The Gates of Hell

Posted on June 17, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

It seems the church is on the defensive, scrambling for survival in a humanistic world that is attacking Christian values and the advance of God’s kingdom. Society is increasingly hostile to our Christian witness. We seem to be intimidated by a pervasive cynicism and influenced by hedonistic, carnal behavior.

The Southern Baptist Convention bemoans a continuing decline in baptisms and diminishing membership, and a large percentage of our churches are plateaued. Many, if they are not dying have lost any impact on our changing culture.

We should not be surprised that Satan, the ubiquitous adversary, is actively opposing all that would bring glory to our Sovereign God. He is the god of this world; he is master over the dominions of darkness. He is the author of all that is evil, immoral and self-serving. He works in devious ways to create indifference and obstruct propagation of the gospel.

Missionaries are well-aware of the spiritual warfare that is missions. Whether through religious opposition, government restrictions (remember who is over principalities and powers) or persecution of believers the evil one is intent of keeping the kingdoms of the world from becoming the kingdoms of our Lord.

It is interesting that we would presume to engage this battle through human ingenuity, innovative programs and the latest church planting strategies and evangelism promotions, all of which, if not doomed to failure, can produce only mediocre results.

We need to recognize that Jesus revealed the solution and the absolute guarantee of success for advancing His kingdom and overcoming the strongholds of the world, the flesh and the devil. It is obviously in the power of His Spirit who has been given to indwell and empower us. Why would Jesus be so presumptuous to expect us to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)? Only because we have received the power of the Holy Spirit.

But there is a clue to success even more profound. In that beautiful passage in Matthew 16 when the disciples confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, Jesus replied with an astounding proclamation. He said, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

The church is built on a collection of born again individuals confessing the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The power of a massive grassroots coalition of believers living out that confession of faith in a synergy of witness will overcome the world. The gates of hell and all of Satan’s devious strategies will not be able to thwart the advance of God’s kingdom like a tsunami wave sweeping the world.

I think we are beginning to realize that is the key to our mission efforts in North America and around the world. There is a movement to enlist and mobilize churches to plant new churches and engage unreached people groups. There will never be enough missionaries for the task. I wish Jesus had said upon our confession of faith and doctrinal purity He will build a great denomination or empower mission boards for the battle. But no, it is the church truly becoming the body of Christ in the world that will make demons flee and the powers of darkness cringe.

Don’t miss the implication that gates are for defense. It seems the church is on the defense against the onslaught of the world today, adopting a fortification mentality, retreating into our pious, comfortable fellowship of the redeemed. We hope, for all we are worth, we can withstand infiltration of the evil one.

To the contrary, when the church becomes the people of God, transformed and united in  our confession that Jesus is Lord, confident that He has won the victory and empowered us for the battle, then we will be the aggressors, and the strongholds of Satan will not prevail.

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