Ephesians 4 is a surprising window upon what happened on that holy Saturday. It is the highest sabbath of the year. There was a anxiety on Golgotha that the Jewish bodies needed taking down from the crosses and buried before sundown. This is because this high sabbath was to be celebrated as the last part of the Passover feast.
But the sabbath was being fulfilled whilst Jesus was in that eternal place. As they were celebrating the height of the feast so Jesus had descended to the lowest place.
I remember when I was training in ministry in the late 80s concerning whether the Descending Christ was actually literal or a symbolic event that is described as such in literal terms. Surely noone believed it! Beyond the usual arguments of Calvinism and Arminianism this was also not far behind.
When you think about what Jesus did before His resurrection we ascertain that He did the first part of the work in the spiritual realm. However Jesus went to the heart of the devil’s realm. The place where he had dominion.
The Ephesians 4 passage says that He led captivity captive.
The Captivity for which Paul speaks is the requirement of the Law, fulfil it and acquire heaven. However Paul tells the Romans that the law never made anyone righteous. In Roman’s we see Paul speak about the righteousness of Abraham come from his faith. Romans4 presents a problem which Ephesians 4 presents the solution.
Those who died in Law were imprisoned because their works would never be sufficient. So to resolve the Abraham covenant that God swore by oath, it was imperative that to fulfil that oath of covenant to Abraham that these saints have an opportunity to exercise faith in Christ the new testator of a new covenant.
It is a special covenantal dispensation that Jesus was to extend only to the dead of Israel. This was only a part of the work. The next is to permanently deal with the devil’s dominion over death and Hades. Hades being the place where souls were held. Jesus in Revelation 1 is seen to have in His possession the keys of death and Hades.
Jesus was no longer in Hades in identification for our sin, rather He is now undoing its implications. He is here beginning to break the power of death, in its corruption, but that death of His Saints become a release to eternal rest.
The dead are being given the opportunity to enjoy the fulness of covenant promised to Abraham now being administered in Christ!
We are shown in Ephesians 4 that as Jesus had descended we are delivered from the devil’s dominion in death, but in His ascending we shall receive gifts that pertain to eternal life.
The silence of that high sabbath, whilst the women that followed Jesus, the disciples, were hidden, filled with grief and emptiness, so Jesus was doing a vital eternal work.
That all being said, as we remember and celebrate today, may we see that we access the blessings of this reality by faith.
The work of the Cross extends for eternity in the spiritual world.