Eugene Peterson, in his new book, Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ explores the significance of the Ascension for the Church.
4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 4:8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he captured captives; he gave gifts to men.” 4:9 Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended to the lower regions, namely, the earth? 4:10 He, the very one who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things.
He makes the important observation that kings, and Psalm 68 (from which the bold words were taken) in particular, were given gifts. But this king, once enthroned, instead of receiving gifts decides to give gifts. Paul changes to the word “gave” from the word “received.” In this we gain a glimpse of what the church is:
Too often, Peterson once again observes, gifts are seen as something we posses and something we have as individuals. But he observes, and these words need to be read carefully: “These [gifts] are aspects of the work that is initiated at the Pentecostal ‘descent of the Dove,’ and then spills over into the world …. This is not specialty work — this is community at work” (47).
Four theses then:
1. Christ in his Ascension is High King.
2. Christ exercises his rule by giving gifts.
3. The nature of his rule is not to lord it over but to invite others to participate in and extend his rule.
4. Maturity is about growing into the rule of Christ.