Friday, July 17, 2020

The Victory Parade of History

"This is why it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train and gave gifts to men”
(Ephesians 4:8).

The ascension of Jesus Christ is not simply an interesting aspect of things that happened after His resurrection. Rather, the Ascension shows us the triumph of our Lord and the establishment of His kingdom.

When Jesus ascended, He went into the sky until He was received by a cloud (Acts 1:9). The cloud referred to here is the glory cloud of the Lord, which appeared from time to time in the Old Testament. That cloud consists of billions of angels arrayed around the throne of God, and is pictured as God’s chariot in Ezekiel 1. When Jesus ascended, He mounted that chariot as King and began a great victory parade that will continue for the rest of human history.

The victorious King leads His captives in His train. After the great battle of Megiddo, Deborah, in Judges 5:12, tells Barak: “Take captive your captives, O son of Abinoam!” Barak is a picture of Christ, because he is the anointed messiah of the people at this point in history, and he leads the captives in the victory procession.

In Psalm 68:18, David uses the same imagery and applies it to the Lord. He says that when the Lord went forth to war, kings and armies fled in haste, and in the camps men divided the plunder (Psalm 68:12). He says that God’s glory chariot consists of “tens of thousands and thousands of thousands” (v. 17). Then he says, “The Lord has come from Sinai into His sanctuary. When You ascended on high, You led captives in Your train; You received gifts from men, even from the rebellious—that you, O LORD God, might dwell there” (v. 18). In other words, when the Lord ascended to His throne after the battle, He took the spoil and used it to build Himself a house.

Paul is making the same point in Ephesians. Christ has ascended to heaven, and from A.D. 30 on, He has been collecting the spoil from the whole world. He is building a new house out of that spoil. David says that the Lord “received” gifts from men, while Paul says that Jesus “gave” gifts to men. The spoil collected by the victorious King is given to His people. According to Ephesians 4:11–13, the spoil consists of people, transformed by grace, and given back to the church as gifts.

Do you see yourself as a captive, joyfully marching in Christ’s victory procession? Do you see yourself as a spoil of His holy war, yourself and others in your church as gifts that God has taken from His spoil, refined and purified, and placed in His palace? In what ways does today’s lesson change how you think about yourself and others?