Regardless of all that’s going on, all the prophecies affirming the Second Coming, there remains an uncertainty of when Jesus will return. Since God gave us nothing concrete so we could place this event on the calendar, man has speculated, calculated and even created a time frame of when this will happen.
I, for one, believe it will be soon. Do I think it is in the very near future? It can be, but much still has to happen before then. Am I concerned about when He comes? Not at all.
Now, the first time Jesus came, even with all the prophecies in place, nobody expected Him to come as He did. Who’d have thought the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would be born to a young couple in a stable with no fanfare or earthly celebration? Surely the Messiah would be presented to the world in greater fashion.
So, what about His second coming? According to Scripture, when He comes again, all mankind will be surprised by His coming. Even those who expect it any day will find themselves shocked by the moment. And though the first time, He came discretely, this time He’ll come with the shout of Heaven and the trumpet of God. The Church will be gathered together with Him and then the vengeance of Heaven will break loose on the earth as God unfolds His judgments. That’s going to be hard to miss. So, what do we do? What can we do? Make sure of our salvation and prepare for the turmoil that will precede His coming. What will be the source of that turmoil?
In Caesarea-Philippi there is a grotto. A grotto is a fancy word for cave. The one in Caesarea-Philippi comes out of a deep, washed-out hole the side of Mt Hermon caused by a waterfall that came out a bit higher up in the mountain and pooled here below. To us it is a mystery of nature how water can cut through rock and create caves. But this grotto holds even greater mysteries.
In earlier OT times, it was a Canaanite sanctuary for the god Baal. The Romans took it over and changed its purpose to honor one of their gods.
All along, Pagans believed it was a source of demonic activity. It was the worship site for Pan, the half-man, half-goat creature often depicted playing the flute. Herod Philip rebuilt it as a Roman Temple in 2 BC and named it Caesarea to honor Caesar. To distinguish it from the other Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast he added his name and made it Caesarea-Philippi. But the Grotto of Pan, was always believed to be the gateway to Hades, or the Gates of Hell.
When Jesus took His disciples there, a very important moment happened as they were standing in front of this cave.
Matt 16:13-18 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?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 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. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hell will not overpower it.
Now, why would that conversation take place here at the Grotto of Pan, the gates of Hell?
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 caves with water as a symbol of that underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world in the water, through those caves.
To the pagans of Caesarea-Philippi their grotto was one of those gates to the underworld. They believed that this cave was literally an entrance to Hell.
Was Jesus agreeing with common beliefs, or was He using this place as a visual to make a point? Like we’d say in Las Vegas, where sin abounds, grace super abounds? A slogan that lost out to what happens in Vegas…A contrast of light and darkness. Here was the ultimate contrast.
Or, was what He said directed at Satan and his minions, like standing on their front porch yelling into the house? When we went here a couple of years ago, I felt unusually uncomfortable. Like I did, being around a voodoo priestess and her altar in a cemetery in Haiti. Unholy places are rank with the influence, activity and stench of Satan. But Jesus was not saying this is the passage way to Hell as the Pagans believed. Nor was He yelling down into the cave as though speaking to Satan directly. He was making a crucial point for His people to understand.
First of all, Satan doesn’t operate from Hell. There are occupants there now but Satan hasn’t been sent there yet. That comes in his final judgment. Hell, with regard to Satan, is not the place from which he carries out his work but it represents the realm of his evil, a realm from which comes his evil bent on killing, stealing and destroying. It’s reflects his platform from where he accuses the brethren and tempts Christians to sin and attempts to block the message of salvation to the lost. By his evil, he causes confusion and hatred to rule the hearts of those who do not know the Lord. And then tries to defeat those who do know Him by attacking them physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The statement Jesus was declaring was Who is the ultimate authority. He said the Rock. What was the Rock? The declaration of who He is: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. This declaration was to be the foundation in the lives of those who believe in Him and the Church built upon Him. Don’t ever think Jesus was talking about Peter or any man. Jesus is the only One within whom rests all authority and power. But why was it important to say that?
Jesus needed His followers and even to Satan and his minions to know He controls the playing field. Saying to everyone, that though Satan has held the world in his grip and does to this day, Jesus is the one who holds the future in His hands. He is establishing the ultimate dominion that will rule to the end. And in this moment, the dominion of darkness is being exposed to the Light.
Act 26:18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.'
Paul understood that dominion. He fought against it every day.
Eph 2:1-2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Our lives, our church, is built on the Rock of who Jesus is. Because of that, even if and when Matt 7:25 the rains fall, and the floods come, and the winds blow and slam against that house [your life, this church]; it will not fall, for it is founded on the rock.
Importance? When things get shaken, which they are going to be, we stand upon the rock that will not be moved.
What is built on the Rock can withstand whatever Satan throws at it. But more so, Satan cannot withstand what those standing on the Rock represents to Him – His defeat. The gates of Hell cannot hold back or keep out the plan and purposes of God.
Why do we put up fences? To keep things out or keep things in?
On August 13, 1961, the Communist government of the East Germany began building a barbed wire and concrete “Antifascist bulwark,” between East and West Berlin. The wall was said to keep the Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state. (From antifascists we get the current word Antifa. Interesting, huh?) But because of the violence used to stop people from the East defecting to the West, it was clear, the wall was there to keep the people in not out.
What about Satan’s walls? Are the Gates of Hell to keep things out or keep things in? If you hear what Jesus said, these gates cannot withstand the assault coming from the church. That would mean these gates will be attacked. Satan’s walls cannot keep the church out of his business.
I’m sure Satan thought he had secured the death of Peter within the locked walls of a jail awaiting execution. And then suddenly, Peters chains fell off his arms and legs, the gates opened by themselves and he came out delivered.
I’m sure Satan thought he had secured the death of Jesus and ruined God’s plans with Him locked in a tomb. But then the stone rolled away, the grave gave up the body and He came out alive.
To Jesus, Satan’s defenses have no strength to withstand His power. But we’re in a moment in front of a grotto. Who was Jesus wanting to hear this? Satan, of course, but more specifically His disciples who He would be using to help build the Church. He wanted that Church to know Satan isn’t all powerful.
His church would be built within the territory Satan claimed, where ungodly values ruled lives and dominated the activities within the world. Where Satan would daily kill, steal and destroy. Where is that? Everywhere. Jesus was going to place His Church all over the world, right in the middle of Satan’s domain. So, what else can Satan do but throw up gates to counter-attack the church? What is the name of his gate? Fear.
Let’s go back to the Grotto for a minute. Interesting that Pan was also known as the god of fear. We get the word panic from his name.
Satan’s greatest weapon is fear. Fear causes us to doubt and robs us of faith. Whenever Satan generates fear, even Christians tremble. It is almost always the first reaction to bad news. It’s the motive behind worry. It is the tool of the terrorist.
We’re fully aware of what terrorism is. Terrorism is simply the act of creating fear. Typically, it is fear of physical pain and suffering, or even death. It’s the calling card of ISIS, the Taliban, Covid and now, Antifa. “This can hurt you!” is the message of every newscast telling us what’s going on around the world.
It’s used by the LGBTQ radicals. Either accept our practices and comply with our desires or we’ll hurt you. It rings out from the liberal forces trying to dismantle our government and disrupt the Constitutional duties of our elected officials. Do what we want or we’ll hurt you. It comes from proponents of change. Either erase the history of our nation or we’ll hurt you. You’ve already heard it in regard to the coming hearings for the next Supreme Court Justice. Either reject who we don’t want or we’ll hurt you. It’s the mantra behind Antifa. We don’t care what you believe, we’re coming and we’ll hurt you. Do you feel the fear?
How much fear has Covid generated? When it first started, we thought we’d all die. Most still believe that. And many have died, but the statistics show a vastly different story. Recently the survival rates for Covid-19 had been updated to 99% of people who get the virus will survive.
But fear of dying from Covid has gripped our country, shutting down the economies of many states, and generated untold damage on the education and well-being of our kids nationwide.
Covid is real, but the fear is generated by Satan. Look what that fear is doing to churches across America! Satan has never been more successful in restricting the church as he has during this time.
So, Jesus is saying, “Satan, your time is up! My Church will overpower your gates.” They are not impenetrable. They are but an illusion based on fear.
I always thought that should have been the other way around. “Satan, you will never overpower the gates of My church.” But we don’t have gates. We can’t keep Him out. His influence reaches inside the hearts and minds of people sitting in the pews every week. Pastors can preach on Sunday and fall on Monday. People can sing in worship and sin before they get out of the parking lot. We can be misled by false teaching.
Satan is the master manipulator. We don’t have gates to keep him out. What do we have? Something more powerful than his gates? Promises.
1Co 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
What does withstanding require? The can do is already provided. We supply the: want to, the willing to and the doing.
What stops us? Fear. Fear that we are powerless to defeat Satan and that he can overpower us or the Church any time he chooses. He can’t…unless we let him. Only when we give in is our ability to withstand compromised. Only when the Church gives in is its influence in the world diminished. Only when we’re more afraid of Satan than confident in the Lord, will we doubt the authority Jesus gave to break those walls down.
What do some of those walls look like?
Attorney General Barr said at a Prayer Breakfast this past week. “Militant secularists have long seized on [the “separation of church and state”] slogan as justification for attempting to drive religion from the public square and to exclude religious people from bringing a religious perspective to bear on conversations about the common good.”
In the hearing that placed Judge Barrett on the 7th Court of Appeals, Senator Feinstein said, “when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.” So, from Feinstein’s San Francisco liberal viewpoint, someone who actually lives her religion is worrisome.
I have a niece who is an administrator in an area School District. Last week, one of her teachers told her that at her husband’s work, his boss told all employees if they attend church, they must quarantine for two weeks before they can come back to work. He happens to be a Muslim but I’m not sure if that factors in. Why just church? Why not Walmart? Or Kracker Barrel?
In Washington DC, a lawsuit by one church against the Mayor says: “The Mayor’s orders prohibit gatherings of over 100 people for purposes of worship, even if held outdoors and even if worshippers wear masks and practice appropriate social distancing. Under the District’s four-stage plan, the church’s in-person worship gatherings will be prohibited until scientists develop either a widely-available vaccine or an effective therapy for COVID-19.”
If you have to get a vaccine in order to go to church, we have a bigger problem on our hands than spreading a virus. But I’m not sure we can fight this in the courts. Today many courts seem to be part of the problem rather than the solution. We can only fight this in the spiritual realm through prayer and a willingness to take on the consequences of our actions if we rebel. So, what does God promise?
Isa 54:16-17 Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and brings out a weapon for its work; and I have created the destroyer to ruin. No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me," declares the LORD.
Why? Because Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. And: Matt 16:18 upon this rock [this foundation] I will build My church; and the gates of Hell will not overpower it.
- Fear is the most powerful weapon in Satan’s arsenal.
- By defeating fear, we defeat him.
- We defeat fear by trusting in the Lord and refusing his temptation to doubt.
- Our trust in the Lord is a stronger force against Satan than his fear is against us.
- Trust God, resist Satan and stand on the rock of Who our Lord really is.