The Gates of Hell

In response to the charge that He was casting out demons by the power of the Devil, Jesus deftly provided clear reasoning of what His ministry consisted:

So he called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom will not be able to stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan rises against himself and is divided, he is not able to stand and his end has come. But no one is able to enter a strong man’s house and steal his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can thoroughly plunder his house. (Mk. 3.23-27 NET)

Jesus uses the figure of treasure (property in this version) which the careful listener would have equated with the Israelites who were rescued from Egypt under Moses. God, henceforth, called them His treasured possession. Zechariah, writing of a future rescue, also uses the idea of precious treasure: The LORD their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown(9.16 NIV). In the same way, Jesus is now rescuing those demon possessed by plundering Satan’s house.

When Peter confessed Christ (Mt. 16.13-20), Jesus used the now well-known phrase: You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven! And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades [Hell] will not overpower it (vss. 17&18 NET). The Rock that Jesus was building upon was not from human revelation but of The Father to Peter. Peter was one of the living stones (or treasured jewels) whom he would write about in his first epistle (1Pet.2.5) who were built on this foundation of The Father’s revelation. The church that Jesus is building will reach through the domain of the Devil (gates of hell) to rescue those imprisoned.

The figure of an ancient gate was the most fortified area of a fortress or castle. It had to be fortified since from it massive doors would be fastened which kept unwanted enemies out. Often, a fortified city would have two or more walls with either a moat or rubbish dump between the walls so if enemies breach one wall, they would be slowed enough for the city’s defenders to prevent them from getting in.

Pictured below is the plan of the ancient fortress of Beersheba which shows a typical layout. Notice the heavily built four chambered gate at the bottom of the image. These chambers were used for civil matters such as transactions where proceedings could be witnessed by elders or other important people, and, therefore, attested. Transactions such as land transfers and marriages were conducted in these chambers. The transaction of Boaz redeeming Ruth is an example of what occurred in gates (see Ruth 4.1-12).

 

https://www.ebibletools.com/israel/beersheba/DCP_1413.html#gate

All these concepts are inherent in Jesus’ words of “the gates of hell.” His listeners would have recognized that the church would reach into these gates and redeem some from its hold. Jesus, by His church, would plunder Satan’s possessions and take out His treasured people. Just as Jesus drove out demons, so He would continue His work through the church.

I do not know what was in Tom Petty’s heart when he penned these words but they can be adapted to the Christian message of redemption no matter how he meant the words to be taken. Notice the concepts such as “stand”, “gates of hell”, “I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down”, “I know what’s right”, “I have just one life.”

I Won’t Back Down

Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
No, I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground
And I won’t back down
(I won’t back down)
Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out
(I won’t back down)
Hey, I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
Well I know what’s right
I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground
And I won’t back down
(I won’t back down)
Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out
(I won’t back down)
Hey, I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
(I won’t back down)
Hey, I won’t back down
(I won’t back down)
Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out
(I won’t back down)
Hey, I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
Songwriters: Jeff Lynne / Tom Petty
I Won’t Back Down lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.