Can the Gates of Hell Prevail Against the Church

Roman Catholics are constantly telling me that Matthew 16:18—"The gates of hell shall not prevail against [the church]"—is proof that the church did not fall in the 4th century, like I say it did.

Wishful Thinking

It’s amazing how much of our theology is based on wishful thinking. When the Roman Catholics absurdly assert that the church could not have fallen, even though it obviously did, they are not doing anything unusual. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Protestants, and you and me are likely to behave exactly the same way.

We all have things we wish were true, and we argue like school children trying to make people believe we have solid evidence for those things.

The people who cling to truth are those who know how prone they are to wishful thinking and can despise the pain of self-denial.

Either that, or you can just hope you’re lucky and you grew up or were converted in the right denomination.

The church fell, whether the Roman Catholic Church likes it or not. Facts are facts, and asserting that something is impossible when it clearly happened is irrational.

So what in the world did Jesus mean?

Gates as Offensive Weapons

Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of gates being used as weapons.

Even Samson, when he tore the gates off the city of Gaza (Judges 16:1-3), just ran away with them. He didn’t kill any Philistines with them, nor use them as weapons in any other way.

Gates are defensive structures.

Surely if the gates of hell are not going to prevail against the church, it’s because the church is assailing them. Seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it?


It’s amazing, too, how much we’re all influenced by what we’ve been told all our lives.
When I mentioned this passage in a teaching last week, two old-timers—tried and true, long-time Scripture lovers—told me they’d never heard this teaching before.
They wouldn’t need this teaching if tradition didn’t have us in a headlock. They’d have come to it on their own. I didn’t get this on my own, either. I read it somewhere a couple decades ago. Otherwise, I’d be blindly applying the nonsensical RCC interpretation, too.

So the idea of Matthew 16:18 is not that the church won’t fall. The idea is that when and where the church exists, she will assail the gates of Hades and bring back the dead.

The Greek there is Hades. There’s several NT words for hell, and Hades is a reference to the place where the dead are. It’s very general, so it can mean the grave as well as the place where the rich man, Lazarus, and Abraham were (Luke 16:19-31).

One of our jobs as Christians is, of course, to rescue those who are dead in their trespasses and sins. Thus, we need to destroy the gates that keep them in Hades.

If we’ll join forces, giving up our divisions—that we like to more pleasantly call denominations, since our imperfect English translations neglect to tell us those will send us to hell like divisions will—then we’ll be able to tear those gates down.

If we don’t … well, then, we’ll just be more proof I can use to unwisely try to convince Roman Catholics of the obvious.


About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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5 Responses to Can the Gates of Hell Prevail Against the Church

  1. Shammah says:

    Hi Britt. I don’t remember who said it to me, but I had to be told the obvious, too.

    And you’re right, Joel. We need each other. Every step of the darkness makes for freedom and power as well as sight.

  2. britt says:

    funny … when you shared this thought this past weekend, it was almost word for word like my spiritual father, Larry Trammell used to teach it … made me think of him. Loved it.


  3. Joel says:

    Shammah, I also found this teaching to be very helpful it is kind of revealing to think of the other possible “headlocks” we could continue in, this is another great testimony to the importance of the body of Christ, a place where we can teach eachother to get out of those submission holds. Thank you for the clear word you gave last weekend.

  4. Shammah says:

    Great to hear from you, Eric. Can’t wait to see y’all again!

  5. Eric says:

    Our group is very much enjoying joining forces with your group, Shammah. I think Ashima and Chloe are going to stop by for the night to see us on their way back from FL. See you guys again soon!

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