201 – THE GATES OF HELL
Before Jesus Christ, the final destination of all men was death. “The soul who sins will die” (Ezek. 18:4). And Jehovah declares that there is no man who does not sin (Eccl. 7:20). So, the end of all men is death. Biblically, hell is the place destined for the torment of the souls of lost men and women (Sheol, in Hebrew).
Jesus came down to this world to destroy the power of hell, that is, the condemnation of all men. The power of hell, which is the power of death, lasted until Jesus Christ. Paul said: “For if by the transgressions of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). With this text it is proven that death ruled from Adam until Jesus, over all men, good and bad, just and unjust, religious and atheists, Jews or Gentiles.
Jesus, then, makes a fantastic declaration to Peter, the apostle: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). Consequently, Jesus says to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven” (Matt. 16:19).We have here in these texts in the gospel of Mark two great revelations:
- If the gates of hell will only fail to prevail against the future Church of Jesus Christ, they have prevailed against men created in the image and likeness of Elohim, for this was the name of the god who created man and woman in Gen. 1:26-27. The gates of hell prevailed against the ones who lived before the flood (Gen. 6:7). They also prevailed against the people of Israel whom Jehovah delivered from Egypt, for they died in the desert, condemned to hell (Num. 14:29), where we read:“Your corpses shall fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me.” From a multitude of more than a million, Jehovah let no one enter in Canaan, except Joshua and Caleb(Num. 14:30). We read in the letter to the Hebrews: “And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?” (Heb. 3:18). The doors of hell prevailed against the kingdom of Israel, for it was rejected by Jehovah, where we read the following:“And Jehovah rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight” (2 Kings 17:20). The same judgment of Jehovah came also over the kingdom of Judah. And Jehovah said: “I will remove Judah also from My sight, as I have removed Israel. And I will cast off Jerusalem, this city which I have chosen, and the temple of which I said, ‘My name shall be there.’” (2 Kings 23:27).
It is written in the law: “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am Jehovah” (Lev. 18:5). This is not true, for the gates of hell thoroughly prevailed. Only the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ will prevail against hell.
- The second aspect to ponder is that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were never with Moses or any of the prophets. These keys were given to Peter, that is, the doors of heaven were opened with Peter. All who had lived before Christ were helplessly lost, for without the resurrection of Jesus no one would be saved. It is the apostle Paul who brings this revelation to us: “now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection from the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Cor. 15:12-18). It is important to make it clear that it is not Jesus Christ’s death that justify us, but his resurrection. Paul once more clarifies the doctrine, saying about Jesus: “He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25).
We want to focus on a third item: the Levitical priesthood, which Jehovah established. It was a bankrupt priesthood, for the gates of hell prevailed against this priesthood of the Law. Let us read the letter to the Hebrews: “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshippers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:1-4). “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, also for himself” (Heb. 5:1-3). “And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater number, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:23-25).
The power of hell is death, for Paul tells us, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:55-56). It is undoubtedly proven that death, that is, hell, prevails against the Mosaic priesthood, which is the priesthood of Jehovah.
The last item, and the most serious, is the kingdom of Jehovah, which was settled at the time when hell prevailed totally and absolutely. The impression we get is that Jehovah wanted to win over the power of hell, but did not succeed. If that was his intention, Jehovah excluded the Church and grace, the only power capable of overcoming hell and its doors. Death and hell have such power over the kingdom of Jehovah that it fell apart 2,600 years ago. The kingdom of Jehovah began 3,600 years ago and lasted only 2,000 years. When the people of Israel left Egypt and got to the foot of Mount Sinai, from there, where the Mount smoked with fire, Jehovah announced, “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:9). Hell prevailed and consumed both the kingdom and the priests. What made this dark defeat of Jehovah to hell worse, was for him to say, “For Jehovah of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” (Is. 14:27). “And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?” (Is. 43:13) Hell reversed it, and won!!!
The gates of hell, though, have not prevailed against the Church of Jesus Christ, small as it may be, for Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26).
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira