“The gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matthew 16:18).
Most of us have seen various images of huge iron gates framed in flames and topped with evil-looking gargoyles — the Gates of Hell as Hollywood imagines them to be. While it makes for good theater, it is poor theology.
First of all, there is no fence around Hell, so there can be no Gate. In fact, Jesus is not talking about a physical gate at all. Rather, He is talking about the counsels, judgements, plans, purposes, schemes, tricks, and wiles of the kingdom of darkness. That is the actual meaning of the phrase — the Gates of Hell.
In ancient times the gates of the city were the place where public concourse and matters of court would be considered and decided upon. Also, it was customary for the elders of the city to sit in the gates, signifying that wisdom and understanding were available for all the people of the city. On some occasions, even kings would place their thrones in the Gates, signifying their rule over all who came in and out of the City.
Those listening to Jesus talk about the gates of hell would understand all this; after all, they didn’t have movies in those days.
When Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Community of the Called Out (that is, His Church), He means that none of the attacks which the devil unleashes from his seat of authority will in any manner gain supremacy over the people of God. Even if the full arsenal of Satan’s dark empire was launched in a single, massive, all-out frontal assault against the Church, the cumulative effect would be like a fly smacking into the Rock of Gibraltar! The Rock wins.
Friend, no scheme the devil devises will succeed, no counsel he offers will prosper, no plan he comes up with will work. “Greater is He who is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). And, “no weapon formed against you shall prosper” (Isa.54:17).
Of course, this doesn’t mean that he won’t try. In fact, it all but guarantees that the one thing the devil will do is attack the Church with relentless intensity. And why? Because the Church is the only thing on the planet that holds the unique distinction of being the Bride of Christ. And the devil so hates the Lord Jesus that he will try to trash whatever is dear to the Lord’s heart. And that’s us.
What else can you expect from a sulking bum sitting defeated in the crumbling gates of hell?
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