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Storm the Gates of Hell

Week_28_Storm the Gates of Hell Upon this Rock blog new life gillette church wyoming

Storm the Gates of Hell

One day Jesus took his young male followers to an orgy, in Caesarea Philippi…Just let that sink in. Caesarea Philippi was a city built for one primary purpose, to worship the gods. They built the city on a giant rock at the entrance to a large cave from which water flowed and served as a tributary of the Jordan River. Many people at the time believed that cave was a portal to hell. They called the cave “the gate of hell.” For them hell wasn’t a place of fire. It was a damp, dark cave.
The primary god that was worshiped at Caesarea Philippi was Baal. Then, in 300 to 200 BC, the Greeks made it a vatican for the Greek god Pan, the god of fertility. That is when they stopped calling it Caesarea Philippi and started calling it Panius (or Banius), and the Romans built Banius into a large city. There was a temple for Augustas, a court for worshiping Pan, the Temple of Zeus, the temples of the dancing goats. They set up female statues that they believed the god Pan would come down in the winter to mate with. Then, he would descend into the cave to hell. When he ascended from hell, he would go to the Heavens and rain down fertility on their crops. Rain was believed to be Pan’s semen fertilizing the land and the women in spring.
The Pan statue was half goat and half man with a very large penis and a flute. Worshiping him involved drinking large quantities of alcohol, doing drugs, and playing loud music. They would then force goats to mate, watch the priests and priestess have sex, and the crowd would then join the giant orgy. They called it “Pan-demonium.” Eventually, the people would even have sex with the goats, but believe it or not, it gets worse. To appease the gods, they would actually throw their babies into the water in the cave and sacrifice them to Pan.
This is where Jesus brought His disciples, and they didn’t go there because it was on the way to another location. It was thirty miles north of Sea of Galilee, and it was completely forbidden for Jews to go there. To put this action into perspective, Tiberius (the capital city of the region) was only a few miles south of where Jesus lived, and we don’t have any record of Jesus going there. Jesus was uninterested in political interactions. He told people to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” because He wasn’t interested in politics. He had a bigger fight to wage. His battle wasn’t against flesh and blood. It was against the rulers of hell. 
It was in Caesarea Philippi that Jesus asked His disciples to confess who He is, and Peter’s answer to that question can give us some insight into why Jesus picked Peter to lead His disciples and to lead the Christian church. Peter regularly screwed up, but He followed God.
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?
“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
Unfortunately, the translators added a parenthetical comment about the definition of Peter’s name, but the comment is somewhat misleading. The Greek word for “Peter” is “Petros” which does mean “rock,” but usually it’s referring to a small rock. Jesus didn’t say, “Upon this petros.” He said, “Upon this petra.” “Petra” usually refers to a large rock or a boulder. Jesus was metaphorically talking about a few rocks. He was talking about the foundational rock that Peter had just talked about, that Jesus is the Messiah. He was talking about Peter and the Church, and He was talking about the rock on which Caesarea Philippi is built.
This is also another unfortunate translation in this passage. The NLT uses the phrase “the powers of hell,” but the correct translation is “the gates of hell.” Jesus and His disciples were standing at the gates of hell, on a rock. This is not about God protecting us when the satan attacks. Gates don’t attack. Gates defend. In Jesus’ scenario, we are on offense. We wage the war, and Hell doesn’t stand a chance. I grew up with this totally ignorant idea that Christianity is declining, but that is a lie of the satan. The church isn’t losing. We are on offense, and we will win!
Jesus did not teach His disciples to retreat from the sinful society. He taught them to storm the gates of Hell. He doesn’t want us cowering in fear of physical pain or persecution. The common habit of bunker and prepping for disaster cannot be justified with Scripture. Those practices are historically naïve, strategically ineffective, and selfishly sinful.
If we are going to fulfill God’s great commission in the spirit of the great commandment, we will take intentional steps to interact with people who are far from God. Jesus taught His followers to be a light.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
A light is most effective in the dark. We can fill the church full of light, but unless we take the light to the dark world, it cannot light the world it was created to light.
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