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Taking Captivity Captive
by Terry Barlow
07/26/14
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   In Ephesians Chapter 4 we read that when Jesus ascended after his death and resurrection,  he “led captivity captive,” a quotation from psalm 68 verse 18: “you ascended to the heights, taking away captives, you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious, so that the LORD might live there.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible) Even the 24th Psalm speaks of this triumphant return to heaven when it says in verse 7, “”Lift up your heads, you gates. Rise up ancient doors! Then the King of glory will come in.———The LORD mighty in battle.” Heaven was receiving back its conquering champion who defeated evil through his sacrifice on a cross. Following his death on the cross, Jesus went on to be resurrected and walk and teach among his disciples for 40 more days before ascending and leading captivity captive. I think of the Eugene O’Neill play where the character Lazarus laughs at the emperor Caligula who was threatening him with death, and replies, “Don’t you know, Emperor, that death is dead!?” So we may likewise laugh and say to our spiritual adversary who is attempting to impose his bondage upon us, “Don’t you know, devil, that captivity has been taken captive!?” And at least part of what is implied here is the transfer of tribute. That’s why Ephesians 4 associates the ascension of Jesus Christ with the pouring forth of spiritual gifts and ministries which overflow in such dimensions of outpouring that it reaches and fills His new Church on earth. But where do these gifts actually come from? They come from the army that was defeated by Jesus at the cross. They come in the form of plunder taken from the devil and his demon hordes that rebelled against God in the heavens before the earth was ever populated. They come from that 33% of the angels whose pride got the better of them. But they were a very gifted, "charismatic" bunch in every conceivable way, in music and praise, and craftsmanship and creative intelligence, and counsel, administration and oratory,  to name just a few. To get some idea of the intelligence of angels think of an IQ of about 2000, compared to what might have been 200 in the case of an Einstein. In fact, heaven we know was filled with the beauty of worship and praise. The book of Job chapter 38 tells us that it was with praise and shouts of rejoicing that the creation was ushered into being. “Or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” These wonderful gifts and ministries (including apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher and evangelist as we see in Ephesians 4 v.11&12) were also employed in another significant creation: the creation of the New Testament Church! Though they had been corrupted and perverted by the rebel angels, they were given again in their pure uncorrupted form at the creation of the Church, and they continue to be given today as the Church continues to take its end-time shape.  These gifts and ministries then, in fact, set apart the God's people corporately as the Bride of Christ so adorned.  "You have received gifts among men, even from the rebellious, that Yahweh God might dwell there."  (Psalm 68 v.18)  When these giftings are in operation God can dwell more fully and freely in our midst, expressing Himself with greater diversity and involving more members of the Body of Christ in the process which He loves to do! 

   We understand better from this the depths of the jealousy and hatred our spiritual adversaries feel toward individual believers and toward the Church corporately, because they see the gifts and ministries that once belonged to them being bestowed and used now for their originally intended purpose: the glorification of God and the upbuilding of his creation. This is the way they were once used in eternity past, before the great angelic rebellion that Lucifer led, when Heaven was drenched in the purest of praise and constant worship, as the seraphim cried out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy!!!” It is in this atmosphere of intense worship that the spiritual gifts are most readily released. That is why in the above-mentioned Psalm 24 the flowing forth of gifts is mentioned in connection with the passionate celebration in heaven over Christ’s return to His throne seat beside his Father. So today, we can expect there to be a potent manifestation of those glorious gifts of The Holy Spirit, when in our services and at home we abandon ourselves unreservedly in fervent song and worship to our loving God without thought for time or limit, allowing that praise that is stored within us to run its full course. As this begins to happen we will find our appetite for praise and our capacity for worship growing by leaps and bounds! Remember how the Jews in the days of Jesus said that they had never been in bondage to anyone (or anything)?  We will find ourselves being liberated from captivities we didn’t even know existed, as we see firsthand Jesus taking them captive. O, Hallelujah!!  This is what happens when the LORD God is fully welcome to dwell in and among us!



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