Job And The Afterlife: The Descent Of Christ Into Hades #1 Ephesians 4:8-10 (Part One)

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

Quotation For Contemplation 

“The most significant interpretational difficulty in this verse is in deciding what “the lower parts of the earth” refers to. The view of the early church fathers and the consensus view through the centuries has been that it refers to a descent of Christ to the underworld (or, Hades). Although a difficult issue, this view appears to have the greatest amount of evidence to support it.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament: Ephesians, 6714 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

Introduction 

In our studies of Job, we have learned a great deal about the subject of Hades. A brief summary will be helpful: 

The realm of departed spirits in the Old Testament was referred to as Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek).  

Sheol was a place of consciousness, memory, and various sensations.  

Sheol was divided into (at least) two sections.  

For The Saved: Sheol was a lush garden in which God’s people were reunited after death, and in which they enjoyed sweet fellowship and looked forward to being ransomed from this realm at the end of time by the Messiah.  

For The Unsaved: Sheol was a terrible place of suffering, of which the unsaved experienced pain and sorrow. This sorrow and pain, however, was borne from God’s desire to bring the wicked to repentance.  

Sheol was the world for (most) deceased humans, (some) fallen angels, and (many) of the nephilim.  

It is also clear that not all of humanity went to this realm (at least, not immediately); and that, for reasons unbeknownst to us, some were allowed to leave that realm.  

With these thoughts in mind, we will now turn to one of the most mysterious teachings of the Bible regarding this world of the dead: the teaching of the Scriptures that Jesus descended into Hades.  

There are five primary texts which set forth this teaching (Psalm 68:18; Romans 10:6-7; Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:6). As we will notice, however, there are other texts in the Bible which touch upon this theme.  

In the following two lessons, we will carefully examine Paul’s statement to the church of Ephesus (4:8-10). A study of this passage will also lead to a detailed analysis of Psalm 68:18 and Romans 10:6-7. These lessons will take the form of several “Questions And Answers” from the text.  

Let’s begin with a study of several different translations of the passage.  

Ephesians 4:8-10 (NKJV)-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.)

Ephesians 4:8-10 (CEV)-8 As the Scriptures say, “When he went up to the highest place, he led away many prisoners and gave gifts to people.”

9 When it says, “he went up,” it means that Christ had been deep in the earth.

10 This also means that the one who went deep into the earth is the same one who went into the highest heaven, so that he would fill the whole universe.

Ephesians 4:8-10 (Young’s Literal Translation)-8 wherefore, he saith, ‘Having gone up on high he led captive captivity, and gave gifts to men,’ —

9 and that, he went up, what is it except that he also went down first to the lower parts of the earth?

10 he who went down is the same also who went up far above all the heavens, that He may fill all things—

Ephesians 4:8-10 (Amplified)-8 Therefore it is said, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive [He led a train of  N1 vanquished foes] and He bestowed gifts on men. [Psa 68:18]

9 [But He ascended?] Now what can this, He ascended, mean but that He had previously descended from [the heights of] heaven into [the depths], the lower parts of the earth?

10 He Who descended is the [very] same as He Who also has ascended high above all the heavens, that He [His presence] might fill all things (the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest).

Let’s turn to a detailed study of this passage in the form of a series of Questions And Answers.  

QUESTION ONE: What Is The Context Of Paul’s Statement Regarding Christ’s Descent? 

ANSWER: Paul is encouraging the Christians to pursue unity and to remember the spiritual gifts which they have been given.  

The Book of Ephesians was written by Paul with a very specific purpose and theme: to expound upon the church of Christ. The prevailing phrase throughout the Book is “in Christ,” which was a designation which had reference to the church. Paul is adamant that the purpose for Creation, and for redemption, is the establishment of the church (Ephesians 1:4-7; 9-11; 3:9-11). Indeed, this central theme of God in creating the church was to bridge all the divisions of the universe, including those of Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14-16). Furthermore, the work of the church somehow involves preaching to the principalities and powers (Ephesians 3:9-11), which was Paul’s phrase to have reference to the angels (both those which are faithful to God and those which are opposed to Him). Evidence of this is found in the fact that the phrases “principalities and powers” were well-known Jewish terms of Paul’s day and age. As Clinton Arnold has pointed out: 

“While all three texts refer to the angelic hierarchy surrounding God’s throne, the Jews believed the same hierarchy existed in the kingdom of evil. Furthermore, many of these terms were commonly used to refer to various ranks of human leaders in governmental positions of authority. The angelic kingdom was widely believed to be structured in an analogous way to earthly political kingdoms….While “principalities” (archai) and “authorities” (exousiai) seem to be uniquely Jewish expressions for the unseen realm, many of the other words he used were also used by Gentiles to refer to the world of spirits and invisible powers. Words like “powers” (dynameis), “dominions” (kyriotetes), “thrones” (thronoi), “angels” (angeloi), “world rulers” (kosmokratores), “demons” (daimonia), “elemental spirits” (stoicheia) and “rulers” (archontes) were known and used by pagans, as evidenced in their magical and astrological texts.”” (Clinton E. Arnold, The Powers Of Darkness: Principalities & Powers In Paul’s Letters, 90-91 (Kindle Edition); Downers’ Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press) 

Speaking specifically of the role that God has assigned to the church as described in Ephesians 3:10 (either in the present age or the age to come) in regard to the principalities and powers, another author has written: 

“The church’s task is articulated here as preaching to the Powers. It is engaged in a kind of spiritual warfare, but it also has a mission that carries the truth of the gospel into the very heart of power and expects some result. Are we then to envisage the conversion of the Powers? What is the church to tell them? Where are “the heavenly places,” and how is the church to have access to Powers there? None of these questions is easily answered.” (Walter Wink, Naming The Powers: The Language Of Power In The New Testament, 1017 (Kindle Edition); Philadelphia, PA; Fortress Books) 

What has brought all of God’s plans for the church to fruition is what Jesus Christ accomplished at Calvary. This was the essence of God’s preordained plan to bring all things together, whether in Heaven or on Earth (Ephesians 1:9-11). It is by the Word of the Gospel the Ephesians had been redeemed from sin (Ephesians 1:13-14), and it is by that same Gospel that Christ has ascended far above the highest heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10) and taken His rightful place as the Head of the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:22-23).  

These mysteries had been hidden from the world at large before Christ came; yet now, through His New Testament revelation (Ephesians 3:1-4), we can have access to that wondrous knowledge and revelation of God. Because of what God has kept hidden, and now revealed, the world (both the physical world and the spiritual world) can come to fathom and understand the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). It is for these incredible truths that Paul prays the Christians will continue to grow and abound in the knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 1:14-23; 3:14-21), and which leads him to exhort the disciples to walk worthy of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-6). God has equipped His church with everything it will need to carry out its’ purpose of fellowship and preparation for eternity and the sharing of the Gospel message with the lost (Ephesians 6:10-20).  

Describing the fact that God has provided His church with everything which they need, Paul points out that He has given “gifts” to His church: 

Ephesians 4:11-12-11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,

12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

It is in this context that Paul is going to explain where these gifts came from, and why they are so important to the theme of Christ’s victory at Calvary.  

QUESTION TWO: Why Does Paul Quote Psalm 68:18 In This Context?  

ANSWER: To draw upon a commonly understood Jewish tradition regarding a victorious king presenting gifts to his subjects from the enemies that he had conquered.  

The Apostle Paul is going to join together three important themes.  

First, he has been elaborating on the incredible things that Jesus has done in creating the church. It was in His atoning death, burial, and Resurrection on the third day, and His continual work in the lives of His people, that Jesus carried out this incredible mission (Ephesians 2:10; 5:22-31).  

Second, Paul is going to quote a passage from the Book of Psalms which prophesied the far-reaching implications of what Jesus accomplished at Calvary. Let’s carefully study the passage, and see how it applies to Paul’s point: 

Psalm 68:18-You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there.

The passage in Psalms has reference to an ancient custom among the Hebrews (and other nations). When a king went out to fight some horrific battle and was victorious, he would capture the enemy soldiers and parade them behind him. Having his soldiers “loot” the enemy, the king would then lead the train back to his homeland. There, his citizens would be gathered together and would welcome him with shouts of adoration and glory. The king would then take the gifts he had taken from his enemies and shower them upon his faithful subjects.  

“As Paul quotes the passage, there is one noteworthy divergence from the Hebrew and Septuagint texts. Where they read “Thou hast received gifts among men,” he quotes the form “He … gave gifts unto men.” This reading is also attested in Jewish antiquity; it found its way into the Syriac version of the Old Testament (the Peshitta) and into the Targum or Aramaic paraphrase of the Psalter. The original picture is of a victorious king ascending the mountain of the Lord in triumphal procession, attended by a long train of captives, receiving tribute from his new subjects (according to the one reading) and bestowing largesse upon the crowds which line his processional route (according to the other reading). For Paul’s present purpose the reading which speaks of the conqueror as giving gifts is more appropriate than that which speaks of him as receiving them; but if this secondary reading had not been available to him the first would not have been unsuitable; the ascended Christ may well be pictured as receiving from His Father the gifts which he proceeds to bestow among men.” (The New F.F. Bruce, A New Presentation Of His Classic The Epistle To The Ephesians Verse-By-Verse Exposition-An Open Your Bible Project, 1346-1363 (Kindle Edition); Claverton Down, Bath BA2 6DT, UK; Creative Communications Ltd,) 

The differences between the quote in Psalm 68:18 and Paul’s quote of this passage is readily explained by the fact that Paul is quoting from a non-Hebrew translation of Psalms:

“A much more serious attempt to solve the dilemma takes its starting point from a variant form of the Old Testament textual tradition. The Syriac Peshitta rendering of Psalm 68: 18 is ‘you have given gifts’, and although there is difference of scholarly opinion as to its value as evidence, it may reflect a textual tradition different from that represented by the MT and the LXX. 1059 Furthermore, the paraphrase of Psalm 68: 18 in the Aramaic Targum is remarkable, for like the Peshitta it reads ‘you gave’ rather than ‘you received’ (as in the MT). It is unlikely that the New Testament wording of the passage has influenced the Targum, and although the Targum on the Psalms is late, it reflects a tradition and text form that are much earlier. 1060 M. Wilcox has cautiously concluded that the author of Ephesians ‘was here quoting either from, or in the light of, an Old Testament textual tradition resembling that of the Targum, but disagreeing with the tradition preserved in the LXX and MT at this point’.” (Peter T. O’Brien, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Epistle To The Ephesians, 289-290 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 

“First, there were other forms of the text current in Paul’s day that read “you/ he gave gifts” instead of “you received gifts.” One is the Aramaic Targum of Psalm 68: 18, which reads, “You ascended to the firmament, O prophet Moses, you took captives, you taught the words of the law, you gave them as gifts to the sons of man.” 17 Although it is doubtful that Paul is depending on the entire Targum paraphrase of this psalm (see the “In Depth” section for analysis), the Targum does represent an alternative form of the text, namely, “he gave gifts,” that Paul may have been familiar with when he was writing Ephesians. The Aramaic was not the only form of the Psalms text that spoke of the giving of gifts. The Syriac translation of the Psalms also agrees with the text form of Ephesians: “You ascended on high; and you led captivity captive; and you gave gifts to the sons of men.” 18 This is a far less interpretive translation than the Targum and, apart from the Septuagint, is one of the oldest translations of the OT. It is likely that this text form of Psalm 68 existed in the first century before Ephesians was written and was thus not influenced by Eph 4: 8.19 In addition to this, most manuscripts in the Sahidic and Bohairic dialects of Coptic also have “he gave.” Furthermore, one Old Latin manuscript contains the same third person singular reading.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament: Ephesians, 6674 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

Paul is going to tie this in with what Jesus has accomplished. By virtue of the fact that Jesus descended into Sheol, He was able to take power from the captives there and shower it upon the church which He would build.  

Third, because of what Jesus has accomplished, He has given these gifts to His people. What are they? In the context of Ephesians 4, these gifts are specifically the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). 

QUESTION THREE: Who Is “He” Who Ascended?

ANSWER: Jesus Christ 

There is a great deal of discussion about the original intent of Psalm 68. Messianic prophecy often is drawn from types and shadows. Chuck Missler has explained it well:

“In our culture, we tend to think of prophecy as a prediction with a future fulfillment. That’s what we think of as prophecy. That’s the Greek mindset, however. The Hebrew model is a little different. Hebrew prophecies about the future are based on patterns. As we study the Hebrew literature, we continually see patterns of the Messiah profiled in Israel….The Book of Ruth certainly has a historical application. The story describes a series of events that actually took place during the times of the Judges. We need to understand the historical period during which these events took place….We will also discover that Ruth has some prophetic applications. There are mystical revelations that might surprise us if we missed them at first glance. In Hebrew hermeneutics, the rabbis have what they call the remez –the hint of something deeper. We run across what appear to be small rabbit holes, but they open the door to another world of perspective.” (Dr. Chuck Missler, The Romance Of Redemption, 76-89 (Kindle Edition); Coeur d’Alene, ID; Koinonia House)

As such, the original context of Psalm 68 had reference to some battle in which God was victorious over His enemies. Some have suggested it was perhaps in reference to how David defeated some terrible king with the help of the Lord, or to how Moses himself ascended up to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. The Jews have quite an interesting amount of traditions regarding this particular Psalm:

“The “therefore” clearly indicates that this parenthesis is related somehow to the giving of gifts. But what is that relationship? The problems begin with the citation of Psalm 68:18 itself, “You ascended the high mount, leading captives in your train and receiving gifts from people.” Psalm 68 is, according to the notes in the Oxford Annotated Bible, “the most difficult of the psalms to interpret.” The cited fragment, however, seems clearly to refer to God’s ascending to his throne in the temple and to a celebration of God’s victory over God’s enemies. The people, “even those who rebel against the LORD God’s abiding there” (as Ps. 68:18 continues), are forced to bring tribute to God. The victory may be a reference to some historical triumph during the time of David or to an anticipated eschatological triumph….Calvin knew of certain Jewish interpretations of this psalm that took it to refer not to God but to David, but he had less sympathy for those interpretations of Psalm 68 than he did for the reading of the psalm in Ephesians….There was evidently a tradition of interpretation that transferred to the son of David (whether to the current king or to the messianic king) attributes ascribed to God in the enthronement psalms. It was a small step from that transfer to understanding David to be the one who “ascended” in this psalm, going up “the high mountain” of Zion, in the aftermath of his triumph over his enemies to establish Jerusalem as a place for the throne of God, bringing the ark of God to Jerusalem. Psalm 68 does seem to invite liturgical celebration at the temple (see vs. 24–27), and worship at the temple would surely connect with the earlier image of the church as “a holy temple,” a “dwelling place for God” (Eph. 2:21, 22). There was, however, another tradition of interpreting this psalm that transferred what was said of God to Moses. In this tradition Moses is the one who ascended the high mount, and the mount is Sinai.23 That was evidently the view of a number of ancient Jewish interpreters, in part because the passage was read at the Jewish festival of Pentecost, celebrating the gift of the law. It found its way into the Targum on Psalm 68 (an Aramaic translation or paraphrase that was read in synagogue worship). The Targum not only identified Moses as the one who “ascended,” it also paraphrased “received gifts” as “you have learned the words of the Tora, you gave them as gifts to the sons of men.”24”. (Allen Verhey & Joseph S. Harvard, Ephesians: Belief-A Theological Commentary On The Bible, 159-160 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press) 

Whether the Psalm originally referred to Moses or David, there were definitely Messianic overtones to it.  

“Verse 6 is very fascinating when one studies the individual words, though none of the regular translations seem to recognize this. The word for “solitary” is the same word translated “darling” in Psalm 22:20 and Psalm 35:17. In the Greek Septuagint, “darling” is rendered by monogenes , meaning literally “only begotten.” The Hebrew for “families” is translated many different ways, most often “home,” and frequently “temple” or “palace.” The word for “setteth” is really “sets down” or “sits down.” Putting all this together, the first part of verse 6 might read: “God sets down His only begotten in His own home (or heavenly temple).” Following our previous inference that verse 1 refers ultimately to Christ’s resurrection, this ties in beautifully with such Scriptures as Ephesians 1:20: “[God] raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” Then the last part of verse 6 anticipates verse 18 (see below). When Christ rose from the dead, His Spirit returning from Sheol (or Hades), “He bringeth out those which are bound (that is, those who had died in faith, but had to remain in Hades until Christ became the sacrifice for their sins) into freedom.” The word for “chains” is actually “freedom” or “prosperity,” as many translations render it. In contrast, the ones who died still in rebellion against God must be left in the prison “a dry land” (literally, “parched land”; compare Luke 16:24).” (Henry M. Morris with Henry M. Morris III, Treasures In The Psalms:1240-1252 (Kindle Edition); Green Forest, AR; Master Books) 

In Ephesians 4, Paul makes specific reference of this passage to Christ.  
“He” Who ascended is “Christ” (Ephesians 4:7, 15).  

QUESTION FOUR: Where Did Christ “Ascend?”
 
ANSWER: Into Heaven

The text is very clear that Paul ascended to the highest Heaven. The Jews conceived of Heaven in at three different ways. There was the heavens in which the birds fly (Genesis 1:20), that is, our atmosphere. Second, there is the starry heavens (Psalm 19:1-5; 108:4). Finally, there is the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). This is the very dwelling place of God, where Jesus ascended forty days after His resurrection (Acts 1:9-11). In Scripture, this place is also referred to as the “heaven of heavens” (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; 6:18; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 68:33).  

QUESTION FIVE: Where Did Christ “Descend?” 

ANSWER: Christ Descended To The Realm Of Hades

Now, Paul is going to make the application that Christ not only ascended to the highest Heaven, but that He also descended to the “lower parts of the earth.” What does this phrase mean? Through the years, there have been three interpretations offered.  

First, some have suggested that the phrase “the lowest parts” of the earth refer simply to Earth itself. So, the idea is proposed that this passage is simply saying that Christ came to the Earth from Heaven and lived among humanity. This is certainly true, of course (Philippians 2:5-8; John 1:1, 14; 2 Corinthians 8:9), but as we shall see, this is not the meaning of the expression.  

Second, it has been suggested that this has reference very simply to His body being put in the grave at the time of His death. Again, this is certainly true (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), yet we will see that this is not the meaning of the phrase.  

The third interpretation which has been offered regarding this passage is that Paul is teaching that Jesus descended into Hades, the realm of the dead.

When we go back and study carefully, we see that this is the most obvious explanation.  

How do we know this?  

The Bible was not written in English. Instead, God gave His Word through the languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. By going back and studying the original languages of the Bible, we are able to better understand what the God of creation would have us to know.  

What we find is that, among the Jews of the first century (and long before),the phrase “lower parts of the earth” had specific reference to Hades.  

The first example of this evidence is seen in that the specific phrase “lower parts of the Earth” was used throughout the Greek translation of the Old Testament to refer to Sheol.  

“To say Christ descended to the “lower parts of the earth” seems to us different than saying that he descended to the earth. The language (katōtera merē tēs gēs) resembles the language that the Septuagint used to refer to Sheol, to the “underworld,” the realm of the dead.25 The Messiah descended into the realm of the dead by his death. He “was buried” (as the ancient confession in 1 Cor. 15:3–4 put it). He had descended “into the abyss” of death (Rom. 10:7). That is the presupposition for his resurrection from the dead and for his exaltation, his ascent, to his place at God’s right hand, far above the powers, including the power of death. The Messiah was dead. He was in the realm of the dead. And he took even our captivity to death captive. Even the power of death can no longer hold us captive or separate us from God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:24–26; Ps. 68:20). All those held captive by death find their release, their liberation, in this Jewish Messiah (Eph. 2:4–6).” (Allen Verhey & Joseph S. Harvard, Ephesians: Belief-A Theological Commentary On The Bible, 161-162 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)

In the footnoted reference mentioned in the aforementioned section (footnote 25), we have the following: 

“See, e.g., Gen. 44:29; Pss. 63:9 (LXX 62:10); 139:15 (LXX 138:15); etc. See Buchsel, TDNT 3:641 n. 10.” (Allen Verhey & Joseph S. Harvard, Ephesians: Belief-A Theological Commentary On The Bible, 177 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)

Second, the non-canonical writings of both the Jews and the Christians for centuries before and after the time of Christ used this phrase in the same way, e.g., to refer to Sheol.  

“The superlative adjective (), however, does appear a handful of times in the LXX, and its usage there does provide some helpful perspective for this passage. On three of the seven occasions of its use in the LXX, the genitive expression “of the earth” () modifies it. For instance, Ps 63: 9 [62: 10] reads, “those who seek my life … will go down to the depths of the earth ()” (see also Ps 139: 15 [138: 15]; Odes 12: 13 [= Prayer of Mannaseh 1: 13]). In none of these passages can the genitive be taken in apposition to “the lowest parts” as in views (1) and (3), “the lower parts, that is, the earth”; it can be viewed only as possessive or partitive, “the lower parts of the earth. The only place in Jewish literature where the comparative adjective () does appear is in the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, a document that may be a Christian composition incorporating earlier Jewish apocalyptic traditions. In this document, Ezra asks God to see “the lower parts of Tartarus” (, 4: 5). 28 A retinue of angels then leads Ezra into lower and lower parts of the Abyss. There is no sign that this document has been influenced by the words of Ephesians. The document suggests that the language of “lower parts” would be readily understood in Jewish circles familiar with an apocalyptic worldview as referring to Hades, Tartarus, or the Abyss….The “lower parts of the earth” makes the most sense in its first-century religious context if it is interpreted as an expression for the underworld or Hades.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament: Ephesians, 6714-6739 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan) 

So, Paul is telling us very clearly (in language used by both the Hebrew and Greek Old Testament, as well as the Jewish and Christian terminology of his day and age) that Christ, at some point, personally descended into Sheol.  

QUESTION SIX: When Did Christ “Descend” Into Hades?  

ANSWER: Between His Death And Resurrection 

There are many facts which show us that it was during the time of His death on Calvary and His resurrection from the dead that Jesus descended into Sheol.  

First, Jesus Himself declared that when He died, He would go to Hades. While on the cross, He spoke to one of the thieves who was being crucified with Him and who had shown true faith and repentance. Jesus told him:

Luke 23:43-And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Second, Hades is the realm of departed spirits, so of course, Christ went to Hades when He died.  

Third, in his Epistle to the Romans, Paul makes the point that Jesus descended into the deepest parts of Hades when He died:

Romans 10:6-7 (CEV)-6 But people whose faith makes them acceptable to God will never ask, “Who will go up to heaven to bring Christ down?”

7 Neither will they ask, “Who will go down into the world of the dead to raise him to life?”

Paul specifically ties together the time of Christ’s descent into the world of the dead with the timeframe of Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 10:9-10).  

Jesus, at the time of His death and up to the time of His resurrection three days later, descended in the spirit to Sheol, the realm of the dead.  

Conclusion 

From our study, we have learned the following: 

In Ephesians 4, while describing how the eternal purpose of God in the church has been brought to fruition by what Christ accomplished at Calvary, the Apostle Paul clearly teaches that Jesus descended into Hades.  

Paul is clear that this descent of Christ to the lowest depths of Hades took place between the time of His death and resurrection three days later.  

The quotation of Paul from Psalms (68:18) shows that this Messianic prophecy had been fulfilled in what Christ accomplished in His descent into Hades and His ascension to Heaven; and that as a result of this, He had taken “captivity captive” and brought gifts to His church.  

Study Questions 

In Ephesians 4:8-10, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 as saying that Christ “gave” gifts. Yet Psalm 68:18 actually reads that the Messiah “received” gifts. Why the different renderings? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are the three possible interpretations of the phrase “the lower parts of the earth?” ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What is the meaning of the phrase, “the lower parts of the earth,” and how may we be certain of this? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are the translations of the following Greek words?  

Archai: _______________________________

Exousiai: _____________________________

Dynameis: ____________________________

Kyriotetes: _____________________________

Thronoi: _______________________________

Angeloi: _______________________________

Kosmokratores: _________________________

Daimonia: _____________________________

Stoicheia: _____________________________

Archonetes: ____________________________

5. Which Scripture from the pen of Paul teaches that the church is somehow involved in preaching to angels? __________________________
For Prayer Partners: 
1. Consider the statement of Paul in Ephesians 4:8-10. Who did Christ preach to in Hades? What message did He preach?  

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