Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
(Ephesians 4:8-10 ESV)
In yesterday’s verse Paul referenced Psalm 68 as a prophetic passage pointing to the one who would conquer, free captives, distribute spoils, and then ascend. Today Paul shows us that this prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus.
Jesus is the earthly name given to the human incarnation of the Son of God. He existed in heaven before time began and then descended to earth as part of God the Father’s plan to redeem mankind [Philippians 2:5-8]. He did this by conquering the penalty for sin. When Jesus died on the cross He paid that penalty for all of humanity. His resurrection from the dead is proof that this penalty had been paid in full.
While on this earth Jesus Himself made it very clear that He had come down from heaven, sent by the Father [John 6:33, 38, 51, 58 et. al]. On more than one occasion He also predicted that He would be killed, come back to life, and go back to heaven, from whence He came [John 3:13-15].
As recorded in Acts 1:9, forty days after rising from the dead Jesus, in front of many eyewitnesses, ascended into heaven, returning to the place where He dwelled before God created the world [John 6:62]. Once back in heaven Jesus was given power and authority over all the earth [Philippians 2:9].
Paul’s point in all of this is to demonstrate that Jesus is the one who bestows gifts to those who believe. It was Jesus’ act on the cross that allowed him to be the one who could give us the gift He gives.
These gifts came at a great cost. Jesus gave up His place in heaven, descended to the earth, was brutally killed for a crime He did not commit, then lay in a grave for three days before being resurrected. Jesus paid a great price to be able to be in a position to grant these gifts.
Anyone who is a born-again believer is a child of God [John 1:12] and therefore has been given a spiritual gift by Jesus (we’ll learn what they are tomorrow). We should, therefore, not take these gifts lightly. We should use them to serve Him out of recognition and thanks for conquering our enemy – sin – so that we, too, can be taken to heaven one day to be with Him forever.
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