Sunday, May 04, 2014

5/4: Matthew 16 part 1: Gates of Hell

Jason Upton song we plated at beginning and end of today's gathering:

Opening discussion on prophets led to this Rich Mullins video:
Whole concert here .

Videos we showed, related to the "gates of hell/building church on secular rock/space theme:

More on Metallica here


Jesus Asks Church To  Host Anti-Christian Concert:

-- Matthew 16
We watched this video below (not online, but highlights below, and another summary is here)


Caeserea Phillipi":

City of Pagans  by Ray Vander Laan

Caesarea Philippi, which stood in a lush area near the foot of Mount Hermon, was a city dominated by immoral activities and pagan worship.
Caesarea Philippi stood only twenty-five miles from the religious communities of Galilee. But the city's religious practices were vastly different from those of the nearby Jewish towns.
In Old Testament times, the northeastern area of Israel became a center for Baal worship. In the nearby city of Dan, Israelite king Jeroboam built the high place that angered God and eventually led the Israelites to worship false gods. Eventually, worship of the baals was replaced with worship of Greek fertility gods.
Caesarea Philippi, which stood in a lush area near the foot of Mount Hermon, became the religious center for worship of the Greek god, Pan. The Greeks named the city Panias in his honor.
Years later, when Romans conquered the territory, Herod Philip rebuilt the city and named it after himself. But Caesarea Philippi continued to focus on worship of Greek gods. In the cliff that stood above the city, local people built shrines and temples to Pan.
Interestingly, Jesus chose to deliver a sort of "graduation speech" to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi. In that pagan setting, he encouraged his disciples to build a church that would overcome the worst evils.

The Gates of Hell

To the pagan mind, the cave at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld, where fertility gods lived during the winter. They committed detestable acts to worship these false gods.
Caesarea Philippi's location was especially unique because it stood at the base of a cliff where spring water flowed. At one time, the water ran directly from the mouth of a cave set in the bottom of the cliff.
The pagans of Jesus' day commonly believed that their fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves.
To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their city was literally at the gates of the underworld—the gates of hell. In order to entice the return of their god, Pan, each year, the people of Caesarea Philippi engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats.
When Jesus brought his disciples to the area, they must have been shocked. Caesarea Philippi was like a red-light district in their world and devout Jews would have avoided any contact with the despicable acts committed there.
It was a city of people eagerly knocking on the doors of hell.

Jesus' Challenge

Jesus presented a clear challenge with his words at Caesarea Philippi: He didn't want his followers hiding from evil: He wanted them to storm the gates of hell.
Standing near the pagan temples of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples "Who do you say that I am?" Peter boldly replied, "You are the Son of the living God." The disciples were probably stirred by the contrast between Jesus, the true and living God, and the false hopes of the pagans who trusted in "dead" gods.
Jesus continued, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (see Matt. 16:13-20).
Though Christian traditions debate the theological meaning of those words, it seems clear that Jesus? words also had symbolic meaning. His church would be built on the "rock" of Caesarea Philippi—a rock literally filled with niches for pagan idols, where ungodly values dominated.
Gates were defensive structures in the ancient world. By saying that the gates of hell would not overcome, Jesus suggested that those gates were going to be attacked.
Standing as they were at a literal "Gate of Hades," the disciples may have been overwhelmed by Jesus' challenge. They had studied under their rabbi for several years, and now he was commissioning them to a huge task: to attack evil, and to build the church on the very places that were most filled with moral corruption.
Jesus presented a clear challenge with his words at Caesarea Philippi: He didn't want his followers hiding from evil: He wanted them to storm the gates of hell.

Not Ashamed

Jesus' followers cannot successfully confront evil when we are embarrassed about our faith.
After Jesus spoke to his disciples about storming the gates of hell, he also gave them another word of caution: "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory" (Luke 9:26).
Jesus knew that his followers would face ridicule and anger as they tried to confront evil. And his words came as a sharp challenge: no matter how fierce the resistance, his followers should never hide their faith in God.
Jesus taught with passion, even when bystanders may have thought him a fool. And at Caesarea Philippi, he challenged everyone within hearing: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very soul?" (v. 25).
In a city filled with false idols, Jesus asked his followers to commit to the one true God. While false gods promised prosperity and happiness, they would ultimately fail to deliver. Jesus didn't promise an easy life, but he delivered on the promise of salvation;the only kind of prosperity that really matters.
Today, Christians must heed the words of our Rabbi, especially when we are tempted to hide our faith because of embarrassment or fear. Our world is filled with those who have "gained the world" but lost their souls. If we hide our faith, they may never find the salvation they need.

On the offense

As we listen to Jesus' challenge today, we as Christians should ask ourselves the important question: When it comes to the battle against evil, are we on defense or offense?

In a culture that embraces diversity, it is offensive to suggest that there are certain truths that apply to everyone. Pointing out sin isn't popular and many Christians are labeled as "intolerant" for refusing to accept certain behaviors and ideas.
Unfortunately, many people have embraced a distorted Christianity that tries to be "politically correct." They don't want to offend anyone, so they accept sin rather than confronting it. Ultimately, their words of "love" ring empty because they accept sins that ruin people's lives.
Other Christians just try to avoid sinful culture altogether. They have been taught to go on the defense—to hide in their churches, schools, and homes and to shut the door on the evil influences of culture.
But Jesus challenged his followers to be on the offense—to proclaim the truth without shame.
Our schools and churches should become staging areas rather than fortresses; places that equip God's people to confront a sinful world instead of hiding from it. Jesus knows that the pagan world will resist, but he challenges us to go there anyway, and to build his church in those very places that are most morally decayed.
As we listen to Jesus' challenge today, we as Christians should ask ourselves the important question: Are we on defense or offense?   Van der Laan

what's the ROCKin "on this rock"?

One writer summarizes this part of the video:
  1.  protestantism in general has traditionally been that the rock Jesus was talking about was Peter’s confession.
  1. The Roman Catholic view is that Peter himself is the rock (their basis for him being the first Pope). The second view does have its merit, although quite a weak one, that it makes sense of the word play between Peter and rock.
  1. Ray Vander Laan offers up a third possibility that I had never considered. He mentions that in Caesarea Philippi there was a rock that had a cleft in it that people believed was the gates to the underworld. They believed evil spirits associated with the Greek god Pan would travel through those gates back and forth to Hades. Vander Laan believes that Jesus was referring to that rock that his church would be built upon. I believe his point is that the church is going to take supremacy over the gates of Hades and not so much that evil is going to be the basis for his church.  LINK
Another writer says:

The Catholic tradition has taken Jesus’ pronouncement in Matther 16:18 to mean that Jesus was declaring that the church was to be built on the authority of Peter and the other disciples. It is true that they led the early church, so this would be a possible interpretation.
The Protestant tradition has taken Jesus declaration here to say that His church was to be built upon the confession recognizing Him as the Messiah and the Son of the living God. This is a valid interpretation, as well, and is a practice supported by other scriptures.Pan ShrineRay VanderLaan and other Hebrew contextual scholars suggest a third interpretation which may be just as – if not more – powerful as the others, based on the context. Why would Jesus choose this place, the filthiest (morally) place within walking distance of his earthly region of ministry?
Might it be possible that he took histalmidim to the most degenerate place possible to say to them “THIS is where I want you to build my church. I want you to go out into the repugnantly degenerate places, where God is not even known. I want you to go out to places that make Caesarea Philippi look tame, and THAT is where I want you to build my church.” Because that is exactlywhat they did. They went to places in Asia Minor and the ends of the earth, where “gods” were worshipped in unspeakably awful manners and where Christians would be persecuted in horrific manner, and they gave their lives doing EXACTLY what they were told to do by their Rabbi.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the story of Caesarea Philippi and understand it in its context, it comes to life in ways it never had before.  LINK


Different video, same theme, some overlap..filmed at "gates of hell"


Remember who the OT rock was: Abraham!  Isaiah 51:1-2 .

We will talk about verse 19ff next week,  though I had the "Key" to understanding the "keys to the kingdom: on the board Isiah 22:22), but here's a preview on the: binding/loosing" phrase 

There was no mystery about what this phrase meant to Jesus and his followers.
"Bind and loose" is a standard rabbinic phrase meaning "forbid and permit."  Jesus gave Peter (and the other disciples, see parallel in Matt 18 the authority to make legally binding rabbinic decisions.  See Matt 18; see Acts "It seemed good to Holy Spirit and to us to make this ruling.."

This was often applied in a broader sense; almost: "whatever you all decide..or however you interpret a ruling, or a text.  heaven will ratify it"  !!

Rob Bell on binding and loosing: "the Bible is a difficult book"

Rob Bell's discussion of the Bible and binding and loosing
must be
read, wrestled and reckoned with..
It's the "YOKE" chapter of "Velvet Elvis"..
 a free online read, pages 40-69



Velvet Elvis - pp. 49-50


Now imagine if a rabbi who had a new perspective on the Torah was coming to town. This rabbi who was making new interpretations of the Torah was said to have authority. The Hebrew word for "authority" is [i]shmikah[/i]. This might not even happen in your lifetime. You would hike for miles to hear him.

A rabbi who taught with [i]shmikah[/i] would say things like, "You have it said..., but I tell you..."

What he was saying is, "You have heard people interpret that verse this way, but I tell you that this is what God really means in that verse."

Now the rabbis had techincal terms for this endless proces of forbidding and permitting and making interpretations. They called it "binding and loosing". To "bind" something was to forbid it. To "loose" something was to allow it.

So a rabbi would bind certain practices and loose other practices. And when he gave his disciples the authority to bind and loose, it was called "giving the keys of the kingdom".

Notice when Jesus says in the book of Matthew: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

What he is doing here is significant. He is giving his followers the authority to make [i]new[/i] interpretations of the Bible. He is giving them permission to say, "Hey, we think we missed it before on that verse, and we've recently come to the conclusion that this is what it actually means."

And not only is he giving them authority, but he is saying that when they do debate and discuss and pray and wrestle and then make decisions about the Bible, somehow God in heaven will be involved.


Jesus expects his followers to be engaged in the endless process of deciding what it means to actually live the Scriptures.

Nathan Hobby posts:

Interpreting the Bible in Velvet Elvis: binding and loosing

From an Anabaptist perspective, what excites me most about Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis is the way in “Movement two: Yoke” it talks about using ‘binding and loosing’ to interpret the Bible together.
In Jesus’ world, it was assumed you had as much to learn from the discussion of the text as you did from the text itself. One person could never get too far in a twisted interpretation because the others were right there giving her insight and perspective she didn’t have on her own. Jesus said when he was talking about binding and loosing that ‘where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.’
Community, community, community. Together, with others, wrestling and searching and engaging the Bible as a group of people hungry to know God in order to follow God. (52)
What was new to me was Rob Bell’s claim that a ‘yoke’ was a particular rabbi’s way of interpreting scripture (‘binding and loosing’) and that this is the background to Jesus’ claim to have a light yoke.
Different rabbis had different sets of rules, which were really different lists of what they forbade and what they permitted. A rabbi’s set of rules and lists, which was really that rabbi’s interpretation of how to live the Torah, was called that rabbi’s yoke. When you followed a certain rabbi, you were following him because you believed that rabbi’s set of interpretations were closest to what God intended through the Scriptures. And when you followed that rabbi, you were taking up that rabbi’s yoke.
One rabbi even said his yoke was easy. (47)
 This is wonderful stuff. In this chapter Bell:
  1. Uses the postmodern insight that no text interprets itself; instead, it is always interpreted by people.
  2. That we need to recover the Jewish and early Christian practice of interpreting the Bible together – and that this in itself is a safeguard against excesses and false teaching.
  3. That understanding the Bible is completely tied up with understanding what the Bible calls us to do. Ethics are where the Bible gets lived out.
  4. That Jesus told us to carry on this process together – Matthew 18:15-20.
Bell’s explanation of it is much more accessible than Yoder’s treatment, or even my simplification of Yoder’s treatment! I’ll be recommending people start with it to understand binding and loosing.
(He doesn’t cover the disciplining side of binding and loosing, but he doesn’t need to, not in what he is trying to do here.)
For the text of the talk I gave on binding and loosing at the 2007 Anabaptist conference, go back to here:
For my simplification of Yoder’s Body Politics – including binding and loosing, the first chapter, go to here:


  1. In the Amplified Version of the Bible , which I have always trusted to be very accurate , Matt 18:18 is translated ( and amplified to reveal the perfect passive participle ) as meaning " What has ALREADY been bound ( or loosed ) in Heaven.Similarly, Mt 16:19 love in Him. Mick

  2. exactly! we did talk about that


Thanks so much for leaving a comment. We love you for it!

"Insanity of God" Showing for third day fresno!

Special Showing of The "Insanity of God" Day , June 4 for third day fresno. Special Day, Special Place! Invite a special f...