And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
A lot of people will use this passage to encourage church members. Because it says the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, we are often told the devil can’t defeat the church. I think too many people have been influenced by Hollywood’s portrayal of hell as the kingdom of the devil. Preachers say that the church needs to go on the offensive and attack the devil and the gates of his (Satan) kingdom cannot prevail against the church’s attack. There are couple of problems with this. First, I find nowhere in the Bible where we are instructed to attack the devil. We are told to resist the devil – but that is different than attacking. Second, the devil is not in hell today. One day he will be but he is not there now. Hell is not the devil’s kingdom – it is a place of torments.
So what do the “gates of hell” mean? In the Bible, hell can refer to two places: the place of torments where lost souls go until the final judgment when they will be cast into the eternal lake of fire, and hell can also refer to the grave. When Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, he meant the church will not die when members die. This is where the idea of church perpetuity originates. Jesus promised the church would still survive when members die because he would add new members to the church.
Gates of hell = the grave.
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