Shattering the Gates of Hell
Sporadically, like a bullet between the eyes, God can speak to us. Preconceptions of Scripture, periodically glanced over, remembered and assimilated into our subconscious can suddenly be ripped apart, refreshed, renewed and given life. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, while talking to Peter, “I shall build My church, and the gates of hell shall not overpower it (prevail against) it.”
Previously I had seen only negativity in this verse. I saw a picture of a defensive, suffering church; hell is giving the church a hammering. For years I travelled with this preconception. I knew the church could never fall, no matter how severe the blows, my faith told me that; but I remember on many occasions wishing and praying that it could be seen to be fighting back.
God’s Church on the Retreat
Today the church certainly seems on the retreat. The media regularly report all the troubles going on in the world: the persecution of Christians; the establishing of laws in nations directly defying God’s word and His authority and the constant wars and suffering in the Middle East, Africa and the Far East. Society seems intent on defying and rejecting God’s authority on earth, and to many it would seem as though the church’s power is crumbling and has become irrelevant to the needs of our society.
Shattering the Gates
But this is not what Jesus was thinking when He said those words. The word ‘prevail’ in Greek means ‘to be strong against’. It does not mean that the church will be strong against the attacks of evil; the real meaning is positive, not negative. The negativity is directed against the gates of hell, not the church. Loosely translated it means, the gates of hell will not be strong against the church, they will be broken down, shattered. The NASB version of the Bible says, ‘the gates of hell will not overpower it’.
Battle Won, Victory Gained
The battle has already been won by Christ, the victory is His, (John 19:30). Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and He did that on the cross, (1John 3:8). Scripture says that God has built His church and, as it advances, hell cannot stand against it, or stop God’s kingdom plans for His creation. All that God has promised will happen, and the devil and evil forces can do nothing to stop that. It may seem today that the spiritual powers of darkness are running amok, that they are winning the battle, but their campaign was annihilated just over 2,000 years ago.
Battlefield of Life
The church is not on the retreat, it is aggressively marching into the devil’s domain, it is gaining ground, releasing those enslaved to the world. Each day it is liberating people from bondage to spiritual powers which are not of God. It is continually setting prisoners free, destroying spiritual strongholds in peoples lives and bringing light where there is darkness, (Luke 4:18).
Thousands Turn to Christ
Each day thousands of people are turning to accept Jesus as their Lord, choosing to reject the worlds lies, and seeking truth and eternal life in Christ. Immense spiritual battles for peoples souls are being won on the battlefield. Yet, as in any battle, there are casualties, but these are worldly casualties, not spiritual ones, which is why even those imprisoned for their faith in places like North Korea and China are continually singing and praising God because they know they have a spiritual life in Christ which far surpasses anything this world can offer.
The Real Picture
The real picture is not the church bending under the onslaught of evil, but of the dark, spiritual forces crumbling under the authority of Jesus Christ. The church is on the attack, it has never stopped moving forward; the devil is on the defensive. Much of the time we view things from a negative perspective––this is generally our human nature––but Jesus didn’t see things this way. He saw His church as a mighty army, moving forward, and that anything opposed to it could not stand.