In Bible times when a city was taken in war the conqueror took captives and the valuable goods of that city back to his home country. He would lead the captives in a parade and give to his friends gifts from the goods taken. When Jesus Christ was crucified and raised from the dead he conquered all the negatives that captivate us. He put our "cages in a cage." The text of Ephesians 4:8 reads: "he led a multitude of captives captive."
Jesus Christ also gave gifts unto men. The first, and greatest gift he gave is the gift of holy spirit to all who would confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). This gift was promised by the Father and made available through Christ after he conquered all and sat down at the right hand of God.
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And ye are witnesses of these things.
And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
When Jesus Christ ascended he led our sins and separation from God captive. He told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of power from on high. This was ten days before the gift of holy spirit was given on the day of Pentecost.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
The promise of the Father was that those who believed (confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believed in their heart that God raised him from the dead) would receive the gift of holy spirit. Believing comes first then signs follow. If you are waiting for a sign to believe - forget it. Signs follow believing they do not precede it. Jesus Christ promised that with the gift of holy spirit believers would speak in tongues, they would heal the sick, they would cast out devils. IF a believer were to be bitten by a serpent or IF a believer were to accidentally drink some deadly thing it would not hurt them. Believers would have the ability to conquer the negatives just as Jesus Christ did. With the gift of holy spirit given to men we also can lead captive the negatives that captivate people.
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
Until the day in which he was taken up, after that, he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
Theophilus means "beloved of God." The former treatise was the Gospel of Luke. The Gospels end with the ascension and tell of those things that Jesus Christ taught up until that day. The book of Acts begins with the ascension and the promise of God that was to come ten days later on the day of Pentecost. Jesus Christ spent forty days after his death and resurrection speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Acts begins with the day of the ascension as Jesus Christ is assembled together for the last time with his apostles.
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
Just as the friends of the conqueror must wait for his return from battle to receive the gifts and spoils of war, the apostles had to wait for Jesus Christ to be seated at God's right hand before the gift was given on the day of Pentecost. They did not know how long they would have to wait, but we know now that it was ten days after the ascension. The promise of the Father was "to be endued with power from on high" according to Luke 24:49. Here the promise of the Father is "to be baptized with the Holy Ghost." Believers are cleansed on the inside with the gift of holy spirit. Our baptism is not a figurative, ceremonial cleansing with water as was John's baptism. Captivity was led captive when Jesus Christ ascended. We are cleansed from our sins by the conqueror's gift.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me in both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
The focus of Jesus Christ on the day he ascended was that which would be given ten days later. The greatest gift of all time to those who would believe. Power from on high. Baptized with holy spirit. The promise of the Father. With that power we too lead captivity captive and we are witnesses of that which Jesus Christ conquered in his death and resurrection.
While the gift of holy spirit is the greatest of the gifts given to men, it is not the only gift given when Jesus Christ ascended. He also gave gifts to the body of believers to help them walk in the greatness of the power of God.
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Ministries are given to the church for the perfecting of the believers, for the work of the ministry, and to edify the body of Christ. We have these ministries given to us as members of the body of Christ. A man or woman may have one of these ministries, but the ministry is given to the church. Gifts were given on the day of Pentecost. Holy spirit to individuals and ministries to the body of believers. Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Jesus Christ received from the Father the gifts to be given and gave them out for the first time on the day of Pentecost.
This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses.
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
On Pentecost the gifts were given by the conqueror. But one other thing was promised on the day of the ascension that has not yet come to man. The promise of Christ's return. For that great day we still wait. But no one knows. It could be today!
And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
© Copyright June 2000 Michael Cortright