A Brief Meditation for the Month

December 2018

In the course of his earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus spoke a most encouraging promise to his disciples. He stated: “I will build my church.” This church that he would build was going to face satanic opposition. Nevertheless, Jesus said, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). According to ancient custom the gate was the recognized place for judgement in the city where counsel was taken and where decisions were made by the elders. (Deuteronomy chapters 17 & 25). An example of this is found in the book of Ruth, when Boaz took ten elders to sit down at the gate to witness and agree to the transaction transferring the duties of kinsman redeemer to himself. We read, “And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses.” (Ruth chapter 4). As a result of what took place, Boaz became the legal owner of the property of Naomi, and was with it, entitled to take Ruth to be his wife. The gate was the place where such important decisions were taken and implemented. Decisions regarding the future of individuals and families.

When the Lord Jesus said that the gates of hell, (Hades) would not prevail against his church, we understand that satanic opposition to Christ’s cause is not the result of some random or impulsive notion arising in the infernal kingdom of darkness. It is implied that there is a planned strategy behind the opposition. The Devil is the mastermind behind all opposition to Christ’s church in this world. We are given a description of the evil one in Revelation chapter 12, where we read of “a great red dragon.” This creature is identified as “the great dragon…that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.” (verse 9). The same dragon is depicted with seven heads, symbolizing the extent of his intellectual powers and his mental agility. (verse 3). This description of the Devil reveals much about his character. Depicted as the “great red dragon,” he is vicious; given to cruelty and brutality. Jesus referred to him as “a murderer from the beginning.” (John 8:44). As the “old serpent,” he is given to intrigue and deception. Being the Devil, he is “the false accuser, the slanderer.” As Satan, he is the “adversary.”

When the apostle Paul referred to Satan in a letter to the Christians in Corinth, he told them, “we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:11). The apostle knew of Satan’s devices from experience. He wrote to the Thessalonians of his desire to be with them on more than one occasion, stating, “we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.” (1Thessalonians 2:18). The Devil and his angels are at war with Christ’s Church in this world, endeavouring to hinder the progress of the gospel and the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom, often targeting God’s servants engaged in preaching the gospel. Thus, they constantly need the prayers of God’s people. Sadly, many professing Christians appear to be ignorant of the Devil’s devices and tactics today. Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to put on the whole armour of God, that they would be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11). When John wrote to believers in his first general epistle, he exhorted them, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.” (1John 4:1). It is obvious from the teaching of the New testament, that the satanic opposition Christ’s Church experiences arises from without and from within: open persecution from without and clandestine operations from within. Nevertheless, the glorious Christ continues to build his Church, gathering his redeemed people from every corner of the earth. The gates of hell shall not prevail. What an encouraging promise! “Therefore…be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1Corinthians 15:58).

G. G. Hutton.