Jesus is Building His Church
Jesus once said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). I don’t know about you but I used to think ‘the gates of hell’ represented Satan’s kingdom. I thought that Jesus was saying that he would build his church and that Satan’s kingdom could not stop it. I can remember hearing preachers talk about how gates weren’t weapons – and getting excited about how that meant Satan was on the defence! However, I don’t think that is what this verse is actually saying.
The Greek phrase behind ‘gates of hell’ literally reads ‘gates of Hades’. Actually, this is how many other English versions translate it (NIV, NASB, CSB). Basically, ‘Hades’ represents the realm or place of the dead. In fact, the ‘gates of Hades’ actually represent an Old Testament expression for the place where the dead dwelt. For example, God spoke to Job and said, “Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?” (Job 38:17). In Isaiah, King Hezekiah talks about a close call he had with death. He wrote:
10 I said, In the middle of my days
I must depart;
I am consigned to the gates of Sheol
for the rest of my years.
11 I said, I shall not see the LORD,
the LORD in the land of the living;
I shall look on man no more
among the inhabitants of the world. (Isaiah 38:10-11)
The gates of hades refer to the realm of the dead, not the kingdom of Satan. So, let me get to the point. Jesus is saying that death will not overcome his church! Nothing can stop him building his church, not even the grave itself! I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a more helpful reminder right now in the midst of the global death toll. Death, disease and sickness are real issues that we face in this broken world. But we can take heart knowing that Jesus has overcome death, and that we too will share in his victory over it one day (John 6:40; 10:28; 11:25). I want to encourage you to give your awe to Jesus instead of death. I want to encourage you to keep engaging in God’s mission, knowing that nothing will stop the work that Jesus is doing.
I also want to give God thanks for the work that has been happening. I have been so inspired by all the people in our church who have put their hands up to help with anything that comes up. Recently, we were able to provide a person in an emergency situation with food and furniture. Our faithful volunteers are still opening up our Community Cupboard and serving those in need every week. One man in our church is helping a family fix their fence. And there are more stories I could share. The work of the church continues, the good news about Jesus continues to be shared, and the building of God’s church will not be stopped by anyone or anything, not even death!
Let me leave you with these words from Jesus: …Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18)