The Gates of Hell


Have you ever wondered what the "gates of hell" are, of which Jesus spoke? What are these gates, anyway?

A Google search will give you many answers, but a Holy Spirit search will give better insight.

In the passage above, we see three things are going on. We see Jesus talking about the church, Simon's name is changed to "Peter" and Jesus talks about the effect that the church will have on something called the "gates of hell".

So, yes, this is a three-parter, so it will be easier to read. You can read the part about Simon's name change HERE (please click),

For this part, which deals with the gates of hell, we need to start off by saying that the word for "hell" in this passage is Hades (in Greek) or Sheol (Jewish term for the same place), and it is not the part of hell with all the fire. Hades (Sheol) is a place where the unsaved go, who suffer torment until they are raised from the grave and stand at the Great White Throne Judgement (Revelation 20:11-14 and Revelation 20:15). They are then judged, and if deemed gulity, are sent to the other part of hell which contains the Lake of Fire, known as Gehenna. If you want to read all about the different stratas of hell, see this comprehensive article on the Berean Bible Society web site.

From historical accounts, and even via Hollywood movies, we know that gates keep the city safe from outside attack. Traditionally, that's the place where invading armies have assaulted first, perhaps thinking that might be the weakest point of a city. We also know that invading armies also try to either scale or breach walls in an attempt to open the city gate or gates from the inside, thus admitting their comrades-in-arms.

We also know that the normal position for gates is open, until there is a reason to close them - like someone attacking from outside the city. And, once inside, invaders take captive everything that is within that city's walls. Completely. City residents inside are either killed or taken captive by the invaders. And it's also likely that the city prison would be emptied of its inmates.

Jesus tells us in the passage above that hell also has gates. He does not say whether they are open or closed, but He does say that they cannot withstand His church. So what does He mean when He says, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (the church" (Matthew 16:18)?

Well, for sure, gates certainly can't attack, because they are not an offensive weapon, but are, rather, a defensive measure. Now what?

Let's look at the word, "prevail." It is also translated, "overcome", "conquer", "prevail", "withstand" and "overpower." Not much help there, either, and scholars haven't really answered exactly what Jesus meant, but have given their best reasonings (SEE ALSO: references).

How about the word, "gates"?

According to the Church of God web site, "The word translated as "gates" is the Greek word (pronounced) poo-lay and means a door, or a barrier. The word translated as "hell" in the verses above is the Greek word (pronounced) hay-deez, and simply means the grave (to understand how the word "hell" is also used for a place of fire, see Where Is Hell?, also Planet On Fire!).

"The "gates of hell" as spoken by Jesus Christ in the example above means death; or more specifically, that which holds the dead."

Without getting too much deeper into this mystery, let's just consider a simple explanation of what Jesus really meant, taken from

"Gates also keep people in. Jesus may be referring to his death: Hades could not contain him, and it will not contain the Church either; those who are called out to belong to Christ. The Church will never succumb with the physical death of its members and fail; it will never die."

ONE FINAL THOUGHT: Christians being resurrected will be breaking out of the grave - not breaking in. What gives them that power - or, rather IS that power - is Jesus, the Son of God.