What did Jesus do during the three days between His death and resurrection? You might not know this but during that time Jesus led a victory procession. There are great blessings for Christians as a result of the victory march of Jesus.
In Ephesians 4:7-10 it states:
“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
These verses describe a victory procession led by Jesus.
Victory in the grace of Jesus.Paul says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (4:7). The first benefit associated with this victory procession is “grace.” Grace is God’s provision. It is described by the acronym God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is what we need from God when we need it. Grace describes God’s sufficient and superabundant provision. Grace is only received as a gift. You can’t earn God’s grace. Salvation is offered by God’s grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-9). We don’t deserve God’s grace. God offers it to us anyway. That’s what makes grace, grace.
Victory with the gifts of Jesus. Paul then speaks of “the measure of Christ’s gift.” Paul is not trying to quantify an amount of God’s grace. He is paving the way to describe various forms of this grace. He is introducing the topic of spiritual gifts and doing that in a wonderful way.
Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 in Ephesians 4:8. He says, “Therefore it says: When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” These words allude to a victory procession. Battles in biblical times often involved a king leading his army against a fortified city. There were many ways in which such a fortification could be overcome. None of them easy. Some cities, like Babylon for instance, with walls 300 feet high and twenty-five feet thick, were nearly impregnable. Cities were attacked by laying siege to them trying to starve out the inhabitants. Large rolling contraptions were moved up to the walls to allow soldiers to climb over and into the city. Catapults were used to hurl large stones at the walls in order to break them down. And there was always the option of trying to find someone to open the gates of the city from within, (which is what happened with Babylon – see Isaiah 45:1-4).
Once the city was invaded and its inhabitants defeated the king and his men would collect the treasure of the city. The king would then return home riding proudly on his white horse through the city gates followed by his troops in shinning battle array. Following this victory procession of himself and his troops would be a long line of the captives from the defeated city. These captives had no rights and suffered total humiliation in these processions. They were trophies of war. The Romans coined the word triumph to describe these victory processions.
Once the procession made it to the royal palace the next order of business was sharing the treasure. Every citizen was given some token of the king’s victory. This is important in order to understand what Paul is depicting here. Ephesians 4:8 is a picture of Jesus Christ parading to heaven in triumph and as He completes His triumphal procession He gives tokens of His victory, spiritual gifts, to the citizens of heaven, us!
Victory over sin, death and the devil in Jesus. Over whom and what is Jesus victorious? To answer that question we have to know about Hades (NT) or Sheol (OT), the abode of the dead. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus describes Hades as a place with two compartments; one for the unrighteous; the other for the righteous. Up until the cross of Christ when a person died they would go to either of these places depending on whether or not they were righteous or unrighteous. This was determined by faith in God (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4 and 5). The righteous section of Hades is referred to as Abraham’s bosom. It is here where those who were righteous through faith in God went after death. Up until Jesus actual atoning death on the cross God forgave the sins of those who put their faith in Him and passed over them. This was until they could be actually atoned for on the cross by Jesus (cf. Romans 3:25-26).Until then, they would wait in Abraham’s bosom.
Peter gives us further insight into the activities of Jesus between His death on the cross and His resurrection. In 1 Peter 3:18-19 we are told that Jesus “preached to the spirits in prison who formerly were disobedient . . .” Jesus proclaimed His victory and that His redemptive work was “finished” (John 19:30). Jesus proclaimed to the unrighteous and “disarmed the principalities and powers” (Colossians 2:14-15). He also preached to the righteous OT saints to explain the gospel to them so their salvation would be confirmed (1 Peter 4:6). In doing this Jesus reestablished His just claim on creation and the basis for life changing freedom from sin (see Revelation 5). Jesus was victorious over the devil, death and hell!
To prove His victory Jesus rose from the dead and gave gifts to us; tokens of His victory to the citizens of His heaven (Philippians 3:20-21). With these gifts we follow through to fulfill Jesus words, “on this rock [i.e. the gospel proclamation that Jesus is the Christ] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). When the apostles were inspired to write the Word and spread it, they proclaimed victory in Jesus. Throughout history when prophets proclaim, evangelists witness, and pastor teachers equip the flock of God, the church moves forward as one united mighty army (Ephesians 4:11-16). Our battle cry is victory in Jesus! I pray the Lord revives that cry and that He gives the lost an ear to hear it. (Pastor Claude T. Stauffer is the Pastor of Calvary Chapel of Hope, 803 County Line Road, Amityville, NY 11703 / 631-224-1761 / email@example.com / www.calvarychapelofhope.org).