Ephesians 4:7-16; Christ’s descension and the grace given at His ascension.

Class Outline:

Thursday July 1, 2021


“Descended” - down to the Virgin’s womb, to the manger, His Godhead in the frame of an infant, to the home and bench of a village carpenter; to the scorn of sinners, to death on the cross, to the underworld.


MAT 12:38-40

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." 39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for 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.


One wonders if they understood the implication. If He is only three days in Hades then He must be released. And, as He said, He would rise again on the third day, and He did.


During this time, Paradise was in Hades. We can imagine that Christ (His soul?) spent the time from death to resurrection there.


We can deduce that all the OT saints resided temporarily in Paradise while the unbeliever resided temporarily in the Pit or Torments, both of which reside in Hades.


Paradise was in Hades (Jesus descends) and heaven, and finally in the New Jerusalem in eternity.


We can also deduce that Jesus released the OT saints residing in Paradise, or Abraham’s bosom, to heaven, likely at the same time as His resurrection. Believers now go directly to heaven when they die. Paul speaks of God’s Paradise being in heaven and John, speaking of the new heavens and earth, sees Paradise in the New Jerusalem (REV 2:7 c.f. 22:2)


2CO 12:3-4

And I know how such a man —  whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows —  4 was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.


REV 2:7

'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.'


In 1PE 3:18-19, Jesus preached to the “spirits now in prison.”


1PE 3:18-20

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.


He proclaimed His victory to these fallen angels, but they are not the captives that He brings with Him to Zion. Saints were in Hades and they would certainly have been released. Still, this is not the complete picture that Paul is expressing. The freed captives are given gifts and that speaks of the saints in the church. Paul is speaking of the freeing of all the saints from sin and death in Adam to life eternal in Christ Jesus. These were once captives of Satan through Adam and now they are the captives of Christ. The captives are freed and now belong to Jesus Christ their Master.


It seems reasonable that Paul’s description of Christ’s descension would mean everything from the Virgin birth to this - descent into Paradise in Hades in His death.


It is from the depth of Hades that Jesus begins His ascent to the highest position of all.


PHI 2:1-11

If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


That completes “He also had descended into the lower parts of thee earth.”


EPH 4:7-8

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says,


"When He ascended on high,

He led captive a host of captives,

And He gave gifts to men."


That Jesus ascended has already been stated in Ephesians.


EPH 1:18-21

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.


And a gift to the church that we each have been raised and seated with Him.


EPH 2:4-7

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.


Paul only comments on the ascension and the gifts. He does not comment on the captives. The gifts are clearly going to the church age believers.


EPH 4:9-10

(Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)


The same sequence, ascended and descended was spoken by the Lord of Himself.


To Nicodemus:

JOH 3:13

“And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.”


To those who stumbled at His statement,

“Eat My flesh and drink My blood.”

JOH 6:62

“What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before?”


First Paul recognizes the whole of the body of Christ in vv. 1-6 as the starting point for considering the individual parts vv. 7-16. The body of Christ is a unity of diversity.


In order to appreciate the language of this passage we must recall the phraseology that Paul used of himself again and again in chapter 3.


EPH 3:2

the stewardship of God's grace which was given to me for you;


EPH 3:7

I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.


EPH 3:8-9

To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things;


Paul reiterates that his own special mission (“variety of ministries”) was given to him by the grace of God. To each member, not in the same measure, this grace was given.