But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” Ephesians 4:4-8
Here, brethren, is another Old Testament quote concerning the Christ and His church.
The quote of the apostle is lifted from the context of Psalm 68, verse 18. In the Old Testament it reads this way: “Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captive Thy captives; Thou hast received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that the LORD God may dwell there.” (NAS) Slightly different than the New Testament inspired declaration by Paul, right? Paul says Christ gave gifts to men, the Psalmist, here understood to be David, says Thou has received gifts among men. There is a simple answer to this apparent anomaly between the two inspired proclamations. Paul, through the Holy Spirit is helping us to understand exactly what David, in the same Spirit, was really speaking about. The picture provided in Psalm 68 verse eighteen is of the Great God ascending as a conquering warrior, rescuing the captives and raising them with Him, granting victory. One, without the help of Paul’s inspired clarification, could read Psalm 68 and its preceding context and come to the conclusion that David was speaking of the physical mountain where the LORD had dwelt, Mount Zion. Armed with Paul’s statement, it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Paul is referencing the ascension of Christ to heaven in his quotation of this Psalm. During His earthly sojourn, Jesus many times made statements that all things had been given Him by the Father (Matt. 11:27, Luke 10:22); or, all that was the Father’s were His as well (John 16:15). However, it was not until the resurrection of Jesus from the grave for the purpose of ascending to the throne “on high” (that’s why Jesus said to Mary, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” ’ John 20:17) that all authority in heaven and on earth was given to Him (Matt. 28:19) For further corroboration of this point, check out Daniel chapter seven, verses thirteen and fourteen. As Jesus ascended to the lofty heavenly heights of spiritual Mount Zion, He led captive (read: “lifted” here) the faithful souls of the departed to be seated before Him in the heavenly realm as well. What He had received upon His ascension, all the spiritual blessings (true gifts, brethren!) He has then freely given those gifts to those whom He intended, His church, having handed them to us first by means of the foundation of the apostles and first century prophets (Eph. 2:20) and then by means of evangelists, pastors (also known as elders, overseerers, bishops) and teachers. The aforementioned evangelists, pastors and teachers designed to share and teach the church about all His gifts He intended for men. The purpose? Well, first, to deliver from captivity those who Satan would seek to hold captive to do his will by means of sin and the fear of death. Secondly, and more importantly, the gifts are given so that God may dwell among us and in us. Again brethren, if we know Jesus, we know who we are in Jesus and we can know our purpose in every facet. Then we can say like David did: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. God is to us a God of deliverances; and to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death.” Psalm 68:19, 20. Amen.