I know this sounds strange, but until a few weeks ago, I had a nonsensical interpretation of this Bible verse. I didn’t understand until I chanced to hear a sermon right after our family finished watching the entire LORD OF THE RINGS movie trilogy.
For some reason, I had the image in my head that the Gates of Hell were the things moving to attack me/the Church and that they wouldn’t prevail against us.
How dumb is that?
The juxtaposition of sermon and movie revealed the reality – it is the Gates of Hell that are stationary and the Church that is moving. In LORD OF THE RINGS, the Great Eye of Middle Earth can’t go anywhere. Sauron is locked at the top of Barad-dûr, unable to affect Middle Earth except as he influences the Nazgûl, orcs, Saruman, and the Ring itself. He is, as far as the ability to move is concerned powerless.
It suddenly occurred to me that Satan is just as powerless as Sauron. He is just as trapped. He uses minions just as Sauron did and he is vulnerable to attack and susceptible in defense. He is resistable. Frodo, Galadriel, Gandalf, Treebeard and hundreds of others resisted Sauron. His power is not all-powerful; nor is Satan’s power.
The greater revelation was that whether the Gates of Hell prevail or not, the phrase implies that there is movement on the part of the Church. In order for the Gates to prevail, the Church of Christ would have to lose the battle. A battle involves troop movement and as the Gates of Hell are little different from the Black Gate of Mordor – the Morannon – it means that the Church should be moving.
Instead of creating walls behind which to hide from the world, the flesh and the Devil, the Church should be moving out. Rather than broadening the divide between denominations, we should be forging alliances.
Please note that the alliance of Gil-galad of the Elves and Elendil the Exile of Númenor (also known as the Last Alliance of Elves and Men (though it included dwarves, orcs – “All living things were divided that day, and some of every kind, even beasts and birds, were found in either host, save the Elves only” (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/g/gatesofmordor.html) ) was not to make friends with Sauron. It’s purpose was not to discuss the inclusion of Sauron’s language and viewpoint into the rest of Middle Earth, nor was it to sign an agreement that he stay on a reservation somewhere.
The purpose of the Last Alliance was NOT to make friends with Sauron.
The purpose of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men was to defeat the evil that was Sauron and all those who chose to side with him. If the Last Alliance had lost that war at the Black Gate, then the Gates of Sauron would have prevailed against them.
The Gates did not prevail, the Last Alliance did and Sauron fell. The escape of the One Ring is another story and not the one we live in (as much as some think they would want to.)
We live in a world in which the story has not come to its end yet.
According to those who believe that the End Times are upon us, we should be girding for war. Scripture is also very clear about who will be leading the assault on the Gates of Hell – and it has nothing to do with presidents, televangelists, authors, legislators, Republicans and Democrats or even the good, old US of A. The King of Kings will lead and there will be no election to choose Him.
The image is clear: as the Fellowship of the Ring stirred the hearts of Middle Earth to launch against the Black Gate of Mordor, so the Church should be stirring the hearts of the Bride in preparation to storm the Gates of Hell. It is a battle we will not lose – Jesus was clear on that point in the Gospel of Matthew.
But in order for the Gates of Hell to not prevail – we need to be MOVING!