Part Three: Politics in the Gates
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Gates. Although Jesus stood near the cave called “the Gates of Hell”, Jesus was surely promising that His Church would withstand more than whatever opposition a spring flowing out of a cave could mount. Jesus surely meant to reduce our fear of more than just caves. Most of us are not afraid of a cave anyway.
Jesus means to encourage us in the face of all that “Gates of Hell” represent. That cave was a metaphor of all that Christians fear: all the power of Hell as its puppets pour out of its doors the way ancient armies used to march out of a city’s gates, and all the dark political power that Hell harnesses to harass, prosecute, torture, and kill Christians around the world. It is those terrors that Jesus assured us would never stifle His “ekklesia”.
Surely His promise extends to everything else those words mean. Not just a spring, but the real Hell. Not just the mouth of a cave, but the mouth of evil spewing all the lies of Hell.
And not just after we die, where no one worries that Hell can attack Heaven anyway, but here and now; Jesus promises deliverance from everything that Satan and his human supporters can throw at us here and now. Psalm 91 gives a list.
“Gates” in the Bible. So what is the primary association of “gates” in the Bible?
Deuteronomy 16:18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
TSK Cross References explains: in all thy gates: This expression may refer to the gate of the city, as the forum or place of public concourse among the Israelites, where a court of judicature was held, to try all causes and decide all affairs. The same practice obtained among other Eastern nations. The Ottoman court, it is well known, derived its appellation of the Porte, from the distribution of justice and the dispatch of public business at its gates. And the square tower which forms the principal entrance to the Alhamra, or red palace of the Moorish kings of Grenada, retains to this day the appellation of the Gate of judgment, from its having been the place where justice was at one period summarily administered.
The place where sentences were carried out:
Deuteronomy 17:5 Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.
Politics is healed by God’s people praising Him right out in politics:
Psalm 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
Wisdom pleads with politicians:
Proverbs 8:3 She [wisdom] crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. 4 Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. 5 O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
Religion, as well as politics, goes where people are:
Acts 14:13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.
Bible Commentator Adam Clarke: In ancient times the gates of fortified cities were used to hold councils in, and were usually places of great strength.
Bible commentators of the past focus on “the gates of Hell” referring to the portal to the grave, or death. They point out that in the New Testament, “Hell” is not where everyone goes but only those condemned for their sins, but in the Old Testament it seemed to mean “the grave” where everyone goes. For example, Isaiah 38:10 I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.
A. von Harnack and P. Schepens take it as a promise of immortality. (Von Harnack's conjecture that the original saying contained no reference to the Church, but only a promise that peter would not die, lacks solid foundation.) Schepens argues that a promise of immortality is a figurative way of promising the Church's indefectibility. J. Schmid [Regensburger Neues Testament, ed. A. Wikenhauser and O. Kuss, (Regensburg 1955–) 1:249–250] likewise takes the gates of Hades to mean the power of death, and the promise to mean that the Church will endure to the end of time. O. Cullmann agrees that Hades is the realm of the dead, but takes the promise to mean that its gates will not withstand the assault of the Church, which will force Hades to release its dead at the resurrection (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 6:107). Against this, J. Jeremias (ibid. 6:926) argues that the promise in v. 18c must be understood as developing the theme of the rock, which he explains in the light of the contemporary image of the cosmic rock that bars the flood of the nether world. Hence he concludes that the gates of Hades stand for the hostile power in the lower world, which will storm in vain against the rock. Until now there has been no general acceptance of the conjecture of R. Eppel and J. B. Bauer Encyclopedia.com
Of course Jesus did conquer Death itself, too, so yes, “the gates of Hell – Death – shall not prevail against the εκκλησιαν that I will build” is a correct meaning too; just not the only correct meaning. And probably not the primary Biblical association.
In other words, the gates of cities, which is where human traffic was heaviest because they funneled all movement in and out of cities through very few openings, were the focus of political activity. So the “gates of Hell” were a metaphor of Hell’s mass media, including political involvement. Certainly today and throughout history, the greatest atrocities have been intertwined with governments. The devil is very involved in politics.
Not that political activity was the only activity at the city gates. It was also where markets were set up, just as busy streets are lined with the most expensive commercial property today. But when the king showed up and held court, witnesses testified, juries deliberated, and sentences were carried out – where laws were discussed and passed – that was surely the most dramatic, memorable activity at those ancient gates.
The physical “Gates of Hell” was a place of the most disgusting, disease-breeding, dehumanizing, cruel terrors. The politics, culture, and mass media of Hell are very dark. Very cruel.
Of course in the Old Testament, what we read as “Hell” is the Hebrew word “Sheol,” signifying the general place of the dead. So the reference in Psalm 9:13 to the “gates of death” is practically synonymous with “gates of Hell” to a Hebrew mind, especially considering the parallelisms common to Hebrew poetry (such as Psalms and Proverbs).
Considering Psalm 9 in the light of these insights, it should now be clear that when wicked people choose to burn their children in the fires of Gehenna, God promises to avenge the innocent blood of these children by burning their murderers in those same fires. So the relevance of the “Gates of Hell” to our Abortion Holocaust should now be quite obvious.
But why did Jesus (and Psalm 9) refer to the “gates”? The gates of a city were not only access points, but Biblical references to “gates” typically emphasize the fact that civic business transactions and judicial matters were handled at the gates (Deuteronomy 16:18). So in Matthew 23:33 when Jesus warns the scribes and Pharisees of the judicial penalty of Gehenna which they deserve because of their murders, Jesus is essentially making another reference to the “Gates of Hell.” Palmquists.glorifyjesus.com
Something gravely misunderstood (pun intended) throughout Christendom is that not all politics are of Hell. This is underscored by the fact that Jesus specified “the gates of Hell”, indicating that there were “gates” which were not of Hell.
Story continues at Part Four: Congregation/Congress v. “Church”
(Return to Part One.)