Summary: What kind of impact is the church supposed to have in the world? Is it a continuing impact or one that ebbs and flows? Does yesterday’s victories guarantee that the territory taken by a church will remain indefinitely?

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What kind of impact is the church supposed to have in the world? Is it a continuing impact or one that ebbs and flows? Does yesterday’s victories guarantee that the territory taken by a church will remain indefinitely? These are questions that are rarely asked by people in the church and the state of most congregations attest to this ignorance. Far too often we assume that all of yesterday’s work, prayers and victories will be enough to sustain us continually. That we essentially rest on our laurels following a brief and intense season of spreading the gospel, making disciples and expanding the territory of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

We have seen over and over again stories of revivals of times past, or outpourings which rejuvenated regions become just that, stories. Did the Welsh revival guarantee that Wales would always have a strong and vibrant church in it? Did the Azuza Street revival cancel out all of the problems, idolatry, brokenness, and wickedness that came to California afterwards? Did the Great Awakenings do enough to make it so that there was no more need of the gospel to be preached because everyone was assumed to be a believer? I am seriously asking these questions, because this is how many people think and when you question this mindset people don’t know how to respond.

We first must accept the fact that the borders of the Kingdom are not set in stone here on Earth. Those borders are able to expand out into the world like light pressing into darkness but it also means they can contract back in as well. As it is with light the issue is not that the darkness overcame the light but the issue is that the light dimmed until it could no longer shine into the darkness. This is the story of the church, this is the story of many churches and this is the story about many denominations and organizations.

Hell’s Gate

What did Jesus say to Peter in Matthew 16:18? Jesus spoke of the strategy the church would use to expand the Kingdom by saying “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against.” This is a very common verse among both Protestants and Catholics (a debate I’m not getting into today) but I want us to focus on the last part of that verse that says “the gates of hades (hell) shall not prevail against it.” This is a revelation given by Jesus that has been continually misinterpreted for generations. The common thought is that here Satan and his forces are on the offensive and that his gates are marching against the mighty city of the church. As long as the church remains behind its walls it will remain safe and vibrant because those gates will never prevail against the church.

In reality what is happening here is the exact opposite of what people assume, it is not the gates of the enemy which are on the offensive it is the church. Jesus is saying that as the church goes out and proclaims the gospel of “Jesus is Lord and the Son of God” Satan will be unable to hold back the tidal wave that has been unleased upon him. You see the gates of hell will not prevail as long as there is constant pressure against them, they will break open and allow its territory to be reclaimed and restored through the gospel. However once that pressure which opened up the gate is gone the gates will be shut, repaired and are reinforced.

We look at verses in the Bible such as Revelation 12:17 and forget that this is a war which we are in against the darkness. This is not a last stand like the Alamo or Helm’s Deep but open warfare that we are engaged in. The gates of hades/hell came into being following Adam’s fall and during those generations Satan walled off fallen mankind from God in order to keep them in slavery and in darkness (John 3:19, 8:12, Ephesians 5:8).

Always Forward

What we have to understand is that there is more than one gate into the territory of the enemy, think of if as an open prairie land with concentric circular walls every 50km or so. When the kingdom is active and expanding it pushes through a gate like a torrent of water and it spreads throughout that entire 50km territory and eventually begins to bump up against the next wall and gate of the enemy. When the church fails to continue pressing into Satan’s territory it resembles flood water that is slowly receding from the reclaimed land. Eventually the water will dry up and the old walls and gate of the enemy will be repaired forcing the church to have to retake the land all over again.

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