Joy and triumph! Exultation bubbles up when I think about Christ Jesus who "led captivity captive" for us. He has liberated us for eternity. He gives us the gifts of the victor.
Hallelujah! The war is won! However, just as we've seen in Iraq at present, we need to be vigilant for our enemy, Satan, still lingers in the territory and tries to exert his will. He plots to harrass and intimidate. He has his hidden weapons of destruction. He and his henchmen would like to kill us and regain power and authority in a cruel and wicked regime.
This month's poem was inspired by a concept found in both the New and the Old Testaments.
Trying to explain what "led captivity captive" means is not easy.
Bible scholars speculate, and they differ widely. Maybe God knows we will apply the truth in different ways to our individual needs at differing times and stages of growth.
Who sets the captives
Has captivated me.
We who have been
released from the
dark thralldom of
domination and death,
Live enthralled with
Our Lord Jesus Christ
We shout the shout of
Our praise ascends
To the One
The One Who led
-- Nancy Spiegelberg
© 2003 Nancy Spiegelberg
In Psalm 68:18 we read:
You have ascended on high. You have led away captive a train of vanquished foes; You have received gifts of men, yes, of the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell there with them. Amplified Bible (AMP)
A commentary says of this verse:
David sang of the ark of the covenant, which after a great victory was transferred or brought back to Zion. In this fact he sees the principle of the history of the kingdom of God appearing in ever-widening circles and nobler manner. The earthly celebration of victory in battle, with the processional bearing of the ark into the temple, is to him a type of the method and course of the Messiah's kingdom, i.e., the certain triumph of God's kingdom and Christ's ascension to His place of enthronement. So the apostle Paul (in Eph. 4:8) is perfectly justified in finding the psalmist's eye directed toward Christ, and so interpreting it. The "on high" in the psalm is first of all Mount Zion, but this is a type of heaven, as Paul makes clear (J.P. Lange, A Commentary).
Matthew Henry's commentary says: When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. David prophesied of the ascension of Christ; and the apostle descants upon it here, and in the three following verses. When he ascended up on high. We may understand the apostle both of the place into which he ascended in his human nature, that is, the highest heavens, and particularly of the state to which he was advanced, he being then highly exalted, and eminently glorified, by his Father. Let us set ourselves to think of the ascension of Jesus Christ: that our blessed Redeemer, having risen from the dead, in gone to heaven, where he sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high, which completed the proof of his being the Son of God. As great conquerors, when they rode in their triumphal chariots, used to be attended with the most illustrious of their captives led in chains, and were wont to scatter their largesses and bounty among the soldiers and other spectators of their triumphs, so Christ, when he ascended into heaven, as a triumphant conqueror, led captivity captive. It is a phrase used in the Old Testament to signify a conquest over enemies, especially over such as formerly had led others captive; see Judges 5:12 . Captivity is here put for captives, and signifies all our spiritual enemies, who brought us into captivity before. He conquered those who had conquered us; such as sin, the devil, and death. Indeed, he triumphed over these on the cross; but the triumph was completed at his ascension, when he became Lord over all, and had the keys of death and hades put into his hands. And he gave gifts unto men: in the psalm it is, He received gifts for men. He received for them, that he might give to them, a large measure of gifts and graces; particularly, he enriched his disciples with the gift of the Holy Ghost. The apostle, thus speaking of the ascension of Christ, takes notice that he descended first, v. 9. As much as if he had said, "When David speaks of Christ’s ascension, he intimates the knowledge he had of Christ’s humiliation on earth; for, when it is said that he ascended, this implies that he first descended: for what is it but a proof or demonstration of his having done so?’’
Another Old Testament verse to think about is
"Awake, awake, Deborah; quake, awake, utter a song; arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam." -- Judges 5:12.
This explanation is given at http://www.carolinamessenger.org/100205.htm:
Judges 5 records the victory song of the judge Deborah, after her captain Barak had led Israel's forces against the Canaanites. She sang, "Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam" (Judges 5:12). In the previous chapter, we learn what it means to lead captivity captive. The Canaanites had made slaves of the Israelites (Judges 4:2). "They cried to the Lord in repentance, and God raised up Deborah to lead their delivery from slavery. The forces of Israel attacked the armies of the Canaanites, and in one day their captivity was reversed. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left. . . . So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel" (Judges 4:16, 23).
With one decisive blow, the enemy was wiped out. And Jesus did the same thing for our slavery to sin. The writer of Hebrews states, "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God. . . . For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:12, 14). The ascension of our Savior to the Father is the exclamation point to his conquering of Satan and sin.
Gifted and powerful English preacher, Rev. C.H. Spurgeon, delivered on Sabbath Morning, October 14th, 1860, At Exeter Hall, Strand, a sermon titled "The Comforter." Reading his unrevised text, written in flowery speech of his time, may take a little effort. His insights are always worth pondering. Here he speaks of Jesus:
But now he was about to die. Great prophecies were to be fulfilled; and great purposes were to be answered; therefore, Jesus must go. It behooved him to suffer, that he might be made a propitiation for our sins. It behooved him to slumber in the dust awhile, that he might perfume the chamber of the grave to make it -
"No more a carnel house to fence
The relics of lost innocence."
It behooved him to have a resurrection, that we, who shall one day be the dead in Christ, might rise first, and in glorious bodies stand upon earth. And if behooved him that he should ascend up on high, that he might lead captivity captive; that he might chain the fiends of hell; that he might lash them to his chariot wheels, and drag them up high heaven's hill, to make them feel a second overthrow from his right arm, when he should dash them from the pinnacles of heaven down to the deeper depths beneath. "It is right I should go away from you," said Jesus, "for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come." Jesus must go. Weep, ye disciples; Jesus must be gone. Mourn, ye poor ones, who are to be left without a Comforter. But hear how kindly Jesus speaks: "I will not leave you comfortless, I will pray the Father, and he shall send you another Comforter, who shall be with you, and shall dwell in you forever."
Regarding New Testament thought, Ephesians 4:8 reads
Therefore it is said,
When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive
[He led a train of
and He bestowed gifts
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Matthew Henry wrote in his Commentary on the Holy Bible: "He conquered those who had conquered us - such as sin, the devil, and death."
I picture Christ's going up to heaven after his cruxifiction and death. I see Him ascending truimphantly because Satan can no longer possess or control those who believe in Christ's atoning work for deliverance and salvation.
Here are a few more ideas of what leading captivity captive might mean.
"Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son."
So then, at the very least we must confess, Yes, Christ triumphed over Satan, and spoiled his principality or rule. Yes, He spoiled the house of Satan, and gave freedom to those who Satan had held in bondage to sin? The Bible indeed testifies to these things.
"Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men."
What captivity? The captive prison house of Satan. That captivity of Satan's is not free to hold us any longer and is itself made captive by Christ! Remember when Jesus told the Jews, if I shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed? They didn't understand what Jesus meant. They said, "we were born free and were never in bondage to any man". But Jesus was talking about being in bondage to Satan and sin. And He says, if HE (Jesus) makes you free, you shall be free indeed. That's the captivity that Jesus came to bind. Or to use the language above, that's the captivity that Jesus came to lead captive. He came to make Satan a captive, that we (his captives) could be set free. He spoiled Satan's house, but he first had to Bind him. He first had to lead captivity captive, then He could give gifts to men. Then, He could give them salvation (true freedom). And that my friends is the "Biblical" reason why Satan is bound. It was so that the Lord could build His Church. It has nothing to do with earthly peace as the world defines peace.
Let us consider what St. Augustine of Hippo
taught in SERMON LXXVIII. CXXVIII.. BEN.
Of Him it is said, "He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, He gave gifts unto men." What is, "He led captivity captive"? He conquered death. What is, "He led captivity captive "? The devil was the author of death, and the devil was himself by the Death of Christ led captive. "He ascended up on high." What do we know higher than heaven? Visibly and before the eyes of His disciples He ascended into heaven. This we know, this we believe, this we confess. "He gave gifts unto men." What gifts? The Holy Spirit. He who giveth such a Gift, what is He Himself? For great is God's mercy; He giveth a Gift equal to Himself; for His Gift is the Holy Spirit, and the Whole Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, is One God. What hath the Holy Spirit brought us? Hear the Apostle; "The love of God," saith he, "hath been shed abroad in our hearts." Whence, thou beggar, hath the love of God been shed abroad in thine heart? How, or wherein hath the love of God been shed abroad in the heart of man? "We have," saith he, "this treasure in earthen vessels." Why in earthen vessels? "That the excellency of the power may be of God?"
Yes. As we think on the kindness and perseverance of our Savior, and of the goodness and mysteries of God, we spontaneously sing from our hearts and
We shout the shout of
Our praise ascends
To the One
The One Who led
© 2003 Nancy Spiegelberg