Vol.VI No.I Pg.7
March 1969

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Please explain EPH.4:8; what was the captivity he led captive?


"Captive" is, literally "one taken by the spear" or one captured. "Captivity" is the abstract form of "captive" and Vine says it "seems to be an allusion to the triumphal procession by which victory was celebrated, the captives taken forming part of the procession". Vine cites a marginal reading, viz., "a multitude of captives. REV.13:10 says, "If any man is for captivity (footnote, "leading into captivity" ARV) into captivity he goeth; if any man shall kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed.

The expression in EPH.4:8 is a partial quotation of PSA.68:18 where, in praising Jehovah, the Psalmist says, "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led away captives; Thou has received gifts among men, yea among the rebellious also, that Jehovah God might dwell with them.

Now EPH.4:8-f. is concerned with the "dwelling" among men part of this psalm -- God "receiving" and being glorified by the exercise of His gifts to men. The gifts are here cataloged as Spirit-equipped apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds (note 2:22 and forward, to get contextual association of grace, Spirit, etc.). But before God (in Christ) could send gifts, He had to be victorious over death (The Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified". JOH.7:39). So Christ overcame death, bringing "to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil" (HEB.2:14-15). He then ascended to heaven, where He received His Kingdom (sovereignty, DAN.7:13-14) and from heaven sent the Holy Spirit with "all truth" (JOH.15:26-f,16:12-14).

"He led captivity captive" is, in my opinion, a reference to the triumphant Christ, as he (figuratively) parades Satan and his hosts before the throne of Jehovah. The enemy, who for a time seemed to be winning the battle (when Christ was crucified) is now in chains -- led captive.

Perhaps I am too much influenced by the word-play in the English translation, but "led captivity captive" has always suggested to me the overcoming of that which had, for a time, overcome Christ. This was my early understanding of the expression — as, "putting the jailer in jail" — and it still comes readily to mind as I read the passage under consideration.

In the miraculous endowment of the apostles, prophets, and early evangelists and shepherds, there was a manifestation of deity, and "indwelling", which is not found nor needed in later saints. They delivered truth, confirmed by signs and wonders. It seems to me the "gifts" of EPH.4:8 are; first and particularly, the Spirit endowments necessary to equip apostles and the rest. The purpose was to build up the body of Christ, perfected in knowledge, grown to spiritual manhood. Thus, gifts given to apostles, etc., were also gifts given to us (see JOH.14:21-23; EPH.3:16-19).