Eph. 4: 8-13
A Protestant Purgatory.
"Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave some, 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; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph. 4: 8-13).
Lately, I have been meeting up with a strange teaching from the above Scriptures. The teaching deduced is this: that our Lord, after His death and either before or after His resurrection, along in that period, went down somewhere under the earth to a nameless place, just simply designated “The lower parts of the earth” (vs. 9), and there, as one dramatic speaker put it, ‘drew out a key and unlocked some iron gate and let all the Old Testament saints free, and now they are ascended on high.’ Not until that undefined time, however, according to this teaching did they enjoy the position of “spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb. 12: 23). In reading the passage in Ephesians 4, I wonder how anyone could get such teaching from the Word itself, if some book had not been read, or some speaker heard, either previous to or after the reading of Scripture.
I know of one man who died in olden times and was buried and somehow or other, before his Lord’s decease at Jerusalem, escaped and was on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17: 3). I refer to Moses. I wonder how he managed to get delivered before the other captives! That question I leave with those who seem to know whereof they speak concerning so-called Old Testament saints.
I have been asked by some who hold the view I have been stating: “How do you get the Old Testament saints out of the lower parts of the earth?” Very easily. I never had them in any purgatory. I believe the Lamb of God was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world but has been manifested in these last times for your sakes (I Pet. 1: 19, 20). “For as indeed by the disobedience of one man, the many have been constituted sinners, so also by the obedience of One, the many will be constituted righteous” (Rom. 5: 19). There is only one way to God and glory! One way of salvation! There never was another, and never will be. “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” The porch is equal to the temple; the way to God is equal to God Himself. Our Lord did not say: “I am going to be the way after I have died.” Before He died, He uttered the glorious words: “I have finished (completed) the work Thou gavest me to do” (John 17: 4); yet He was still in the prepared body. In the mind and purpose of God, our Lord Jesus was always the slain lamb, and in view of that perfect work to be accomplished, saints of old were made meet to be partakers of the saints in light, or as the J. N. Darby translation has it: “Giving thanks to the Father, who has made us fit for sharing the portion of the saints in light” (Col. 1: 12).
Can you imagine Enoch walking and talking with God on earth and then, when he was translated, going to some sort of a prison house to await an event that would transpire four thousand years afterwards? Strange reasoning, and in my judgment, it is reasoning into Scriptures, and not out of the Scriptures. What do the Scriptures teach concerning deliverance of the captives, and when does it occur? In Judges 5: 12 we read: “Awake, awake, Deborah! Awake, awake, utter a song! Arise Barak, and lead captive thy captives, thou son of Abinoam.” The meaning is quite clear, I am sure. After the God-giving victory of Israel, those who had been taken captive were taken captive by them.
As to the lower parts of the earth, meaning some hollow place in the bowels of the earth, that is a strange interpretation. In Psalm 139: 15, we read: “My bones were not hidden from Thee when I was made in secret, curiously wrought in the lower parts of the earth.” If that has a reference to Adam, we are told: “And Jehovah Elohim formed man, dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2: 7, N.T.)
“That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them” (Isa. 49: 9-10). “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus sayeth the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood as a sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob” (Isa. 49: 24-26).
We are all lawful captives to sin and Satan and “none could by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for his soul,” but God laid help upon One that was mighty, One who could speak in the prophetic Word we have just read, thus: “I will contend! I will save! I will feed!” Who is this One who speaks with such assurance and authority? Let us read Luke 4: 18-21: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto them, This day is the Scripture fulfilled in your ears.” This day is the Scripture fulfilled! He, Christ, is the deliverer of the captives, but it is here, they are delivered and not in the bowels of the earth.
To those He delivers, He gives gifts. What use would the gift of an evangelist, pastor, or teacher be to the saints in Heaven? If I understand Ephesians 4: 8 aright, they are the same ones He delivers to whom He gives gifts. Saul of Tarsus was one of them. What a captive of Satan he was as he persecuted the saints—“and many of the saints did I shut up in “prison” (Acts 26: 9, 15). But when Paul was led captive by his risen Lord and Saviour, what a captive he was for Him, acknowledging that he was the bond-slave of Jesus Christ, saying: “Not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2: 29), and living now for Him, who bought him and delivered him at such a tremendous cost!
All God’s saints have some gift. Faith is one, the Holy Spirit is another; others may have that of evangelist, pastor, or teacher. Whatever we do have, let us stir up the gift that is in us to the work of the ministry. Let us believe that when our Lord died, what He said was true: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” Later, His holy body ascended. That is not true of any saints, for they, with us, are waiting in the kingdom and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ “till He come” (II Thess. 3: 5).
Of all the gifts Thy love bestows
Thou giver of all good,
Not Heaven itself a richer knows
Than the Redeemer’s blood.
Faith too, that trusts the blood through grace,
From that same love we gain;
Else sweetly as it suits our case,
The gift had been in vain.
We praise Thee and would praise Thee more,
To Thee our all we owe;
The precious Saviour and the power
That makes Him precious too.
I write this as to wise men. Judge what I write but do so by the Holy Scriptures and not some preconceived idea you may have thought was truth, or because someone said so or wrote that it was so. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8: 56); “And Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24); “By faith, Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation, he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Heb. 11: 5). Neither Moses, Abraham, nor Enoch went to a Protestant purgatory, but to be with the spirits of just men made perfect (Heb. 12: 23). Amen.
“Our Hope” 1951