I. The Body of Christ
A. What We Have in Common
vs. 1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,”
vs. 2 “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”
vs. 3 “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
vs. 4 “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;”
vs. 5 “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,”
vs. 6 “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
The first six verses of Ephesians 4 tell us what we all have in common in the Body of Christ when we become born again. We are told that there is one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all.
At the time of the new birth, we all received the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.
B. What We Have as Individual Members
vs. 7 “Be not, therefore, partakers with them.”
Beginning in verse 7 we are told what we have as individuals. We are all individual members of a very large family—the family of God. It is good to know that even though we are part of a large family, God has not forgotten us as individuals.
Together, as individual members, we make up the Body of Christ. It is exciting to watch a football team make a touchdown. Each individual member has a part to play, which makes up a whole so that the team can score a touchdown. Many would love to be the quarterback of the team, but if everyone were the quarterback, there would not be anyone to block or receive the pass. Everyone needs to do their individual part in order to be successful as a team.
The same principle applies in the Body of Christ. Many would like to be a visible or exalted member in the Body of Christ. Yet, it is important that we find out where we belong in the body and begin to function in that place. There should be no jealousy concerning where the other members function—we are all part of one body and need each other to function successfully.
II. Jesus Led Captivity Captive
A. Jesus Ascended on High
vs. 8 “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men.”
Psalm 68:18 “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men…”
Little did David know when Psalm 68 was written that he was referring to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and that the gifts He would give unto men would be the gifts for the dispensation we live in—the ministry gifts.
B. Jesus In the Lower Parts of the Earth
vs. “(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
vs. 10 “He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”
The One Who ascended on high is the same One Who first descended into the lower parts of the earth.
C. Natural versus Spiritual Realms
The four gospels give us the historical account of the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The epistles are good for highlighting what happened behind the scenes–what happened in the spiritual realm. Only the Word of God can tell us what goes on in the unseen realm where God lives–the spirit world.
The sinner does not have an understanding of what is causing all of the calamities surrounding his life. He is looking for natural answers to problems without realizing that the problems in the world today originate and have their roots in the spirit world of Satan. But thank God, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds!”(2 Corinthians 10:4)
We have spiritual weapons to fight spiritual battles. When we use these weapons, circumstances begin to change in the natural.
Everything we see around us in the natural world is simply an extension of what exists in the spirit world. I believe that all original ideas come from the Spirit and that they are just an imitation of what is already in the spiritual realm. I believe that Heaven is going to look very similar to earth!
III. The Lower Parts of the Earth
Ephesians 4:9 “…what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?”
Notice that verse 9 says that Jesus descended into the lower “parts” of the earth, not lower “part”.
The same One Who descended to the lower “parts” (plural) of the earth also ascended (vs. 10) far above all “heavens” (plural). Jesus went down to the lowest and went up to the highest! Jesus set an example for us. He was willing to lay His life down for the Lord and all of mankind; therefore, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even that death of the cross. As a result, God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name!
Psalm 63:9 “But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.”
Matthew 12:40 “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
vs. 14 “…for they are all delivered unto death, to the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pit.
vs. 16 “…all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth.”
vs. 18 “…yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth.”
The word for “lower parts” refers to the whole underground region within this earth and this region contains three compartments. The phrases “lower parts of the earth”, “heart of the earth”, and “nether parts of the earth” are all references to the whole underground region within the earth which contains three compartments.
IV. The Three Compartments
II Peter 2:4 “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment…”
The word for “hell” in this verse is “Tartarus.” II Peter 2:4 is the only scripture in the New Testament where “Tartarus” is found. This is the place where the fallen angels were cast and are presently bound in chains and are in darkness, waiting for the day of judgment.
Jude 6 “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”
I Peter 3:19 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.”
Jesus went into all three compartments under the earth. “Spirits in prison” in I Peter 3:19 is not a reference to human spirits. When a reference is being made to human spirits the terms “spirits of just men” or “spirits of wicked men” are used. But when “spirits” appears alone, it is a reference to the angels that fell and left their first estate. These are the angels that are bound in Tartarus.
The word “preached” actually means “to make a proclamation”. We know that Jesus could not have preached to the angels because angels cannot be saved. Jesus made a proclamation to them. I believe that this proclamation was “Satan has been defeated!” The fallen angels probably witnessed the destruction of the kingdom that they had left heaven to join. They saw the destruction of Satan!
vs. 42 “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”
vs. 43 “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Notice, Jesus did not say “heaven”, He said “paradise.” Paradise was the place where Old Testament saints went after their time of death.
Under the old covenant, a person did not receive the righteousness of God when they trusted in the Lord as their Savior. Genesis 15:6 tells us that when Abraham had faith in God, it was accounted to him for righteousness. Abraham did not actually receive righteousness; it was accounted to him.
Today, we have been made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Our spirits have been recreated, but the spirits of the Old Testament saints had not. Until Jesus became the first begotten from among the dead, believers had to go to a special compartment in the lower parts of the earth to wait for Him to deliver them and take them to heaven. Old Testament believers didn’t go up, they went down!
The “captivity captive” mentioned in Ephesians 4:8 refers to the group of Old Testament saints that had gone into paradise. They were waiting in paradise for the time when their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, would come, redeem them, open the door, and lead them into heaven!
Another name for paradise is “Abraham’s bosom”.
vs. 19 “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:”
vs. 20 “And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,”
vs. 21 “And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores.”
vs. 22 “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died and was buried;”
This portion of scripture is not a parable. The Holy Spirit, Who sees into both the natural and spiritual realms, authored this account in Luke.
“Abraham’s bosom” is the same place as Paradise. It is a place of calmness, peace, and serenity. When the rich man died he was “buried”. There is no mention of Lazarus having been buried. Since he was a beggar, Lazarus was probably taken to a trash heap when he died.
vs. 23 “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”
vs. 24 “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my; tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”
vs. 25 “But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”
After their deaths, the rich man and Lazarus could see one another and communicate with one another. After death, you can see, feel, and speak. An impassable cavern separated the rich man and Lazarus. They were in two separate compartments under the earth. The rich man was in hell (or Hades) and Lazarus was in Paradise.
Hell is not the final destination for the unbeliever; it is merely a waiting place for the lake of fire. The lake of fire will not be opened until after the Great White Throne Judgment when all sinners are brought up into Heaven.
Satan, the demons, and the fallen angels will all be judged and then cast into the lake of fire forever, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
IV. The Three Heavens
A. The First Heaven
The “first heaven” refers to the atmosphere surrounding the earth.
Ephesians 2:2 “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”
“Prince” is a reference to Satan. “Power” refers to the demons. The Greek word for “air” is “aer”, which means “the atmosphere surrounding us.” The atmosphere is filled with demons, but it is also filled with angels.
Ephesians 6:12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
This verse actually says “spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies” and refers to the atmosphere around us.
I Thessalonians 4:17
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:
When the Rapture occurs, Jesus is going to come right into the domain of Satan and the demons and take us out of here!
Jesus ascended past the first heaven (the atmosphere) and the disciples witnessed this just prior to the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:1-11).
B. The Second Heaven
This is the universe that exists beyond the atmosphere. It includes the sun, moon, stars.
Psalm 8:3 “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon, and the stars, which thou hast ordained;”
A common Greek word used for “outer space” was “either” from which the English word “ether” comes.
C. The Third Heaven
II Corinthians 12
vs. 1 “It is not expedient (literally, “it is not profitable”) for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.”
vs. 2 “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such as one caught up to the third heaven.”
vs. 3 “And I knew such a man, (whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)”
vs. 4 “How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
Paul said he was “caught up”, which is the same word that is used in I Thessalonians 4:17. When a person is “caught up” it is not by their power or effort. In verse 2 Paul said that he was “caught up to the third heaven”. In verse 4 he said the he was “caught up into paradise”.
Paradise and the third heaven are the same place. Paradise is no longer under the earth; it was taken up into the third heaven.
It is believed that this experience probably occurred at the time when Paul was stoned and died at Lystra (Acts 14:19- 20). When a person was stoned in Paul’s day, their bones were broken and their bodies were completely bruised. After Paul was stoned he was drug outside the city. The disciples stood around him and prayed and Paul stood up alive! During the time Paul was dead, he was caught up into the third heaven.
V. After the Resurrection
vs. 50 “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.”
vs. 51 “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;”
vs. 52 “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,”
vs. 53 “And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”
Not only was there an earthquake, the rocks split open on the day that Jesus died. The only one who received a resurrection body was Jesus, but at the resurrection, there were many witnesses who were raised from the dead for a time, just as Lazarus had been. This is what the rich man in hell was asking Abraham to do. He wanted someone who was dead to be raised to life to warn his relatives about hell.
But Abraham said, “Even if someone were raised from the dead, they still would not believe”.
vs. 24 “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.”
The word “pains” is the Greek word “birth pangs”. Jesus was delivered from the birth pangs of death. When Jesus died on the cross He was actually taken into the womb (heart) of the earth. Satan was trying to birth Jesus into everlasting death.
Satan perverts everything that is of God. Babies are born into life, but Satan desires to birth them into death. Jesus was loosed from the birth pangs of death because it was not possible that He should be held by it. After three days and three nights hell had a miscarriage and Jesus was delivered from the birth pangs of death and released out of the womb of the earth.
vs. 25 “For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my; right hand, that I should not be moved:”
This is a quote from Psalm 16:8-11. David wrote this scripture concerning the resurrection while he was still alive. David foresaw the day when he would be in paradise with Jesus
vs. 26 “Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:”
David saw the day when his inward man was in Paradise, but his body was in the grave.
vs. 27 “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”
vs. 28 “Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.”
vs. 29 “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.”
vs. 30 “Therefore bring a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.”
vs. 31 “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.”
vs. 34 “For David is not ascended into the heavens: abut he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,”
vs. 35 “Until I make thy foes thy footstool.”
Verses 34 and 35 are a quote from Psalm 110:1. This is actually quoting what God the Father said to Jesus after the resurrection. In other words, God said, “Sit down until the millennial reign. This is when what You’ve done in hell will be done throughout the earth. Satan will be removed and the entire earth will be made Your footstool”.
David was there at the humiliation of Jesus. He was also there at the exaltation of Jesus. He was there when Jesus was in the lower parts of the earth. David was also there when Jesus arose above all the heavens and was seated at the right hand of the Father. He actually wrote of this before it happened. He was part of the innumerable company and he was also part of the captivity that was led captive when Jesus arose from the dead!
Ephesians 4:8 “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”
The Old Testament saints who had died were the “captivity captive” who Jesus led. The gifts that He gave unto men are for those who are alive. Jesus did not forget the living or the dead! And what are the gifts Jesus gave? The apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).