#22: JESUS DESCRIBES HIS CHURCH
(Matthew 16:13-21, Luke 9:18-22)
Summer, A. D. 29, Caesarea Philippi
Jesus and his disciples arrive in Caesarea Philippi, a new city with beautiful gardens and cold clear springs, located at the foot of Mt. Hermon. It is located far to the north, near the border of Syria and about 35 miles north of Capernaum, where Jesus lives. It was named in honor of King Herod’s son, Philip.
But not everything about this city is attractive. It is full of idols and temples to false gods. One of the rocky cliffs of the city is called “the Rock of the gods” and at the base of this cliff is a cave dedicated to Pan, the Greek god of nature. Formerly, the city was called “Paneas” after this god. The locals call the entrance to the cave “the Gate of Hades”. There, waters flow out from a deep underground spring. And since this was a center of idolatry, no doubt there were evil forces coming out of “the gates of hell” there.
As Jesus prays, his disciples come to him. He turns to them and asks, “Who do the crowds say I am?” (Luke 9:18b). “Perhaps John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets”, his disciples report.
There is general expectation of Elijah coming at this time. Also the people felt a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit with John and they experience an even greater anointing with Jesus. The masses agree that Jesus is a significant prophet. Jesus reminds some people of Jeremiah, in the way that he calls the people to repent and he opposes the religious leaders of his day and he warns about the destruction of the temple.
“And who do you say I am?” Jesus asks (Matthew 16:15b).
“You are the Messiah, the Anointed One; you are the Son of the Living God,” Simon Peter answers.
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven,” Jesus declares (Matthew 16:17, NKJV).
Being a visionary who sees the Father's plan clearly, Jesus proclaims, “. . . you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18, NIV). For Jesus knows he will build his Church on the rock of the revelation that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And it was foretold that Messiah would build the Church, the Lord’s spiritual temple.
Messianic Prophecy Fulfilled:
(Given 519 B. C.)
“Then put the crown on the head of Jeshua (the Hebrew word for Jesus)
. . . He will build the LORD’s temple, and he will receive royal honor
and will rule as king from his throne.
He will also serve as priest from his throne,
and there will be perfect harmony between the two”
(Zechariah 6:11b, 13, NLT, my words in parenthesis).
Today, Jesus is still building his Church, the spiritual temple of the Lord, and he is our King and our High Priest (Revelation 19:16, Hebrews 7-8).
Jesus promises Peter, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19, NKJV). Jesus foretold how the evil forces coming out of the gates of hell would not be able to prevail against the Church. For by revelation from the Father, Jesus’ followers can bind evil spirits that come out of the gates of hell and can release God’s blessings to those who will believe and receive.
Comments: What did Jesus mean by saying that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church? For one thing, those gates are spiritual portals through which evil spirits enter territories and seek to hinder and destroy the mission of the Church and to dominate and rule society. But greater is He that is within us than the ruler of the gates of hell that is in the world (I John 4:4).
God promised Abraham, “your descendants will possess the gate of their enemies” (Genesis 22:17). When the people of God came to do battle with Jericho, the gates of the city where shut and locked securely (Joshua 6:1). But God’s people had the power to possess the gates of their enemies. Therefore the gates came down and the king of Jericho and his armies were defeated. Now we Christians are the spiritual descendants of Abraham and we can overcome the gates of the devil and his evil spirits (Galatians 3:7, 29, Romans 2:28-29). When we submit to God and resist the devil, the devil must flee from us (James 4:7).
It is time that all of us members of the body of Christ put the promises of the New Testament about our victory over all the power of the enemy deep in our hearts and speak them. Some of my favorites are “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57). And, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ” (II Corinthians 2:14a). And, Colossians 2:14-15, which speaks of Jesus triumphing over the devil and all of his cohorts through what Jesus accomplished on the cross. And, “this is the victory that overcomes the world – even our faith” (I John 5:4b).
We are more than conquerors through Jesus who ever loves us (Romans 8:37). Let me encourage you to memorize these promises and thank God for them in your time of prayer. Also, boldly declare them out loud and quote them to the enemy any time he comes to tempt you or to try to hinder you from doing God’s will.
Note: much of this devotional is from The Life of Jesus Foretold, pages 150-153.