What does Ephesians 4:9 mean?
ESV: (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?
NIV: (What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
NASB: (Now this expression, 'He ascended,' what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?
CSB: But what does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth?
NLT: Notice that it says 'he ascended.' This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world.
KJV: (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
NKJV: (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?
Verse Commentary:
Verses 9 and 10 are an interesting side-note in Paul's main flow of the passage. The change in topic is abrupt enough that most translations include these words in parentheses. In this aside, Paul infers that, if Jesus "ascended," Jesus had to first come to earth.

Some translators have understood "lower regions" as a reference to hell, or the underworld. The Apostles' Creed speaks of Jesus "descending into hell," based partly on this passage. However, the text does not require this interpretation nor does it make the best sense in this context. Instead, Paul contrasts Jesus' ascension with His time on earth.

On the cross Jesus said, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). He did not need to descend into hell as His suffering was over. No additional payment was needed for salvation. Also, Jesus promised in Luke 23:43 that the thief on the cross who believed would be with Him "today" in paradise. This would not be possible if Jesus had spent three days in hell.
Verse Context:
Ephesians 4:1–10 is Paul's compelling description of Christian unity. Every saved believer, regardless of talent or skill, Jew or Gentile, male or female, is saved by the same faith in the same God. Each Christian, therefore, is part of a single, universal family of believers in Jesus Christ. At the same time, God gives different gifts to different people, so that they can serve the many roles needed to accomplish His purposes here on earth. Rather than being concerned about what gifts we might lack, each Christian can rejoice in our unity, and focus on serving God to the best of our ability.
Chapter Summary:
Truly understanding saving grace, as Paul explained in prior chapters, is the Christian's first motivation for living a godly life. Here, Paul encourages believers to live in way which honors that gift. All saved Christians are part of a single, unified family, part of the ''body'' of Christ. At the same time, different believers are given different talents. Some are called to positions of leadership and authority. All Christians should turn away from the ''old self'' we were prior to being saved. Paul's explanation of the ''new self'' includes some basic, practical steps.
Chapter Context:
The first half of Ephesians focuses mostly on doctrine, setting up ideas related to the Christian faith. The last half, beginning in chapter 4, puts those theories into practice. Paul begins by emphasizing the ultimate unity of all Christians, regardless of individual spiritual gifts. Paul also begins to explain how knowledge of the truths should translate into action. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 feature specific, real-world applications of Christianity to daily life.
Book Summary:
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
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