Therefore it says, "WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN."Ephesians 4:8(NASB)
We read in this passage that when Jesus rose from the dead: "He ascended into the heaven of heavens on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men." There are a number of interpretations of this passage from good Bible teachers and each have merit, and each give glory and honour to Christ.
Every good expositor agrees that this verse is talking about the Lord Jesus, our great God and Saviour Who ascended into heaven after He rose victorious from the grave. He paid the price for the sin of the world through His sacrificial death and glorious Resurrection, and broke the power of sin and Satan, death and hell forever in the lives of ALL who would trust in Him.
Jesus is the promised Seed of the woman, the coming Messiah of Old Testament times, and the incarnate Word of God Who was made Man and lived and died a sinless life – but He rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven in triumphant power and great glory.
We read in this verse that Jesus "led captivity captive." Some consider that this refers to the liberation of the souls of a multitude of Old Testament saints who were freed from their confinement in Sheol (which is sometimes called Hades, Paradise or Abraham's bosom). Christ was sent, as foretold in Scripture, as their Kinsman-Redeemer and the final sacrifice for sin, because their faith had been reckoned to them as righteousness.
Others consider this refers to Christ's triumph over Satan (the prince of the power of the air) and the demonic forces of darkness who tried to impede our Lord's ascent back into heaven, following His Resurrection from the dead. They rejoice to think of Christ leading these evil forces as His captive trophies, as He entered into His glory.
Reading this passage in context, we certainly see that it paints a picture of Christ's wonderful and victorious entrance into heaven, after having triumphed over everything that sought to overcome Him. Due to His death and glorious Resurrection, Jesus was the victor over sin, Satan, death, and hell. No doubt all the angelic hosts rejoiced at His jubilant entrance into heaven, after having made atonement for our sins and the sin of the whole world.
He took captive everything that has ensnared every man from the beginning, and the same evil things sought to overwhelm Him as well. He defeated sin by living a sinless life and offered His lifeblood as the full and final payment price for all our sin.
Christ defeated the grave by the resurrection power of a sinless life. The power of His sinless life, sacrificial death, and glorious Resurrection secured authority over sin and Satan, death and decay, the grave and hell. Their suffocating grip on the throat of the human race was broken forever in the lives of all who trust in Him.
Jesus broke all these evil chains asunder when He rose up from the grave. His atoning death and wonderful Resurrection led every evil that sought to destroy Him and prevent this greatest of all victory, into captivity.
ALL that sought to make Him captive and attempted to destroy Him through trials, temptations, accusation, beatings, crucifixion, and death, were fatally wounded, and Satan (that serpent of old who bruised by His heel) was crushed and set at naught, for Christ triumphed over him, defeating every foe that sought the destruction of the human race.
Because of His victory, God was enabled to bestow gifts and graces on ALL those who trust in Him. Every member of Christ's Body is endowed with a variety of spiritual gifts. To each one He gives abilities to function in different ways, for the benefit of the whole Body. Every believer has his own individual spiritual gifts, so that each is enabled to function in the way that God has chosen.
The Holy Spirit is the Giver of spiritual gifts and graces. Every member of Christ's Body is gifted in a unique way, and each is expected to use their spiritual gifts to function in the Church so that the whole Body is edified, built up, and works together in godly harmony.
May each one of us strive to use the gifts and graces with which we have been endowed, for the glory of God and in service for the benefit of the Body.
Heavenly Father, thank You that Christ was the perfect sacrifice. He gave His life as the ransom price for sin and set us free from all the evils that have ensnared us. Thank You that Christ defeated sin and Satan, death and hell, and triumphed over every evil foe. Thank You that because He lives, I too shall live. In Jesus' name, AMEN.