The Lord goes on to mention the gates of Hades (Matt. 16:18). Hades is the place where the dead are kept, and the gates of Hades is a term denoting the authority of death, which is the power of Satan. It also represents Satan, the embodiment of death. As the Lord Jesus is the embodiment of life, so Satan is the embodiment of death, represented in Matthew 16:18 by the gates of Hades. The church is built with the rock and the stones. Wherever you find the building of the church, there will be warfare, because the power of death will rise up against it. But the power of death can never prevail against the church. Death may prevail against individual Christians, but not against the builded church. In every battle against the church, Satan will be defeated. Satan can never prevail because the church can bind. Is Satan able to bind? Some Christians seem to have more faith in Satan than in the Lord Jesus. They constantly talk about the power of Satan, saying that they do not know how to handle it. However, in the local churches we not only bind he strong man, but we also plunder his house and seize all his vessels. The builded church has the authority to bind the strong man. This is not my word; this is the word of the Lord Jesus. "You are a stone (lit.), and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). We must stand upon this word. The gates of Hades shall never prevail against the church. The church can bind, and whatever the church binds, the heavens will bind (Matt. 16:19).
The keys of the kingdom are for the producing of the church, and the church life is the kingdom. Eventually, we can see five points regarding the church: the rock, the stones, the building, the defeat of the gates of Hades, and the kingdom. The church is the kingdom. If we are going to realize the builded church today, not a church in doctrine or in talk, the church must be built up with many living stones. The local churches are built with stones upon the rock. This is the kingdom. Because the kingdom has the authority to bind and loose, it can never be defeated by the gates of Hades.
Satan is first represented by the gates of Hades. In addition to this, Satan is incarnated in the self. On the one hand Peter was a stone; on the other hand he suddenly became Satan (Matt. 16:23). It is hard for us to imagine that this could be. Peter became Satan because his self was the incarnation of Satan. The Lord rebuked Peter saying, "Get behind Me, Satan." Satan could never be successful simply by exercising the power of the gates of Hades. Satan is far more subtle than that. He not only employs the power of Hades; he also gets into us and works himself into our inward being. This is a dreadful, subtle thing. Satan cannot prevail against the church by his power of death, but he can damage the church by his subtlety. Where is Satan’s subtlety? His subtlety resides in the self of man. If we read Matthew 16:23-26 very carefully, we will see the connection between four items—the natural mind, the self, the soulish life, and Satan. The Lord Jesus rebuked Peter for being Satan because Peter’s mind was on the things of men, not on the things of God. Later the Lord spoke about the soul and denying the self. In a few brief sentences the Lord mentioned Satan, the mind, the self, and the soulish life. These four things are actually four-in-one. Satan is in your mind, your mind is in your self, and your self is in the soulish life. Wherever there is the soul-life, there is the self; wherever there is the self, there is the mind; wherever there is the mind, there is Satan. Although Satan cannot prevail against the church by exercising his power and authority, he can damage the church by his subtlety of being one with you in your mind. Satan’s subtlety is to unite with you in your mind, in your opinion, and in your dissenting thought. If in any church there is a dissenting situation, that situation is of the mind, of Satan, of the self, and of the soulish life. It makes no difference about the reason for your dissenting opinion. As long as you are dissenting, you are under the subtlety of Satan. All dissenting elements are found not in your spirit, but in your mind. If you exercise your mind, you will immediately have dissenting opinions.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 26, by Witness Lee)