III. CHRlST’S ASCENSION
The third point in this Psalm is Christ’s ascension. Verse 18: “Thou hast ascended on high. Thou hast led captive a train of vanquished foes.” Without Ephesians 4:8-11 we would not know what verse 18 means. But by this New Testament passage, we see that it refers to the ascension of Christ. Christ has ascended on high, and the implication of His ascension is that all His enemies have been defeated. Before He ascended, He vanquished every foe, including the last enemy, death. He conquered death. From our human point of view, Jesus was put to death by human hands; but from the heavenly viewpoint it was He Himself who walked into death. He simply took a little walk. He walked into death willingly in order to manifest His life power. He stayed there for three days, and He conquered death. Death did all it could to retain Him, but death could not hold its prey (Acts 2:24). He walked into death, and He walked out of death. He walked right through death, and He conquered it. Before dealing with death, He had already conquered everything else. Death was the last enemy. His emergence from death means that every foe, including death itself, has been vanquished. So He ascended triumphantly. And He led a train of vanquished foes. All the enemies defeated by Him were the captives in this train, including Satan, and including you and me. The train is a procession, celebrating His victory. Praise the Lord! Today we can tell Satan that he is defeated and we are defeated too; but, hallelujah, we can also tell him that we are victorious in and with Christ’s victory, and he can never be victorious. This is a real praise. We must learn to praise the Lord in this way. How pitiful is the praise of many Christians! It is something like this: “O Lord, we praise Thee that for the entire year we have not had one car accident.” The praise of others has improved a little, and they say: “Lord, Thou art the victor over my temper.” But, brothers and sisters, we must see something much higher than this. Christ has ascended, and He has led captive a train of vanquished foes. You were there, not just your little temper. Forget about having no car accidents, forget about conquering your temper. Hallelujah! Christ has ascended on high! And He has led a train of vanquished foes! While He ascended into the heavens He made such a show, such an exhibition, in His triumphant procession before the entire universe. He has defeated Satan and all the rebellious angels. Satan and his host must flee! And he has defeated all the rebellious people, including you and me. He has led a procession of all these defeated foes as a praise to celebrate His victory. After showing them to the entire universe, He has, in a sense, shown them to His Father and said, “Look at the enemy and all his followers who were conquered and defeated by Me!”
IV. CHRIST RECEIVING GIFTS
Now we have the issue of Christ’s ascension. It is that many of these defeated foes have been given as gifts by the Father to Christ for His Body. These gifts, which are mentioned in Ephesians 4, are persons, not functions or abilities. “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers”—these are the gifts. Men such as Paul, Peter, and John are the gifts. It is as if, when Christ ascended to the Father with the train of vanquished foes, He said, “Father, look at these foes defeated by Me.” Then the Father replied, “All right, let Me take some of those foes, let Me take Saul of Tarsus, and this one in Los Angeles, and that one in Houston. I will give them to You as gifts for Your Body. They were defeated by You, and now I will give them to You as gifts.” And He did.
Saul of Tarsus is a good example—he was a real foe of Christ. But the ascended and exalted Christ came to visit him one day. He had become exceedingly violent in persecuting Jesus, but when the Lord cast one look upon him he fell to the ground. I do not believe the Ascended One used His hand, but that He merely looked at him. Saul was smitten to the earth, and he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, what are you doing? Why are you persecuting Me?” Saul replied, “Lord, who are You? I have been persecuting people on this earth; I have never persecuted the heavenly Lord.” The Lord said, “I am Jesus. You thought you were persecuting James, John, Peter, and Stephen, but you did not know that you were persecuting Me.” Do you know what happened? The Ascended One captured Saul. Saul at that moment became a captive. And Saul repented and said, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” On that day the resurrected Christ got into him, and this foe, this vanquished foe, became a captive with the resurrected Christ in him as his life. It was through this Resurrected One that this captured foe was made a gift, even one of the greatest apostles. In this way the Lord Jesus received gifts in man. He captures people as the Ascended One, and He regenerates them as the Resurrected One. It is by His resurrection life that He turns the captured foes into useful gifts. It was in this way that the Father, speaking of Paul, said to the Son, “I give this little one to You as a gift, and You must give this little one to the church as a gift.” Saul was later called Paul, which means “the little one.” Saul became a Paul. The foe of Christ eventually became a gift given by the Father to Christ and given by Christ to His Body.
Look at that captive Saul of Tarsus. How changed he was! Read his history; see how he was changing all the time. He was transformed from such a persecuting foe to such a useful apostle. He was a real gift to the Body, and Christ the Head received him as a gift in this way.
So many of us can testify of the same experience. Before we were saved, we were the foes of Christ, but one day the Ascended One looked upon us. Many times when I have considered how the Lord captured me and transformed me from a foe to one who serves Him, I fall down and worship. I have nothing to say; all I can do is praise Him. I deserve nothing. Nothing was done by me; everything was done by Him. Oh, hallelujah!
The Lord is transforming so many foes into gifts for His Body, and He is doing it that the Lord God might dwell among them. “Thou hast ascended on high. Thou hast led captive a train of vanquished foes. Thou hast received gifts in man, and even for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell with them.” I think that today we are much more qualified to speak this verse than the Psalmist in ancient times. We are in the Church, the house of God; we are in the dwelling place where God dwells through the ascended Christ. We are the vanquished foes who are being made into gifts for the building of God’s house. We are in the reality.
(Christ and the Church Revealed and Typified in the Psalms, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)