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Understand “the gates of hell won’t prevail” - Matthew 16:18

One of the frequently quoted phrases about the resilience and toughness of God’s church – or even earthly church organizations – is that even if Satan’s forces attack them, “the gates of hell won’t prevail against the church.”  We’ll survive and weather Satan’s attacks – is the way it is often explained. It’s often put in the context of coming under Satan’s assaults against God’s ekklesia, the church.

That explanation comes from Matthew 16:18. Let’s read it. The word “hell” in our English KJV Bibles is from the Greek word “hades”, meaning the grave, death.

Matthew 16:18

“And I also say to you that you are Peter (petros, meaning ‘stone’), and on this Rock (Petra = large Rock or Cliff) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

But that is often misunderstood. Let’s review it. The English word for “hell” is translated from 3 Greek words: 

--- Gehenna – hell fire that burns up unrepentant wicked people until they are ashes (as in Malachi 4:3) under the soles of the righteous. See also Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:27; 23:15; James 3:6

--- Tartaro – in a netherworld “dungeon” reserved for fallen angels. Used only in 2 Peter 2:4.

--- Hades (or sheol in Hebrew) – meaning death and the grave (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; Acts 2:27, 31; 1 Cor. 15:55; Revelation 20:13-14). 

Just about all of the verses that are translated “hell” in the Old Testament all come from the one Hebrew word “sheol” – the grave – the Hebrew equivalent of “hades” in the Greek.

So the Greek word in Matthew 16:18 is “hades’ – death, the grave.

Now here’s Yeshua’s (Jesus’) statement again:

Matthew 16:18

“And I also say to you that you are Peter (petros, meaning ‘stone’), and on this Rock (Petra = large Rock or Cliff) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

So there would be a “church” – or assembly, a group of people meeting – and the gates of the grave won’t prevail against it. Keep in mind that a true “church” in the Biblical sense is not the building, but the people. It’s the assembly, the congregation of those called out for a special purpose. In Greek it is “ekklesia”. The ekklesia (or church) is the group of congregants.

You see, we don’t “GO to church” because that means you’re focusing on the building. No, we ARE the church. And Yeshua says where 2 or 3 are gathered in his name, He’ll be there (Matthew 18:20). I guess we could say, “I’m going to fellowship services, or worship services” – but we don’t go to “church”.

So a lot of times I use the Greek term “Ekklesia”. Some don’t even like the English word “church” because of its pagan roots to “circ” or “kirk” – referring to a circle, pointing to ancient pagan sun worship. Even today, in England and even in America, you can find churches or church buildings called Kirk, especially among Presbyterian groups.

“Kirk” is an old northern English or Scottish word for church. Do you see the tie to ‘circ” or circle? In Leeds, Yorkshire England, for example, there is “Kirkstall Abbey”. Anyway, so that’s why I prefer to use terms like “assembly” or “congregation” or the Greek word “ekklesia” instead of saying “church” all the time.

But what does it mean that “the gates of hell – the grave—won’t prevail against the ekklesia”?

Click on “Continue reading” for the remainder of this intriguing blog.

Over the years I’ve heard Matthew 16:18 used to show that no matter how hard Satan attacks God’s people, the ekklesia will remain standing and will prevail, and the gates of hell will not prevail – against the assembly.

Let me get straight to the point: So the gates of hades (death) will not prevail against the church, as it attacks God’s people? Does that even make sense? Is that what its saying? That’s the way a lot of people read Yeshua’s statement.  Think about that statement.

Now let me ask you, since when do gates attack?

This is not about the church of God fending off attacks FROM the grave or death/hell. This is something entirely different.

Yeshua’s statement was that the “gates of hades will not prevail against the church, will not prevail against it”.

What does that tell you and me? Think carefully now. The Ekklesia of God is not just defending. We are ATTACKING the gates of hades, the grave, and in the end WE – led by our terrific leader Yeshua the Messiah – are the ones who prevail.

The gates of hades will not prevail against OUR attacks!

It’s not a minor linguistic point. It’s an entire mindset.

WE are geared up to attack – and attack we do – the very gates of hell, and WE – the church (ekklesia) PREVAIL.

Maybe some of you don’t like “attack” and would prefer that all of us – and hades and us – just “all get along”. Brethren, we are in a war spiritually against powers and principalities (spirits) in high places that certainly wish YOUR demise. Most of believers I come in contact with aren’t in a mindset of war, of attacking, or charging the enemy’s gates.

Do you get what I’m saying? We’re in a very, very real war. We need to put on the armor of God. We are called to be zealous and devout warriors for God – attacking the gates of hell, or hades – and they won’t prevail.

In the last days, as Christ is knocking on their door, the last group of believers is lukewarm. See the last half of Revelation 3. They are called Laodiceans. We must not remain in any lukewarm and apathetic state of mind like they are in, but repent of it – and then take and put on the armor of God and join in the fray.

And if you do, as we work together with other true believers in Yeshua as our Savior and in God Most High as our Father – we will prevail.

We join forces with one another, with other believers who have God’s spirit, and attack the forces of evil and death itself – and in the end, the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail.

In the end, you see, God’s people will be able to say “O death, where is your sting? O hades (the grave) where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

When we put on immortality, we will say and sing together, “Death is swallowed up in victory” -- - in other words, the gates of hades will not, do not, did not, prevail against the ekklesia of God!

We – following the banner of our King Yeshua -- WIN.

Was Peter the ROCK of the Church?
“Yehovah Tsidkenu”-- “YHVH Our Righteousness”


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