FOR THE BUILDING UP OF THE CHURCH
Peter was blessed to see the revelation that Jesus is the One anointed to carry out God’s commission and also the Son of God to produce the many sons of God to be members of the Body, the church. As soon as Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Lord went on to speak concerning the building up of His church: "And I say also to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church" (v. 18). This indicates that whatever Christ is, is for the building up of the church. Not only is Christ’s death for the church, but He Himself, His very Person with all His qualifications, titles, and offices, is also for the building up of the church.
Moreover, the Lord Jesus told Peter that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the builded church. The church affects the gates of Hades. In verse 19 the Lord Jesus spoke of the keys of the kingdom of the heavens. The gates of Hades refer to the realm of Satan’s power, whereas the kingdom of the heavens refers to the realm of God’s rule. Here we have two realms: the hellish realm of Satan’s power and the heavenly realm of God’s kingdom. The church has much to do with these two realms. Satan, the subtle one, is filled with hatred when God’s children care for the church. He realizes that the church is able to deal with the gates of Hades. He knows that the gates of Hades cannot prevail against the church built by Christ upon the rock, which refers both to Christ Himself and to the revelation concerning Christ given by the Father to Peter. The Lord Jesus did not say that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the millions of Christians saved through Him. Individualistic believers are no threat to the enemy. However, when believers come together to be the church, Satan trembles, and the gates of Hades are threatened.
The Lord’s word here implies that as He is building up the church, the gates of Hades will rise up against it. But they cannot prevail against the church built by Christ. The word prevail implies warfare. As the building of the church is taking place, a war is raging. Nevertheless, in this warfare the gates of Hades cannot prevail against the church.
Before the Lord’s recovery came to this country, there was none of the kind of spiritual warfare that we see today. We in the recovery are small in number, especially compared to the Roman Catholic Church and the major denominations. Although we are small and seemingly insignificant, we are fiercely attacked and opposed. Behind this attack and opposition is the power of Satan, the gates of Hades. Before the Lord began to recover the church life in this country, the power of darkness could afford to be at rest. But now that the Lord is in the process of building up the proper church life, this power rises up against the church. But the church has the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and these keys will prevail over the gates of Hades.
The conflict between the church and the gates of Hades is a further indication of the importance of the church. Wherever the church is, there the gates of Hades cannot prevail, for there the kingdom of the heavens is powerful and prevailing. In the church the keys of the kingdom work in power.
(The Genuine Ground of Oneness, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)