Christ Assembly

Christ Ascended and Descended

Expository Bible Studies 

Ephesians 4:7-12

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Eternal Life

Section One


1.1 The Body of Christ. In the Book of Ephesians, Paul described many aspects of the church, the Body of Christ, composed entirely of born-again believers (saints). Because the entire epistle to the Ephesians revealed the creation, function, purpose and practice of the church, we would expect every chapter to focus in some way upon the church. Therefore, any interpretation of Ephesians 4: 7-11 that does not focus upon the church misses the point of the passage. As we study Ephesians 4:7-11, please recall that God said He breathed out every word of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16; Jeremiah 26:2). Therefore, every word in the original autographs matters and every word conveys meaning. At times below, I offer my own translation of verses.

1.2 The Unity of the Body of Christ. In Ephesians 4:1-6, Paul explained the unity of the Body of Christ.  The bond of peace holds the body of Jesus Christ together. In Ephesians 4:7-12, Paul described the creation of the church and the receipt of spiritual gifts. In Ephesians 4:13-16, we read about the function and results of saints using their spiritual gifts. All members of the body of Christ must use their spiritual gifts to maintain the unity and health of the Body of Christ  (Ephesians 4:11-22). 

1.3 Grace Given. God loves to equip saints (born-again believers) for the work of individual ministry. Writing under the inspiration of God, Paul explained that God gave grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift 1Paul used the Greek phrase κατὰτὸ μέτρον τῆς δωρεᾶς τοῦ Χριστοῦ. to each member of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:7–see Romans 12:3). That grace concerns spiritual gifts. God distributed individual gifts of grace, with each gift producing a variety of ministries, and each ministry producing a variety of effects (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Unity in the Body of Christ grows out of the diversity of spiritual gifts and ministries in the Body of Christ.

1.4 Individuality. Even the most cursory look at all of creation shows that God loves individuality and variety among the greater unity. Likewise, God created the Body of Christ to perform many functions, with each member of the Body of Christ equipped to supply what the Body of Christ needs. Each gift produces special ministries and effects that nourish the Body of Christ, just as Jesus cherishes and loves the church. With many members working in harmony, the Body of Christ thrives as the living New Temple of the living God on earth today.

Section Two

Two Victories, Two Temples, One God

Ephesians 4:8 builds upon the imagery of Psalm 68:18. Both passages involve different victories of God, two temples and One God coming into both of them. The Old Covenant Temple on Mount Zion was God’s eternal abode (Psalm 68:16). The Old Testament Temple, and the covenant it represented, was infinitely inferior to the New Covenant and the New Covenant Temple, the Body of Christ. 2Nothing in the New Testament suggests that God used the church to replace ethnic Israel in God’s plans prophesied in the Old Testament and to be fulfilled in the future.

You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; you have received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that the LORD GOD may dwell there.

Psalm 68:18


Ephesians 4:8

2.1 Two Victories, Two Temples, One God. In Ephesians 4:8, Paul quoted Psalm 68:18 to link: (a) God going into the Old Testament Temple 3The Old Testament Temple was made with hands under Solomon on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. I do not include the Second Temple built after the exile because it is not in view in Psalm 68. Regarding the temple in Psalm 68, see Psalm 68:29).  after David achieved victories over his enemies on earth; and (b) God going into the New Testament Temple after the great victory of Jesus. 4The New Testament Temple (the church) was not made with hands, but God laid the foundation of Christ the Cornerstone and the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). Paul, the Hebrew of the Hebrews, used Psalm 68, without reliance upon the Septuagint or other textual variants, as a blueprint for explaining the New Testament Temple and God’s victorious activity leading to His filling of the New Temple.

Two Victories

2.2 Two Victories. Paul contrasted the victory in Psalm 68 with the victory in Ephesians 4.

2.2.1 Victory in Psalm 68In Psalm 68, God is a father to the fatherless and a judge for the widows; He makes a home for the lonely, and He leads out the prisoners into prosperity; 5 The Hebrew phrase reads “מֹוצִ֣יא אֲ֭סִירִים בַּכֹּושָׁרֹ֑ות. only the rebellious dwell in a parched land (Psalm 68:5-6). God went forth before His people and they occupied the promised land and built the temple in Jerusalem upon Mount Zion.  

2.2.2 Victory in Ephesians 4In Ephesians 4, Paul quoted Psalm 68 with victory and temple-building in mind. Christ Jesus accomplished the victory over sin and death at the cross, and freed prisoners held in slavery through the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Notice that the power the devil wielded over unbelievers was fear of physical death. By His death and resurrection, Jesus rendered powerless 6Paul used the Greek word “καταργήσῃ” in the subjunctive mood. In this case, Jesus had certainty that His death would render the devil powerless. the devil, the one who wielded the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). 7Paul described the devil as “the one having the power of death” (“τὸν τὸ κράτος ἔχοντα τοῦ θανάτου”).  Please keep in mind that the devil has no power over people once they die (Matthew 10:28). The devil only exercises power over humans alive on earth. After death, unsaved humans go straight to Hades and believers go straight to Paradise, to be present with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:6).  God the Father rescued believers from the domain of darkness and transferred them into the kingdom of His beloved Son, Jesus (Colossians 1:13-14). Notice that transfer happened to the believer alive on earth.

Two Temples

2.3 Two Temples.  Paul contrasted the Old Testament Temple of Psalm 68 with the New Testament Temple in Ephesians 4.

2.3.1 The Old Testament TempleIn Psalm 68:29, David specifically mentioned the temple in Jerusalem. 8David wrote: “מֵֽ֭הֵיכָלֶךָ עַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם“. I will refer to that first temple as the Old Testament Temple for simplicity.  9I chose the term Old Testament Temple to described the First Temple, built by Solomon. I ignored the second temple built after the return from Babylon because Ephesians focused upon the Old Testament Temple David foresaw. We know that David gave to his son Solomon the plans for the temple, its storehouses, its upper rooms, its inner room and the room for the mercy seat (1 Chronicles 28:11). David also supplied material for building (1 Chronicle 29:2-5). Because David was a man of war and had shed blood, God chose Solomon to build the temple (1 Chronicles 28:3-4). It appears that Solomon did not begin the actual construction until the fourth year of his reign, sometime after David’s death (2 Chronicles 3:2). Therefore, some people have viewed Psalm 68 as the time when the ark of the covenant was brought into Jerusalem. Because David looked forward to the Temple being built upon Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem, after all his enemies had been defeated, he spoke with certainty about the future in Psalm 68:24. 10Compare 1 Kings 5:1-5 The Old Testament Temple was made by human hands (1 Kings 9:15). God filled the Old Testament Temple with His presence and glory (2 Chronicles 5:13-14). Finally, notice that David linked the presence of the temple with the future act of kings bringing a gift to God (Psalm 68:29). 11The Hebrew statement was “מֵֽ֭הֵיכָלֶךָ עַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם לְךָ֤ יֹובִ֖ילוּ מְלָכִ֣ים שָֽׁי“. Notice that “Kings will bring a gift” presents as a Hiphil imperfect, denoting here the future acts David foresaw, just as David foresaw the completion of the Old Testament Temple he planned and supplied.

2.3.2 The New Testament TempleIn Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul explained the creation of the New Testament Temple. The Ephesian saints were no longer strangers and aliens, but they were fellow citizens with the saints, and of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner, in Whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in Whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. The New Testament Temple is living, dynamic, and not made with human hands. Individually, each saint is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and corporately the Body of Christ is a living temple, served by a holy, royal priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5, 9). At Pentecost, Jesus baptized the saints with the Holy Spirit, Who came down and filled them (Acts 2:1-13–compare Yahweh filling the Old Testament temple with His presence–1 Kings 8:10) and remained permanently within them (John 14:17), having sealed them for the Day of Redemption (Ephesians 4:30). 

One God 

2.4 One GodGod exists eternally as One God, in three divine Persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. Old Testament Theology infuses New Testament Theology. In the Old Testament, humans built God a temple. Solomon knelt and dedicated both the temple and the people in prayer, invoking the covenant promises of Yahweh with Israel and its tribes. In chronological order, God descended to earth, ascended to Mount Zion, filled the temple, and received gifts from men, even rebellious nations. In the history of God’s interaction with humans on earth, the victory over enemies was followed by triumphant ascension into the temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, with gifts given to King David’s house and God Himself. In the New Testament, we reach another major event of temple building: the Church. In Ephesians, we know that Christ is the chief cornerstone of that foundation, with the apostles forming the remainder of the foundation.  The Old Testament Temple was earthly and static, but called God’s eternal abode (Psalm 68:18). The New Testament Temple began at Pentecost when: (1) Jesus baptized the believers with the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ, His church; and (2) the Holy Spirit filled the whole house and the believers themselves; and (3) the believers received spiritual gifts (Matthew 3:11; John 14:17; 20:22; Acts 1:5, 8; Acts2:1-13; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Believers comprise the New Testament Temple, a dynamic dwelling of God (Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:5).  The New Testament Temple consists of living stones, joined together by God, built into a holy temple.  God created the New Testament Temple in an instant at Pentecost. The entrance of God into each temple marks a major milestone in the plan of God. Both were joyful, wonderful victories over enemies on earth, below the earth, in heaven, and far beyond the highest heaven. When Jesus ascended from earth, He ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things (Ephesians 4:10). 

Section Three

The Chronology of Psalm 68 and Ephesians 4

3.1 The Chronology of Psalm 68 and Ephesians 4. The chronology in both Psalm 68:18 and Ephesians 4:8 follows the same points on the timeline of God’s program: (a) ascended on high; and (b) captivity/captives; and (c) gifts. 12I understand some of the issues associated with fixing time based upon the tense of verbs in Greek or Hebrew. The context decides, and the tenses can make a chronological difference in the context.  

3.1.1 The Chronology of Psalm 68.  On a broader level, Psalm 68 recounts the past, present and future activity of God in achieving victory for His people and His name’s sake. God delivered His people from captivity in Egypt, led His people through the wilderness, brought them into the promised land with great victories, rested from His labors, entered the newly built Old Testament Temple, and then received gifts from nations, even rebellious men. David was unable to build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the wars which surrounded him until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet (1 Kings 5:3).  David laid the plans and provided the resources, and Solomon built that first temple to God.

3.1.2 The Chronology of Ephesians 4Ephesians 4 recounts the building of the New Temple, the present activity of God in His people, and the future activity of the Body of Christ to preserve the unity of the New Temple and the children of God who comprise it. The static nature of the Old Temple contrasts with the dynamic growth and development of the New Temple.  

3.1.3 The Timing of Victories. Just as David outlined the events leading to Yahweh’s victorious descent to earth and then His ascent into the temple on Mount Zion, so also Paul described Jesus as descending to earth and taking flesh, followed by His ascent into heaven, then the Holy Spirit descending at Pentecost to occupy His new temple (the Body of Christ) on earth, and the giving of gifts. The timing of those events involve major theological events in the history of God’s program. 

Time Markers

3.2  Time Markers. Paul described a series of three events related to spiritual gifts. The timing of those events helps us understand the nature of the three events.

Time Marker One

3.2.1 Time Marker One: Christ Ascended on HighThe first time marker concerns when Jesus ascended far above all heavens, that He may fill all things (Ephesians 4:8-10). In Ephesians 4:8, the phrase “When He ascended on high” provides several key time markers. When He Ascended. The phrase “When He ascended” 13Paul used the term “Ἀναβὰς“–aorist active participle to emphasize the point of beginning (ingressive aorist). marks a point on the timeline of giving gifts. Jesus took captive captivity and gave gifts to men no earlier than the beginning of the Ascension. We can narrow down the exact time of captivity and gifts below. Therefore, we know that the Ascension is the first point on the timeline and has the force of an accomplished act. For example, in Matthew 15:29, the same word described Jesus having ascended 14Matthew used the same term “Ἀναβὰς” to show completed activity followed by further activity.  the mountain (accomplished act), and the new act of sitting down there. 15Matthew used  the word “ἐκάθητο”–imperfect tense–indicating a continuing action of sitting. So, to learn more about the phrase “When He ascended,” we would like to see it in the context of the following time marker. At this point, the first time marker indicates that Jesus ascended before He took captive captivity and gave gifts to men. In fact, Jesus ascended from the Mount of Olives after He appeared to many people after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Please keep in mind that the term “ascend” describing Jesus after His crucifixion in the New Testament never refers to the resurrection of Jesus, but always refers to His lift off from earth. 16After His resurrection on the third day, He told Mary to stop clinging to Him, for He had not yet ascended (“Μή μου ἅπτου, οὔπω γὰρ ἀναβέβηκα πρὸς τὸν πατέρα“) (John 20:17). See also Acts 2:34, David never ascended to heaven “οὐ γὰρ Δαυὶδ ἀνέβη εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς.” 

Time Marker Two 

3.2 Time Marker Two: Christ Took Captive CaptivityThe next phrase “He took captive captivity” 17(Paul used the phrase “ᾐχμαλώτευσεν αἰχμαλωσίαν” to describe the starting point of taking captive. requires careful examination of each word. 

3.2.1 He Took CaptiveThe phrase “He took captive” 18Paul used the term “ᾐχμαλώτευσεν”only occurrence in the New Testament–to mark the beginning time of “He took captive;” Paul used an ingressive aorist in active voice. means that Jesus took someone or something captive or He meant captivity itself was taken captive. Other uses of the root term for “take captive” occur in several passages and clarify the use of the terms in Ephesians 4:8. Romans 7:23. Paul unveiled how he became a prisoner of the law of sin and death. Paul explained: “I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war 19Paul described a spiritual war within using the term “ἀντιστρατευόμενον.” against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner 20Paul used the word αἰχμαλωτίζοντά”–present active participle–meaning an ongoing, present condition. of the law of sin” and death. Therefore, we have the same author (Paul) using the same root word to describe how he is now a prisoner of the law of sin and death. Therefore, because Paul described an ongoing condition of being a prisoner, we must be careful of the use of the similar word “took captive” in Ephesians 4:8. In Romans 7:23  we have a present active participle versus an aorist active indicative in Ephesians 4:8. In Romans we have a continuing condition of captivity, emphasizing the source of the captivity. In Ephesians we have an aorist active indicative verb, with an ingressive meaning that the captivity started at a particular point and then continued forward. So, the question becomes, what was taken captive in Ephesians 4:8 at a particular point in time (after Christ ascended) and then Christ held it in captivity thereafter? Romans 7:23 provides the first clue that the law of sin and death may be in view. But in what sense, because Paul obviously claimed he was still held prisoner to the law of sin and death, or was he? Paul actually continued: “Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25). Therefore, the bottom line is that the Lord Jesus freed Paul from the law of sin so that he is serving the law of God with his mind, even though his flesh still serves the law of sin. We must still keep in mind that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to fulfill Matthew 3:11, John 14:17, John 14:23, and Acts 1:8. Luke 21.24Does any New Testament writer use the root term “I take captive” to speak of “led captive”? In Luke 21:24  we read: “they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations. 21Luke used the phrase “αἰχμαλωτισθήσονται εἰς τὰ ἔθνη πάντα“–future passive indicative followed by preposition with accusative. Therefore, the New Testament author Luke knew precisely how to use the indicative mood with passive voice with the article followed by the accusative to describe being led captive to somewhere. Please recall in Ephesians 4:8  we have “took captive” as an aorist active indicative, emphasizing a starting point with continued action. Luke 4:16. In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus stood up and read the Isaiah prophecy about Messiah and His work. Luke recorded Jesus to say that the Spirit of the Lord anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, 22Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1 who wrote “לִקְרֹ֤א לִשְׁבוּיִם֙ דְּרֹ֔ור וְלַאֲסוּרִ֖ים פְּקַח־קֹֽוחַ” translated in Luke 4:18 as “ἀπέσταλκέν με κηρύξαι αἰχμαλώτοις ἄφεσιν. and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are  oppressed; to proclaim the favorable year of Yahweh.  Luke used the term “captives” to describe the group to whom Jesus proclaimed glad tidings. Therefore, we know that Luke used the word “captives” to describe the people to whom Jesus promised release. When plural captives were in view in Luke 4:16, the plural noun described them. 23Luke used the Greek masculine dative plural noun αἰχμαλώτοις” meaning “captives” to identify the targets of the preaching of Jesus. Luke knew how to describe the “captives” as the  object of the preaching of Jesus. Therefore, we see a difference in the New Testament between the usage of the term “captives” in Luke 4:16 and Ephesians 4:8. 2 Corinthians 10:5Paul wrote that we (believers) are taking captive 24Paul described a continual practice of taking thoughts captive using “αἰχμαλωτίζοντες“–a present active participle, first person plural. all thought 25Paul used the term “νόημα”– an accusative singular noun to describe the object of the participle taking captive. to the obedience of Christ. 26Paul then identified where the thoughts were taken with the phrase “εἰς τὴν ὑπακοὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ”–a preposition followed by accusative plus genitive. Therefore, Paul was very familiar with how to use the participle “taking captive” as an ongoing practice, followed by the preposition and accusative case to indicate where the captive thoughts were taken, namely, to the obedience of Christ. 2 Timothy 3:6. Paul used the same present active participle “are taking captive” to describe evil men entering into houses and “taking captive” 27Paul again used the present active participle, nominative plural “αἰχμαλωτίζοντες” to describe ongoing action. women 28Paul followed the participle with an accusative case noun “γυναικάρια” to show who was being taken captive. weighed down with sins” (2 Timothy 3:6). Paul knew how to employ the present participle to emphasize the ongoing behavior of evil men. Notice that Paul used an ingressive aorist to highlight the starting point of continuing activity in Ephesians 4:8, and not the present active participle. Revelation 13:10. John wrote that “if anyone into captivity, 29John wrote about going into captivity with the phrase “εἴ τις εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν. to captivity he goes. 30John also described where they are going “εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπάγει. The New American Standard adds the words “destined to” before the first “captivity.” 31See Jeremiah 15:2, where Yahweh instructs Jeremiah to let His evil people know they will go to bad places: to death, to sword, to famine and to captivity “לַשֶּֽׁבִי“–masculine singular noun John’s Greek phrases follow the Hebrew phrases of Jeremiah very closely. Therefore, we see that John used the preposition followed by the accusative singular noun “captivity,” not referring to a host of captives, but to singular captivity. Summary of Other Uses. The New Testament authors were very adept at using participles and verbs to differentiate various actions and their consequences. Therefore, the best translation in Ephesians 4:8 follows the ingressive aorist identification is “He took captive captivity.” Paul used a singular verb followed by a singular noun. He did not use participles or present tense.

Time Marker Three

3.3  Time Marker Three: He Gave Gifts to Men.

3.3.1 Gifts. Paul contrasted the gifts of Psalm 68:18 with the gifts of Ephesians 4:8. The Gifts of Psalm 68:18: Gifts Received and Given. God both received gifts and gave gifts in Psalm 68. Gifts ReceivedBecause of God’s temple in Jerusalem, Kings brought a gift to God (Psalm 68:29). 32David foresaw: “מֵֽ֭הֵיכָלֶךָ עַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם לְךָ֤ יֹובִ֖ילוּ מְלָכִ֣ים שָֽׁי“–notice that “שָֽׁי” is singular. Gifts Given. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people; Blessed be God (Psalm 68:35). 33David wrote “אֵ֤ל יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל ה֤וּא נֹתֵ֨ן׀ עֹ֖ז וְתַעֲצֻמֹ֥ות לָעָ֗ם בָּר֥וּךְ אֱלֹהִֽים“–notice the qal participle for giving. The Gifts of Ephesians 4:8: Gifts Given. Because of God’s new temple on earth, God gave gifts to men (Ephesians 4:8).

Section Four


4.1 Psalm 68. Paul used Old Testament theology as the basis for his timeline of spiritual gifts in Ephesians 4. With significant changes, Paul quoted Psalm 68:18. In Psalm 68:18,  we read about the mountain God had chosen for His eternal abode, the temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. As God occupied the temple on Mount Zion, He received gifts from men, even the rebellious men of Egypt and Ethiopia (Psalm 68:18, 31). 

4.2 Comparison of Ephesians 4:8 and Psalm 68:18. The  following chart may help us understand the significant differences between Psalm 68:18 and Ephesians 4:8. 

Psalm 68Ephesians 4:18
Captives (“שֶּׁ֗בִי”–Singular Noun)Captivity (“αἰχμαλωσίαν“–Singular Noun)
Received Gifts (“לָקַ֣חְתָּ מַ֭תָּנֹות“), Giving Gifts (נֹתֵ֨ן׀ עֹ֖ז וְתַעֲצֻמֹ֥ות) v. 35Gave Gifts (“ἔδωκεν δόματα“)
Rebellious (“סֹ֝ורְרִ֗ים”)No Mention

4.3 AscendedThe Ascension of Jesus to heaven marks a significant theological event in the program of God. Jesus closed His ministry in the flesh leading to crucifixion and death, then resurrection, post-resurrection ministry, and glory to follow (Luke 24:26).  Christ Ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives, where He will return to earth and set His feet upon it once again, beginning His Millennial Reign (Zechariah 14:4). As we have seen with the discussion of the First Time Marker above, we must distinguish the Resurrection of Jesus from the Ascension of Jesus. Likewise, Jesus stated that no one has ascended into heaven, except Jesus Himself (John 3:13; Proverbs 30:4; compare also the angels Genesis 28:12;  John 1:51)  Jesus also described the wonder of His Ascension (John 6:62).

4.4 What Does Ascended MeanHaving first laid out the three Time Markers, Paul asked the rhetorical question: “Now He ascended–what does it mean, except that He also descended into the lower parts of the earth?” (Ephesians 4:9). If someone said they ascended to the top of a tree, we would think they started from the ground below (I understand the illustration has severe limitations). The rhetorical question implies there was a starting point on the ground where you normally stood before you ascended. The rhetorical question points to a starting point on the earth where Jesus dwelt before He ascended. It may also help to consider destinations implied in the rhetorical question. The implied destination of descent would be the earth, referring to the incarnation, and more precisely the land of Israel. This explanation fits well with Yahweh abiding with His people in the land of Israel on His way to the temple (see 3.1.1 above). The implied destination of ascent would be heaven. Paul contrasted the descent to earth (incarnation) with ascent to heaven (glorification). 

The phrase “lower parts of the earth” should be understood in the context of the rhetorical question describing the usual place of abode as the starting point. In this case, the usual place of abode (associated with the destination of the descent) was Israel on the surface of the earth. Therefore, the phrase “lower parts of the earth” would not exclude a tomb in Israel, but it would exclude all places outside of Israel. The most obvious meaning would be the surface of the earth in Israel where Jesus normally lived and walked. Paul described a destination of the descent with the phrase “lower parts of the earth.” The destination of the descent was not the tomb, but the land of Israel. Further word study may help resolve the meaning of the phrase “lower parts of the earth,” but the basic implication of the question stresses the destination of Israel as the place of descent, which contrasts with the ascent to heaven.

Paul wanted to be certain that he clearly elucidated the meaning of “ascend” in this context so that no one would misunderstand his meaning and reference to Psalm 68:10 in the context of Ascension, Captivity, and Gifts. Even with Paul’s explanation of the phrase “lower parts of the earth,” people have misunderstood that activity of Christ. Some people see that phrase “lower parts of the earth” as proving that Jesus went to Sheol after His crucifixion because, in their mind, the “lower parts of the earth” must be Sheol. We will discuss that view in more detail below. But for now, we should consider the use of the comparative term “lower parts of the earth.” 

Lower Parts of the Earth

4.5 Lower Parts of the EarthThe Greek phrase “lower part of the earth” only occurs in Ephesians 4:9. 34The Greek phrase is “κατέβη εἰς τὰ κατώτερα [μέρη] τῆς γῆς.Some important manuscripts do not contain the Greek word “μέρη” translated “parts”. Other passages may provide some help in understanding the term in Ephesians 4:9.

Old Testament Usage of “Lower Parts of the Earth”

4.5.1 The Old Testament Usage of Lower Parts of the EarthThe Old Testament usage of the phrase “lower parts of the earth” may provide further insight to the meaning of the phrase in Ephesians 4:9. Isaiah 44:23. In the context of  Yahweh’s redemption of Israel, Isaiah recorded commands from God: “Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; break forth in a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it.” Therefore, we know that the Hebrew phrase “lower parts of the earth” stands in contrast to the heavens and the mountains, forest and every tree in it.  35The Hebrew phrase was “תַּחְתִּיֹּ֣ות אָ֔רֶץ” to describe one source of the praise. Interestingly, the Hebrew word “תַּחְתִּיֹּ֣ות” occurs eight times in the Old Testament, and six of those times in connection with the Pit and people who go there. See Appendix Four to the Afterlife for those verses regarding the Pit. Please note that Sheol is not a place of praise for God, but silence (Isaiah 38:10; Psalm 6:5; 31:17; 115:17). Therefore, Sheol is not in view here. Ezekiel 26:20. The Lord God proclaimed of Tyre that He would “make you dwell in the lower parts of the earth”. 36The Hebrew phrase was “בְּאֶ֨רֶץ תַּחְתִּיֹּ֜ות” and meant under the sea in the context. The Lord God indicated that He would bring down Tyre with those who go down to the Pit. Tyre would no longer be inhabited. In contrast, God would set its glory in the land of the living. Ezekiel 32:18. Yahweh ordered Ezekiel to wail for the population of Egypt and bring it down, her and the daughters of the majestic nations, to the lower parts of the earth, with those who go down to the Pit. 37The Hebrew phrase was “אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ תַּחְתִּיֹּ֖ות“. Ezekiel 32:24. Elam and its population have fallen by the sword, and they went down uncircumcised to the lower parts of the earth, who instilled terror in the land of the living and bore their disgrace with those who went down to the Pit. 38The Hebrew phrase was “אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ תַּחְתִּיֹּ֖ות“. Summary of Old Testament UsageThe Old Testament usage of the phrase “lower parts of the earth” has one use to describe the lower parts of the physical earth (Isaiah 44:23), but several other uses related to the Afterlife.

New Testament Usage of “Lower Parts of the Earth”

4.5.2 The New Testament Usage Of Lower Parts of the Earth Ephesians 4:9. Paul wrote that Jesus had descended into the lower parts of the earth (Ephesians 4:9).  We should consider that in Psalm 68 God descended to earth and rode through the desert and wilderness (Psalm 68:4, 7); the earth quaked and Sinai itself quaked at the presence of God (Psalm 68:8). God laid down among the sheepfolds (Psalm 68:13) and abides on Mount Zion (Psalm 68:16) and descended to Mount Sinai (Psalm 68:17). So, Psalm 68:18 stands against the background of God’s descent to earth to help the humans of Israel on earth. Therefore, we should keep that background in mind. Nothing in Psalm 68 speaks of Christ descending to Sheol, as described above. The Syntax of Lower Parts of the Earth. Some people argue over the syntax of “the lower parts of the earth.”  Some of the discussion involves the use of the genitive case in connection with the the term “lower.” What did Paul mean with the phrase “lower parts of the earth”? People have popularized three different views of the genitive “of the earth.”  We can review them briefly. Comparative Genitive. Some people see a comparative genitive, rendering the phrase: “the region lower than the earth.” In this interpretation, some people identify the part lower than the earth as Hades. The comparative genitive compares two different things here. Some people argue that the adjective is in the attributive position to the noun “part,” disfavoring the comparative genitive. Appositive GenitiveSome people equate the part of the earth, with the earth itself: “the lower region, namely the earth.” This view emphasizes that the terms stand in apposition to one another, indicating they both refer to the same thing. Some people then see the incarnation of Jesus as Christ descending to earth, or the Holy Spirit descending to earth at Pentecost. Partitive GenitiveSome people see a partitive genitive, producing the translation: “the lower parts of the earth.” Some people indicate that the lower part is the grave, noting that Paul did not use a superlative, but a comparative, as if the earth only had two parts, higher and lower. Paul described a multi-tiered universe, with somewhere on or below the earth and somewhere above the highest heavens (Ephesians 4:10). To gain a better understanding of New Testament usage of regional language, we may benefit from reviewing other verses about “regions” translating the term used for “parts” in Ephesians 4:9.

4.5.3 Different Regional Parts. Several New Testament texts describe different regional parts using language similar to Ephesians 4:9. For further detail, see Appendix One below. Matthew 2:22. In Matthew 2:22,  we hear of the regions of Galilee. 39Matthew used the Greek phrase “εἰς τὰ μέρη τῆς Γαλιλαίας“–notice the position of the articles and nouns.  The Greek phrase lacked the comparative, but the genitive used to describe a geographical region seems very similar to Ephesians 4:9. Galilee had several regional parts, but they were all part of Galilee. They were all on the surface of the earth. Therefore, Matthew 2:22 indirectly supports the view that the lower regions of the earth were still part of the earth. Hades is never described as part of the earth. Hades gave up its dead (Revelation 20:11) after heaven and earth had fled away (Revelation 20:13). Likewise, Death and Hades followed the ashen horse, and they had power over a fourth of the earth (Revelation 6:8). Again, in those passages, Death and Hades were not part of the earth, but distinct from the earth. Therefore, Hades may be distinguished from the earth. 40In the Old Testament, Sheol apparently included the place of bodily decay; please recall that Hades and Sheol are not synonymous, but may have some limited overlap, based on Luke’s translation of the Hebrew Sheol into Greek Hades in Acts 2:27, 31. Matthew 15:21. In Matthew 15:21,  we hear of the regions of Tyre and Sidon. 41Matthew used the Greek phrase “εἰς τὰ μέρη Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος”–only one article. Tyre and Sidon may have comprised one geographical region. One region was composed of two separate, but related, geographical places within the same region on the surface of the earth. Matthew 16:13. In Matthew 16:13, Jesus was in the region of Caesarea Philippi. 42Matthew used the Greek phrase “εἰς τὰ μέρη Καισαρείας τῆς Φιλίππου”–two articles. We know that Caesarea was a sea-coast city (Acts 18:22), but Caesarea Philippi was located at the southwest base of Mount Hermon, away from the coast. Therefore, the phrase using two articles and genitives distinguished one distinct place from another distinct place, both geographical places on earth. Mark 8:10. In Mark 8:10, Jesus came into the region of Dalmanutha. 43Mark used the Greek phrase “εἰς τὰ μέρη Δαλμανουθά“– only one article. “The region” described the entire area of Dalmanutha. Acts 19:1. In Acts 19:1, Paul passed through the upper region and came to Ephesus. 44Luke used the Greek phrase “Παῦλον διελθόντα τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη“–one article with comparative. The upper region here may refer to the Meander valley route from Apamea to Ephesus, but the exact route remains in debate among many people. No one doubts that the “upper region” referred to a geographical area on the surface of earth. Acts 2:10. In Acts 2:10, some people hearing Peter and others speaking in their own language came from the regions of Libya around Cyrene. 45Luke used the Greek phrase “τὰ μέρη τῆς Λιβύης τῆς κατὰ Κυρήνην”–three articles with “κατὰ”.  In this case, some people came from the regions of Libya around the city of Cyrene. Therefore, Luke distinguished one city within a region.

4.5.4 Summary of Syntactical Usage. Any use of the genitive case in Ephesians 4:9 to identify the lower parts as Hades conflicts with the use of the article and the other uses of similar phrases in the New Testament, which uniformly describe the relationship between physical, not spiritual, geographical places. Because I could not find identical syntax in the New Testament, I am not certain how certain I can be that syntax completely settles the meaning on that basis alone. When compared to the other uses of regions, it seems clear that the Hades view can be ruled out. The Appositional Genitive and the Partitive Genitive each may find some support above. Taking all the factors together, Jesus certainly descended into the grave, and it was called the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).  46As a side note, the phrase “under the earth” amounts to a poor translation with bias of the Greek terms in Philippians 2:10 and Revelation 5:3; 5:13. Hades  does not seem to be in view in Ephesians 4:9, because it would be separate from the earth, and therefore excluded by the discussion above. Clearly, Paul recognized heavenly, earthly and underearthly abodes for beings (“πουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων”–only New Testament use–Philippians 2:10). In 1 Corinthians 15:40, Paul used the term “σώματα ἐπουράνια” to contrast with “σώματα ἐπίγεια” and then to contrast further “τῶν ἐπουρανίων δόξα” and “τῶν ἐπιγείων“–notice the articles and genitives and the contrast term “ἑτέρα”. Likewise, in Hebrews 8:5, Moses copied the pattern of heavenly things –“τῶν ἐπουρανίων;” on Mount Sinai; God revealed heavenly things about the tabernacle to Moses.  In Revelation 5:1-3 John described the Book of Seven Seals in the hand of Him who sat on the throne. Seeking some being to open the Book of Seven Seals, the call went out and no one in heaven (“ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ“) or on the earth (“ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς “) or “under the earth” (“ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς“–notice the prepositions and the articles) came immediately forward to open the Book of Seven Seals. In Revelation 5:13, John provided more insight: every created thing which was in heaven (“ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ“) and on the earth (“ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς“) and under the earth (“ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς“) and on the sea (“ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης“), and all things in them (“καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς πάντα“), gave praise to the Lamb. Notice that all those things held things in them. See also Exodus 20:4 (“וְכָל־תְּמוּנָ֡֔ה אֲשֶׁ֤֣ר בַּשָּׁמַ֣֨יִם֙׀ מִמַּ֡֔עַל וַֽאֲשֶׁ֥ר֩ בָּאָ֖֨רֶץ מִתַָּ֑֜חַת וַאֲשֶׁ֥֣ר בַּמַּ֖֣יִם׀ מִתַּ֥֣חַת לָאָֽ֗רֶץ“). Nothing in Revelation 5:3 or 5:13 compels an interpretation that Hades or Sheol was in view. John wrote about created things, not limiting the group to humans dead or alive. The dead in Sheol do not praise God (Psalm 115:17). Therefore, I find some translations reveal a strong bias toward the view that Jesus went to Hades after crucifixion. Of the 135 or so times the term earth is used, only a few uses really pose any question that the physical earth is not view. See Appendix One below. So in summary, I find the context of Ephesians compelling. In Ephesians 2:14 Jesus broke down the barrier dividing Jews (born of the promise) and Gentiles, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, reconciling both groups in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. In this context, Christ Jesus came and preached peace to those who were far away, and peace to those who were near (Isaiah 57:19); for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2:15-18). God raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in heaven. Furthermore, it seems compelling that the Father sanctified His Son and sent Him into the world (John 10:36), where Jesus took flesh and dwelt among men (John 1:14), who laid down His life, that He might take it again (John 10:18). In my mind, Paul’s focus in Ephesians upon the church argues strongly that Paul recounted how the church began, in the context of temple building after victory, and then the giving of gifts. The chronology here matters and favors an incarnation view in the overall context, but a Pentecost view in Ephesians 4. In other words, when all matters have been pondered, Paul refers to Christ taking flesh (descending to earth) and then ascending. Pentecost fits the broader context of God creating and filling the New Testament Temple in Ephesians 4. Finally, Ephesians 4:9-10 offers the clearest explanation of Ephesians 4:8. Jesus descended to “the lower parts of the earth” referring to the land of Israel (the surface of the earth where He dwelled); nothing in this discussion would rule out including His tomb on earth (for His body and not His soul) in the phrase “lower parts of the earth.” Jesus then ascended body and soul far above the highest heaven.

Section Five


5.1 Captivity. In both Ephesians 4:8 and Psalm 68:16, the word for “captivity” is a singular noun. In some Old Testament instances, the singular “captivity” may be translated “captives” or “captivity.” Because of the context of Psalm 68 concerning rebellious nations giving gifts, “captives” seems most appropriate. In the New Testament, the only use of the exact term “captives” 47The Greek term “αἰχμαλώτοις” may be translated as captives or host of captives. Context must decide the proper translation. As below, the New Testament authors do not use the term to mean “host of captives,” unless it is only here. occurs in Luke 4:18, where Jesus proclaimed the fulfillment of Isaiah 61, with the release of the captives. Therefore, we must take note of the immediate relationship between the work of Messiah on earth, including the release of the captives, and taking captive captivity in Ephesians 4:8.  We will need further study to narrow down the choice between “captives” and “captivity” in Ephesians 4:8. Regarding the translation in Ephesians 4:8 “led captive,” the word “led” assumes a triumphal, public display of the captured, but that interpretation does not rest upon the word “led” actually being in the text. In Psalm 68, the phrase led captive may also be translated as taken captive. 48The Hebrew phrase “שָׁ֘בִ֤יתָ שֶּׁ֗בִי” may also be translated ‘taken captive captives.” The noun “captives” is singular and may be translated as a plural “captives” or singular as “captivity.” In 2 Chronicles 30:9, the word for “led them captive” appears in construct: “before the face of the ones taking captives” (“לִפְנֵ֣י שֹֽׁובֵיהֶ֔ם“). The qal imperfect is joined with the construct term meaning “presence” to convey the idea that the exiles will find compassion before those who took them captive.  Therefore, we know that Hebrew authors were quite capable of distinguishing “captivity” from “being taken captive.” Likewise, the term “captive” may be translated “captivity.” 

Captives or Captivity?

5.2 Captives or  Captivity. Does Jesus take captives or does He take captivity captive? We can look at both options in more detail below.

5.3 Captive Options. In translating Ephesians 4:8, people make choices about meanings. The words in the original autographs deserve specific attention to detail. So, the question becomes for everyone translating the word as “captives”: who are the captives? Different people have different ideas. Remember, however, that the first time marker places the action of “taking captive” after the ascension of Christ, a distinct event from His resurrection. 49The Greek term “Ἀναβὰς” is never used in the New Testament to describe resurrection, but Paul used the same term in Ephesians 4:10 to describe Jesus ascending far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.

Captivity Option One

5.4 Captivity Option One: Jesus Lifted Paradise out of Sheol into Heaven View. Some people think that Jesus died on the cross, went down body and soul into Sheol, found the Old Testament believers held captive to the devil in a place in Sheol called Paradise, took those Old Testament saints captive and Paradise itself, and led them captive to heaven. All of this happened before the resurrection of Jesus on the third day after His crucifixion. Several problems haunt this Paradise to Heaven view. The proponents of this view must explain satisfactorily how Luke 12:5 and Ephesians 4:9 harmonize with their view. Those two verses appear to pose a flat contradiction of the Paradise in Sheol view and pose a time problem, respectively. Jesus warned His friends not to fear people who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do (Luke 12:4). Therefore, we know categorically that after death, the devil never had power to hold anyone captive or exercise power over them. 50Consider Job 1:6-22 where the devil needs God’s permission to touch Job. God set strict limits as to Job who was alive. Consider also Revelation 12:10 where the devil accuses believers day and night before God. The ruler of this world exercises his power upon the living to sin and so die, that they may die and go to Hades and ultimately be tried and delivered to the Lake of Fire for eternal torment. As above, the first time marker indicates the “taking captive” happens after the Ascension of Christ, long after the Resurrection of Christ. People holding the Paradise to Heaven view frequently hold that Sheol has two compartments: Abraham’s bosom and Hades below. Some people rest their Paradise to Heaven View upon two passages in particular. Let us look at them individually. Some people cite Acts 2:27 and Psalm 16:10 to support the Paradise to Heaven View.

5.4.1 Captivity Option One: Problems. Several problems arise with this view. First, in the New Testament, only unbelievers go to Hades (see my book on the Afterlife). Second, Old Testament believers were never in captivity to anyone after death on earth (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5; John 8:31-36). David wrote in Psalm 16:10 that he knew God would not abandon his soul to Sheol, nor would God allow His Holy One to undergo decay. 51The Hebrew provides: “כִּ֤י לֹא־תַעֲזֹ֣ב נַפְשִׁ֣י לִשְׁאֹ֑ול לֹֽא־תִתֵּ֥ן חֲ֝סִידְךָ֗ לִרְאֹ֥ות שָֽׁחַת.”  The verb “תַעֲזֹ֣ב” as a qal imperative with the negative particle means that God will neither leave nor forsake in this context. As Jesus disclosed in Matthew 10:28,  we must keep the terms “body” and “soul” distinct in our analysis and understanding of the Afterlife.  David described the destiny of unbelievers in Psalm 16:10: unbelievers go body and soul to Sheol; believers and Messiah go straight to Paradise after death. So, if people want to translate the Hebrew term “תַעֲזֹ֣ב” as “leave” (implying that Messiah was in Sheol for some period of time), they must overcome the other uses of that term in the near and far context. Furthermore, the New Testament commentary on Psalm 16:10 provides a very clear meaning for the term translated “abandon” or “leave.” The term “leave” certainly implies that the soul of Jesus was indeed in Sheol. Before we accept “leave” as a translation, let us review the term for “leave” in the Bible. The Hebrew term translated as “abandon,” “leave,” or “forsake” has a variety of meanings in the Old Testament. 52The Hebrew exact phrase “לֹא־תַעֲזֹ֣ב” occurs only in Psalm 16:10. The same root word appears in other places regarding the activity of God: Ruth 2:20, God blessed the living and dead, not forsaking them; Jeremiah 25:38, God left His hiding place like a lion; 2 Chronicles 32:31, God left Hezekiah alone, to test him; Isaiah 49:14, Zion said that the LORD had forsaken and forgotten Zion;  2 Chronicles 12:5, God forsook Rehoboam and Judah to Shishak because they forsook Him; Jeremiah 12:7, God forsook His house; Isaiah 54:7, God forsook His people for a moment, but with great compassion He will gather them; 2 Chronicles 24:20, God forsook His people because they forsook Him; Nehemiah 9:17, God did not forsake His people in Egypt; Nehemiah 9:19, God did not forsake His people in the wilderness; Nehemiah 9:31, God did not forsake His people; Ezekiel 24:21, the LORD God will kill those left behind by the sword.  The closest example, in my mind, is Psalm 22:1. God forsook Messiah to crucifixion and death, but Jesus had not been crucified or killed before. So, the Hebrew term translated as “forsaken” in Psalm 22:1 should be translated the same way in Psalm 68, referring likewise to Messiah’s death and forsaking by God. Jesus was not “left” in crucifixion and death, because His body had never been crucified or killed before. So, the sense of the term should be “forsaken,” with the understanding that something new was in view. While some people see the Trinity torn asunder in Psalm 22:1, the text itself knows nothing of any ontological split in the Godhead. In fact, Messiah groaned for deliverance from suffering and death, but God the Father forsook Messiah to death, by not delivering Him from suffering and death. 53The Hebrew root is the same term translated as “forsaken Me” (“עֲזַבְתָּ֑נִי“)  as in Psalm 16:10. See the article on Psalm 22.  People completely misunderstand the Trinity by overlooking the plain text of Psalm 22:1. In what sense was Jesus forsaken? God the Father forsook Jesus by not delivering Messiah from suffering and death, even with His groanings. Likewise, in Psalm 16:10, the destination of death and suffering is in view. Although God the Father forsook Jesus to suffering and death, God will not forsake the body or soul of Messiah to Sheol after death. Nothing in Psalm 16:10 compels the translation that Jesus went to Sheol after death. In fact, David knew that God would keep his soul out of Sheol after death (Psalm 49:15). Please ponder Matthew 10:28 and Luke 12:5 again in this context. Moreover, the Hebrew term frequently describes an existing closeness that is broken by bad activity. For example, the people of Israel forsook God and His ways and so God forsook them for a time. The key difference is that Messiah was not in Sheol for a time and then left behind there. Likewise, Messiah was not abandoned by God in Sheol. 54If the souls of saints were in Sheol for a long time, and God was with them there, and then left them or forsook them, that might make some sense from the use of the word itself. But the Hebrew term was applied to Messiah, who was not in Sheol for any length of time. Therefore, God was not leaving, abandoning, or forsaking Messiah, except to suffering and death. Messiah had never been put to death before. Likewise, Messiah had never been body and soul to Sheol, except in the sense of His omnipresence (Psalm 139:8).

5.4.2 Forsaken. The first phrase of Acts 2:27, “because you will not abandon my soul to Hades,” conveys a strong negative that the soul of Jesus never went to Hades. 55The Hebrew word “תַעֲזֹ֣ב” occurs as a qal imperfect with the negative particle “לֹא” in Psalm 16:10. Please keep in mind that no soul of any believer in the Old Testament ever went to Sheol after death. The body of Old Testament believers may go to the Sea or to Sheol in the sense of death and bodily decay; but the souls of saints never go to Sheol. 56See Appendix Three in Afterlife. Luke provided the inspired New Testament commentary on Psalm 16:10 translating the Hebrew into Greek. 57Luke conveyed the message of Peter using the following Greek phrase: “ὅτι οὐκ ἐγκαταλείψεις τὴν ψυχήν μου εἰς ᾅδην.” Luke used a particular word for “abandon.” 58Luke used the Greek term “ἐγκαταλείψεις.” In 2 Corinthians 4:9, Paul used the term to describe believers as containing the power of God in earthen vessels, being persecuted, but not being forsaken by God (“ἐγκαταλειπόμενοι”–present passive participle); in Hebrews 10:25,  we were warned not to forsake (“ἐγκαταλείποντες”–present active participle) the assembling of believers together; in Romans 9:29, Paul quoted Isaiah: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left (“ἐγκατέλιπεν”–aorist active indicative) to us a posterity, we would have become like Sodom and would have resembled Gomorrah. Isaiah, however, used the Hebrew term “הֹותִ֥יר” and not the Hebrew term used in Psalm 68 or Psalm 22; in 2 Timothy 4:10, Paul wrote that Demas had deserted him (“ἐγκατέλιπεν”), having loved this present world; in 2 Timothy 4:16, Paul wrote than every one deserted (“ἐγκατέλιπον”) him at his first defense; in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, those authors both chose the term “ἐγκατέλιπες,” to translate Jesus quoting Psalm 22 with the Hebrew “forsaken Me” (“עֲזַבְתָּ֑נִי“). Interestingly, Matthew and Mark used the same Greek word “ἐγκατέλιπες” to translate Psalm 22:1 with the Hebrew term “forsaken me” (“עֲזַבְתָּ֑נִי“). So, we see the same root word for “ἐγκαταλείψεις” translated into English as “forsaken” in other New Testament passages. The second phrase of  Acts 2:27 provides great insight. 59Luke used the Greek phrase “οὐδὲ δώσεις τὸν ὅσιόν σου ἰδεῖν διαφθοράν” to translate the remainder of Psalm 16:10. When Peter preached “nor allow your Holy One to undergo decay,” no one contends that Jesus began to decay or that Jesus was pulled out of decay in the grave before it “went too far.” No, the meaning of the second phrase is that Jesus never underwent any degree of bodily decay.  Likewise, in the first phrase the soul of Jesus never went to Sheol and then left “before it was too late.” Peter meant that Jesus was categorically different from unbelievers and His body never underwent decay, even when David’s body decayed in the earth after death. When combined with the context of Psalm 16:11 and Psalm 22,  we know that the Psalmist David actually envisioned walking the path of life while living in the presence of God, filled with joy, and sitting at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:10). In Acts 2:27,  we see nothing there about Jesus going to Hades.  For our purposes, Acts 2:27 quotes Psalm 16:10 which promises that God would not forsake the soul of Messiah to Sheol, nor will God allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. 60The Hebrew term translated as “leave” by some certainly has a frequent meaning in the Old Testament of leaving something in the place you found it, or severing an existing relationship with someone. I submit that the best comparison of the term is found in another Psalm by the same author (David) about the same subject, Messiah, in Psalm 22. The point is that Messiah is not going to Sheol and His body would not undergo decay. 61See Acts 13:35-37 where David underwent bodily decay after death, but the body of Jesus the Messiah never underwent decay. So any attempt to use Acts 2:27 or Acts 13:35-37 to prove that Old Testament saints were liberated from Sheol cannot rest upon either of those two passages. 62Although the bodies of Old Testament saints lay in physical graves,  they were not all resurrected into glorified bodies with Jesus on the third day following His crucifixion. See Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29.

5.4.3 Gates of Hades. Other verses oppose the claim that Jesus took Paradise to heaven.  Jesus, the Living One, Who was dead and then alive forevermore, holds the keys of Hades and Death (Revelation 1:18). Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven to the disciples so that whom they loosed on earth shall have been loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:19; 18:18). Jesus meant that saving faith on earth produces eternal freedom in heaven. All those people in Hades suffer in body and soul the consequences of disobedience to Jesus while alive on earth. Dead unbelievers populate Hades with bodies and souls, not living unbelievers. Therefore, the keys to Hades do not concern opening the gates to let someone out for salvation, but opening the gates to bring the occupants to the Great White Throne for judgment (Revelation 20:13).  Likewise, the key of knowledge allows people alive on earth to enter the narrow gate leading to life (Luke 11:52; Matthew 7:14). So, as the disciples share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people alive on earth, they gain the knowledge of eternal life, which is to know God and Him Whom God sent (John 17:3). They see the kingdom of God and enter the kingdom of God by faith (John 3:3, 5; Colossians 1:13-14). Jesus told the believing thief on the cross that “This day you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Some people teach that Jesus went to Hades on the day of His death on the cross, and then later that same day lifted Paradise and its occupants to heaven. This problem shares virtually all of the impediments described above. In fact, Jesus went to Paradise the same day He died on the cross, but He never was abandoned or left in Sheol, because He never went to Sheol. Likewise, as above, no saints in the Old Testament went body and soul into Sheol. They all went to Paradise and Paradise was never in Sheol, but in heaven. Paul let us know that he went to Paradise while alive on earth, but he did not know if he went in the body or apart from the body (2 Corinthians 12:4). Paradise there was in the Third Heaven. 63Paul described himself as caught up to the Third Heaven, “ἁρπαγέντα τὸν τοιοῦτον ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ“–the Greek preposition may mean “as far as,” indicating some things exist beyond the third heaven, such as “ἀναβὰς ὑπεράνω πάντων τῶν οὐρανῶν” (Ephesians 4:10).  We also know that at least one tree of life is in the “Paradise of God”, but it can only be eaten with the permission of God (Revelation 2:7). 64It seems implausible that the tree of life existed in Sheol, as some contend.

Captivity Option Two: Jesus Led Satan Captive

5.5 Jesus Led Satan Captive. This option proposes that Christ conquered His enemies and led the captives to heaven. Some people say those captives were the devil and his demons.  Although Ephesians 1:20-21 indicates that Christ was exalted above every principality, power, dominion and might, all of those enemies still oppose Jesus today (Ephesians 6:10-17; Hebrews 1:8; 1 Peter 5:8; John 5:18). Furthermore, the devil accuses believers night and day even now before God the Father (Revelation 12:10). Also, the ruler of this world continues to be the devil (John 16:11; 1 John 5:19). In the future, the devil and his angels will lose the war in heaven and the devil will be cast down to earth (Revelation 12:7-12). Nothing indicates the devil has been taken captive, because we still need the full armor of God to protect ourselves against rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places, plus the flaming arrows of the evil one; we do not struggle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:10-17). Even today, the devil roams about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Nothing indicates he was held captive in heaven after the ascension of Jesus. Jesus has not imposed any captivity upon the devil yet, but he will be cast into the Lake of Fire after the Final Rebellion (Revelation 20:1-3). 652 Peter 2:4 indicates some evil spirits are held in Tartarus today awaiting judgment. 

Captivity Option Three: People Held Captive 

5.6 People Held in Captivity. Some others in the group hold that the “captives” are people held in captivity to the devil. In this view, Christ went to Sheol after His death on the cross, entered into Paradise there, and lifted Paradise and its captives into heaven. According to the People Held Captive view, after death, Old Testament saints were held captive in Sheol (the Paradise Chamber) by the devil. Variations of this view hold that Jesus freed them by His death and resurrection. Other variations of the People Held Captive view hold that the people were not in Sheol, but still held captive to the devil until Jesus freed them. They basically suffer from some or all of the obstacles described above.

Captivity Option Four: Jesus Took Captivity Captive

5.7 Jesus Took Captivity CaptiveThe text and the immediate context will always be the best starting point for meaning. In this case, Jesus took captivity captive. So, following the ingressive aorist meaning described above, Jesus took “captivity” (a single noun) captive. What was the “captivity” He took captive, knowing that the “taking captive” started with His Ascension?  The context of Ephesians 4 clearly identifies the captivity. In Ephesians 4:14,  we read the words “As a result.” 66Paul wrote “ἵνα μηκέτι ὦμεν νήπιοι.” This “ἵνα” clause identifies what changed after the Ascension and related to the gifts from Jesus. The ingressive aorist provides the first time marker and refers to the Ascension.  The second and third time markers may be contemporaneous with each other, or Time Marker Three may follow Time Marker Two. 67To some degree, the sequence of selecting a replacement apostle for Judas Iscariot may indicate a space of time between Time Marker Two and Time Marker Three. Therefore, the aorist is the key; whether  “the taking captive” preceded the “gave gifts to men” may not be so clear syntactically. I am only scratching the surface in this article, with great riches remaining in the text beyond my reach today. Therefore, we know that something changed after the Ascension. It also reveals the meaning of captivity. Captivity means the state and activity of life before the Ascension and the giving of gifts. Therefore, Paul described the state of captivity and the actions indicating captivity. The captivity consisted of “being children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). The Captivity also included walking without the Lord, like Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the love of God because of the ignorance in them, and because of the hardness of their heart; they were callous, having given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity and greediness (Ephesians 4:17-19).  Captivity included living in the lusts of deceit (Ephesians 4:22); living in falsehood (Ephesians 4:25); being angry, and letting the sun go down on their anger (Ephesians 4:26), and giving the devil an opportunity (Ephesians 4:27). Captivity means stealing (Ephesians 4:28), letting unwholesome words proceed from your mouth (Ephesians 4:29). Captivity also includes grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30); living in bitterness, with wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice (Ephesians 4:31). Captivity also means the lack of kindness to one another and not  forgiving each other (Ephesians 4:32); living in immorality and impurity and greed (Ephesians 5:3). Captivity includes living in filthiness and silly talk, coarse jesting, and not giving thanks (Ephesians 5:4). Captivity means being deceived with empty words, and all such things that bring the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 5:6). Captivity means walking as if you were in darkness (Ephesians 5:8). Captivity means living without goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:9). Captivity means that you do not care about pleasing God (Ephesians 5:10.)  Captivity means participating in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, doing disgraceful things in secret (Ephesians 5:11-12). Captivity means acting foolishly, walking as unwise men (Ephesians 5:15) and getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18). Captivity means you have problems in marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33). Captivity means you have spiritual trouble in the family and with your masters (Ephesians 6:1-9). Captivity means that you are losing the spiritual war against the world forces of darkness, the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places, while being struck with the fiery arrows of the devil (Ephesians 6:16).

5.8 Summary of  Option Four. When Christ ascended, He took captive the captivity described above. It does not mean that the saints live without sin, but rather the captivity to sin has been removed once and for all. More precisely, the expanded ministry of the Holy Spirit to include permanent indwelling, sealing and filling believers, plus empowering them to use the Spiritual Gifts within the New Testament Temple, began after the Ascension. With the arrival of the church and every member using spiritual gifts, saints live without the old captivity. By the corporate and individual presence of the Holy Spirit, Father and Son in the church and in every saint, they fight spiritual battles individually and as one Church, living in victory by the power of God. They no longer live in spiritual captivity to sin (John 8:36). In Acts 2,  we read about the formation of the church. The Holy Spirit descended, Jesus baptized the believers with the Holy Spirit and began to build His church consisting of the Holy Spirit-baptized saints. At that moment, the Church age began. The New Testament Temple had been formed and the Holy Spirit, the Father, and the Son entered into the New Testament Temple to abide there eternally (John 14:17, 23). With the Spiritual Gifts active in the church, so that all believers are equipped for ministry, and actually using their spiritual gifts, captivity no longer controls the Body of Christ, the Church. The Church enables all saints to face the enemies together, with each member providing strength to live without captivity. The devil still tempts saints and they still sin, but the captivity to sin has been removed and the Spiritual Gifts now make life in the Church dynamic and glorifying to God. As we face temptation, we take thoughts captive to Christ, implementing the truths He taught us (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). God commands us to live unified in one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Section Six 


6.1 Gifts. After Jesus ascended, and after Jesus took captive captivity, He gave gifts to men.

6.1.1 The Activity: Gave. Paul chose an action word “gave” to highlight the instantaneous nature of the giving of gifts. 68Paul described the action of giving as “ἔδωκεν” using an aorist tense. The gifts came together and were complete gifts upon receipt. Some gifts may be distributed over time. In this case, we know the gifts consisted of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. 69Some people find the Granville Sharp rule dealing with two single nouns joined by “and” to refer to only one item. Yet, Granville Sharp in his monograph indicated that his rule of construction should not be applied slavishly to plural nouns, as we have here, “Pastors and Teachers.” See my book on Spiritual Gifts for a fuller treatment of those gifts. With the giving of those gifts, Paul then developed how those gifts brought about a new result of freedom from spiritual captivity for the members of the Body of Christ, as described above. God moved Paul to write as a careful builder, describing different elements in the foundation of the church. The first foundational element included the blessings we have in Christ Jesus. The second foundational element concerned how those those blessings laid a foundation for the church. The third foundational element explained the mystery of the church. The fourth foundational element described the unity in the Church. Having outlined the prior foundational elements, only then Paul laid out the foundational elements of the power of unity in the Body of Christ. Truth upon truth, God revealed the structure and activity of the church. Therefore, we see how the arrival of the spiritual gifts produced a new result in the church: no more captivity to evil behavior in the body of Christ. 

6.1.2 Gifts of People. Paul described people as gifts. Let me emphasize the importance of understanding spiritual gifts. Paul taught in other places that different kinds of apostles existed, and more than twelve people held the spiritual gift of apostle. Likewise, it seems apparent that many people apparently received the spiritual gift of prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher.  In Ephesians 5, Paul emphasized the person aspect of the gifts. See Appendix One in Spiritual Gifts. The Office of Apostle and The Spiritual Gift of Apostle. The Spiritual Gift of Apostle differs sharply from The Office of Apostle. Judas Iscariot, a non-believer and son of destruction, held the office of apostle. He was never a believer, never baptized with the Holy Spirit, and never had a single spiritual gift, because they were not given during his lifetime on earth. In Acts 1:20, Luke applied Psalm 109:8 to Judas Iscariot. In Psalm 109:8, David wrote that the wicked have repaid him evil for good, and hatred for his love. David prayed for judgment upon that wicked man: “Let his days be few; let another take his office.” 70David wrote: “יִֽהְיֽוּ־יָמָ֥יו מְעַטִּ֑ים פְּ֝קֻדָּתֹ֗ו יִקַּ֥ח אַחֵֽר“. Moses used the word “office” to refer to the position of trust and authority in Genesis 41:34–overseers in Egypt to watch over the grain collection; in Jeremiah 29:26, evil Shemaiah wrote lies that he had replaced Jehoiada the priest as overseer in the LORD’s house over every madman who prophesies. In the New Testament, Luke used the word “office” to describe the position held by Judas. 71Luke used the Greek words “Τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν“. This same word was applied to the office of overseer (“τις ἐπισκοπῆς“) in 1 Timothy 3:1, indicating it was also related to the office of elder in the church. Likewise, in Philippians 1:1, Paul wrote to overseers (“ἐπισκόποις“) and deacons (“διακόνοις”), the only two offices still in the church. Luke also distinguished the ministry of Judas Iscariot from his apostleship. 72Luke used the Greek terms “τῆς διακονίας” from “ἀποστολῆς”. Peter declared that a man must be appointed to occupy the ministry and apostleship vacated by Judas Iscariot. Eleven apostles were too few and thirteen too many (Acts 1:15-26). At the time Matthias became the new twelfth apostle, the church had not been created and the spiritual gifts had not been given, although Christ had arisen already. Therefore, we must be careful to distinguish The Office of Apostle from The Spiritual Gift of Apostle. Because no one today can meet the qualifications to occupy the office of apostle, it does not continue today, except that Jesus alone holds that office along with the office of high priest (Hebrews 3:1). 

6.2 Psalm 68 Gifts of Power and Strength. We should be careful to see that in Psalm 68, after God entered the temple, He gave the people of Israel gifts of strength and power. 73The Hebrew terms were “עֹ֖ז” and “תַעֲצֻמֹ֥ות“. Therefore, we know that all believers, before spiritual gifts were given in the New Testament, already had received the special gifts of strength and power when God occupied the Old Testament Temple. All believers still enjoy those gifts, but now have better gifts bestowed upon the members of the Body of Christ. Psalm 68 closed with “Blessed be God!” 

Section Seven 


Under the inspiration of God, Paul brought Old Testament theology into the New Testament. As a Hebrew of the Hebrews writing under the inspiration of God, Paul described two temples, two victories, and One God to link the creation of the Old Testament Temple with the New Testament Temple. In the New Testament, the church has been freed from captivity and now lives in the abiding presence of God in the dynamic, living New Testament Temple. As one integrated temple composed of individual personal temples, God abides in those temples. God united together all saints in one bond of peace, with one hope of our calling, with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father who is over all and through all and in all.  United with diversity, the individual saints exercise their spiritual gifts to produce greater unity, growth, spiritual maturity, and stability when attacked. We join the Old Testament saints in their anthem of praise: “Blessed be God.” Amen. 


Appendix One

Chart of Some New Testament Usage of the Term Earth

Ephesians 4:9Lower Parts of the Earthκατέβη εἰς τὰ κατώτερα [μέρη] τῆς γῆςJesusGeographical ?
John 2:12Capernaumκατέβη εἰς ΚαφαρναοὺμJesusGeographical
Acts 18:22Antiochκατέβη εἰς ἈντιόχειανPaulGeographical
Matthew 12:40Heart of the Earthἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας JesusJesus Like Jonah;
Tomb; Not Geographical
Matthew 24:30Of the Earthαἱ φυλαὶ τῆς γῆςJesus Geographical,
Attributive with Genitive
Luke 21:35Face of the Earthπάντας τοὺς καθημένους ἐπὶ πρόσωπον πάσης τῆς γῆςJesusGeographical,
Acts 17:26Face of the Earthπᾶν ἔθνος ἀνθρώπων κατοικεῖν ἐπὶ παντὸς προσώπου τῆς γῆςPaulGeographical,
Matthew 23:35Upon the Earthπᾶν αἷμα δίκαιον ἐκχυννόμενον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς Jesus Speaking to Scribes and PhariseesGeographical
Ephesians 6:3Upon the Earthἔσῃ μακροχρόνιος ἐπὶ τῆς γῆςPaul Quoting OTGeographical
James 5:5Upon the Earthἐτρυφήσατε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆςJames about the Wicked RichGeographical
Revelation 6:10Upon the EarthΕως πότε, ὁ δεσπότης ὁ ἅγιος καὶ ἀληθινός, οὐ κρίνεις καὶ ἐκδικεῖς τὸ αἷμα ἡμῶν ἐκ τῶν ατοικούντων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆςSouls under the Altar in Heaven SpeakingGeographical
Revelation 16:18Upon the Earthοὗ ἄνθρωπος ἐγένετο ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς τηλικοῦτος σεισμὸς οὕτω μέγαςSeventh Angel, Men on EarthGeographical
John 3:31Of the Earthὁ ὢν ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἐστιν καὶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς λαλεῖ. JesusGeographical,
John 12:32From the Earthκἀγὼ ἐὰν ὑψωθῶ ἐκ τῆς γῆς, πάντας ἑλκύσω πρὸς ἐμαυτόνJesus Geographical,
Acts 22:22From the Earth

Αἶρε ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς τὸν τοιοῦτον, οὐ γὰρ καθῆκεν αὐτὸν ζῆνJerusalem Jews about PaulGeographical
Acts 1:8End of the Earthκαὶ ἕως ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆςJesus Laying out Plan of WitnessingGeographical
Acts 13:47End of the Earthἕως ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆςPaul Quoting the Lord about EvangelismGeographical
Acts 2:19The Earth Belowσημεῖα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς κάτω Peter Speaking about SignsGeographical
Ephesians 1:10The Things in the Heavens and the The Things on the Earthτὰ ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆςJesus Filling UpGeographical/
Colossians 1:16All Things in the Heavens and on the Earthὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆςJesus CreatingGeographical/
Colossians 1:20Both Things on Earth and Things in Heaven εἰρηνοποιήσας διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ, [δι’ αὐτοῦ] εἴτε τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς εἴτε τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖςJesus Made PeaceGeographical/
Colossians 3:5The Upon the Earth Members Νεκρώσατε οὖν τὰ μέλη τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς,Paul Speaking about MembersGeographical/
Hebrews 11:38In Deserts, and Mountains, and Caves, and Holes of the Earthἐπὶ ἐρημίαις πλανώμενοι καὶ ὄρεσιν καὶ σπηλαίοις καὶ ταῖς ὀπαῖς τῆς γῆς Old Testament SaintsGeographical
Revelation 6:15Kings of the Earthοἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς καὶ οἱ μεγιστᾶνες καὶ οἱ χιλίαρχοι καὶ οἱ πλούσιοι καὶ οἱ ἰσχυροὶ καὶ πᾶς δοῦλος καὶ ἐλεύθερος ἔκρυψαν ἑαυτοὺς εἰς τὰ σπήλαια καὶ εἰς τὰς πέτρας τῶν ὀρέωνKings of the Earth and Everyone Else on EarthGeographical
James 5:7Of the Earthὁ γεωργὸς ἐκδέχεται τὸν τίμιον καρπὸν τῆς γῆς Farmer Receives Precious Produce of the EarthGeographical
Revelation 5:3On the Earth or Under the Earthκαὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ οὐδὲ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς οὐδὲ ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς ἀνοῖξαι τὸ βιβλίον οὔτε βλέπειν αὐτό Only Lamb Worthy to Open Book of Seven SealsGeographical/
Revelation 5:13In the Heavens and on the Earth and under the Earth and in the Seasκαὶ πᾶν κτίσμα ὃ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης, καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς πάντα, ἤκουσα λέγονταςAll Created Things in the Heavens and upon the Earth Praise GodGeographical/ Spiritual?
Revelation 13:11Out of the EarthΚαὶ εἶδον ἄλλο θηρίον ἀναβαῖνον ἐκ τῆς γῆςBeast Arose out of The EarthGeographical
Revelation 14:3From the Earthοἱ ἠγορασμένοι ἀπὸ τῆς γῆςPurchased from the EarthGeographical
Revelation 17:8On the Earthκαὶ θαυμασθήσονται οἱ κατοικοῦντες ἐπὶ τῆς γῆςDwellers upon the EarthGeographical
Revelation 18:24On the Earthκαὶ πάντων τῶν ἐσφαγμένων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς Slain on the EarthGeographical

Reference [+]

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