Summary: Satan and his demons hate you. Their hope and desire is to rob, kill, and destroy you, Jesus said. The Bible pictures the devil as a roaring lion seeking to devour you. That should make us tremble, right? Wrong! The Bible (James 2:19) says that it’s the demons who tremble. By contrast, Christians are the victors over Satan and his demons. How? Come see.
Among respected Bible commentators and teachers there are multiple interpretations of Jesus’ expression “the gates of hell.” A sample of some of those are: the strength and forces of Satan…the fortifications of hell [Hades]…the place where leaders meet (that was often the city gates in ancient times)…death and/or the grave…and others. In specific application there is probably merit in a number of these interpretations.
One of them that I believe carries considerable weight is stated by the late Bible teacher Kevin Conner of Australia: “The powers of Satan shall not prevail, or overpower the Church, or be able to hold out against it… ‘Hades’ — “the place of departed spirits. The power of the infernal region. Speaking of Satan’s evil spirits, principalities and powers with whom the Church will have constant warfare” [A New Testament Commentary: Messages from Matthew, Kevin J. Conner, p. 229].
That’s the perspective we’ll focus on, captured in seven centrally important words that Jesus spoke — “The gates of hell shall not prevail” against the Church! That wicked devil Satan and his evil demons will not prevail! The Church will be victorious; Satan and his demons will not.
The arch-enemies of the Church in the time of “this present darkness” (RSV) are “the rulers…the authorities…the powers of this dark world…the spiritual forces of evil…the devil’s schemes…the evil one” (Ephesians 6:11-16). This ongoing spiritual warfare will last until Christ's Second Coming. But Jesus the Son of God promised that hell/Hades shall not overcome or prevail against His beloved Church, for which He died and rose again to save us (1 Corinthians 15:2-4).
This is an eternity-changing truth. The devil, Satan, is a wicked, foul spirit. The apostle Peter told us that “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). That’s Satan’s nature. He despises the Lord’s Church and its people. If we give in to him, he and his legions of evil spirits will have a very destructive influence in our lives.
However, in our verse just above the apostle John reminds us that one of the specific reasons Jesus came from heaven to earth was “to destroy the works of the devil.” The Lord did that very effectively by His death on the cross for our sins, His burial, and His glorious resurrection from the dead.
Now our privilege as believers and followers of Jesus Christ is to walk in the victory that He secured for us over “the works of the devil.” Remember, through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness” (Colossians 1:13). Therefore, as the Lord promised, “The gates of hell shall not prevail!”
During the 3-1/2 years of His public ministry on earth, Jesus consistently demonstrated His total power over Satan and demons. Acts 10:38 tells us how God the Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power. Subsequently, in the fullness of heavenly power, Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil.”
Bible scholars have differing opinions on the amount of influence the devil might have in regard to our physical health. But that’s not the main point. The central issue is the certainty that our infinitely strong, omnipotent Savior Jesus had (and still has!) unlimited healing and delivering power over the “power of the devil.” Whatever the devil’s attacks against you might be, remember and act upon the fact that your Savior Jesus has all power over the devil, and He came to earth to destroy the devil’s works. Satan no longer has power over your life. Walk confidently in that truth—Hell shall not prevail!
Here too there are varied interpretations. But the main thought clearly remains this: Jesus secured victory over the devil and his demons. And the focal point of that victory was the cross, pointing to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for our great salvation.
There is immense power in what Jesus did for us at the cross. The apostle Paul wrote that “…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). At the cross, said the apostle, Jesus disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God (2 Corinthians 10:4). By sharp contrast, Jesus came to destroy the devil’s works and, by His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, he “disarmed” Satan and his hosts of demons. And that brings assurance to us, His people, that “The gates of hell shall not prevail!”
If all we had was the first part of that verse, we’d be in deep trouble. Yes, the “thief” — believed by many to refer to the devil; see John 8:44 — does come against mankind with the malicious intent to “steal and kill and destroy.” But in direct opposition to that, Jesus reassures His followers that He has come to bring us life to the full!
Again, in any and all demonic attacks against you, remember these truths, and choose to side with the Victor (Jesus) over the defeated ones (Satan and his demons). Because of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Hell shall not prevail!”
This is just one of many Gospel accounts of Jesus exercising total authority and dominion over demon spirits. Those violent, lunatic men were fully possessed by many wicked demons. With a word to the demons — “Go!” — Jesus cast them out and cured the men.
In any encounter you may have with demons, expect to be the victor. Empowered by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and with the Word of God and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, you have authority that the forces of hell cannot resist. Remember Jesus’ promise to His Church: “Hell shall not prevail!”
You might at this point be saying, “Well, that works for Jesus, since He’s the Son of God. But can we, mere mortals, expect to exercise similar power over the devil and his legions?” And the answer is a definite “Yes!”
Jesus sent out a large group of His disciples to minister. They returned joyfully and reported that “even the demons” were subject to them. And His promise to them rings true and valid right down to our time: “I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy…  the spirits are subject to you.” Back then and still today, Jesus gives to His believing followers “authority…over all the power of the enemy.” The next verse (just below) confirms the promise that “The gates of hell shall not prevail,” since the Lord’s Church and His followers therein are the ones who are given the Lord's authority and power to prevail over demons.
These verses and Matthew 28:18-20 are what is commonly called Jesus’ “Great Commission” to His Church. Remember the verses above, where Jesus told His followers, “
The apostle Paul demonstrated the power Jesus promised to believers over demon spirits. He had been ministering for many days in Philippi. A woman who had a fortune-telling evil spirit had begun following Paul around. When he discerned the demon in her, Paul cried out, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” And she was instantly delivered. Paul fully understood that even the wickedest demons shall not prevail against the name of the Lord Jesus Christ spoken in faith.
The apostle Paul and his shipmates had been shipwrecked on the island of Malta. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire. Driven out by the fire’s heat, a venomous snake bit Paul on the hand. But Paul simply shook it off into the fire, and the Lord allowed him to suffer no ill effects (see Mark 16:17f). Unshaken, Paul went on to minister divine healing to the island chief’s father, and that led to a healing revival on the island (vs. 9).
The bottom line? The Spirit-filled, Jesus-honoring servant of the Lord simply shook off the dangerous serpent! We too, by faith in Jesus and His name, can shake off “serpents” (demons), since Jesus has given His followers “authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.” In every encounter with the devil’s forces, oppose them with the “full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18) and the all-powerful name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan shall not prevail; the Lord’s Church will!
In the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), the serpent deceived Eve, which led to Eve and Adam partaking of the forbidden fruit. In the last book of the Bible John clearly tells us that the “old serpent” of Eden is the devil, Satan.
In the Garden of Eden Satan got victory for a time. Then some 2,000 years ago Jesus came from heaven to earth, lived, preached, taught, and healed and delivered people in need. Then He went to the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead on the 3rd day. Alive again forever, our Savior ascended back to heaven to God the Father, having redeemed from the sentence of sin and eternal punishment all who will come to God in repentance for sins and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).
Many Christians (I too) believe that Jesus’ Second Coming is not far off. He will return to earth “in flaming fire” wrath against those who oppose Him (2 Thessalonians 1:8). But in glory and love He will gather all the redeemed to Himself (vs. 10). The saved will “reign with Him a thousand years” [the Millennium] (Revelation 20:6). Finally Satan, whom God had locked up for the 1,000 years of the Millennium, is cast by God into never-ending torment in “the lake of fire and brimstone” (vs. 10). The saved, the redeemed, live on in God’s indescribably glorious presence for all eternity (Revelation 22:1-5). And the promise of Jesus that “The gates of hell shall not prevail” shall be celebrated eternally by His people, who will experience the glorious fulfillment of the Psalm’s promise that “In thy [God’s] presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). There will be no devil or demons and no sin or sickness or death in the blissful eternity that the saved will enjoy in the presence of the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In closing, let me list three Scripture verses that have strengthened me greatly over the years. Each of the three speaks of
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©2021, James H. Feeney.
and Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.