Bible House Chapel, Dec. 21, 1902


"Wherefore he saith, when he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men;" -Eph. 4:8

The Apostle is quoting from prophecy. This passage is a very dark and obscure one to the vast majority of people, to the vast majority of CHRISTIAN people, I am sorry to say. If we would ask them in what sense Christ led captivity captive, they would be greatly perplexed to give any reasonable answer. They know of no captive, and therefore they know of no way in which He could lead captivity captive.

But from the standpoint of the Lord's word, as we have studied it from time to time, this passage is very full of meaning to us. We see at a glance that it refers to our dear Redeemer, who, having finished the work that the Father gave him to do, ascended up on high. We see that He led captivity captive and we see from the various parts of the Word of God as we study it, that the whole race of mankind is in captivity to death. We see that by one man's disobedience sin entered the world six thousand years ago and death by sin, and so all being sinners, death has taken captive our entire race. We are not only captives when we go into the tomb, but we are captives from the time we are born. We are captives, bound hand and foot by weaknesses of our own nature, which every human being has found in himself-and where did it come from? Only the Scriptures give the answer, and they give it most explicitly- "By one man's disobedience sin entered into the world, and death [HGL165] by sin, and so death passed upon all men." And why the mental, moral and physical imperfection, and why the dying process, ending at the tomb? The Scriptures declare that "By one man's disobedience, sin and death entered into the world," we became their captives; this resulted in every member of the race sharing in it, because we were all the children of Adam and because he became subject to these conditions, therefore all are subject to them.

And this captivity had already lasted over four thousand years when Jesus came, the sent of God. "Ah," says one, "too late, four thousand years had rolled by and thousands of millions already gone into the great prison house." No, not too late according to our Father's Word. Our Heavenly Father tells us that he knew the end from the beginning, and that it was in DUE time he sent his Son, not after the time, in order that he might redeem, purchase, reclaim, get back again that which was lost, that which

had gone into the great prison house of death, that which had been sold under sin, that which had been led into the captivity of death, -all this he came to redeem and he did redeem.

We have seen that he could not have been the Redeemer of our race if he had been a member of the race in the full sense of the word, because then his life as well as ours would have been forfeited. But we have seen, according to the Scriptures, that God SENT his Son and that the life Jesus had was not life which came down through the four thousand years of our forefathers; that while he was born of a woman, he was not born of a man, but of the power of the Holy Spirit, that he might be "holy, harmless and undefiled, separate from sinners," not a member of our race at all in that particular, having a life that was without spot or blemish. We have seen that he came thus in order that he might be our Redeemer. It was not possible for an angel to be our Redeemer, and therefore the death of an angel could not pay the penalty. It was a man who sinned, and under the Divine law it must be a man who would die. Therefore God sent his Son, that as the man Christ Jesus he might give himself "a ransom for all."

And now the Apostle is talking to us in our text about what He did in this great transaction. What did it accomplish, what did it mean? The Apostle says: -"When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men." What does he mean? He is drawing a picture before our minds that was common in olden times as it is not common to-day. It was common in olden times for a great conqueror, as for instance Titus when he returned to the city of Rome, was granted what was called a triumph. He rode at the head, or somewhere near the head, of a great procession and honor was done him. Sometimes the prisoners of war were chained to the chariots and in the case of Titus, they carried the golden candle-sticks and the table which held the shew bread-all these were parts of his triumph. And so now here the thought respecting our Lord Jesus is that when he ascended up on high, captivity was chained to his chariot so to speak. It was under his control, he had gained the victory. And how glad we are that our Lord Jesus did gain the victory, and how much it means. "Well," says one, "I do not see that it means so much." You say that sin and death came as a result of Adam's transgression? Yes, And now you say that Christ gained the victory? Yes. Well, where's the change? Are not sin and death in the world still? Yes. Well, where's the victory? Oh, we answer, the victory is not fully in sight yet, the time is not fully come yet. You can only see it now with the eye of faith, you can only see the head of the procession; the end of the procession will show how this great victory has been accomplished. What will it mean? It will mean that He has the power over death. You remember that is the very message he sent to us through the Apostle John, saying: - "I am he that was dead and am alive again forevermore; and I have the keys of hell (the grave) and of death." That is a different picture. The key represents the power, authority, and the victory represents power and authority, but in two different ways. In the second picture he says: - "I have the keys of death and of the grave." What does that mean? I have the power to open the grave. "But," says one, "did he not always have that power; did he not have power to heal the sick and to say to some who lay on the bier, 'Arise, come forth?'" We answer, that by virtue of the work he was about to accomplish by laying down his life, he had certain powers in advance; but it was not until he had risen from the dead that he said to his disciples: - "All power is GIVEN unto me." He never said that before. He said- "Is GIVEN unto me," He did not say, "I always had it." It was given as the great prize to our Lord Jesus for this victory he accomplished in his self-sacrifice. And so we see the matter thus begun.

He has paid the penalty, buying the world with his own precious blood, and when He ascended up on high, at his ascension the Apostle said: -there to appear in the presence of God for us, there to lay before the Father the evidence that He had paid the penalty for us. What was the penalty that He paid? Some tell us, getting their thought from the dark ages, that the penalty He paid was eternal torment, that this was the penalty against us, but we find it not so written in the Lord's Word. We find that the penalty against us was a death penalty; he died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and rose again on our behalf, and when he appeared in the presence of God in our behalf, it was to give evidence to the Father- "I have finished the work thou gavest me to do." I gave my life for the whole race, according to your good pleasure.

Dear brothers and sisters, we see from other parts of the Divine Word that the Divine plan is that in due time our Lord Jesus, who has purchased the whole world, will have the right to release them from the great prison house of death, the right to say to all the prisoners of death- "Show thyself, come forth." He has bought them. He has the key, the authority, the power is in his hands, the whole matter is resting there, for the Heavenly Father said so. What a great cause for rejoicing we have as we look to so great a Savior, not only the One who redeemed us with his blood, but One whom the Father has highly exalted and given a name which is above every name.

But we say, dear friends, that the majority of this work belongs to the future, the Millennial age. We have not gotten into that time yet. When the Millennial age shall have been ushered in, then He shall take his great power and reign. He has the power now, but the time for reigning has not yet come. Before he begins his reign, he takes out the Bride to be his wife. There is a grand thought for us. [HGL166] This great triumph that is to be displayed during the Millennial age you and I are invited and given the privilege to participate in; we are, so to speak, to sit with him in his chariot, when the great triumphant spectacle shall be manifested to the world; but they shall see that he is not leading the good and true into captivity, as is the case with Satan, but that he is leading captivity captive, and Satan himself shall be bound for a thousand years in order that he may deceive no more. But this work of leading captivity captive has already begun. I said a moment ago that it was by the eye of faith we saw this, and you and I, as those who already been set free, know something about how to hail our great Deliverer. "If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." He has said to us: -"Thy sins be forgiven thee." He has said to us: "Ye are my disciples, ye shall have eternal life." Who has the power to say this? He who has led captivity captive. And so he has offered to us as his people, that, as we accept of him, we may have this freedom from sin and from the penalty of sin-death, and that we may have eternal life through him. It is accepted by faith, not in reality, for we have not the reality yet. "Oh well," some may say, "it is merely imagination." Oh no, it is not imagination, for God has said how sin came into the world, and how he arranged for our justification, as the Apostle shows. That is not mere imagination, that is going away beyond that; then some one will say, well then we are only partially justified. No, for the Apostle says He has justified us "freely," that is "fully" from all things, from which the law could not justify us. Those who cannot receive it by faith cannot receive it now. It is only given now to those who can exercise faith. "According to your faith be it unto you."

But bye and bye the Lord is not going to leave the matter only to those who can exercise faith. It is a glorious thing to be able to exercise faith, and how much we have been blest by it. But God is not going to leave the world and say that only those who can exercise the faith shall be blest. No, he is going to have a blessing for the doubting Thomas class and for those who cannot exercise faith. What, will God make the thing so plain? Yes, he declares that all the blind eyes shall be opened and all the deaf ears unstopped. And will that be sufficient to make it plain to everybody? Yes, for it says: -"In that day," not in THIS day, but "in THAT day, a highway of holiness shall be set up and a wayfaring man, though a FOOL need not err therein," the way will be so plain. Now the whole subject is so covered, beclouded with mysticism and superstition, therefore it is difficult for us to get that confidence in the Lord that the eyes of our understanding can pierce these dark clouds and see life from the standpoint of the Lord.

Well if, as you say, the time shall come when "The knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth as the waters cover the great deep," if the knowledge shall come to all, why now exercise faith? I answer, dear friends, that the Lord has now put a special blessing upon those who exercise faith. It is also the time for giving a proportionately larger blessing to those who exercise faith in this present life. Do they not have a hundred fold more in this present time? They surely do. Those who exercise faith are finding the pleasure and great joy which others do not know or appreciate. So they are getting blessings in advance. And besides these blessings that we get now while on the pilgrim way, what else? God has a blessing in store for the whole race. Yes, we answer, great blessings they shall have. Well, how could we have any greater than they? Oh we have, as the Apostle declares, "Exceeding great and precious promises given to us." They will have great blessings, great cause for thankfulness, great occasion to praise God throughout all eternity for his blessings and favors and mercy; but we who at the present time are able to grasp his promises, who firmly grasp and faithfully follow him, attaining unto the things unto which he has called us, unto us are to come exceeding great and precious things, even the Divine nature. It is beyond the power of our mind to grasp it. Faith can grasp it, but faith finds itself merely feeling a great immensity that it cannot encompass. And yet this is just what the Lord wishes us to understand and so he tells us: -"Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, NEITHER HATH IT ENTERED INTO THE HEART OF MAN the things that God hath in reservation for those who love Him." And he tells us also through the Apostle that we know not (yet) what we shall be, but we shall know bye and bye; that "now we see as through a glass, darkly, but then, face to face," clearly. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him for we shall see him as he is." God does not make it plain to us how great a blessing he has prepared for us, but He tells us that we shall be like His Son, and in this we have the very greatest assurance that is possible to come before our minds; because he has been pleased to exalt him far above every other name that is named; and if we are to be like him, what must it be? And so this is the thought in the latter part of our text: - "Wherefore he saith, when He ascended on high, he led captivity captive and GAVE GIFTS TO MEN." What gifts? He has only begun giving the gifts.

During this Gospel age, he gives us all the blessed favors and promises of his word. They become gifts unto us. Do you not have an appreciation of some of the gifts of God's word if they have become to you "the meat in due season" to your heart? They have become gifts. Could you have them without his giving them to you? Nay verily, and so all the gifts we have, our hopes for glory, honor and immortality, these are all parts of the gifts in order that we may attain to the great things he has in reservation for us. And he has given us also another thing, as the Apostle proceeds to say: - "And He gave some to be 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." He has given us all these assistances by the way. For instance, what an assistance by the way it is to have the writings of the Apostle Paul. So that is one of the gifts. Yes, incidentally, the Apostles were parts of the gifts. All the assistances in the Church, the Apostles, teachers, etc. are all gifts, and we are to understand that "every good and perfect gift cometh down from our Father," and no gift cometh down from the Father except through the Son. So then it is that "He that hath the Son hath life." He who is vitally connected with the Son is vitally connected with the Father and has all these gifts of God to help and assist him forward to that which is beyond. Why, we are ready to say-what a [HGL167] great giver God is. And it seems to me it is a good thought to have at this season of the year, when parents, children and friends, one to the other, are thinking how they shall make gifts the one to the other; not perhaps anything of value, but as it shall indicate the value of love and the feeling which exists; and then to think of our Heavenly Father who has made gifts and provisions for all his creatures.

Some of us, yes all of us, would think that an earthly parent would be very cruel who, when a child hung up his stocking, would fill it with cinders. Well then, what would you think of a Heavenly Father who would fill His children's stockings up with cinders and worse-fire, for that is the thought that a great majority of his children have of him. They think that he has prepared a great gift of fire for most all his creatures and that there they must spend eternity. How unjust, especially in view of the fact that "every GOOD and PERFECT GIFT cometh down from our Heavenly Father" and that no bad gifts come from him. How glad we are that the eyes of our understanding have been opened that we may get a true glimpse of him.

These gifts which our Heavenly Father is giving he has really only started to give. He started with the Head of the Church. First, he proved him; then when he proved faithful, he highly exalted him and has given him a name that is above every name. What a great gift! Then we read: - "all power is given unto him both in heaven and in earth." "As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given the Son to have life in himself," that the Son might give it unto the Bride, unto those whom he is now calling to be joint-heirs in the kingdom. Gifts? I should think so, dear brothers and sisters.

I do not think we could get this thought of gifts too large before our minds when we are thinking of the Heavenly Father. Just see if you can count up some of the gifts he has given unto you, first-the gift of his Son; secondly, the forgiveness of sin through him; thirdly, He lifted you out of the miry clay and set your feet upon the Rock and he put a new song into your mouth, even the loving kindness of our God. What a great gift that was! You will never get done thanking him for that. And then, not content with that, He proposed more, gave more. He gave us an invitation to be joint-heirs with his Son; he called us and told us that if we would make our calling and election sure (it must be by faithfulness, by showing our appreciation of what he had done, by striving to come up to a certain reasonable service) that if we do this, he would make us joint-heirs with Christ as a blesser of all the families of the earth. What a giver our Heavenly Father is! And so I delight, as I think of this season of the year, of not only saints, but sinners, trying to make others happy and in so doing, become imitators of God-for what else is it? God is always giving. He sometimes gives to his enemies, and as we read, "He sends the rain down upon the just and the unjust." Some of his gifts are only given to those who love him. The gift of eternal life is one of these. I am glad for that. I am glad there will be no eternal life for the murderer and the liar and the thief. (Those who are such at the end of the Millennial age.) It will be good for all that they shall be cut off. I am glad that "He that hath the Son hath life." And yet the very reverse idea is held by the great majority of Christian people for they think that God has forced eternal life upon all whether they would or not, and that if they do not spend their days here doing good, they will have to spend eternity in eternal torment; but I am glad that is not the Father's purpose. I am glad he has chosen to do good unto all men who will come under his law. And it is our business in the present time to "do good unto all men (first) SPECIALLY the household of faith." The general business is that we do good unto all men. That means that we would not do harm unto anybody; but the SPECIAL business is to do good to the household of faith.

As I think of the exceeding great and precious promises our Heavenly Father has already given us, and the promises for the future, one of the things standing out is the privilege of being a channel for dispensing gifts to men. Now think of it. We see so many evidences of debauchery and dissipation and destitution right here in Allegheny, and when we see a poor creature with these marks written in his face we say: -Oh how much he needs restitution: then he will be given an opportunity to regain the image of God which father Adam had. How greatly he will be uplifted. And when we see the evidences of sin and degradation which we have here in Allegheny, they are not to be compared with what we find in the heathen lands. This land, the favored of God in every respect, is not to be compared with the dark places which are the habitation of cruelty and the grinding poverty upon nearly all faces. How much all of these need the touch of the Lord's hand. How they need him to say: -"Thy sins be forgiven thee." How they need to have it said: -"Go, wash in the pool of Siloam." How they need to have it said: - "Go and sin no more lest a worse thing come upon thee;" and then to think that God has provided that very thing for the whole world of mankind, not only for those now living, but for all that are in their graves. And how much they all will need the help of the Royal Priesthood; and then, dear brothers and sisters, as the Father has provided that Jesus should be the great Physician for the whole world, he has invited you and me to be under physicians in dispensing these gifts of health and life and release from sin and death; invited us to share with the great minister, our Lord, the Bridegroom. What a privilege! I think one of the greatest attractions that the glorious promises of God holds for me in that direction, is the privilege of being associated with Him in blessing all this great mass of mankind who are "waiting for the manifestation of the Sons of God."

And then to think it is still possible for you and me to make our calling and election sure in that great company, and to think that after the Lord has called us and accepted us through Jesus, the whole matter then depends upon us, because the Apostle says: -"Faithful is He who has called us, who will also do it." He never called us without the intention of giving us every assistance by the way, and therefore it is with you and me to make our calling and election sure, by holding firmly to the hand of the Lord and thus:

Holding fast thy hand and so Through the world unspotted go.

There is just one other thought in connection with this matter of giving gifts. If you and I have received some of [HGL168] the Lord's gifts, we have received something of the spirit of giving. We are speaking now of the spirit of the Lord. In proportion as we become partakers of His spirit, we will delight in doing good to all as we have opportunity. We will delight in doing good to all men. And in proportion as we appreciate His gifts and know that we are privileged to hand out the truth to others, in that proportion we will delight in giving out the good tidings to others. How could we keep it back? We have found that we could not keep it back.

Perhaps we have talked more than we should have sometimes and we would say: - "I must use wisdom in talking of the truth, but I would like to give out all I possibly can, but I must only give what they are able to bear." If you would say, as perhaps some of you have sometimes said: - "Oh, if I were a millionaire, how I would delight in giving to the poor and helping the needy:" but there is another treasure which He has given you. He has told you how you may go in his name and give the robe of righteousness to whosoever will accept of it, and he has told you how you can take the bread of eternal life to as many as are willing to receive it, and that you may scatter in every direction the rich promises of God.

Now then, He wants to see how much we have of his spirit. Let us, dear brothers and sisters, at this closing season of the year, seek to cultivate more of this spirit, and for the year that is to come, the Lord helping us. Amen.

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