Paul in these verses asks believers to remember two details concerning the ascension of Jesus. First, we need to understand the previous descent before we can truly appreciate the ascension.
In this regard, there is an element of continuation in that it is the same person that is being referred to. What were the outstanding features of the descent of Jesus? There are several that could be mentioned, but I will limit the choice to three: humility, obedience and love. Jesus’ humility was seen in his willingness to become a lowly human; his obedience was seen in his delight to obey his Father’s will; his love was seen both in connection to the Father’s will and in connection to his people lost in their sins. And although he has ascended, these three features of humility, obedience and love are still to the fore.
But while there is continuation between the descent and the ascent, there is also contrast. The difference is between the state of humiliation and the state of glorification. Jesus no longer lives in the same environment as he did when here on earth. He is now glorified by the Father. The Son chose to enter a world marked by humiliation, the Father rewarded him with the exaltation to the highest place, and bestowed upon him the supreme name of Lord (Phil. 2:5-11).
Second, we need to see that the growth of the church depends on the ascension. One of the benefits of the ascension was the coming of the Holy Spirit, and one of the happy consequences of the Spirit’s coming is the bestowal of spiritual gifts on the church. We will look at the topic of spiritual gifts in subsequent readings. All I want to say now is that they should also be called ‘gifts of the ascended Christ’ as well as ‘gifts of the Spirit’, and Jesus gave them in order for his church to grow.