He ascended up on high; He led captivity captive. – Ephesians 4:8.
This text evidently speaks of a triumph, a triumphal procession. Christ’s ascension is represented as a triumphal procession. Christ ascended up on high and triumphantly led captivity captive.
What was our captivity? Surely, sin, death, damnation, the power of the devil. Was not this the prison that held us with fetters we could not tear, with lock and bolt which we could not break? But our Savior bore and atoned for our sins, suffered our death and conquered it for us, tasted and destroyed our damnation, and bruised the head of the devil, in whose power we were. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same, that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). St. Paul writes, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law” (I Corinthians 15:56).
By perfectly fulfilling the Law, both in His sinless life and His ignominious death, Christ made satisfaction to God for all sins. By bearing away the sins of the world, Christ removed the sting of death. And, without death’s sting, he who had the power of death, that is the devil, was left powerless. Now, as the triumphant Prince of Life who had overcome the power of the grave, Christ was raised from the dead to manifest this victory to the world for our Easter joy. In fact, in the early morning of Easter Sunday, He descended into hell as the living and risen Conqueror, and preached of His victory and of their vanquishment to “the spirits in prison” (I Peter 3:19). That was a triumph in itself. And now He ascended into heaven, and in triumphal procession He carried with Him our sins atoned, our death vanquished, our damnation destroyed, our evil foe trampled under foot. Verily, He despoiled our prison and all the hostile powers that were arrayed against us, stripped them of their power, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in Himself, in His glorious exaltation.
Will you not sing and say: “This is a sight that gladdens”? In the name of Jesus, do you hear? Trusting in Him, you may deride sin, laugh at death, defy damnation, and tauntingly fly in the face of Satan. Through faith in Christ, we are no longer in bondage to them. No prison can hold you, no foe can harm you. He, your Savior, “has ascended up on high; He led captivity captive.”
PRAYER – O Jesus, wondrous, conquering Hero, I trust in Thee, in the work Thou hast accomplished for me, and in the merit which Thou givest to me by Thy Word, Thy blessed Gospel. My captivity is ended and I am now free. Though foes gather around me on all sides, assure me again and again of Thy victory, and thus of mine through Thee. Give to me, O Jesus, the bold assurance of victory in Thy name. Amen.
“Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing, my great Redeemer’s praise;
the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace!
He breaks the power of canceled sin; He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood avails for me.
Glory to God and praise and love, be ever, ever given;
by saints below and saints above, the Church in earth and heaven.”
(TLH) – Hymn 360, 1,