Understanding the POWER of the ‘GATES OF HELL’: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (Hell) shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 16:17-19)
The above passage is perhaps the most debated text in the Gospels, and has various interpretations adopted by different denominations, particularly Catholics and Protestants. The interpretation accepted by most Protestants is that the Rock is Christ Himself, whom Peter recognized and affirmed. Jesus’ church rests firmly on the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This view is supported by Apostle Paul who writes, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11)
When Jesus referred to “the gates of Hades (Hell)” in His declaration to Peter, we should remember that “gates” held a special significance for the Jews during the time of Jesus. Every city had walls to protect the people from invaders, and along the walls there were massive gates to allow traffic in and out of the city. During a siege, the gates would be closed to prevent the attacking army from entering in the city. Also, city gates were key locations of the public life where goods were traded and decision makers gathered to hear news and deliberate on events of the day.
Given this phenomenon, “gates” signified the economic and political life of a walled city as most of the business transactions were done there (see Prov. 31:23; Ruth 4:1–12; Deut. 25:7). War plans were devised and military treaties signed at the city gates (Judges 5:8, 11). Kings sat at the city gates to address their people (2 Sam. 19:8). Even conspirators hatched their plots and were exposed in the gates (Esther 2:19–23).
So when Jesus spoke of the “gates of hell”, He was actually referring to the actual forces of evil at work among corrupt human systems like governments. It concerns an intense spiritual warfare as the Church stood against the powers of hell itself (Genesis 22:17; Psalms 127:5). These evil powers not only attack individual believers but seek to corrupt political institutions, enlisting them in their campaign against Christ. They fight against the church by opposing gospel truths, corrupting gospel ordinances, and by persecuting individual godly Christians.
Fortunately, Jesus also promised that in the end the “gates of hell” would not succeed. God in His mercy protects His people from participation in evil. That offers great hope to believers who live in difficult places and contend for good against powerful entities that, in ways known and unknown, are backed by spiritual forces of wickedness.
In the midst of the fight Jesus has declared: “I will build My church!” and has promised that no evil power (scepter of wickedness) shall prevail against His church. Let us take refuge this promise, and in His presence with us always (Matthew 28:20b) to resist the evil powers.
"As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever. For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous reach out their hands to iniquity." (Psalms 125:2-3)
"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." (James 4:7-8, 10)