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The Church or the Rock? By Pastor Ivan L. Burgener

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The Church or the Rock? By Pastor Ivan L. Burgener Empty The Church or the Rock? By Pastor Ivan L. Burgener

Post  Admin on Sun 03 Oct 2010, 7:41 am

The Church or the Rock? *
*By Pastor Ivan L. Burgener*
*
"And I also, I say unto thee that thou are Peter and upon this rock
will I build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against
it." (Matthew 16:18 revised)
The Lord spoke to Peter about a rock and a church and said the
"gates of hell" would not prevail. But what does that mean?
To many this is the foundation passage upon which to base the
teaching that Peter is the head of the church and that the gates of hell
will not prevail against the church. But that interpretation is based
upon assumptions.
First, is Peter the rock? Peter's Greek name is PETROS, a masculine
name meaning a "stone," such as a pebble one might toss or throw. The
Greek word for "rock" is PETRA, a feminine noun meaning a massive rock
or boulder-something that cannot be lifted or that will not budge. The
Lord said one could build a house on a "rock" and even carve a tomb
therein. See Matthew 7:24 & 27:60. Peter was not the rock and able
commentators who read the Greek Language have known better.
But what about the church? Did the Lord really say "the gates of
hell would not prevail against the church"? His words were, "the gates
of hell shall not prevail against IT." We all know "it" is a pronoun,
but we do not all know that "it" refers to the church. Many have assumed
so just like they assumed the Peter or his confession was the rock. But
are we reading into or out of the verse?
One cannot tell by any English translation but the Greek pronoun
here translated "it" is not neuter, but feminine and singular. Our word
"her" would be the equivalent, but that would not be good English.
Since every pronoun must have its antecedant, our question is. Which
noun in the sentence is both feminine and singular? There are two
candidates: rock and church! Since both appear to be equally qualified,
we must consider which fits the text and the context.
What would it mean to say, "the gates of hell shall not prevail
against the church"? Or, what would it mean to say, "the gates of hell
shall not prevail against the rock"? And to what does the term "rock"
refer? Surely Christ was the Rock that followed Israel in the wilderness
and the Messiah was to be the Rock of their salvation. People want to
make Peter's confession to be the rock, but which is greater, his
confession or the Rock Himself?
What are "the gates of hell"? In either case, what would it mean for
them to "prevail"? Would you know the gates of hell if you saw them?
What do they look like? Are they double-wide doors with hinges and
latches? These questions are posed to help us consider what the Lord was
talking about.
Pursuing the word "gates," from Genesis 19:1 we learn that "Lot sat
in the gate" of the city of Sodom and in verse 9, they said he was a
judge indicating a position of authority. In Proverbs 31:23 the virtuous
woman's husband was "known in the gates, when he sitteth among the
elders of the land." Further tracing of figurative uses of "gates" will
confirm that this word indicates authority or power, such as one might
have in government.
Our word "hell" comes from the Greek "hades" and its Hebrew
equivalent "sheol." But both these words are often translated death or
grave. For example in I Cor. 15:55 this same word, HADES, is
alternatively translated "death" and "grave." But when one combines
these two words, "gates" and "hell," the phrase "gates of hell" becomes
the "power of death" or "authority of the grave."
The idea of the "power of death" failing to prevail against the
church is vague and uncertain. But to say that "the power of death" will
not prevail against the Rock (Christ) clearly announces His
resurrection! For the "power of death (or grave)" to prevail against
Christ, would mean that the grave would hold Him and not let Him rise!
That could not be!
This explanation is offered as the only one for Matthew 16:18 and
the Lord confirms it in verse 21, "From that time forth began Jesus to
shew unto His disciples, how that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer
many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed,
and be raised the third day." While Peter was praised for his earlier
confession of Who Christ was, here he is sharply rebuked for resisting
the Lord's own words that He would go to the cross! But that the "gates
of hell" could not prevail should have been Peter's great eternal
consolation! Hallelujah!

*Wise people realize how little they know
and how much they need the great wisdom of God.*
* ---Joe Stowell*
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