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The Gates Of Hell


Matthew 16:18 in the KJV reads,  " I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."   The NIV reads, " I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."    


The King James Version of Matthew 16:18 has been the topic of many sermons.  The KJV wording seems to be more popular than the NIV's wording, but it's the KJV that has caused some problems with properly understanding what Jesus is saying. 


I've written about the word "church" before that's found  here so I won't say much now, other than to say that Jesus didn't understand church as we do today.  The Greek word "ekklesia" is translated as "church" here.  "Ekklesia" simply means "a group of people".  When Jesus speaks of "my ekklesia", He is speaking of His special group of people who have been set aside from the rest of the world to do His will.  I don't believe He had the mega-ecclesiastical structures in mind that we have today. 


The KJV states that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church."  Many highly emotional sermons have been preached based on these words, warning satan that he will not prevail over the church no matter how hard he tries.  Many preachers equate "the gates of hell" with satan because they think he lives in hell.  I don't see it that way.  The misunderstanding arises because of the word "hell" in the KJV.  The NIV's use  of the word "Hades" is a better translation in my thinking.   


The Greek word that is translated as "hell" in the KJV is  actually the word "Hades" that the NIV uses in its translation.  In this instance I prefer the NIV's rendering.  "Hades" is not where satan lives.  It is the place where the unsaved dead reside.  In the Old Testament the Hebrew word used for the place of the dead is "Sheol".  Both the righteous and unrighteous dead resided in "Sheol" in those days.  The corresponding Greek word in the New Testament is "Hades".  "Hades" and "Sheol" are two names for the same place.  Many people, me included, believe that when Jesus died on the cross, he freed the righteous dead from "Sheol", or "Hades".  The saved dead are now in paradise with Jesus, while the unsaved dead remain in Hades, or hell, as the KJV puts it.  


Satan is not an unsaved dead human.  He is a fallen angel, and he doesn't live in Hades.  In Revelation 12:10  we see him hanging out with Jesus, accusing us believers of things we've been acquitted of.  So when Jesus says the church will not be overcome by "the gates of Hades," that can't be referring to satan. 


So what does the gates of hell or Hades refer to?  Well, what does the word "gate" mean?  A gate is simply an entrance way.  In this case the gates lead to Hades.  How does one enter Hades?  It's simple.  He enters Hades through death.  Death is the "gate to Hades."     


Since Adam's disobedience, death has prevailed over mankind.  That will end.  1 Corinthians 15:26 tells us that the last enemy of Christ to be conquered is death.  Jesus will conquer death when He throws Hades, satan, and the fallen angels into the Lake of Fire. (Revelation  20:14)  At that point, death, "the gateway into Hades," will be conquered.  From that point on, death will no longer prevail over God's people.  It's that simple.  When Jesus says that the "gates of hell will not prevail against the church," He's saying that death will not prevail against God's people.  What a day that will be.  

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