Biblical Audio Commentary – Gates or Portals
Throughout Scripture we see many references to different gates. A great many verses point to various city gates, which in their own way are necessary and important. However, our focus today is on those gates in the Bible which are actually portals of one kind or another. Of course, to see and acknowledge these particular gates in this manner, one must have a supernatural understanding of what is conveyed. Some Christians – because of the teaching they’ve sat under – cannot accept anything other than literal gates in their reading because of the decades-long effort to de-mythologize the Bible. It’s a shame, because by recognizing the intent of the passages I’ll point out and discuss, we gain greater depth in our understanding of the kingdom of God, along with its antithesis – the kingdom of darkness.
One of the most famous gate passages is Genesis 28:16-17 in which Jacob lays his head on a comfy rock at Bethel and dreams of the ladder to heaven on which the angels were ascending and descending. Consider his reaction:
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
Beth-El in Hebrew means the House of God. There was something about that particular location that was special. In fact, it was a portal on the earth into heaven.
Now, you may think this is crazy talk that there are particular places in the world that facilitate the going up and down of divine beings. Well, we don’t want to stop with just a single instance of proof text. Let’s let Scripture interpret Scripture by showing other ways this works.
Let’s consider Psalm 118:15-22:
Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
the right hand of the Lord exalts,
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!”
I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This commentary isn’t meant to get into this topic, but in the Old Testament, the pre-incarnate Jesus was called by many names. Among them, He was the Angel of the Lord and the Right Hand of God. Remember, the Father is Spirit and has been seen by no one. Anyone who knows the Son, knows the Father. In the NT, Jesus took on flesh and became a man; in the OT, he had the appearance and likeness of a man, but was not actually in the flesh born of woman.
Notice how this psalm exalts God’s right hand. It is through Him that the psalmist overcomes death and enters into righteousness through the gate of the Lord. The psalmist’s portal to heaven is the One who becomes his salvation – in fact, He is the cornerstone. We’ll come back to this.
Continuing in the OT, the most infamous of entry through a heavenly portal to earth was the instance of the sons of God rebelling against the Father and attempting to emulate Him by creating man in their image. Here is Genesis 6:1-4 which outlines this:
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
Do you know where it is said that these unfaithful sons descended? The book of 1 Enoch tells that they came down on Mount Hermon in northeastern Israel. This mountain is in the region of Bashan, the home for a time of the giant kings Og and Sihon. They chose this place because it was an entry point from heaven to earth. Again, we’ll see how this corroborates when we speak of Jesus shortly.
Now, we don’t know where the Garden of Eden was exactly. We do know, however, that it was a mountain garden as we see in Ezekiel 28:13-14 where Lucifer is spoken to through the king of Tyre:
You were in Eden, the garden of God. . . I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God
This is the mountain of God where the Lord – the pre-incarnate Jesus – walked in the cool of the evening and interacted with Adam and Eve. If Lucifer was there, the likelihood is that all other divine beings were as well. This, in fact, would have been the equivalent of a portal connecting heaven and earth – a very specific location in which these spiritual entities traversed a ladder – so to speak – between their worlds going up and down.
But there are other gates or portals that aren’t as wondrous and beneficial. Consider the following:
Will it go down to the bars of Sheol?
Shall we descend together into the dust?”
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
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.
It should be apparent that there is something – a portal, a gate – that leads one to the underworld of hell. One such place may be in Babylon, since it has been and remains the source of great evil in the world until destroyed in the Tribulation (Revelation 18).
In fact, during the Tribulation, we see something interesting in Revelation 9:1:
And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.
It appears that the place we know as hell has keys. If it has keys, it has a doorway, or gate, or portal through which beings are sent, or released in this case. Will this fallen star, the angel known as Abaddon or Apollyon, descend to this dark place filled with the abominations of times past in the vicinity of Babylon? I think so.
Earlier in Revelation 1:18 we see Jesus as the ultimate gate-keeper:
and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
When did He get those keys? When He died as noted in Ephesians 4:9
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?
It was then that He appropriated those keys and showed the powers of darkness that their time was short.
But who is Jesus in the context of our discussion? John 10:7,9 make it clear:
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. . . I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
Jesus Himself is, in essence, a portal – a gate – the only means to heaven and eternal life. Through this statement we know that the old has passed away and the new has come. What used to be a spiritual-physical structure of some sort has now become a Person. Only when we go through Jesus do we enter the gates of heaven. No longer do the forces of darkness have any power or authority. Because of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, circumstances have changed.
How do we know this? Remember Mount Hermon in the region of Bashan? When Jesus was there with His disciples at Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples who people thought He was, then He asked them what they thought. Peter responded by saying: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15).
Jesus followed up with a statement that led the Catholic church on a wild goose chase, namely Matthew 16:18:
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.
Of course, the Vatican took this to mean that Peter was the first pope. That couldn’t be more wrong. They were standing at the foot of Mount Hermon in the rocky place where the temple to the Greek god Panias (Pan) was carved out of the mountainside. Jesus was making a definitive statement – the term we use is polemic. This was an aggressive verbal attack in which Jesus declared His sovereignty, power, and might over those dark, rebellious, beings that have plagued mankind from the beginning. He was saying that through Him, and His church, hell no longer had a chance of winning.
Shortly after that, Jesus and three disciples ascended that very mountain – the place of rebellion – and He was transfigured. That was a very visible sign to the demonic world that Jesus was God and His Word would indeed prevail. A time would come when those portals to the underworld would be shut for good.
Scripture gives us a much broader picture of the ongoing battle between evil and good when we know how to look deeper into it. The wonder and the beauty is that God has given us who know His Son the grace to understand many of these mysteries – mysteries that will surely be revealed to an even greater extent when He snatches us from this alien world in the Rapture of His true church.
Before judgment rains down upon this world, the Lord will bring us home. Jesus is the key. He is the Gate of Righteousness. It is through Him that we rejoice because of the life He brings. When we trust in Him, He will usher us through the most important of all portals – into the presence of the Father.