Jesus famously asked: who do you say that I am? And Peter answered: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And Jesus replied: Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood have not revealed this unto you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say unto you, that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:19).
Peter confessed faith in Christ, and this confession of faith is the foundation of the Christian church. But Jesus says that this confession is only possible when the Father reveals this. This means that the Church is not a human institution, and it cannot be built by flesh and blood. The church is something that Jesus builds as the Father pours out His Spirit and causes people to see who Jesus is: the Son of the living God.
But this passage not only tells us who builds the church and how the church is built, but it also tells us where the church is built. Jesus says, “and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” This means that Jesus builds His church at the gates of Hades. Jesus builds His church laying siege to the gates of Hades.
Jesus did not say that He would build His church and the armies of Hades will not prevail against the gates of the church. The church is not a tiny castle surrounded by the armies of Hell. No, it is precisely the other way around. Jesus came into this world to storm the gates of Hell. The church is an institution established by God, built by Jesus right at the gates of Hades.
As soon as you confess that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, you join the battle, you join the fray. You have come to the gates of Hades this morning. This is where we worship. This is where we sing and pray and hear the word proclaimed. This is where we break bread and share wine in the presence of our enemies, and make our good confession.
In other words, Hades is the last Jericho, and we gather every Sunday to march around those walls. The reason the darkness is so infuriated, the reason unbelievers are so panicked is because Christ has established His Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail, the gates of Hades are being shaken, and the gates of Hades will fall.