A note from our Pastor:
“(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?“Ephesians 4:9
Good Morning Dearly Beloved,
Our study verse this morning is the first of two verses making up a parenthetical portion of this chapter. The Apostle’s writings often include these parenthetical portions as the translators attempted to set apart the additional thoughts the author included. We often read these as side notes, and while it is important to read the flow of the text without them, they contain important doctrinal information which should be studied.
The Apostle starts from a place where all believers should be in agreement. If we do not agree Christ has ascended into heaven, having finished the work of salvation, then there is little point in discussing the rest of the New Testament. Without the ascension of Christ there is no hope.
But the rest of this verse has led to differing interpretations many of which are at odds with one another.
I do not want to spend too much time on these differing opinions, many of which are quite concerning, but in order to understand this verse it is necessary to know what it does not mean. First, some have set out the view — Christ descended into hell after his death. They believe, during the three hours of darkness, Christ experienced the hell we would have experienced without his sacrifice. There is simply no basis for this in scripture. Hell is reserved for the non-elect and the divinity of Christ could not have existed there. The second view has Christ going into a place of limbo where the saints of the Old Testament age were held and setting them free. This view, is necessarily based, on a concept that the covenant of salvation which God formed before the foundation of the world was not sufficient without the death of Christ. However, the reality is, when a child of God died in the Old Testament age their soul was immediately in heaven just as is true today.
With those two views out of the way, the far more likely and scriptural meaning of this verse is the Apostle was referring to the whole of the humiliation of Christ. In that phrase, he captures the descent of Christ from heaven, his incarnation, his taking upon himself our sins, his death upon the cross, and his bearing of the just punishment and wrath from God. Suffering all of those things is a lower state than any child of God will ever experience.
Let us rejoice today — he suffered the low estate on our behalf and he has ascended into heaven returning one day to take us home to be with him.
Our prayers are with you daily,