Matthew 16:18 – The Gates of Hell

One of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible is Matthew 16:18 where Jesus, speaking to Peter and His disciples, says:

“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.”

Most of us are aware that the Catholic church has appropriated Jesus’ Words to Peter.  They have misinterpreted them and determined that the rock is Peter himself.  In this delusion, they say that the church was built on and around him as the first pope and Christ’s legitimate representative of God on earth.  Catholicism has built a line of succession on this falsehood in which each new pope is the vicar of Christ, i.e. the earthly representation of Christ on earth.  Thus, the Vatican argues that only the Catholic church is the one true church.  All other churches are corrupted.  Catholic encyclicals, i.e. doctrinal decrees, even curse those (as “anathema”) who do not hold to the teachings of the Vatican.  Thus, the Protestant Reformation begun by Martin Luther is considered in Catholicism as an aberration.  Those who adhere to any Protestant denomination are wayward, and they must be brought back into the fold by renouncing the “lies” they’ve believed.  This is the basis for the ecumenical movement that has been gathering momentum ever since the 1960s with the First and Second Vatican Councils.

What does this verse really mean?

The area of Caesarea Philippi is in the northeast part of Israel.  The most prominent landmark of the region is Mount Hermon, which towers above everything else with its majestic snow capped peaks.

This is where correctly interpreting Scripture becomes very important.  Mount Hermon is where it is believed that the rebellious sons of God (bene Elohim) descended from heaven to earth to procreate with human women as recounted in Genesis 6:1-4.  Without that proper background, our understanding of Jesus’s statement to Peter becomes flawed.

The foothills of Mount Hermon, in what was previously known as Bashan, were honored by the ancients because of the presence of the gods, i.e. God’s sons who chose to disobey Him and decided to set themselves up as gods in His place.  This was the original sin of Satan.  It was subsequently repeated by other disobedient bene Elohim over the years.

The ruins of a temple to one of these gods is in this place.  It is the temple of Banias, who we know better from Greek mythology as Pan.  This was literally the entrance to the underworld; Hades in the New Testament, Sheol in the Old Testament – hell as we know it.  Jesus stood at this place – on the rocks that comprise this temple.  This was ground zero – the entrance to the demonic headquarters – the gates of hell.

In standing at this very place and making this declaration, Jesus was putting Satan and the entire demonic realm on notice.  God was here on earth.  He intended to take the fight against all evil and destroy it.  The church as the aggressor would be God’s instrument to wage war.  Hell would not prevail.  Through this proclamation, Jesus was telling all the forces of wickedness that their time was short.

One of the reasons Jesus came was to reclaim the nations.  This was the beginning.  The final battle – which won’t actually be a battle at all – will be at the end of the 7-year Tribulation when Jesus returns in glory.  At that time, He will subdue the nations and all demonic entities.  He will destroy all unbelieving mankind with the sharp sword that comes from His mouth – the Word of God – and rule over the nations with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15).

All may seem to be lost as we observe the world around us today.  Do not fear.  God is sovereign.  He has everything under control.  Jesus will return at just the right time.  Our job – as the church – is to occupy until He comes.  Let us strengthen our faith with the Word of God so that we can be salt and light to this lost and dying world.

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