The words left a deep impression on Matthew. Perhaps it was the way His eyes had pierced the disciples’ as He spoke. Or possibly, it was the deep conviction that could be felt in Jesus’ voice. Regardless, years had passed since the words were spoken and yet Matthew could still hear them distinctly. “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Christ’s words of promise have brought comfort and hope to His saints throughout history. Many have fought bravely and sacrificed much to see the church prevail. But it isn’t only the Christian who has never been able to forget Jesus’ words. Satan took note of His words and proceeded to scheme ways to prove Him wrong. More than two thousand years have passed and the hosts of hell are still busy attempting to overthrow the kingdom Jesus Christ set up.
At Pentecost, as the Holy Ghost came down upon those in the upper room, Jesus gave gifts unto men. He set up some as apostles, others as prophets, and yet others as evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:8, 11-12). The church was built. Soon, converts were born and the Lord added to the church daily. But Satan stood ready to devour the young converts (Revelation 12:4). He gathered together the Jewish rulers, the Roman empire, and the adherents of paganism, and fought against the church with all his might (Acts 4:26-27).
The stoning of Stephen marked only the beginning of what Christians would endure for their faith. For many years, the children of God suffered persecutions. Many a Christian packed up his family to flee the cruelties otherwise awaiting them. Many others endured unimaginable tortures and yet remained faithful to the Saviour. But, though all the powers of Rome fought against Christianity, the church only grew in number and strength. And just as Daniel had predicted hundreds of years before (Daniel 2:44), the Roman empire fell, even as the kingdom of God triumphed and spread to all parts of the known world.
But Satan refused to accept defeat. Since that time, Satan has continued to devise myriads of methods to try to crush the church. When the apostles left this world one by one and grievous wolves entered in, Satan rejoiced. Many poor souls suffered through the Dark Ages, struggling against ignorance, falsehoods, and counterfeit Christianity. False doctrines multiplied through the years, spreading and growing, until the true doctrines of Christ were challenged by contradiction and skepticism. False shepherds scattered the sheep into innumerable denominations. And Satan grew hopeful.
But all the victories Satan thought he won were only a mirage. All along, in every battle, God has been the conqueror. Although wave after wave of opposition, persecution, heresy, and division have beaten against the church, she still stands unconquered. Jesus Christ promised He would build His church upon a rock. And as the waves of the ocean may beat upon the rocks unremittingly without budging them, so the church has withstood all the waves that have beat against it through time.
The white horse rider, who turned the world upside down and conquered all His foes in the early Gospel day, still rides on today (Revelation 19:11)! Behind Him, the church joins Him in the hottest battle she has yet had to face. In a last endeavour to destroy the church, Satan is presently gathering all the forces of evil against Christ’s bride. False religion, skepticism, humanism, revived paganism, counterfeit Christianity–these are only a sample of the weapons in Satan’s arsenal. He fights desperately, as a man who knows the clock is ticking and time is running out. At times his attacks come from without; other times they come from within.
But just as he was forced to realize the futility of guarding the grave of the Son of God, so he is bound to discover the futility of his current endeavours. Present-day, undaunted apostles are more equipped than ever to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Saints, pure and holy even in this present world, labour together in perfect harmony.
The church, fiercely attacked for millennia, stands prepared for Christ’s soon return. And when He comes, He will find His church glorious, without spot or wrinkle, just as He promised. And Satan himself will be forced to acknowledge that, indeed, the gates of hell could not prevail against God’s church.