Gates of Hell

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This essay is an original work by BertSchlossberg. Please comment only on the talk page.


Gates of Hell: Essay

Very often, the words of our Lord are rooted both in the words of the Hebrew Scriptures and the understanding of every day living presented to one through the figurative and literal "lay of the land" in Eretz Israel (athe Land of Israel). The following is an example of this and is important for the people of God to understand. Jesus has conquered and we are in His army!


"And I say to you , You are Peter ("rock" in Greek - Petros, and in Aramaic - "Cepha") , and upon this Rock, I will build my Church, and the gates ("pulai" in Greek, "sha'ar" in Hebrew) of Hell shall not prevail against it." Matt. 16: 17, 18

When the words of Jesus are read or heard, the understanding that occurs is often the opposite of what is intended. Often the understanding is that the Church, the Congregation fo the Messiah, will be preserved from succumbing under the continual battering of Hell. But the opposite is true . The Church is the one on the offensive, and not the defensive, and it is Hell that is the one being battered and breached. The gates, what are they? Informing the "gates" of this passage is not what is understoood by gates today. Today it conjures up the picture of wooden or metal rather flattened barrier standing in the way of the entrance, and on hinges, closing the entrance off, and secured by some type of bar or lock. Ancient Israel did know this type of gate, but that was only the very outer part of a complex defensive fortification, the key to the defense of the whole city.

Tel Dan in the north of Israel provides a good example. An enemy army desiring to gain entrance to the city, must ride or go on foot along the bottom of the high outer walls exposed to view and weapons of the defenders on the ramparts. These weapons were arrows, spears, stones, and boilng oil. The enemy then must turn left to approach the outer gate. The holes may still be found sunk into stone within which were the posts of the outer gates which swung open and shut. Around this gate area is a stony but leveled ground upon which the defending force could be amassed. Then the intruder host must again turn left to force entry into what can only be called the "gateway"., a more accurate translation than "gate". The forcing of this turn by the lay of the land is a calculated defensive stratagem as it breaks a charge, causing horse and man to be slowed at a crucial point and to be exposed sideways from which their is little defense from the onslaught of defending weapons. Surviving intruders than find themself in an wide area, which in peaceful times is the location for the King and his elders and for the rendering of judgrment "at the gates". At Tel Dan, the King's huge judgement seat has been reconstructed over the widely spaced original holes in the stone, and to the side is the ledge serving as the "seat of the elders". But in war time, the area is full of warriors. Then the stone road leads out of this area and up narrowing, again allowing entrance to only two at a time or at the most three. (The Gateway road always leads up and thus posing more of a difficulty for the attacker. This is because fortress cities were throughout the centuries built one civilization on top of the other there being no other place to go as the original hill contained access to the precious water supply. The final city thus was situated much higher than the original city and the only way to capture it was up. This is what "tel" signifies - Tel Megiddo, Tel Lachish, Tel Hazor, Tel Dan, Tel Arad).

But almost immediately, the intruder is confronted with the "pilasters". These were protusions from the side of the walls lining the road into the city, usually in pairs or triplets on either side of the road , which make for rooms for soldiers or guards. In Caananite times they were shallow rooms, in Israelite times much deeper. Intruders would be attacked from either side of the road from these rooms, successively as they made their way up to the top of the city. They were also, and at the same time, attacked all along the way from up above them as the road was below ground level and shadowed by embankments lined by defending infantry and stone launchers all along the way. The way now was slow being blocked by dead and dying man and horse. Then the road turned again, this time to the right, slowing and exhaustng and again exposing the attacker, and only then could the the intruder be said to be in the city - only to be met by more defenders on the top. This then was the the "gateway". This picture of the Gateway directly influenced the words of the Hebrew Scripture and these, in turn, are reflected he wording used by Jesus to say that Hell's gates shall be breached, "And the Gates of Hell shall not withstand it! [the onslaught of the Church]".

Some relevant Scripures:

Have you walked in the depths of the Abyss? have the gateways (sha'arei) of death been exposed to you, the gateways of the Dark Opression? Job 38:17.

I said in the waning of my days, To the gateway (SHA'ARei) of Sheol I have been commanded, That is what awaits the remainder of my days. I said, I will not see the LORD, the LORD!, in the Land of the living. I will not see men any more, people of the inhabited world. Isaiah 38:10

Yes, Hell is likened to a fortified city of the underworld, which not only defends itself but also retains its captives, the sons of men, within its fortifications. Hell must be breached in order to rescue them. The Fury of Hell's defenders is pure Tumult and Shriek. That is the nature of the Fortified City in Israel, which informs the Old Testament backdrop to the New Testament sayings. Many of these cities were "double cities" - a lower city and and upper city. Around this complex was the open field containing tents and dwellings for living and work. . At the appoach of an enemy, the men, women, children, and animals crowd into the lower city which is protected by the walls of the city. The lower city, already crowded with dwellings for the populous, and defending warriors, becomes even more so. If the lower city is breached, the upper city, containing administrative functions, garrisons, food and grains storage, shrines, water access, etc. become intolerably crowded, hoping for the attack and the siege to be over. Such were some of the cities of Israel as indicated by the AYIM at the end of their names. AYIM means "double"- the double cities, upper and lower. Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), Mahanayim, Kiryatayim etc. Other cities were also "double" but without indication in their names.

But someone is coming - the Savior!

Jesus the Messiah never sent anyone anywhere without Him having gone there first"

And so the Lord Himself went first battering Hell's gate to bring His people out out of the jaws of death to freedom.The following Scriptures may best be understood in the context of Jesus' succesful intrusion and breaching of the Gates of Hades, and His rescuing from the jaws of Satan the captives that were and the captives to come.

In the body, He was put to death, in the spirit, He was raised to life. And in the spirit, He went to preach to the spirits in prison... ...the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has entered heaven and is at God's right hand, now that He has made the angels, and dominions, and powers His subjects. 1 Peter: 18-22

"The dead had to be told the Good News as well, so that though, in their life on earth, they had been through the judgement that comes to all humanity, they might come to God's life in the spirit." 1 Peter 4: 5,6

"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him"[ 2 Corinthians 2:14

"This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the Heavens, in order to fill the whole universe". (NRSV) Ephesians 4: 8-10

The people of Jesus, by their faith and faithfulness, their love, their praise, their service, and the exercise of the authority given them in the Name of Jesus, continue the attack on Hell's fortress, not of the underworld, but on the devil's dominion and inroads here on the earth, knowing that the Kingdom of their Lord from Heaven has invaded and will be victorious.

"I say to you, you are that Rock, and on this Rock I will build my community, the ones I have called to join me in the battle. The Gateways of Hell will not withstand that attack you will make on it!". What remains to understand is the "Rock". Though "rock" has been used to describe both God and Christ, there is another reference which may be in force here. It is of the rock once thrown, having the force to destroy the Kingdoms of this earth. And that Rock is nothing but the glorious and eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

"In the time of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race; it shall shatter and destroy all the previous kingdoms, and itself last for ever - just as you saw ["and I was looking and I saw a rock cut out of the mountain, a rock untouched by human hands and it struck..."] the stone untouched by hand break from the mountain and shatter iron, bronze, earthenware, silver and gold." Daniel 2: 44,45

May the Lord fling us as a rock to smash down down the idols of the false gods that rob the lives around us of the knowledge of who they are and what they can be. May He sprinkle us like fresh water on the quenched for true love and regard, washing away tears of bitter disappointment. May He scatter us as petals of hope for a better future. And may He gather us together to the true warmth of His love and comfort at His hearth in His Home here on earth, and then to His home in Heaven. May He bring back the smile.

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