"The gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

What does this phrase mean to you? This is open to anyone from any religion, but obviously it pertains most to Christians. Here is a bit of context, but again, what does the phrase “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” mean in particular? Feel free to add to the translations if it helps present your view, I’ll put up the KJV and NASB

NASB: Matthew 16: 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

21 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 be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

KJV Matthew 16: 13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 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. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

For example:

  1. What is meant by the “Gates of Hades” or the “Gates of Hell?”
  2. What is meant by “shall not prevail/overpower”
  3. What is meant by “it?”

Thanks for asking!!!

IMO… we have to take it somewhat literally.

First, what are “gates”. Typically gates, are a defensive force used to keep the enemy out. So from this we can see that Hell is not the agressor here it is the defender.

“gates of hell shall not prevail” means that the Church/Christ will defeat death and hell and hell will be no more. (utterly destroyed during the end times).

Just a very simplistic view.

I believe that the reference to Hades means the dwelling place of departed spirits. A gate is a barrier that keeps someone in or out of somewhere. So the Gates of Hell/Hades not prevailing means that the Church can even be an instrument to save departed spirits. Some believe that this phrase refers to an offensive weapon or power to be used against the Church, but gates are not used to attack.

Here are two verses that refer to efforts to provide salvation to the deceased.

1 Peter 4:6 (KJV) For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

1 Corinthians 15:29 (KJV) Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

I hope this helps.

I will let the Church fathers speak for me:

Origen: Wherefore if we, by the revelation of our Father who is in heaven, shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, having also our conversation in heaven, to us also shall be said, “Thou art Peter;” for every one is a Rock who is an imitator of Christ. But against whomsoever the gates of hell prevail, he is neither to be called a rock upon which Christ builds His Church; neither a Church, or part of the Church, which Christ builds upon a rock.

Origen: But in heavenly things every spiritual sin is a gate of hell, to which are opposed the gates of righteousness.

Origen: He does not express what it is which they shall not prevail against, whether the rock on which He builds the Church, or the Church which He builds on the rock; but it is clear that neither against the rock nor against the Church will the gates of hell prevail.

So…let’s count the churches that have not succumbed to secular pressures and changed teaching (the gates of hell prevailed)…ONE…the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church (RCC). Praise Jesus.

FWIW, Jimmy Akin suggests that Origen is more of an ecclesiastical writer are opposed to an early church father. catholic.com/video/is-origen-considered-a-church-father

These are not the gates of Hell, and the RCC is not only and exclusively the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Other than that, a good post. :wink:


Then…what are the gates of hell?

From an excerpt I read:

The Church has also traditionally understood Christ’s promise in Matthew 16:18 as referring to hell in the third sense—the hell of the damned, the den of demons, and the domain of the devil. So, in pledging that the “gates of hell” would not prevail against the Church, Christ was promising that Satan and his minions would not defeat it. “The gates of hell are the torments and promises of the persecutors. Also, the evil works of the unbelievers, and vain conversation, are gates of hell, because they shew the path of destruction,” wrote Rabanus Maurus, a ninth century Benedictine theologian in France.

This interpretation was echoed in the nineteenth century by Pope Leo XII, who wrote, “The meaning of this divine utterance is, that, notwithstanding the wiles and intrigues which they bring to bear against the Church, it can never be that the church committed to the care of Peter shall succumb or in any wise fail.”

What I mean is that the forces of evil, or Satan, are far more involved than the definition you gave.


here’s a good article about it.


Sometimes “the gates of hell” are way more involved than I represented. Sometimes they are more simple…as when on a personal level.

The first, basic thing to remember about the passage is that it is future tense. It is speaking of the future, Parousia, the time of the second coming. Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the Devil is assured. He will lead us into all truth. It doesn’t exclude the possibility of humans misunderstanding God’s word, etc. in the meantime.


Ah…now I understand where you are coming from. I disagree, but I have another insight into Lutherism.

Thank you all that have answered so far! This is one phrase and idea I’m still trying to thoroughly study on, so I’m not setting anyone or anything up to step in and argue with, I’m looking for input from anyone who cares to share.

The Church does no agree with this

The gates of hell, &c. That is, the powers of darkness, and whatever Satan can do, either by himself or his agents. For as the Church is here likened to a house, or fortress, built on a rock; so the adverse powers are likened to a contrary house or fortress, the gates of which, i.e. the whole strength, and all the efforts it can make, will never be able to prevail over the city or Church of Christ. By this promise we are fully assured, that neither idolatry, heresy, nor any pernicious error whatsoever shall at any time prevail over the Church of Christ. Ch. — The gates, in the Oriental style, signify the powers; thus, to this day, we designate the Ottoman or Turkish empire by the Ottoman port. The princes were wont to hold their courts at the gates of the city. V.

  1. The powers of hell/the enemy
  2. Will be constantly attacking, BUT will not prevail against the light overtaking it
  3. It is the ekklesia, or the called out ones. The visible Catholic Church (called out would be visible, just as we see that Israel, called the ekklesia in the Septuagint, is rather visible, with a hierarchical structure)

In context, Simon, has been renamed Peter, by God. (This is an assigning of fatherly/papal ministry: Abram/Abraham; Jacob; Israel) Peter means rock. Peter is the rock of the Church that Jesus identifies as HIS. The Church, which has the Peter (rock), is the visible assembly, against which the powers of hell will fight (schisms, persecutions, pretender priests) but will not triumph over because Jesus has already defeated the enemy and the Church is HIS Church.

Sorry, but your argument that the powers of hell are attacking… does NOT fit the verse. Please tell me when EVER that gates have been an attacking force? This verse is PLAIN… it describes the church overcoming evil and being on the winning side. Where do you get #2 from this verse… it completely opposite.

WHY do we still have Hell attacking and the gates not prevailing? it doesn’t make sense. If a gates do not prevail… that means that the attacking force is let in to the “walls” to do thier damage… PLAIN ENGLISH.

Google the phrase and research what “gates” refer to. It is not an physical gate as you are thinking. There is some nice commentary…not just from Catholic theologians.

It would be incredibly naive to imagine that we are purely on the offensive here.

In order, I presume the following: Gates are entry and exit to ancient cities in the Middle East. They were also centers of commerce, government and, most importantly, defense. At its most simple, “shall not prevail” means that those gates will not be capable of resisting an offensive force. I take “it” to be a reference to the church established by Jesus Christ. There are, of course, entire other possibilities as to how all of this is interpreted, and I intend to read the mentioned piece at opportunity. I’m interested in seeing how others might have taken “gates” as a definition.

Taken as a literal whole, my most basic understanding of the statement is as follows: The defenses of our enemy will not be able to resist the church. If the enemy’s defenses cannot resist us—and I take Christ’s words as true—then we are guaranteed victory, sooner or later. In the mindset of that time, losing your gates was a bad thing. The statement appears to presume that the church is to be deployed as an offensive weapon against the gates of Hell.

Whether that deployment is a day-in, day-out “little” war against those gates, fought by us in the here-and-now, or is some gigantic battle worthy of a grand cinematic experience and scored by Hans Zimmer, led by none other than Christ or the appropriate angel(s) at some future point is unknown to me. Eventually, we’ll find out. This is one of the complications arising from dealing with entities who were, are and will be as opposed to mere humanity which isn’t.

The funny thing about this particular thread is that I’d been thinking about this very phrase earlier in the week after I’d been thinking about needing an excuse to jump in here at CAF and participate. I saw this late yesterday and thought that the close proximity of those two events could not be mere coincidence.

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