The Gates of Hell- Rethinking the Text

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This week I was confronted with a text that I saw completely differently. One I have heard a hundred times but this time I heard it totally differently. Jesus was with His disciples on the mountain and he asked them who do you think I am, and they say he is the Christ (or Messiah). His next words are what caught me off guard.

The gates of hell shall not prevail against it…I have to tell you I think we all miss the point of this text. At least many of us Christians read over this and think of it backwards. We think of the Church and her people as group in a big castle in need of protection. We need protection from the world, others who think differently, or even Satan himself who is coming after us. What if that wasn’t the point? Are you are reading in backwards? The text doesn’t say the gates of heaven will keep us safe or the gates of heaven will prevail against all attacks.

It says the gates of hell will not prevail against Jesus. Here is the thing. This text assumes that God’s people are on the offensive. Jesus isn’t saying stay safe and I will keep you safe. He is telling us over and over go on the offensive with Him in the lead. In fact he tells us He is Messiah, and will overcome the gates of hell. When we as God’s people proclaim Jesus in our world the gates of hell cannot stand against that onslaught of faith. We as God’s people are called to go and proclaim that he is Messiah and as we proclaim this truth the gates of hell, where our friends and family are being held, cannot be held up. Satan’s power of this world cannot prevail against Jesus’ attacks on him.

Maybe as you are going about your day you have thought about your life as being a place under attack maybe today you can refocus on seeing Jesus as going to battle for you. The gates of hell will not prevail against his attacks. He was defeated on the cross and will be fully defeated when Jesus comes again!

 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:13-18 ESV

The daily battle; the daily victory!

Recently in our high school ministry I asked the question “What battles are you fighting today? What thing in your life is your greatest battle?” Most of my students as said school but I have a feeling it is because most didn’t want to be honest. At least not in the small group setting. When we are thrust into a situation with people we may not know well, we certainly don’t like to talk with them about our battles. We are afraid people will judge us or worse share our battles with others. Battles are something however we all face on a daily basis.
We all have battles, some are very personal like, body issues, family issues, death, some are less so, a job task that is difficult, a future test or project. We all have battles and no matter how little or big it is we have a tendency to feel overwhelmed by them.
In my daily reading I came across a text of scripture I truly love. It comes from 2 Chronicles 20:15-17. The whole story come from 2 Chronicles 20. The story is about a king and the people of Judah who are being surrounded by a great army. They are afraid and they know they can’t win. So they pray. They pray and God answers. God defeats the enemies of Judah and tells them they will not have to fight the battle because He would be fighting it for them. God has the victory and the people of Judah carry off the spoils of the war for three days. I love the story not because it is a great battle narrative but because of 15-17 where God tells them it is his battle. He will have the victory for them.

2 Chronicles 20:15b-17 Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them… You will not need to fight this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

This brings us to Jesus. It brings us to the victory we have in Jesus. We have all gone through many battles in this world. We are all probably in one way or another going through one right now. We can’t win on our own. When we look at our life and all that seems wrong we know we can’t win. But we know we have victory in Jesus.
No mater what you are battling today I pray you see Jesus. He has won the battle. He will fight it for you. Savory today’s victory. Today may seem like a lost battle but tomorrow is a new day with Jesus, a new day of victory. Tomorrow will be another battle but Jesus can win that one too.