On this rock I will build My church
January 7, 2021
On March 18, 2020, I wrote,
In northern Israel at the foot of Mt Hermon, there is an archaeological site named Banias. Its cliffs are full of niches for idols; and the natural rock terrace below once held temples, including the Temple of Pan, a Greek god who was half goat, half man. A spring that now seeps through the rocks once gushed from a subterranean source thought to be the Gate of the Underworld.
Jesus brought His disciples to this site when they passed through adjacent Caesarea Philippi. The pagan site and its attendant worship must have horrified these observant Jews. It was here Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” and Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:15-19)
Jesus took His disciples literally to the gates of Hell to reveal His Sonship and declare that those gates would not prevail against the Church that knew Him as Son of the Living God. Gates are stationary. The Church is supposed to assail those gates, and it isn’t going to be easy. “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (v 21).
Bible sayings can have meaning on more than one level. Over the Christmas break, I heard an opinion from Dr Michael Heiser that when Jesus spoke of the rock on which He would build His Church, He was referring to the physical rock on which they were standing – Banias, the “Gates of Hell”. Islam is a gate on the earth to the kingdom of darkness, delivering condemnation for all who can’t measure up, bondage to unproductive laws and rituals, blindness to the glory of God in the face of Christ and oppression rather than favor – the opposite of Jesus’ mission statement in Luke 4:18-19.
This first GHPL of 2021 is written to support and strengthen the Church encountering Islam. The Church in the Middle East has been holding on for centuries against its dominion. Jesus’ declaration that hell’s dominion (see Col 1:13) would not prevail against His Church still stands, and we know Him to be true to His word.
LORD Jesus, You said that Your spoken word does not return to You empty, but accomplishes what You desire and achieves the purpose for which You send it (Isa 55:11). Now revive Your Church where Islam is exercising dominion. Make real to the believers that they are seated with You in heavenly realms, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion” (Eph 2:6, 1:20-21). Give them boldness to prevail in Your power as the early church did in Acts 4:23-31.
When asked about spiritual warfare, Dr Heiser (author of The Unseen Realm) said that the kingdom of darkness fears most its own defeat and destruction. It shrinks as God’s kingdom grows. Therefore, the Great Commission is the ultimate spiritual warfare, namely, to “go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded…” (Mt 28:19-20).
Pray also for the Church where Islam is expanding but not dominant to be wise in the way they act toward unbelievers, making the most of every opportunity to preach the Good News in word and deed and make disciples among Muslims (see Col 4:5-6 and 2 Co 6:2).
In northern Israel at the foot of Mt Hermon, there is an archaeological site named Banias. Its cliffs are full of niches for idols; and the natural rock terrace below once held temples, including the Temple of Pan, a Greek god who was half goat, half man.