Matthew 16:18, The Gates of Hell
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
//Ever wonder about this verse? What is it saying? That the fiery armies of the underworld cannot overcome the church?
Not likely. It’s actually sort of the opposite.
The word “hell” is a translation of the Greek word Hades, which in New Testament writings replaced the Hebrew concept of Sheol, so “hell”, here, should be understood as the realm of the dead. But the important thing to grasp is that, with very few exceptions, everybody went to Sheol/Hades/hell in the Old Testament! It was a holding place where you awaited resurrection; or, if you don’t believe in resurrection, it was where you slowly faded away into forgottenness.
Today’s verse is not saying that evil beings down in hell cannot prove victorious over the church, because in Hebrew thinking, there were no evil beings governing the underworld. Just dead people. Rather, it is saying something extraordinary, making a bold claim: that the gates of hell cannot keep the souls of believers from escaping back to the realm of the living … being resurrected again!