So today I am climbing on a soap box. Some of you may disagree, some may agree and some may just plain get mad, but I’m gonna say it. It’s a pet peeve, an annoyance, it’s dangerous and makes pastors looks dumb (at least I think they look dumb). I really don’t care of you think I’m wrong, cause honestly, I don’t think most American pastors can exegete their way out of a wet paper bag. There are all sorts of examples for this, passages yanked out of context. Today I want to look at one. I hear this one pulled out of context, used and abused and it’s just flat wrong. It’s used in sermons, books, tapes, writings, articles and blogs. STOP USING IT IN THIS CONTEXT. Ok, the passage:
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18.
Now I don’t want to get into the whole Peter thing and Petros and Petra and Cephas. I want to focus on the “gates of hades”. Now the ESV, which I posted says hell. It shouldn’t. It should say Gates of Hades. Why you ask? Because it’s a pagan temple in Caesarea Philippi. Where is Jesus? Oh, He’s in Caesarea Philippi. There is a place called the Grotto of Pan. The Grotto of Pan is a BIG ROCK with a hole in it. The hole has a river flowing out of it, and the hole is called . . . wait for it. . . . The Gates of Hades. It was believed by the pagans that Pan summered on earth and wintered in Hades. The cave is how he got in and out.
So picture the scene. Jesus standing by a big rock with a pagan temple called The Gates of Hades. It’s a big rock where the pagans built a church. Jesus looks at that rock, then His Disciples, points at them and says “on THIS rock, I’ll build my church, and THAT church won’t prevail”. Guess what! Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire. No one worships at the Grotto of Pan, it’s a tourist destination now. What Jesus said, it’s came true.
So fast forward 2000 years. We read this passage and say “the powers of hell won’t conquer the church, this verse refers to Satan”. Um, no. Satan isn’t in hell yet, that punishment after Judgment. He is the “prince of the power of the air” and we fight against rulers and principalities where? Ephesians 6:12 says the forces of evil are in the “heavenly places”. We are not fighting the Gates of Hell, and all the “well we are trying to save souls from hell” mumbo jumbo doesn’t make this any less of a BAD EXEGESIS.
Jesus was being practical, nuts and bolts. The Church of Jesus Christ can withstand the onslaught of paganism. That is a message of hope for our brothers and sisters working in Islamic cultures, Communist cultures, Buddhist and Hindu cultures. That’s not to say we don’t have spiritual warfare, but it’s not the “gates of hell”. So stop arguing about gates being offensive or defensive weapons, or how the church is going to storm hell, or how we have to stop hell. We have all the work and problems we can handle on earth. If you are gonna use a passage, people don’t take it so far outside of the context I have to blog on it. Please?