DayBreaks for 1/30/17 – The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail

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DayBreaks for 1/30/17: The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail

It was just over one year ago that I took the photo shown above. We were at Cesarea Philippi in Israel. If that doesn’t ring a bell to you, it is the location where Jesus had a very famous conversation with Peter and the other apostles. Jesus had just asked them who people said he was and they replied that some thought he was one of the old prophets come back to life. But then Jesus made it more personal, asking who they thought he was. Peter’s response was breathtaking: you are the Christ, the Son of God. In response, Jesus said: Matthew 16:18 (ESV) – And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The ancients believed that the cave you see on the left in the photo was the gateway to hell. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Jesus was looking at it when he made his statement. 

As I was driving home from the airport on Saturday night, this verse was running through my mind. I’ve read this verse since I was a young boy, heard it read, read commentaries on it and heard sermons preached over it. It’s one of those great statements of Jesus that we love to hear because it encourages us, especially when things seem to heading the wrong direction.

That being said, as I ran it through my mind, a thought dawned on me about what Jesus may have really been saying. Most people read it and believe Jesus was saying that all of Satan’s minions and not even Satan himself with his great power, will be able to overthrow by force the kingdom of God. I believe that to be true. If I didn’t believe that was how things would turn out, I cannot imagine what life would be like.

But look closely at what Jesus said. He didn’t say that the armies of hell wouldn’t conquer the church. He didn’t say that at all. He said that the “gates of hell” (not the armies of hell) would be able to conquer “it” – with “it” being his church. As I pondered what that might me, it struck me that gates are not an offensive force to keep things in. They are defensive structures designed to keep things out. And that brought a new insight to me.

Could Jesus have been saying that even the gates of hell that Satan had so carefully constructed to keep mankind in a doomed, damned state, would not be strong enough to keep the kingdom/church from rescuing those whom the gates of hell were designed to keep in their bondage and damned condition? It seems to make sense especially in light of 1 Peter 3:18-20 (ESV)For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.  

In other words, Jesus may have been proclaiming that his church would overcome the gates of hell to reach the lost and that the gates of hell would not be strong enough to prevent it from happening.

I do not know precisely what Jesus meant, but I believe both are true: 1) Satan and his armies are puny compared to the power of the Almighty God, and; 2) until He returns for His church, it will continue to plunder the stronghold of the enemy. Both give me courage, and while the first gives me great hope, the second gives me a great challenge because I am to be part of the army that attacks the gates of the enemy to help free those held in darkness.

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for the assurance of the victory of your church against all the forces of darkness and evil. We pray to have the courage we need to attack the gates of the enemy to help led those in darkness into the Light that shines in the darkness and cannot be put out. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 8/31/16 – Seeing the Real Jesus

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The “gates of hell” at Caesarea Philippi (photo by Galen Dalrymple, January 2016)

DayBreaks for 8/31/16 – Seeing the Real Jesus

It is interesting how art depicts Jesus so differently from one culture to another. Anglo-Saxon descendants tend to portray him as a white man while African-Americans portray his with their skin color. Asians presume to think of his as Asian. The Lakota Sioux described Jesus as “the buffalo calf of God.”

There are those who love Jesus – and there are those who deeply hate him. No other person throughout history has evoked such a wide range of emotions. You’d think that for someone who lived 2000 years ago that this would no longer be the case – but it is. Why? Because there is something different about Jesus. He wasn’t just a Caesar or rabbi or prophet – he claimed much more for himself than that.

In Matthew 16, Jesus takes his disciples to Caesarea Philippi toward the northern end of Israel. It was a center of pagan worship – most notably of the god, Pan. In the time of Jesus, a great, deep cave shielded by a massive roof of rock was there that dropped seemingly straight down into the center of the earth and it was referred to as “the gates of hell”. Pan worshippers would make human sacrifices there by tossing people into the abyss. If the water from a nearby stream started to flow red with the blood of the sacrifice(s), the worshippers assumed the gods were pleased. If not, more would be thrown in until the water did turn red.

Jesus chose this setting to ask his disciples who they thought we was. Simon Peter makes his famous confession there at that place and said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus blesses Peter for that confession, and perhaps looking at the rock over the gates of hell, says that Peter got it right and that upon that rock, Jesus would build his church.

Soon thereafter, though, Jesus reveals that he must go to Jerusalem to die. Peter is disturbed and pulls Jesus aside, telling him that he cannot do that. Instead of blessing Peter for trying to save him, he calls Peter “Satan”. I’m sure Peter didn’t see that coming! 

Why did Jesus say this? Because the Jews had been subjugated for most of their history: Egyptians, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Philistines, Greeks, Romans…all had dominated and ground the Jews into the dust. And the Jews were waiting all that time for the deliverer, the Messiah, to come and grind the enemy into dust. That’s what Peter wanted – that’s what they all wanted. But Jesus calls Peter “Satan” because of Peter had a predetermined end in mind for Jesus, Peter and the rest of the Jews, and Peter wasn’t about to let Jesus do something else.

Here’s the point: many may make the right declaration about Jesus, but still only see him as a means to an end instead of the end (Alpha/Omega) himself. Peter would have to learn to trust Jesus. We must learn to trust him, even when things seem horribly off track. That’s not easy when the pain sears our hearts and souls like a red-hot poker being shoved through the middle of us. But we must be careful not to construct our own little vision for Jesus and what he will do and won’t do and when and why he does anything. We must learn, as Peter would have to learn, to simply trust that Jesus knew what he was doing. After all, Jesus was going to die for Peter’s sake – something that would be far better for Peter than grinding the Romans into fine dust.

Can I learn to trust Jesus? Isn’t that what this Christian life is about? Accepting His Lordship, His RULE, and the fact that He knows what He is doing and He will get it done in the way that is most beneficial for us!

Remember: Jesus isn’t the means to our end – he is the end for which we are destined!

PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for the great challenge you put before us with the question you asked Peter – and which you ask us! I pray, Lord, that you will keep us from our own vision of who you are and what you must/should do and learn to trust in your work and vision for us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.