Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Gates of Hell

I slept fitfully last night, anxious about the latest kidnapping of a pregnant woman, tentative about whether the 19 Koreans will get out alive, feeling thankful and a little guilty that I was sleeping in a comfortable bed curled up next to my husband.

I awoke desperately wanting to pray for them, but needing a word from God before I could even proceed. I know you've been there ... overwhelmed by a need. How precious that whatever our role in the kingdom we are, first and foremost, His children, and the one thing that is needful will always be to sit at His feet first.

So, I did, and He answered dramatically. In the course of my regular Bible reading, He had me in Matthew 16:18 -

"...upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it."

Excitement and encouragement swept over me. The gates of Hades - that's right! I recalled that the "gates of Hades" was a reference that the church was the one doing the advancing; the gates were defensive.

I remembered all over again the truth that Satan is really a defeated foe and always strikes from a defensive posture. The picture I had was that of a cornered wild animal -- angry and able to inflict damage, but definitely on the defensive.

Regardless of how it looks over there, it's not the gates of hell that are advancing. It's the church of Jesus Christ ... the kingdom of God coming on earth as it is in heaven. It is in the context of the church's advance that Jesus says "Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (v. 19). This echoes the Lord's Prayer: "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." That's how the church advances and the enemy is defeated!

Sure, suffering and persecution are part of the process. Jesus immediately teaches about the suffering He will endure and the denial that the cross requires. But we have an assurance while that is happening that the church IS advancing! God's kingdom IS coming on earth, and the enemy IS being defeated.

Sometimes the darkest hour is just before dawn. Press on to victory.

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