"And I say unto thee,
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
My favorite proof text for an optimistic view of history is a well known scripture verse. Although well known, few seem to understand its significance. This verse is Matthew 16:18. The context is Peter's confession of Jesus as Messiah. Jesus says that He will build His church on that truth. Jesus also says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against that Church as it stands upon that foundation. Many Christians are so conditioned to a pessimistic view of history that they automatically reverse that passage to read "Hell will not prevail against the gates of the Church." That's not what it says, folks! The Church is not to withdraw within its walls and take pride in the fact that she can withstand the continuing siege of the forces of darkness until Jesus comes back and raptures her out of her predicament. No! Christ is commanding His church to get out and take the offensive and storm the gates of Hell and knock over the devil's strongholds. Christians should be taking their principles to the marketplace and making inroads for the kingdom of Jesus Christ. He has promised that the gates of Hell are no match for His loyal troops.1
Because Jesus Christ declared that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against" His Church (Matt. 16:18), " there shall be always a church on earth, to worship God according to His will." "The gates of hell" means the powers, council, or authority of hell, the city council in ancient times convening publicly before the gates; "prevail" here has the force of "withstand," and the Berkeley Version translates it, "the gates of hell shall not hold out against her." This connotes clearly action against hell by the Church, and defensive action by hell. It is heretical thinking to assume that the action of the church is defensive; it is dangerous and creates a mood receptive to the enthronement of Satan for the Church to assume that its position is a defensive retreat towards the rapture or towards the second coming. The Church, however small, and however much a Gideon's band, is the aggressor against the powers of darkness, who, in constant frenzy, try to barricade themselves, in their towers of Babel, against the sovereign and omnipotent God.2
This verse, following immediately after Peter's magnificent confession of Jesus as the Christ, gives us special confidence for believing in the future progress of the Church. It has usually been understood to mean that the Church which Christ established will be able to defend itself against all its foes, that even the worst that the enemies of the Gospel will be able to bring against it will not be able to destroy it. We believe, however, that the real meaning is quite different. "Gates" are not offensive, but defensive weapons. They are stationary. They do not make the attack. In that day the gates were strongly fortified instruments designed for the defense of the city, designed to withstand the strongest onslaughts of the attackers. As such they did not move. Hence the real meaning of this verse is, not that the Church will be able to defend itself against all attacks, but that it will make the attack, that it will advance throughout the world, and that nothing, literally nothing, will be able to resist it. All will fall before it. Before the end comes the Church will make a clean sweep of everything. Even the strongest fortress of the enemy will be laid waste before it. Surely that is Postmillennialism with a vengeance!!3
CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTION TODAY issue #1 Sept./Oct 1988. Subscription: STILL WATERS REVIVAL BOOKS 4710-37A Ave. Edmonton, AB. Canada T6L 3T5
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1. Mark Duncan: The Five Points of Christian Reconstruction from the Lips of Our Lord, Still Waters Revival Books, 1990.
2. R.J. Rushdoony: The Foundations of the Social Order, pp. 181, 182. Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1978.
3. L. Boettner: The Millennium. pp. 409, 410. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986.