We’ve been in a three part series on how to hear the voice of God. First, we covered methods. Then we discussed motives. This week, we will talk about mystery.
Matthew 16: 13-18
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (vs.13)
In other words, which disciple can hear the voice of God in an unfavorable situation?
Who is Jesus in the midst of a global pandemic? Who is Jesus when you physically cannot go to church? How do we answer this question?
Peter answers: The Messiah, the Savior of the World, the KING of the Kingdom. Peter received a revelation from God. He received a mystery of God’s voice. He didn’t understand fully, but received it fully.
Let’s look at some background info on the situation. Caesarea Philippi was a place of pagan worship. There were caves located at the entrance to the district where sexually immoral practices were conducted by the locals in an attempt to lure “gods of fertility” out of the caves. It was believed that their gods of fertility would retreat into the caves and die, and need to be resurrected by the sexual practices of the pagan worshippers. This was a place that no Jewish disciple would have ever approached. Jesus marches the disciples right into Caesarea Philippi and asks the question —-Who do you say I am?
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In this passage of Matthew 16, Jesus is referring to the building of His church:
“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” (vs. 18)
At that time, Jesus had not yet established His church. In fact, this is the first instance of the word “church” in the New Testament. The word church, as used by Jesus, is derived from the Greek ekklesia, (phonetic: EKLAYSEEYA) which means the “called out” or “assembly.”
In other words, the church that Jesus is referencing as His church is the assembly of people who have been called out of the world by the gospel of Christ. (You are watching this now as the EKKLESIA.
You are the called out ones. The Assembly.
Bible scholars debate the actual meaning of the phrase “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” One of the better interpretations to the meaning of this phrase is as follows. In ancient times, the cities were surrounded by walls with gates, and in battles, the gates of these cities would usually be the first place their enemies assaulted. This was because the protection of the city was determined by the strength or power of its gates.
As such, the “gates of hell” or “gates of Hades” means the power of Hades. The name “Hades” was originally the name of the god who presided over the realm of the dead and was often referred to as the “house of Hades.” It designated the place to which everyone who departs this life descends, regardless of their moral character. In the New Testament, Hades is the realm of the dead, and in this verse, Hades or hell is represented as a mighty city with its gates representing its power.
Jesus refers here to His impending death. Though He would be crucified and buried, (a parallel to the death and resurrection of the pagan fertility god worship, like two opposing kingdoms), He would rise from the dead and build His church. Jesus is emphasizing the fact that the powers of death could not hold Him in. Not only would the church be established in spite of the powers of Hades or hell, but the church would thrive in spite of these powers.
The church will never fail, though generation after generation succumbs to the power of physical death, yet other generations will arise to perpetuate the church. And it will continue until it has fulfilled its mission on earth as Jesus has commanded:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).
It is clear that Jesus was declaring that death has no power to hold God’s people captive. Its gates are not strong enough to overpower and keep imprisoned the church of God.
The Lord has conquered death (Romans 8:2; Acts 2:24). And because “death no longer is master over Him” (Romans 6:9), it is no longer master over those who belong to Him.
Satan has the power of death, and will always use that power to try to destroy the church of Christ. But we have this promise from Jesus that His church, the “called out” will prevail: “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
WHY would God lead us here? Why would God do this?
In order to establish the church, you have to be willing to step into the places you were told to stay away from. Doctors and nurses are walking into the gates of Hell. The number one need expressed to our church was counseling. Maybe home has been a place you told yourself you will stay away from and now you find yourself at the gates of hell. Quarantined 24/7 with the people you said you wouldn’t spend more than 15 minutes with.
It’s at the gates of hell that Jesus reveals the pure power of the kingdom.
It’s at the gates of hell that the reality of His promises come true.
This is a gates of hell moment and we need people like Peter to hear the voice of God giving them a revelation of who Jesus is in a quarantine!