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The Gates of Hell

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  • The Gates of Hell

    by Kevin DeYoung


    I hope I don’t ruin one of your favorite verses. Ok, I kind of hope I do, but only so it can be one of your favorite verses in a better way. In Matthew 16, Jesus takes his disciples to the district of Caesarea Philippi and asks them the question: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They stumble around a bit , giving the latest updates from the crowd. Then Cephas pipes up: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus commends His outspoken disciple: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (v. 18). Since the Reformation, there has been a lot of discussion about “this rock” and what it means for the authority of the pope (not much, it turns out). There has been little controversy, however, about the phrase “the gates of hell.”

    I’ve heard several sermons on “the gates of hell” and have seen the phrase referenced in Christian books countless times. The second half of Matthew 16:18 has to be one of the top ten favorite Bible promises. I can hear the voices right now: “Think about the picture here. Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Now tell me, how do gates prevail? When have you ever seen gates on the march? They don’t attack. They fortify. They are there to hold their ground. That’s all. Hell is not on the offensive, brothers and sisters. The church is on the offensive. The church is marching into all the hells in this world, ready to reclaim every square inch for Christ. And when we storm the gates of hell, Christ promises that we cannot fail. We will prevail. It’s time to put the Devil on the run. It’s time to save souls and destroy strongholds. It’s time to reclaim this world for Christ. Listen up church: The gates of hell shall not prevail against us.”

    Or something like that.

    Of course, who can fault the zeal to save souls, make a difference in the world, or fight the good fight? The only problem is that the whole thing is built on faulty exegesis. One of the cardinal rules of biblical interpretation is to let the Bible interpret the Bible. So when we come to a phrase like “the gates of hell,” we need to stop ourselves from imagining what we think this means and do the hard work of finding out what it actually does mean.

    The phrase pulai hadou (gates of hell) is a Jewish expression meaning “realm of the dead.” The same two words appear in the Septuagint version of Job 38:17: “Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness [ puloroi de hadou]?” They appear again in Isaiah 38:10: “I said in the middle of my days I must depart; I am consigned to the gates of Sheol [pulais hadou] for the rest of my years.” In both passages, pulai hadou is a euphemism for death. Notice the parallelism in both passages. The first half of each verse clarifies that the second half of the verse is not about hell but about death. The gates of hell represent the passageway from this life to the grave.

    Consequently, Jesus’ promise to Peter is not about storming Satan’s lair and conquering demonic powers. In fact, the repeated injunction in Ephesians 6 is “to stand.” Christ defeated the Devil (John 16:11). Our responsibility is simply to hold fast and resist. Carman’s fantastic music videos aside, we are not demonslayers. The promise in Matthew 16 is not about venturing out on some Dungeons and Dragons spiritual crusade but about Christ’s guarantee that the church will not be vanquished by death.

    If you think about it, this makes much more sense of the imagery. Defensive gates can be used in an offensive way because Jesus is simply talking about death. Death stalks each one of us, but those who confess Jesus as the Christ know that death is not the end. We have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57). Jesus isn’t asking us to conquer anything, except perhaps our fear of the grave.

    So preach and believe in Matthew 16:18 with all your might. But don’t misunderstand the promise. Jesus assures us of something better than world transformat ion. He promises eternal life. Truly, with intense opposition and persecution, the early church was under at tack from the gates of hell. But just as Jesus conquered the grave, so the gates of hell — death itself — will not prevail against those who belong to Christ. As Jesus Himself put it, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live (John 11:25).

    Source: The Gates of Hell by Kevin DeYoung

  • #2
    Where was Jesus was he spoke about the gates of Hell? There is a history there which gives Jesus' statement a theological and cultural context which is often over looked because most people just don't know about it.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Origen View Post
      Where was Jesus was he spoke about the gates of Hell? There is a history there which gives Jesus' statement a theological and cultural context which is often over looked because most people just don't know about it.
      Caesarea Philippi was a city on the northeast of the marshy plain of el-Huleh, 120 miles north of Jerusalem, and 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, at the "upper source" of the Jordan, and near the base of Mount Hermon. It is mentioned in Matt. 16:13 and Mark 8:27 as the northern limit of our Lord's public ministry. According to some its original name was Baal-Gad (Josh. 11:17), or Baal-Hermon (Judg. 3:3; 1 Chr. 5:23), when it was a Canaanite sanctuary of Baal. It was afterwards called Panium or Paneas, from a deep cavern full of water near the town. This name was given to the cavern by the Greeks of the Macedonian kingdom of Antioch because of its likeness to the grottos of Greece, which were always associated with the worship of their god Pan. Its modern name is Banias. Here Herod built a temple, which he dedicated to Augustus Caesar. This town was afterwards enlarged and embellished by Herod Philip, the tetrarch of Trachonitis, of whose territory it formed a part, and was called by him Caesarea Philippi, partly after his own name, and partly after that of the emperor Tiberius Caesar. It is thus distinguished from the Caesarea of Israel.
      Caesara Philippi - Easton's Bible Dictionary Online

      I immediately took interest in the mention of "the Greeks of the Macedonian kingdom of Antioch": Acts 11:25-26 and Galatians 2:11.

      Have anything to add or expound on?

      God bless,
      William
      Comment>

      • #4
        Originally posted by William View Post
        Caesara Philippi - Easton's Bible Dictionary Online

        I immediately took interest in the mention of "the Greeks of the Macedonian kingdom of Antioch": Acts 11:26 and Galatians 2:11.

        Have anything to add or expound on?

        God bless,
        William
        Oh yes but there is so much more. As your source points out it is near Mount Hermon (that is very important) which was a center of Baal worship in the O.T. (hence the name Baal-Hermon). In fact archaeologists have discovered around 20 different pagan shrines in that area.

        But it gets better. In what region is Mount Hermon?
        Last edited by Origen; 01-26-2017, 07:03 PM.
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Origen View Post
          Oh yes but there is so much more. As your source points out it is near Mount Hermon (that is very important) which was a center of Baal worship in the O.T. (hence the name Baal-Hermon). In fact archaeologists have discovered around 20 different pagan shrines that area.

          But it gets better. In what region is Mount Hermon?
          In the Bible Mt. Hermon is considered the northern boundary of Transjordan, i.e., of the territory of the Amorite kings conquered by Israel (Deut. 3:8; Josh. 12:1), as well as the extreme limit of the territory of the half-tribe of Manasseh east of the Jordan (Josh. 13:11). The name Hermon is derived from the root ḥrm ("sacred"), and like most high mountains it was thought to be the residence of a god, whose name, Baal-Hermon, also served as the name of the mountain itself (Judg. 3:3; I Chron. 5:23). According to Deuteronomy 3:9, Mt. Hermon was called Sirion by the Sidonians (Phoenicians) and Senir by the Amorites. These names, which apparently designate the entire Anti-Lebanon range and not just the Hermon peak, appear in the Egyptian Execration Texts of the 19th century B.C.E., and in Ugaritic literature, in a treaty between the Hittites and Amorites (c. 1350 B.C.E.), in which the two sides swear, inter alia, by the gods of Mt. Shariyanu. When the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III attacked Damascus in 841 B.C.E., the Assyrian army had first to overcome Hazael's forces at Mt. Saniru. As late as the 10th century C.E., Arab geographers mention the name Snir. In the Psalms, Mt. Hermon is contrasted with Mt. Lebanon (29:6); the land of the Hermons is mentioned with the land of Jordan (42:7); and Mt. Hermon is also juxtaposed with Mt. Tabor (89:13), which led to the Hill of Moreh being called the "Little Hermon." The Bible praises the dew of Hermon (Ps. 133:3), its lions (Song 4:8), and its cypresses (Ezek. 27:5). In classical times Jerome mentions that a temple stood on the mountain (Onom. 21:13–14). A Greek inscription found near the peak states that only those who "had taken the oath" were allowed to continue on from there. Snow from Mt. Hermon was sent to Tyre. The Targums called it Tur Talga ("Mountain of Snow"; Targ. Onk., Deut. 3:9 and Song 4:8), a name still used by the Arabs, Jebel al-Thalj. - Mount Hermon

          God bless,
          William
          Comment>

          • #6
            I will give you a hint, King Og.
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            • #7
              Og king of Bashan was a mighty and infamous Amorite king in the days of Moses who fought the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. God granted the Israelites victory over King Og’s forces, and Moses and the Israelites possessed Bashan, a fruitful land east of the Jordan River. The victory was significant because of the fearsome strength of Og and the relative inexperience of the Israelite forces.

              Leading up to the Israelites’ encounter with Og king of Bashan was a battle with another Amorite king, Sihon. Moses had requested that Sihon allow the Israelites to pass through his land—they promised not to take any of the Amorites’ resources along the way—but instead of granting permission, Sihon mustered his forces and attacked the Israelites. God enabled Moses and the people of Israel to defeat the Amorites and take their land (Numbers 21:21–31). Then the Israelites made their way toward Bashan, and King Og came out to confront them at Edrei (verse 33). The Israelites were frightened because Og’s reputation preceded him. But God reassured Moses, saying, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land” (verse 34).

              The battle between the forces of Og and Moses is described in greater detail in the book of Deuteronomy. There we read that Og was king over sixty fortified cities, all of which the Israelites captured (Deuteronomy 3:3–7). He was also a very large man—his bed was made of iron and was of enormous size: nine cubits long and four cubits wide (13.5 feet long and 6 feet wide). The inclusion of this detail emphasizes the size of Og. A man needing this size of bed was likely very tall—ten or eleven feet. This interpretation is supported by the fact that Og was one of the last of the Rephaites (Deuteronomy 3:11), which means he was strong and tall (see Deuteronomy 2:20–21).

              The Rephaites (or Rephaim) were a group of people who lived in Canaan and elsewhere at the time of Moses and Joshua. The word Rephaites is not an ethnic but rather a descriptive term; it literally means “terrible ones.” The Rephaim were giants and fierce fighters. Earlier, when the Israelites had first tried to enter the Promised Land, the spies reported the land was populated by giants, whom they called “Nephilim” and “sons of Anak” (Numbers 13:32–33).

              Og king of Bashan was one of the last of this race of giants. Goliath, the giant who fought David, was likely another. Og and his sons all lost their lives in their foolish opposition to God’s people (Numbers 21:35). Despite King Og’s great size and strength, God gave Israel’s army the victory, and they possessed the land of Bashan. The half-tribe of Manasseh inherited Og’s territory (Joshua 13:29–30). There is no obstacle too large for God; there is nothing impossible for Him (Matthew 19:26). God does not quail before giants, and neither should His children.

              Source: Who was Og king of Bashan?
              Comment>

              • #8
                There you go Bashan. Now this is something that no bible dictionary will give you because most of the ones online are out of date. The Hebrew word is בָּשָׁן. This is taken from The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew p. 281.

                בָּשָׁן
                II 2 n.m. snake, <PREP> מִבָּשָׁן אָשִׁיב from the snake I shall bring (him) back Ps 68:23 (or rd. מִחֹר בָּשָׁן from the hole of the snake), יְזַּנֵּק מִן הַבָּשָׁן he leaps from the snake Dt 33:12.
                It means "snake." So Jesus was literally at the place of the snake. Symbolic much!
                Last edited by Origen; 01-26-2017, 05:29 AM.
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Origen View Post
                  There you go Bashan. Now this is something that no bible dictionary will give you because most of the ones online are out of date. The Hebrew word is בָּשָׁן. This is taken from The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew p. 281.



                  It means "snake." So Jesus was literally at the place of the snake. Symbolic much?
                  The imagery and symbolism is incredible. I appreciate your guidance through this, Origen.

                  God bless,
                  William
                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    Originally posted by William View Post
                    The imagery and symbolism is incredible. I appreciate your guidance through this, Origen.
                    Here is some more food for thought. At Caesarea Philippi there is the grotto of Pan which is filled will hewn images of gods and goddesses (Photos taken from sites on the internet).




                    Last edited by Origen; 01-26-2017, 07:20 AM.
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                    • #11
                      Not only was Caesarea Philippi a center for the worship of Pan there was a temple Herod the Great built to Augustus so it was also a center of emperor worship. Here is a pic of the foundation of Augustus' temple.

                      Last edited by Origen; 01-26-2017, 07:05 AM.
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                      • #12
                        We have only scratched the surface. There is so much more information concerning this area\region and its history and culture that I believe ties into the reason Jesus chose this area\region. Note there were no Jewish settlements in the region.
                        Last edited by Origen; 01-26-2017, 08:31 AM.
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