And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
Life after death was not clearly defined in the ancient Near East. Mesopotamian worldviews have the dead passing into the netherworld through a series of seven gates. Even in the Old Testament, “gates of death [or Hades or Sheol]” are mentioned often (Job 17:16; 38:17; Psalm 9:13; 107:18; Isaiah 38:10). The most well-known instance is when Jesus says “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against [the Church].”
What did He mean? “Gates of Hades” could mean the realm of the dead. In Scripture, gates also refer to the place where elders gathered (Deuteronomy 21:18-20), where kings passed judgment (2 Samuel 19:8), and where people gathered to hear announcements (2 Chronicles 32:6). Therefore, the “gates of Hades” could refer to the power or authority of hell or of Satan himself. Regardless, Jesus declared that Satan and hell shall not prevail against the Church.
It also means the Church must be strong and vigilant against Satan who seeks to overcome it (1 Peter 5:8). The strength of the Church is her Lord—His life in every faithful member (Galatians 2:20).
Neglect of private prayer is the locust which devours the strength of the church. Charles H. Spurgeon
Being an Example of His Message
Preach the word! —2 Timothy 4:2
We are not saved only to be instruments for God, but to be His sons and daughters. He does not turn us into spiritual agents but into spiritual messengers, and the message must be a part of us. The Son of God was His own message— “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). As His disciples, our lives must be a holy example of the reality of our message. Even the natural heart of the unsaved will serve if called upon to do so, but it takes a heart broken by conviction of sin, baptized by the Holy Spirit, and crushed into submission to God’s purpose to make a person’s life a holy example of God’s message.
There is a difference between giving a testimony and preaching. A preacher is someone who has received the call of God and is determined to use all his energy to proclaim God’s truth. God takes us beyond our own aspirations and ideas for our lives, and molds and shapes us for His purpose, just as He worked in the disciples’ lives after Pentecost. The purpose of Pentecost was not to teach the disciples something, but to make them the incarnation of what they preached so that they would literally become God’s message in the flesh. “…you shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8).
Allow God to have complete liberty in your life when you speak. Before God’s message can liberate other people, His liberation must first be real in you. Gather your material carefully, and then allow God to “set your words on fire” for His glory.
We all have the trick of saying—If only I were not where I am!—If only I had not got the kind of people I have to live with! If our faith or our religion does not help us in the conditions we are in, we have either a further struggle to go through, or we had better abandon that faith and religion. The Shadow of an Agony, 1178 L