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The Church Advances

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Forward!

I was thinking this week about a race I ran years and years ago. I had been facing injuries and had barely recovered from them, and quite honestly the distance was more than I had bargained for. It was one of those days that felt like the whole course was uphill, and I was tired. Something devastating happens to a runner when you’re tired. Imperceptibly perhaps it happens, but it happens. Your hands grow slack and start to swing too much, and your head dips lower and lower so that you end up staring at your feet. That compresses your lungs and makes it harder to breath - so you get more and more tired. Consequently you run slower and slower.
As a long distance runner, staring at your feet can be deadly.
That happened to me at that race. I felt like I couldn’t finish. But as a proud team member of “too stupid to stop” I just kept on plodding onward. head down - disparing of ever finishing.
Just when I was thinking that I was going to quit I began to hear the cheer or the crowd as I passed the mile marker. A Marathon is 26.2 miles. And for that last 0.2 miles both sides of the street were lined with race finishers cheering the slower runners on.
Just in time I lifted my head to see the finish line, and I put on the last burst of speed I had as I crossed the line. The secret to a strong finish was to stop looking at my feet, and start looking forward.
Looking at my feet, not forward.
As we think about Church, last week we considered the truth that the church will continues - even amid, or perhaps - especially amid opposition. The headwinds are in our favor.

The Gates of hell shall not prevail

This week I want to focus on the the church advancing. It is time for This body to advance in our communities. And while we’re often filled with fear over the prospect, today I want to look at the promise that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church of Jesus Christ.
For that we’re going to look at . Particularly verse 18.
The Gates of hell shall not prevail
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.
Everyone get’s all excited about the meaning of “Peter” whether he was the first Pope or whether Jesus was making a play on words, or whether Jesus was playing off of the confession. We can look at that later. But for now, suffice it to say that there are strong reasons to understand that Peter is not the foundation of the church.
Peter couldn’t have been the pope, he was married. Moreoever the idea of a single primary elder of the church developed way after Peter. We’ll address Peter more next week I think. But for now, suffice it to say that Peter is not the foundation of the church.
Discuss
But the really exciting portion of this text for me this morning is the end of the verse: “The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.
We need to take a look at this verse as we contemplate the church because of what it promises and what it portrays for us here at Fame Evangelical church, as well as the global church. So let’s take a look at what it means, beginning with what it does not mean.
But the really exciting portion of this text for me this morning is the end.
The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

The Gates of Hell Representing the Enemies of God.

Many of us, myself included, once looked upon this verse in the sense of hell being the kingdom of the world and Hell’s gates being the thing that protected it. But to be clear, it is not as if Jesus is picturing Hell as some kind of gated community keeping the nasty Christians out.
Because as the writer of Hebrews tells us:
But then we have to recognize that hell here is not about the Location, but rather - by substituting Satan’s final address (hell) as a stand in to represent Satan, all of his demonic followers, and the current grip they hold on to this world with - then we are prepared to understand this passage.
From this perspective we are prepared to understand something about what is going on, because we who belong to Jesus as his CHURCH are called out of the current world which is under Satan’s power and then set in combat against that same domain. The weapons of our warfare - Paul makes clear are not the weapons of swords and guns and tanks; but rather the weapons that challenge the false thinking and demonic wisdom that holds people captive to the enemy.
where people loved to stay and gates were put up to keep the riff raff (the christians) out. because, hey, of course all of us christians are just dying to get into hell.
Well, we know that’s pure garbage - because - well I don’t know about you, but I heard about how Hell is God’s unmitigated wrath against sin and that left on my own, I was daily crafting my own personal punishment and storing up God’s wrath at my sin.
Because as the writer of hebrews tells us:
Then I understood that God had sent his son in order to cleanse my sin and I was set free from the certainty of God’s outpoured wrath. In other words: The death of Jesus saved me from Hell. Hell is not a destination for the Christian, andhell is not a mission field either. Because as the writer of hebrews tells us:
Hebrews 9:27 ESV
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Hell is the END for everyone who will not turn away from sin, so that means there is no second chance. Nobody goes to Hell and then has an option to hear the gospel and repent. so no Christian is planning on mounting an assault on hell to explain the gospel so that sinners can be rescued from the presence of Hell.
But then we have to recognize that hell here is not about the Location, but rather - by substituting Satan’s final address (hell) as a stand in (Metonymy) to represent Satan, all of his demonic followers, and the current grip they hold on to this world with - then we are prepared to understand this passage.
Note that this does not, as popular religion has taught, mean that Satan is some kind of king of hell.
Hell
Many people kind of think of Satan as the king of Hell. As if he enjoys tormenting people in the flames and makes jokes about air conditioning. But satan and his demons are not the chief torturers in charge of hell - they are the primary prisoners () of hell as demonstrated in Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats.
O
r maybe we’re supposed to think, as I mentioned earlier, of the gates of hell as a reference to the kingdoms of this world somehow guarded by hell or belonging to hell and we’re making an assault on that.
The only problem is that Hell is God’s wrath, not an existent kingdom.
Satan is not the king of Hell, as if he enjoys tormenting people in the flames and makes jokes about air conditioning. But satan and his demons are not the chief torturers in charge of hell - they are the primary prisoners () of hell as demonstrated in Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats.
Many people kind of think of Satan as the king of Hell. As if he enjoys tormenting people in the flames and makes jokes about air conditioning. But satan and his demons are not the chief torturers in charge of hell - they are the primary prisoners () of hell as demonstrated in Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats.
Matthew 25:41 ESV
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Right there is all the proof we need to recognize that Satan as the king of hell has not set up his kingdom to be protected from Christians.
From this perspective we are prepared to understand something about what is going on, because we who belong to Jesus as his CHURCH are called out of the current world which is under Satan’s power, a world that is destined to join Satan in the eternal prison of hell.
According to Jesus here, his church is called out and then set in combat against that same domain. The weapons of our warfare - Paul makes clear are not the weapons of swords and guns and tanks; but rather the weapons that challenge the false thinking and fallen human wisdom that holds people captive to the enemy.
So what is going on here?

Hell’s Gates as the point of decision

So note again that Hell in this passage represents Satan’s power and domain and IS from that perspective being viewed in a sense as a prison whose inmates are fighting back. But the intended residents of hell are not fighting for hope of victory because they already know that they are doomed to hell.
We know that the demons are aware of their pending imprisonment.
We know that the demons are aware of their pending hell

The devils knows their time is short

In we read about Satan’s eviction from Heaven’s precincts:
Revelation 12:12 ESV
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
Then in in the story of the Gadarene Demoniac the demons beg Jesus not to cast them into the abyss just yet - begging instead to be sent into the pigs nearby. The point here being that the demons know their time is short.
the devil knows his time is short
Then in the story of the Gadarene Demoniac the demons beg Jesus not to cast them into the abyss just yet - begging instead to be sent into the pigs nearby. The point here being that the demons know their time is short.
reminds us that the demons believing in one God doesn’t save them, but they at least have the common sense to shudder with fear as a result of their good theology. They know their time is short, and their next stop is the Hell that God has created for them ().
In the incident with the pigs,the demons beg Jesus not to imprison them (in hell) yet.
One of the things the Bible is not entirely clear about is the why: why are the devils so determined to fight against God having already lost. Whether for spite or to create as much havoc and damage on the way out.
James reminds us that the demons believing in one God doesn’t save them, but they at least have the common sense to shudder with fear as a result of their good theology.
But What is clear is that Jesus has already defeated the devil and all of his power has been conquered at the cross.
So they already know they are doomed but they also are fighting against God’s people.
The ancient view of gates is not merely protective, but also the place of business.
In that sense, the primary residents of hell are likely in view here.
The ancient view of gates is not merely protective, but also the place of business.
We see this in the book of Ruth when Boaz goes to the city gates to conduct the business end of marrying Ruth. We also see it hinted at in the 31’st chapter of Proverbs when the powerful woman is praised in the gates ().
The gateways to the city were the place of decision making.
Now, we know from archaeology that the city of Cesarea Philippi where Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the church had a cave there which was filled with gasses that killed whatever entered it, thus it was considered the gateway to the realm of the dead. Jesus was likely playing off of this location, and may even have been standing in front of it to say that no power of the denizens and ultimate prisoners of hell can ever topple the church, neither as an assembly of saints, nor as a member of the assembly for DEATH has no power over the members or the congregation of God’s church.
So we should read this as saying all of the plans, all of the powers of death have no power against the people of Christ. None of the plans of hell’s prisoners have no chance of ultimately prevailing over the church of Jesus Christ.
The gates are the place of decision making
references
Since the church is eternal, the gates of hell (it’s plans) cannot stop the church’s forward advance either.
The gates of hell then are the plans and machinations of the inmates of hell against the people of Christ. shows us that the devil has come down to earth with wrath, knowing his time is short - and he is making war against the people who follow christ Jesus.
So all the plans of hell’s prisoners have no chance of ultimately prevailing over the church of Jesus Christ.

The Gates of Hell cannot stay the church’s advance

This is where the rubber meets the road. Despite appearances the church of Jesus Christ cannot be stopped by all of the evil intelligence in the world combined.
This church can face downturns; but God’s church cannot be destroyed or stopped.
harassed but not destroyed
The hall of heroes in is a phenominal representation of this truth. God’s people not only shut the mouths of lions (Daniel), but they were also sawn in two (Isaiah). But neither of those suffered loss. The eternal program of God makes the church the only true unstoppable force in the universe.
The hall of heroes in is a phenominal representation of this truth. God’s people not only shut the mouths of lions (Daniel), but they were also sawn in two (Isaiah). But neither of those suffered loss. The eternal program of God makes the church the only true unstoppable force in the universe.
so.... Why do we so often feel like the devil is winning, the church is losing, and we’re on the losing side? I submit to you it is because we are looking at our feet and not ahead. We’ve lost the eternal focus, and the promise of victory.
Church, our heads are dipping, the miles are pounding, our breathing is labored, our knees are weary and our hands are growing limp. We are nearer to victory than we can imagine, but we cannot see it.
We are nearer to victory than we can imagine, but we cannot see it.
The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to shake it off since we are surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses who have finished the race ahead of us. Shake off sin, and remember our victory.
Stop living in defeat: Jesus has promised the victory.
Switching metaphors back to the gates of hell, understand that the gates of hell, all of it’s machinations and plans, all of it’s evil council and wicked indoctrination cannot stop the church equipped with the good news about Jesus. The battle is not won with policy and politics. The battle is won by Christ, and we are called only to announce his victory.
The battle is not won with policy and politics. The battle is won by Christ, and we are called only to announce his victory.
And as we - his church struggle in this world; we are not promised ease, but we are promised ultimate victory. We will run uphill and struggle but we will also seem to lose from time in the world’s eyes -but not in the eyes of Christ our king.
Keep in mind that the prophets of old who died did not lose. Paul himself said that to live is christ and to die is gain. “losing” in the terms of the world is not loss for a christian, and it’s not always loss for the church either.
“losing” in the terms of the world is not loss for a christian, and it’s not always loss for the church either.
The christian never really loses if he trusts in Christ - even death is victory.
This is the message of Christ: Salvation in his name that the prince of evil cannot overcome. We are called to storm the gates of hell and deliver it’s captives from death to life by sharing the gospel of life with them.
Share the gospel. You cannot lose.
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