Summary: when Jesus speaks of the gates of hell, He is referring to the councils of Hell.
Biblical Text: Matthew 16:18
“And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
In ancient times, tall, thick and impenetrable walls of stone surrounded most cities. Each city had a limited number of gates through which visitors could enter. Since all traffic came and went through the gates, the guards were positioned there for protective purposes. And because the crowds funneled through the gates were limited to a narrow stream, it was there that one might locate the persons with whom he wanted to converse or to have business dealings.
The gates of a city eventually came to represent the councils of the city. It was there that the elders met to confer and to pass judgment on the matters that were brought before them. Consequently, the power of the city was concentrated in the gates of the city.
In our text, when Jesus speaks of the gates of hell, He is referring to the councils of Hell. Hell has come to symbolize the devil and the powers of darkness. When Jesus referred to the gates or ‘councils’ of Hell, He was speaking of the plans and strategies of the powers of darkness. As long as these powers remain undisturbed and unchallenged in the ‘gateways’ of the world, they continue to pose a threat, a hindrance, and a bondage to the people of God and their ministries.
The church has fallen prey to the gates of hell. We have been sucked in by the arguments, enticements, and intimidations of the enemy. Satan’s bluster has gained access and dominance for him in far too many circles. Today, in an age where the church age has garnered its greatest numerical strength, we are surprisingly lacking in our power to dismantle the enemy.
Satan’s menacing hand and demonic ploys have infiltrated our society like an invasive fog—defiling, corrupting, and manipulating far too many of our lives and affairs. In the ongoing war Satan is waging against both the corporate and the individual mind of the church, he has led us away from the strategies of warfare that Christ charted for us before He ascended to heaven.
Did He not say that the weapons of our warfare are mighty, to the pulling down of strongholds? Yet we allow ourselves to be pulled down instead.
With the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we should be able to win any battle for the hearts and souls of men, against the powers of darkness. But where are our mission victories? They are small and far spread.
Maybe its because we’ve gone about this whole idea of missions in the wrong way! We’ve adopted the worldly art of persuasion as our means of ineffective evangelism….but salvation comes only when the human heart is liberated by Godly power. Our persuasion and arguments bear very little lasting fruit in this worldwide harvest of souls unless we are taped into God’s power source.
When Paul spoke to the Corinthians, he said, “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Paul knew the source of his power!
Here was Paul, writing to the church at Corinth immediately following his debate with the philosophers on Mars Hill. Paul was so intellectually equipped that he could philosophize with the greatest of scholars, but he found these arguments to be fruitless and useless during his visit to Mars Hill. It was then that he was “determined to know only Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” as the only mighty demonstration of the power of God.
There is a secret that has been stolen from us.
It is the secret of how desperately poor we are without the mighty power of God.
To understand that power, we must be stripped of all self-righteousness and self-sufficiency.
To understand that power, we must be humbled and broken.
It is only when we reach that point that we are able to rise up as the mighty army of God and victoriously storm the gates of hell.
The world is littered with failed mission efforts to evangelize the lost. We have plotted and planned and spent our charitable dollars in an effort to carry the banner of Jesus Christ into every corner of the globe. Yet there remains thousands of religions in the world; and of the eight major religions – Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, Christianity, and Islam – we must face the difficult truth that Islam is the fastest growing. We need missionaries now like never before!
But is throwing more money into our present organized mission effort the whole answer? Maybe we first need to reexamine the source of our power. The church as an organization cannot conquer the world for Christ; but the church as an organism CAN! Those who enter the mission field must be propelled by God’s power, and His alone. May God help us if we continue to try it without His power, and God help us if we fail to stand in His power alone.