In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This reference to “gates of hell” is often taken to mean that any attempt of Satan to mount an attack against the church will not succeed.
Now, that’s certainly true, and history testifies. Two thousand years since the first Christians were baptized at Pentecost, the church is still growing. Saints are added daily through the preaching of the gospel all over the world in the face of opposition. Every effort to stop the mission has failed—not lies, evil, insults, hardships, or persecutions. The devil has not prevailed.
But that’s not the same thing as saying the gates of hell will not prevail. Gates are not offensive weapons. They’re used for defense. So in this particular instance, Jesus was not referring to hell mounting an attack against the church. He was saying the church will be attacking hell!
Psalm 9:13 says that the Lord lifts us up from the gates of death—the same gates Jesus called the gates of hell (see also Job 38:17 and Isaiah 38:10). Christ ripped these gates off their hinges when He gave His life on the cross for our sins and rose again from the grave.
God has commissioned the church to deliver the good news (Matthew 28:18-20), that all who believe in Jesus will be saved from death and have everlasting life (John 3:16). We’ve been given our marching orders, and when we preach the gospel of Christ, we storm the gates of hell.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16), and not even the curse of death can stop it, when we understand the text.