A reminder to the Church : The gates of hell shall not prevail

Matthew 16--16

Matthew 16:15-16 (NLT) provide the Verse of the Day for July 22, 2015 which is modified and re-posted from a year ago :

Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

This exchange between Peter and the Lord Jesus Christ brought to mind a scene from The Bible, the popular mini-series featured on the History Channel two years ago. In the fourth of five 2-hour episodes, the focal point was Jesus Christ and his earthly ministry. Viewers gained a glimpse into the heart of the Savior through his words and deeds, as he taught his disciples and others through parables and words of wisdom spoken in the Sermon on the Mount and other occasions.

The film unfolded in a moving encounter between Jesus and Peter where Jesus asked him, “Who do men say that I am?” When Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God,” the Master commended him by stating, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this unto you, but my Father which is in heaven. And I also tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”(Matthew 16:17-18)

Most providentially around the same time that the Bible was being watched by millions of viewers, an ancient entryway, a portal labeled “Gate to Hell” or “Pluto’s Gate” was being excavated in southwestern Turkey. What follows is an excerpt from an Examiner.com article posted on April 14, 2013:

An ancient entryway, a portal labeled “Gate to Hell” or “Pluto’s Gate,” has been excavated in southwestern Turkey, according to Fox News. Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento, and a team of archaeologists confirmed the location near the ancient city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, a place known even today for its warm mineral springs believed to have healing properties.

The portal was discovered “by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring” to the cave where D’Andria was also able to identify the ruins of a temple, pool, and steps — from which pagan pilgrims would watch sacred rites performed at the portal’s opening known as the Plutonion in Greek or Plutonium in Latin. The opening of the cave emitted toxic fumes which ancient Greek geographer Strabo described: “Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.” D’Andria has conducted extensive archaeological research at the World Heritage Site of Hierapolis.

Hierapolis in the Bible

The only reference occurs when Paul speaks of Hierapolis in Colossians 4:12-13, indicating that there was a group of believers who lived in the city, for whom Epaphras, a servant of Christ, was always laboring fervently in prayer, not only for the followers of Christ at Colosse, but he was also zealous for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis, the location of the “Gate of Hell.”

SacredDestinations.com reports that Hierapolis had a significant Jewish population in ancient times, pointing out various inscriptions on tombs and elsewhere in the city. Jews also are named as members of the various craft guilds of the city. This was probably the basis for the Christian conversion of some residents of Hierapolis, that Paul referenced Colossians 4:13.

In the 5th century, in the midst of rampant paganism in Hierapolis, several churches were built. The hostile environment, however, contributed to the deaths of a sizeable number of Christians who sacrificed their lives for their faith. In addition to his unearthing the “Gate of Hell,” Italian archaeologist D’Andria in an earlier excavation reportedly located the tomb of Saint Philip, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, on what has become known as “Martyrs’ Hill.”

E.J. Banks notes:

“Several of the early Christians suffered martyrdom at Hierapolis, yet Christianity flourished, other churches were built, and during the 4th century the Christians filled the Plutonium with stones, thus giving evidence that the paganism had been entirely supplanted by the church.”

The excavation of the “Gate to Hell” at Hierapolis and the subsequent demise of that ancient stronghold of demonic activity brought to mind the words of Jesus to Peter: “. . . upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Indeed, this is one “Gate of Hell” that the Church prevailed against and brought to ruins.

To reinforce this truth regarding the Church of Jesus Christ, Steve Eager offers a stirring rendition of “The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail.”

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