In a previous thread, I was considering the question “What are the keys of the
”, based on the words of Jesus at Caesarea Philippi.
The same episode also prompts another question;
What exactly is Jesus promising when he says about the church “The Gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”? – Matthew ch16 v18
Does it mean that the church will stand firm against attack?
Many people have liked that interpretation.
Matthew Henry writes “This implies that the church has enemies that fight against it, and endeavour its ruin and overthrow, here represented by
‘the gates of hell’”.
But I don’t buy the idea, because I just don’t see a set of gates [PULAI] being used as an offensive weapon.
The point of gates is that they enclose.
The gates of a city are there to stop people getting in.
The gates of a prison are there to stop people getting out.
The Bible understands Sheol or Hades as a prison, in the sense that souls don’t normally escape from it.
So the meaning of the promise must be that the power of Hades to enclose will not able to resist the power of the church.
In this connection, we can find a useful clue in the “keys to Hades” mentioned in the first chapter of Revelation.
John hears a voice, turns round, and sees the figure of “one like a son of man”.
This figure represents Jesus and speaks in his name.
The vision declares “I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation ch1 v18).
What he must be claiming is the power to open up the gates of Hades, the prison of the dead, and let people out.
This power would be firmly based upon his own Resurrection.
The promise in Matthew must have the same effect; the prison gates will not hold out against the power of the church.
The church breaks out through the gates, or breaks open the gates from outside.
The result, either way, is that people are escaping the holding power of death.
This becomes possible through the message contained in the gospel about the power of the Resurrection, thus fulfilling the claim of Revelation.
I’ve already looked at the next verse in the Matthew passage, the promise of the keys of the kingdom.
This implies the power to open up the door of the kingdom and let people in.
It’s possible to see a close connection between the two promises.
For the teaching of the New Testament allows, in the last analysis, just the two ultimate possibilities.
We can be part of the realm of life, or we can be part of the realm of death.
There is a sense, in fact, in which men are naturally part of the realm of death and remain there until they enter the kingdom of heaven.
Which is why Jesus says “Let the dead bury their dead” (Matthew ch8 v22)
In which case, the act of getting into
the kingdom of heaven is also the act of getting out of
the realm of death.
If we think of these realms as two areas with a single doorway passing between them, then this door will have two functions at the same time, as the
exit from one realm and the entrance into the other.
In other words, “the gates of Hades” and “the door of the kingdom of heaven” can be seen as alternative names (from different angles) for one
and the same passageway, leading between the two kingdoms.
So it seems to me that these promises are two different ways of saying the same thing.
The promise of v18 is that the “gates of Hades” will not be able to resist the church, which will break through and force its way out of Hades
(and into the kingdom).
The promise of v19 is that the church will be able to let people into the kingdom (thus getting them out of the realm of Hades).
Then these two verses, and their two promises, have the same effect, in that they are commissioning the church to keep that passage open.
The commission is fulfilled when the church proclaims the gospel and the power of the Resurrection.
edit on 20-6-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)