Study Notes

Ephesians 4:8-10


We are in the book of Ephesians, chapter four, as Paul has been talking about the unity we have in Christ. His most recent statement of things we have in common as believers is that each of us has been given the gift of grace. As he finishes the thought, it strikes a chord in him, and he decides to spend two or three sentences on a tangent. That tangent is where we'll spend the morning.

Paul's trigger for running down this rabbit trail was verse seven:

Eph. 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

As he thought of where grace came from, and the fact that Christ gave us that gift, it got him thinking about the gift of eternal life that Christ gave to another group of people...

4:8-10 He Descended

Paul quotes a verse from Psalm 68, which proclaimed prophetically the ascension of Jesus Christ, the fact that He ascended to heaven after he rose from the dead. But before He ascended, Jesus first had to descend.

To where did Jesus go when He descended? Before being arrested and crucified, Jesus prophesied,

Matt. 12:40 ...just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Sure enough, when Jesus was crucified and killed, a man named Joseph...

Matt. 27:59-60 ...took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb...

Jesus' body was placed in the earth, but there was more of a story happening - one that no one on the earth could witness. You see, he wasn't just placed in the earth, but Jesus Himself descended into the heart of the earth.

Now, to clarify, Jesus did not go and suffer in hellfire. I have heard heretical preachers talking about how Jesus descended to be tormented in hell for our sins. That is clearly not the case, according to the Bible. On the cross, Jesus said,

John 19:30 ..."It is finished!"...

If He was going to have to suffer for three days in hell, then He would have said, "It's only just begun."

No, when Jesus went to the heart of the earth, He went in victory, not in defeat.

The Heart Of The Earth

You see, Jesus descended into the heart of the earth only to ascend again. But although He went down alone, He came up with a crowd! A "host of captives" were led by Him. Why were these folks in the heart of the earth, and what were they doing there? For that, we must turn to Luke 16. In that chapter, Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

Luke 16:19-23 "Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the {crumbs} which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Two men died, and both were taken into the heart of the earth. One was in torment, but the other was comforted. Lazarus was in Abraham's Bosom, a place that Jesus called "Paradise." While Lazarus was in a good place, across the chasm, the rich man was not.

Luke 16:24 "And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.'

When Jesus descended into the heart of the earth, Paul told the Colossians,

Col. 2:15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

The rulers and authorities were those demonic powers in the spiritual realm. Jesus disarmed them, making a public display of them.

A Host Of Captives

A public display is always public. In other words, Jesus' triumph took place in front of people. Remember, in Paradise, there were Lazarus, Abraham, and all of the others who had lived by faith in God. But although they'd had faith, they were still sinners like the rest of us. They were not sinless and perfect, which is the only way to be granted admission into heaven. Instead, they were captive in Abraham's Bosom. Comforted, yet captive. Faithful people, but not forgiven people.

Fortunately, when Jesus died, He paid the price of the sin of all who place their hope in Him. And when that happened, captivity was able to be led captive - Jesus was able to escort them from their captivity in the heart of the earth.

He Gave Gifts To Men

Jesus not only freed them, but also gave gifts to them: the gift of grace, righteousness, and eternal life.

Rom. 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Rom. 5:17 ...those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

Rom. 5:15 ...the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ...

It is as Paul's trigger verse said,

Eph. 4:7 each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

Jesus granted this gift to all who were in Abraham's Bosom, waiting for the Messiah to appear on earth.

He Ascended

Jesus freed them by leading them up to heaven. How does someone rise from the dead? The Bible tells us that death entered the world through sin (Rom. 5:12). Sin reigns in death (Rom. 5:21), and the sting of death is sin (1Cor. 15:56).

But Jesus never sinned - He was completely sinless. So death had no right to hold Him. That's why the Bible says,

Acts 2:24 "And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power."

Jesus raised from the dead because there was no sin to hold him in death. We know that we're going to die, and yet how might we keep death from having power over us? Jesus said,

John 11:25-26 ..."I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die..."

When we believe in Jesus, our sins are forgiven, thus, death has no power over us.

1Cor. 15:54-57 ..."DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have the victory, because just as Jesus raised up from death into heaven, so we too who have received forgiveness of sins will ascend to heaven when we die.

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