A new look at the “Gates of Hell”
Matthew 16:18. Do we have this all wrong?
I've heard countless sermons where Matthew 16:18 is used to show God‟s church will never die. It can‟t, the preacher says, as “it says right here „the gates of hell shall not prevail‟ against the church.” We know the word “hell” here is hades in Greek, meaning death, the grave. So on first glance, the preacher is right. It does, after all, speak of something “against the church”. But that leaves the picture of God‟s church barely hanging on by a thread, and somehow it manages to survive.Since when do gates go on the attack?
That‟s not at all what our Master is saying. Read it again. The Messiah is saying he will build his church and he‟s not acting timidly and defensively but going on the attack against death and hell! When attacking a castle or fortress, the final defensive line is the gates of the castle. We've always read Matthew 16:18 to say hell/grave is attacking us, the church, but death/hades won‟t prevail. In fact, it’s the other way around! Read it again. We, the church, are the ones doing the attacking! We, the church, are the ones on the offensive against hell and death. I don‟t know about you, but I‟m not into being a timid, cowering Christian. And I've never heard of gates going on the attack!
We’re the ones attacking sin and death. Christ is simply saying that in the end, hell‟s gates won‟t withstand our barrage. The gates of hell/death won‟t prevail against the church‟s attacks. That‟s the correct way to read this passage and it clearly is saying that. We WIN, in other words. We go on the offensive and win. God is not timid. God‟s church is not timid. We can be strong and go on offense with the sword of God‟s spirit.
Strong gates are defenders‟ last hope against an invading army attacking a fortress. Strong, closed gates keep an invading army from marching right on in to the fortress. Death and hell are the ones on defense; we‟re attacking. I like that much better.
Our King is saying he’s building a church that will be so strong that over time it will overcome everything in its way, including death itself. Christ is not making the point that his church will never die but that He and His way will bring an end even to death itself. WE are the ones on the attack against hell and the grave. Hades won’t withstand OUR attacks against it.
1 Corinthians 15:25-26 - For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
The LAST enemy is death. That is why Yeshua, our Savior, says death/hades won’t prevail.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57
54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
55 "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
By the blood of the Lamb. Sin, breaking God‟s law, is the sting of death. We‟ve all sinned and therefore earned death as our wages. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:33). But God sent His Son to pay our death penalty so everyone who believes in Him and surrenders their lives to him will never die the 2nd death – but have everlasting life (John 3:16-17).
Hebrews 2:14-15 (also see 2 Timothy 1:10)
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?
Not to be seen when it is all said and done. In the new world that our King will set up, there will be no more death, no more dying, no more tears.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
We‟ve just read the end of the Book -- and we win! Our all-powerful God wins, and we‟re on His team. I like this correct reading much better. We’re boldly on the attack against the forces of death and evil, and in the end, we win through Jesus Christ our Master. The gates of hell indeed will not prevail against the forces of good and righteousness led by King Jesus and His armies. The Church of the one true living God WILL be successful in getting out the message of the good news of what our King has done for us, opening up for us the way into His marvelous and amazing kingdom.
God speed the day!!