In His work in His ascension Christ led captive those taken captive. “Having ascended to the height, He led captive those taken captive” (Eph. 4:8). The word “height” in the quotation from Psalm 68:18 refers to Mount Zion (Psa. 68:15-16), symbolizing the third heaven where God dwells (1 Kings 8:30). Psalm 68 implies that it was in the ark that God ascended to Mount Zion after the ark had led the way to victory. Verse 1 of Psalm 68 is a quotation of Numbers 10:35. This indicates that the background of Psalm 68 is God’s move in the tabernacle with the ark as its center. The ark was a clear type of Christ. Wherever the ark went the victory was won. Eventually the ark ascended triumphantly to the top of Mount Zion. This portrays how Christ has won the victory and has ascended triumphantly to the heavens.
The word “those” in Ephesians 4:8 refers to the redeemed saints who had been taken captive by Satan before they were saved by Christ’s death and resurrection. In His ascension Christ led them captive; that is, He rescued them from Satan’s captivity and took them to Himself. This indicates that Christ has conquered and overcome Satan, who had captured them by sin and death.
The Amplified New Testament renders “He led a train of vanquished foes” for “He led captive those taken captive.” “Vanquished foes” may refer to Satan, to his angels, and to us the sinners, also indicating Christ’s victory over Satan, sin, and death. In His ascension there was a procession of these vanquished foes as captives from a war for a celebration of Christ’s victory.
In Adam we all were captured by Satan. This means that through Adam’s fall we became Satan’s captives. Eventually, the Lord Jesus came to undo Satan’s work, defeating him by His death and capturing Satan’s captives through His death and resurrection. Then in His ascension He led these captives to the heavens as a train, a procession. This indicates that, as believers in Christ, we are in the heavens, for when Christ ascended to the heavens we were in that train of captives led by Him to the highest place in the universe.
This is confirmed by Ephesians 2:6, which says that God “raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” God not only raised us up from the position of death but also seated us in the heavenlies, in the highest place in the universe. The heavenlies are the high position into which we have been saved in Christ. The word “heavenlies” refers not only to a place but also to an atmosphere with a certain nature and characteristic. God’s salvation has brought us into a heavenly place and into a heavenly atmosphere with a heavenly characteristic.
It was in Christ that God seated us all together, once for all, in the heavenlies. This was accomplished when Christ ascended to the heavens, and it was supplied to us by the Spirit of Christ when we believed in Him. Today we realize and experience this reality in our spirit through faith in the accomplished fact.
Through His death and resurrection Christ released us from the usurping hand of Satan. Then He brought us to the heavens where we are now sitting, not as captives but as sons of God and members of Christ. Christ’s unique work in His ascension has brought us all to the highest place in the universe.
(Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 063-078), Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)