In my last article; The Christian Soldier, I looked at the Christian Soldier and what they have to do to fight spiritual warfare. We saw that without proper understanding and authority, a person could spiritually get hurt when engaging in spiritual warfare. In our next study, we are going to focus on the Militant Church and why the church is crucial in spiritual warfare.
Even though an individual can engage in spiritual warfare and win some battles, it is VERY IMPORTANT to understand that a person's individual effort in today's spiritual climate, can be hindered if the church they attend is not a spiritual warring church. Individuals have won great battles within churches; revivals have broken out because of the intercessory prayer of one person. However, for a sustained victory in any city or church, there has to arise a militant church that goes forth binding principalities to keep the harvesting of souls coming in. It HAS, AND WILL ALWAYS require a group of people within the church walls to engage in spritual warfare, through the avenue of intercessory prayer.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH
Mat 16:15-18 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? (16) And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (17) And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (18) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
If you understand the context by which Jesus is speaking in the above verse, you will notice that the conversation is based on a revelation that Peter got concerning who Jesus really was. When Peter said "thou art the Christ," he is saying that Jesus was God manifested in the flesh. It is this "revelation" of who Jesus is which was going to be the foundation that the church would be built upon. The term "upon this rock" is the revelation of who Jesus is.
The other part of the verse refers to "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Within the context of the verse, Jesus is saying that the revelation of who He was, and His church would not be defeated. This is part of the very foundation of His church. However, within that part of the verse is a BIG misunderstanding about the "gates of hell" and the devil defeating the church as we will see next.
THE MINDSET OF SOME CHURCHES
When it comes to the phrase "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," some churches hold to the idea that the church is to stand against the "gates of hell" (and the devil); and not let them overcome the church. Most will hold to the idea of a "holding the fort" mentality. Most saints (who make up a church) live their lives having the mindset of "surviving" the attacks of the enemy. This position in the mindset of the church will keep a church from growing. I call this kind of church a "Maintenance-mode church." They only exist by surviving from crisis to crisis. They pray just enough to stay saved.
When the church has this "holding the fort" mentality, you will find a church that has plateaued. Most sermons in the church will be geared to just keeping the saints alive spiritually... but that is not all the church should be doing! We will see next why this mentality keeps churches from powerful moves of God where there are lots of souls coming into the church on a regular basis.
WHAT IS THE "GATES OF HELL?"
The Greek word "gate" means; a gate, that is, the leaf or wing of a folding entrance (literally or figuratively): - gate. If you think about what a gate is, you have to conclude that it is a stationary object anchored into the ground; meaning, that is DOESN'T MOVE.
The Greek word "hell" means; “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls: - grave. Most think that the term "hell" in scripture always refers to the Lake of Fire or a place where the devil lives. While there really are some places in scripture where "hell" applies to "hell fire", it doesn't apply in all instances of "hell." As a matter of fact, more times than not, the word "hell" is referring to death and the grave.
THE "GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL" AGAINST THE CHURCH
So, now we have to conclude from above that the proper context of the term "the gates of hell" is actually referring to the "gates of death and the grave!" Now, since the position of the gates is stationary and it is the entrance of people who die; we have to conclude that the "Gates of Hell" is not a force that is moving to conquer, but instead is a place where people enter to physically die and wait until the final judgment day.
Therefore, now we are faced with the phrase "shall not prevail against it." The Greek word for "prevail against" means; to overpower - prevail against. So, now we could interpret the term with its proper meaning to be; "the gates of death (grave) shall not overpower the church."
So, now we must really think about this... how can stationary gates of death overpower the church? The only viable answer is that the church would have to stop conquering and die spiritually, which would allow death to overpower the church. And since Jesus made an affirmative "SHALL NOT PREVAIL," we know that overall (worldwide) the church will not die. However, even though some individual assemblies die, the true global church will not die. But, now it raises a brutally honest question... how come some churches do die and/or close their doors? More on this later.
THE ONLY REAL ENEMY OF THE CHURCH
The truth be told, there are many enemies to the church such as; the devil and his demons, false doctrine, luke-warmness, other religions and the anti-christ system that is already in the world. However, since Jesus conquered all principalities and powers, and even conquered death and the grave... what is the real enemy of the church? DEATH!
If Jesus conquered death and the grave; and Jesus said "the gates of hell shall not prevail," then why would death be the real enemy of the church? Even though Jesus conquered everything, it doesn't apply to anybody unless they come to Him and let His blood and victory be applied to their lives. So, as long as people come to God and the church keeps reaching for more people, then the church will always be alive and not die. However, if the church doesn't remain militant and conquer more for the Lord... then death ultimately will swallow up (overcome) the church.
Another application (not part of this study) of the meaning of "death shall not overcome the church" is the fact that when a saint becomes saved, death will not prevent them from being resurrected. They will not experience the second death on judgment day.
WHY DO CHURCHES DIE?
Even though Jesus said that death shall not overcome the church, He was referring to the overall global church as a whole. The truth be told, it doesn't mean that individual assemblies cannot become luke-warm, spiritually die and/or actually close their doors forever. Why is that?
The main reason churches falter and/or die is because their love for God either dies and/or pleasures of life choke their spiritual lives. The biggest reason a church would become luke-warm and/or die spiritually is because they did not consistently deal with the spirits that effected their congregation... in other words... the church did not militantly engage in spiritual warfare that made a difference.
If you were to read about the seven churches in Revelations and really think about each church and their problems, then you will understand how churches can go bad. In most of those "words from the Lord"... He commanded them to repent or else.... (such and such would happen).
DEMONIC PRESSURE ON THE CHURCH
Someone doesn't have to be very spiritual to see that our world is filthy and over-run by demonic spirits. But, what concerns me is that saints of God do not really see how these spirits affect the individual or church. Somehow the idea got in, that going to church shields them from spiritual warfare. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Actually, going to church makes a person a target of devils automatically.
When a person rubs shoulders with the world on a day-to-day basis. If they do not regularly pray and fast, those "deceptive thoughts" from the demonic world can slowly change a person's thinking about God and truth. And over time, if the church has a majority of its membership oppressed from "spirits of the world," then they will end up with dry-dead services. So, if the spiritual condition of the church stays dry too long, or altars are barren too long, or membership falls off... these things lead to dead churches.
WHY A CHURCH MUST BE MILITANT
When you really think about "the gates of hell (death) shall not prevail against (overcome) it," you have to understand that for death to take place, all the church has to do... IS DO NOTHING! As I explained in several sections above, you can see why a church cannot have the "hold the fort" mentality. When a church is just sitting and trying to survive, it is actually losing ground and can even slowly die.
We know that the only way to get the things we desire from God, is to be militant in prayer. We have to conquer ourselves and help each other overcome. However, the biggest trick of the devil on the church is to just get them to do nothing, and not be militant. And if a church doesn't become militant and conquer spiritual territory, guess what? The devil wins by default, because he is like that stationary gate of death, and he already has what you want.... meaning, he has your promise, your calling, your healing, your gift or even your salvation. He doesn't have to do anything else... IF YOU DON'T GO GET IT, then you lose by default. The only way to get things from God... IS BE MILITANT!
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS MILITANT
Jesus never meant for the church to just "hold on" until He comes. Jesus gave His church power to overcome and be witnesses. He put in place the gifts of the spirit to encourage us to spiritually war. The church Jesus looks for is one that is militant and spiritually conquers principalities. The Lord expects us to engage in spiritual warfare.
1 John 5:4-5 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (5) Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
One of the major ingredients to a militant individual or church, is that is operates in faith. An attitude of faith is empowered by action. We exercise faith by moving forward. James said... "I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:17-18). A militant church refuses to sit still and just put up with being attacked by devils. Instead, a militant church goes on the offensive... it is the one doing the attacking.
When you look back at the days of Joshua. God expected Israel to go into the promise land and conquer the land through warfare. The Lord did not just hand it to them, but was with them to help them win the battles. It is the same today, we engage in spiritual warfare so we can claim our spiritual promises, callings and revivals!
We have basically pointed out that the reason the church has to be militant is because without it, the church gets nothing from God. An inactive church, that sits in its bunkers and doesn't go forth conquering, will eventually die. There are so many great things in the spirit realm of God that is only gotten through spiritual warfare.
The danger with a church that maintains the "hold the fort" mentality, is that saints of God live closer to the world and are afraid to engage in spiritual warfare. The truth be told, a lot of saints cannot engage in spiritual warfare because they can't seem to conquer self yet. A person can't call out devils if they entertain them too.
The goal of every single church is for leadership to teach saints how to overcome their own flesh until the entire church comes into the "unity of the faith." It is the leadership's responsibility to nurture a group of prayer warriors that are overcomers; and that have a right to engage in spiritual warfare.
In our next lesson, I am going to focus on how the militant church should have and use a group of people to be the prayer warriors of a church. We will also focus on the power of fasting and intercessory prayer... the only things we have to be successful in spiritual warfare.
READ NEXT: The Battlefield of the Mind