In the Image of Christ
Colossians 3:8-11

“The Gates of Hell”

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
.”   Matthew 16:18


        These are the words that Jesus spoke to Peter after he confessed in verse 16 that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.  This is just one little sentence spoken by Jesus, yet it speaks volumes about the church.  As we study God’s Word, we learn that the church is not buildings made up of brick and mortar, wood and nails, but by individuals who have placed their trust in Jesus for the salvation of their souls.  These individuals are not called Christians because of where they attend, but because they have put their trust in Christ and follow Him.

        One of the first things a careful student of the Bible will observe is that the church was not in existence at the time Jesus spoke these words.  Notice that Jesus said, “I will build my church”.  He is talking future tense here.  This would not make sense if the church was already in existence.  Also, we see that the church belongs to the Lord Jesus, He refers to it as, “my church”.  The church doesn’t belong to any individual, family or group, no matter how important or famous or rich they may be. One can own a building or a piece of land, but not the church. The church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, because it was purchased with His very own blood (Acts 20:28).  We also learn that the Lord Jesus is the master builder of the church; He said “I will build my church”.  It is the Lord who adds to the church; we may co-labor with the Him, but it is the Lord who gives the increase  (Acts 2:47, 1 Cor. 3:6-7).

        As you have already seen, with just five words the Lord has taught us many wonderful things concerning the church.  Yet, I believe one of the priceless truths for the believer is to be found in the remaining part of the verse, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”.  The truth that is taught here is most precious because it clearly declares the security of salvation that the one who believes has.  There are many today who teach that a person can be saved and yet somehow afterwards lose their salvation.  Some say that a person can lose their salvation by his own will, saying he no longer wishes to be saved, others teach that a person can lose his salvation by willful sin.

        Those who think that a true believer could lose his salvation for whatever reason would have difficultly reconciling their belief with this verse.  You see, if a person could lose their salvation it would make Jesus out to be a liar in this verse, since the gates of hell would in fact prevail against the church.  It would be helpful to understand what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of the gates of hell.  Death and the grave throughout the scriptures is called hell or hades.  Acts 2:26-31 is a good example of this when speaking about the Lord Jesus.

     “Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.  Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.  Men [and] brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.  Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption”.

        In Luke 16:19-31 we read about the rich man and Lazarus.  In verse 22 we read the rich man also died, and was buried;  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.  In this passage we learn that the rich man’s body was buried in a grave yet his soul was being tormented in hell.  Hell, then, is the place for those who die in their sins, those who never called on the name of the Lord for salvation (Rom. 10:9-13).  It is a place of great unrelenting torment and eternal suffering (Rev. 14:9-11 20:10-15)

        The gates of hell open to receive the dead but they never open to let the dead escape. This is a sobering thought. Friend, if you die in this life without Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior your dwelling place will be in the torments and sufferings of hell where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.  There is no escape from that place.  The only time death and hell will give up the dead is when the dead are judged and thrown into the lake of fire along with death and hell (Rev. 20:13-15).  This is the wrath of God that all men deserve because of their rebellion and sin against Him.  Yet, because of His great love for us, God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to die in our place.  God poured out His wrath on His own Son, the divine Substitute, so that those who place their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior would never see the wrath of God which is the second death.  Instead of wrath, God gives eternal life to those that trust in His Son (John 3:16, 5:24, 10:27-30).  They will never see the second death.  This is why I say that those who believe that you can lose this great salvation would have to make Jesus out to be a liar when He said, “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.”  You see, if even one individual Christian (Remember that the church is made up of individuals who place their trust in the Lord Jesus) could lose their salvation and end up behind the gates of hell, then the gates of hell would in fact have prevailed against the church.  Death would still have its sting and the grave would still have its victory.  The apostle Paul would not have been able to declare these words in
1 Corinthians 15:54-57:

     “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory?  The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law. But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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