Ephesians 4:8. “Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”
When He ascended up on high: this is a direct reference to the time when Jesus said farewell to His disciples and rose up into the heavens. He had appeared to over 500 witnesses (I Cor. 15:6) after His resurrection, allowing so many to see Him in order to establish that He was indeed risen from the dead. After spending time comforting His disciples and reassuring them of the coming presence of the Holy Spirit, He rose back into His heavenly home. What a dramatic event that must have been! I can hardly imagine what it must have looked like, what the disciples must have been thinking and feeling as the Lord they loved disappeared into the sky.
He led captivity captive: Psalm 68: 18 says, “Thou has ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: Thou has received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.” We see the phrase again in Judges 5:12. “Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.” The clear translation and meaning in that verse is that Barak was to “lead captive him who held you captive.” That understanding would clarify Ps. 68: 18 as well as this verse in Ephesians.
Again, Isaiah 14:2 says, “And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.”
Jesus triumphed over him who had the power of death up to that time, that He might deliver those “who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage:” (Heb. 2:15). Satan, our greatest enemy, is now a conquered foe. He has been led captive by Jesus Christ. Satan has no power over the souls of those who have trusted Jesus Christ by grace through faith. He has been defeated, and Jesus Christ has taken His place on His throne in heaven. From there, He gives gifts to His church for its edification and blessing.