“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
During the War for Independence, George Washington had some good commanders and soldiers, but none were more creative than General Anthony Wayne from Chester County, Pennsylvania. General Wayne was originally a surveyor, farmer, and representative in the Pennsylvania colonial legislature. When the Revolutionary War broke out, he raised a regiment and was appointed its colonel in 1776.
After many rumors about a defeated battle, Anthony Wayne called for his own court martial. After the evidence was submitted, it was said that he did everything he could do to win. General Washington was much pleased with the verdict. He was given the nickname “Mad Anthony” for taking on a larger group of British soldiers primarily with bayonets in storming a fort in Stony Point, New York. He also had other creative tactics in engaging the enemy. He is most known for this response to General Washington, “Give the order, sir, and I will lay siege to hell.” If he only knew that God already gave the order in Matthew 16:18…
This verse is speaking of an offensive promise. Christ is not speaking of Satan attacking the church. He is speaking of the hordes of hell doing all they can to keep people in Hell. He gives the promise that all the defensive maneuvers in the world will not keep the church from accomplishing her task. In this first use of the word church, Christ also gives the purpose of the church. He gives the same command in Acts as His final speech to the disciples. The supreme task of the church is the evangelization of the world.
If missions is the supreme task of the church, great care ought to be taken to accomplish this task. Missions ought not to be taken lightly or haphazardly. Care should be taken in sending and supporting missionaries. Zeal ought to accompany the caution as well. The church needs to be passionate and relentless in its quest to preach the gospel to every creature. Every ministry and program in the church should be to that end.
This verse also gives us the position of the lost. They are just as good as being in hell already. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:18 & 36) The soul winner is one seen as pulling the lost out of the fire. Satan will not let them go without a fight; he uses gates to welcome and keep the lost in hell at any cost.
To effectively breach the gates of Hell, a good military strategist must know the layout and the makeup of the place he is attacking. Gates that are made of iron or other metals require a different strategy to breach than wooden gates. The function of the gates may also determine a specific choice of strategy. What are the gates of hell made from?
The first type of gate is pride. The gate hell uses most to welcome sinners is pride. This gate is built in many forms. It can be seen as a person who proclaims his own goodness as a way to get to heaven. Pride can also be seen in the person who sees his need for Christ, yet he refuses because of fear of what others would think of him. Felix said the time was not convenient for him. Festus said Paul was crazy, using his own logic to placate his conviction for salvation. Agrippa told Paul almost. All these excuses to not receive Christ were rooted in pride. As far as we know, these three men are in hell.
The second type of gate is culture. Many people allow their culture or their lifestyle to keep them from getting saved. In many places in the world, a person will be ostracized from their family for trusting Christ. Devout Jews are known for having a funeral for people who get saved. Other cultures physically persecute people who leave their belief system. The first Burmese converts got baptized at night due to persecution.
The third type of gate is religion. People were on their way to hell before there ever was a religion, but Satan uses religion to keep people from switching their eternal destinations. “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (II Corinthians 4:4) With all the religions in the world, there are only two belief systems. One says a person must do something to escape their sins and go to heaven. The other says it has already been done.
Our job is to attack these gates. God’s Word gives many points of attack to take down pride, culture, and false religion. When His Word goes forth, it does not come back void. The gates of hell cannot prevail against it. The book of Romans says, “…we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” We just need to follow Him and his plan