke such generosity.
According to the riches of His Grace!!