As 2020 closes out and 2021 looms ahead how are you doing? Are you glad this year is finally over and looking forward to the new year? Are you anxious about what may come. I mean there are no promises that 2021 will be any better than 2020. It could in fact be worse. Before we get to depressed thinking about all this I want to assure you this is a message of hope not pessimism.
In the 16th chapter of Matthew Jesus is speaking with the Disciples and ask them who do they say He is? Peter answers and declares Him the Christ. Jesus honors him by saying this was only revealed by the Spirit and that on “this rock He would build His church and the Gates of Hades would not prevail against it.” While there is a lot tied up in this I am only going to look at the part about the Gates of Hades not prevailing. Most people takes this to mean that the power of Satan would never defeat the church or Christ and while this is correct I think there is much more here. First we must think about what a gate may symbolize and what do we normally think of about gates. Gates of course are designed to either keep something out or keep something in, or both. Because of this a gate has to have a level of strength and reinforcement to make this happen. For this reason gates are associated with strength and power and why some may think this passage is about the Power of Satan. While there is some truth to this I reject the idea of the image of the Power of Satan against the Church. This gives us a picture of the Church as a fortress surrounded by the forces of evil, essentially the Church is on the defensive. Remember gates are about keeping stuff out or in. Obviously the church is not on the inside but the outside, so it is the realm of Satan that has to stand against the Church and not the other way around. Where does this leave our image now?
In short the Church, started by Christ is going to continue to grow and advance and nothing, not even the gates of hell (Hades) will stop its advance. Now Hades represents the underworld and we know that the gates of that underworld would not be able to contain Christ. Nor will they be able to contain the souls of those who die in Christ. So in this sense the gates of hades will totally fail in their mission and the power of Satan will be broken forever. The Church will continue to grow and advance until it covers the world and in the final battle Christ will defeat Satan and Satan, Death, and Hell will all be cast into the lake of fire. As terrible as things may be on Earth, we who are citizens of Heaven and members of the Family of God have nothing to fear because we know our King will defeat Satan and Evil and no matter how bad things may get, it is only temporary. We also know that those who die in Christ will not remain so, but will be in eternity with Him.
I say all this to remind you, and myself, that while things may be dark and at times it may look like Christ and the Church are on the defensive and facing defeat, this is not true and will never happen. Regardless of what happens here on Earth, God is still in control and Christ is still moving forward. His plan is still in place and history is moving in its long slow march toward that time when Christ will return and all His children shall be gathered home. Until then it may be difficult for us, but remember that we have been sealed in the Spirit and promised an inheritance as we are now children of God. So as you look ahead, don’t just look to the next year nor just this rock we are on, but look ahead to eternity when we shall home with Him and be filled and surrounded by His love and grace for evermore and as the only Hymn goes, we’ll work till Jesus comes then we’ll be gathered home.