In order for God to speak to man by means of His written
Word, He had to choose words out of man's language. The Lord
did not choose to speak in an unknown language but rather He took the vocabulary of man,
selected words, and then gave them a meaning He wanted them to have. The meaning the Lord
gave the words He chose to use is found in the confines of the written Word itself. The meaning of the words God uses is not necessarily found in
Concordances, Lexicons or Dictionaries. Man's words continually change. The words which
man use are continually undergoing change. The meaning progressively takes on a lower
meaning. Thus, God selected words out of man's vocabulary and assigned them the meaning He
wanted them to have.
We learn the meaning of God's words by
carefully studying how He uses them. The greatest possible care should be taken when
dealing with the words that the Holy Ghost uses to teach with (I Cor.
2:13). Since God has chosen to use man's words He then had to purify the words of man so
they then could become the words of God. Human words were taken and were refined and
"The words of the Lord are pure
words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth,
purified seven times. Thou shall
keep them, 0 Lord, thou shall preserve them from this
generation for ever." Psalm 12:6-7
We learn from this that He has taken the
words of earth and purified them as silver is purified in a furnace, and note that the
purification of the earth's words were seven times, the number of spiritual perfection.
That's not all; the words He selected to use have not only been purified, but their
meanings have been preserved within the confines of the Word of God itself. The Lord
didn't choose to use all of man's words, but the Holy Ghost chose to use only those words
which are found in Scripture.
1. Some have been given an altogether higher meaning than
what man has assigned to them.
2. Some are used in a totally different sense from that
which man has ever used them. All this should point to the fact that the Lord would have
us consult His Word to assign meanings to words He uses. His words and their meanings are
set (i.e. preserved) in His Word.
With the foregoing in mind, let's notice the
subject "the gates of Hell" as it is found in Matthew I6:18. Briefly, it can be
stated that in the context where the subject is found the Lord has just asked the
disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" They answer that some say
that He was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. The Lord then
asked them, "But Whom say ye that I am?" Straight way Peter answered, "Thou
art the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
Now based upon Peter's confession that Jesus
was indeed the Christ, the Son of God, the Lord acknowledged that the response of Peter
was not based upon deduction of the human mind, but rather, God the Father, Who was in
heaven, had revealed it to him. Peter's understanding was enlightened, and he acknowledged
that Jesus was indeed THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD.
The Lord Jesus takes that acknowledgement
and states that He will build His Church upon that premise, i.e. He is the Christ, the Son
of the Living God. The church the Lord has reference to here is the "Church of
God", not the Church of the Mystery. The Church of
the Mystery was still a secret "hid in God" and the
Lord Jesus at the time didnt know about the Mystery. Thats not strange because
He said that even He didnt know the "day and the hour" of His Second
coming. Only the Father knew (Matt. 24:36). So, upon the foundational statement that He is
the Christ, the Son of God, the Church of God was to be built. To further emphasize the
surety of His Church, He states, "and the GATES OF HELL shall not prevail against
Immediately, the Christian mind that has
been raised upon orthodox teaching of "hell" recalls that "hell"
refers to a place of conscious torment, in a burning pit, somewhere in the middle of the
earth. Thus, the expression, "the gates of hell", must refer to the gates in the
middle of the earth that keep the inhabitants locked in. Lets remember what has been
set forth regarding the fact that the Lord assigns the meanings to words, not man. The
Lord has taken the words of the earth and purified them seven times, as if giving them a
much higher meaning, changing the meaning or even coining new words. We purpose to show
that the word "hell" has a meaning apart from that which man has given it.
However, we are only going to consider the word as it has reference to the context of the
"gates of hell".
It is very hard to unlearn that which men have taught us.
The student of Scripture needs to allow the Word of God to teach him, willing at all times
to be corrected from that which is erroneous.
The "gates of hell" is in reality an OT expression
which every OT Jew, at the time of Christ, recognized as being from Isa. 38:10. Hezekiah
had been told by the prophet to set his house in order for he must die. Being sick
"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."
When the word of Hezekiahs deliverance came to him, he
"Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it
from the pit of corruption. . .for the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot
celebrate thee' '(Isa. 38:17-18)
Notice the connection of "gates of the grave" with
"pit of corruption," "grave" and "death." Hezekiah spoke of
going to the "gates of the grave," the Lord Jesus referred to the fact that the
"gates of hell" shall not prevail against His Church. It is quite obvious that
the grave does not have literal gates. Oh, there may be a fence around the graveyard, and
it may have an iron gate on it which is closed and locked at dark, but the grave itself
has no such gate. So the reference to the "gates of the grave" must be a FIGURE
OF SPEECH. A FIGURE OF SPEECH is used by saying one thing to suggest another. "The
gates of the grave" is a figure of speech using a physical object (gates) to explain
or suggest something that has no physical form at all (grave). So the figure of speech
implied in the phrase "the gates of the grave" is a Metonymy, that being an
object (gates) put in place of an attribute (power) for the subject itself (grave).
An example of a Metonymy is, "The tea kettle is
boiling," 'since the tea kettle here refers to the water boiling, not the kettle
We notice the same Figure in Job 38:17,
"Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors
of the shadow of death?"
"Gates" being a figure implying those that death holds cannot get out. The
gates are opened to receive those who die. They are held in the state of death by
"the gates of death."
"Have mercy upon me, O Lord, consider my trouble
which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death."
Again, the "gates of death" meets the eye in Ps.
"Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of
It is noted that in the OT, "gates" is used as a
figure of speech denoting
the power of death or the grave to shut up those that go down to the pit of corruption.
Thus, this figure of speech refers to the graves power
to keep in its grasp those who die. The grave holds its captives, only the Lord has the
power to bring anyone out from the grasp of the grave.
"He that is our God is the God of salvation; and
unto God the Lord belong the issues from death (i.e. the goings forth in
resurrection)". Ps. 68:20
With this agrees Rev. 1:18 where it says,
"I am He that liveth, and was dead; and , behold, I am alive for
evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."
This, then, implies that the gates of "hell and
death" are to be opened by the Lord Jesus Christ, and the saints will
"issue" forth from the grasp of the grave and from the power of death.
Therefore, the subject really before us is resurrection. Jesus Christ as the Son of God
has committed unto Him resurrection.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming,
and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall
live (i.e. live in resurrection)" John 5:25
It should be noted that those who are in the grave and
"hear the voice of the Son of God" shall not be retained by the "gates of
the grave", "the gates of death" or "the gates of hell."
In the OT we notice a very close parallel between Hos. 13:14 and 1Cor.15:54-55.
" I (the Lord) will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will
be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction:
." Hos 13:14
Those that the Lord is to call out of the grave will come forth because He will ransom
them from its power or grasp. He will redeem them with power from death. The "thy
plagues" of Hos. 13:14 refers to the "sting" of I Cor. 15:54-55.
"Death is swallowed up in victory. 0 death, where is
thy sting? 0 grave where is thy victory?"
The student who will allow the Word to speak for itself
should now have impressed upon his mind the fact that the Holy Ghost has chosen to use the
word "hell" interchangeably with the word "grave." In this study we
only purpose to show the word "hell" in its relation to the expression "the
gates of hell." If we gain an understanding of its usage in its relation to different
thoughts or expressions in the Word of God then we can come to a Scriptural understanding
of the word "hell." By so doing, we will be free from the teachings of men. It
is surprising, when we examine ourselves, how much of what we believe has been received
from the traditions of men. How little has really been derived from personal study of the
Word of God itself. Generally we believe what we have heard and been taught by man, then
go to the Bible to try to get what we believe confirmed. We need now to make some
conclusion on the Holy Spirit's use of the word "hell" in the expression
"the gates of hell."
1. "the gates of the grave" Isa. 38:10
2. "the gates of death" Job 38:17
3. "the gates of death" Ps. 107:18
4. "the gates of hell" Matt. 16:18
The verses listed above are speaking about two things, not three. The reference is to the
grave and to death. Numbers 2 and 3 match and numbers l and 4 match. If this isn't
conclusive, Rev. 1:18 ought to clench it, for the Lord Jesus Christ says He has the keys
"to death and hell." Thus, the close association of death with hell in Rev. 1:18
ought to point out the "gates of death" and the "gates of hell" (i.e.
the grave) will be opened, and those that had been held in the death-state in gravedom
will be raised from the dead to live again in resurrection.
The Church which Jesus Christ said He was to build in Matt.
16:18 was never in danger of going to a place of torment; it was never in danger of going
to the hell of orthodoxy where there is fire, weeping, screaming, and gnashing of teeth.
But it was in danger of individual members of it dying. THE GRAVE would hold them until
the voice of the Son of God was heard, then the "gates of hell" shall not
prevail against it (i.e. the grave shall not have power to retain its captives)." The
reason being that Christ holds the keys to DEATH AND HELL.