8 “Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 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 proclaiming the Gospel , great emphasis is placed, as it should be, on the existence of the One, True, and Holy God, the existence of sin, the existence of God providing the sinner deliverance from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin, and that this salvation is accomplished solely through the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-18).
However, the ascension of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:1-11) should also be emphasized for it climaxes and concludes the earthly ministry of Christ. The Apostle Paul used an interpretive rendering of Ps. 68:18 as a parallel to show how Christ received the right to bestow the spiritual gifts (Eph. 4:7).
Psalm 68 is a victory hymn composed by King David to celebrate God’s conquest of the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and the triumphant ascent of God up to Mount Zion (cf. 2 Sam. 6–7; 1 Chron. 13). After such a triumph, the king would bring home the spoils and the prisoners.
It is here in today’s text that the apostle portrays Christ returning from his battle on earth back into the glory of the heavenly city with the trophies of his great victory at Calvary: the justified and the redeemed. Through his crucifixion and resurrection, Christ conquered Satan and death, and in triumph returned to God those who were once sinners and prisoners of Satan (cf. Col. 2:15).
Christ now distributes the spoils throughout his kingdom. After his ascension came all the spiritual gifts empowered by the Spirit, who was then sent (see John 7:39; 14:12; Acts 2:33) as the promised Comforter (John 14:15-31; 15:26-27; 16:4-11).
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Ascended refers to Jesus’ ascension from earth to heaven (Acts 1:9–11), where he forever reigns with his Father. Descended refers to Christ’s incarnation, when he came down from heaven as a man into the earth of suffering and death. The lower regions, the earth are in contrast to the highest heavens to which he afterward ascended (cf. Ps. 139:8, 15; Isa. 44:23). The phrase here does not point to a specific place, but to the great depth, as it were, of the incarnation, including Christ’s descent, between his crucifixion and resurrection beyond the earth, the grave, and death, into the very pit of the demons, “the spirits in prison” (see notes on Col. 2:14–15; 1 Pet. 3:18–19).”
Since Christ has distributed spiritual gifts to the church, it is the believer’s responsibility to discover their spiritual gift(s) and to use such for the glory of God and the edification of the church. Have a blessed day.
Soli deo Gloria!