In Matthew 16:13-18 we read, “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 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.”

As the Lord sat with His disciples, He asked them what they had others from others about who Jesus truly was.  There were several speculations offered, but then the Lord asked the most important question, “Whom say YE that I am?”  This was a very personal question that every single person needs to consider and answer.  Who do say Jesus is?  Is He a prophet?  Is He a good man?  Is He a charlatan?  Who is He and what is He to you?  Your answer to this question will determine your eternal destiny.

Peter answered the Lord with a wisdom and understanding that did not come from within himself.  He stated boldly, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  He did not begin his answer by saying, “I think…”  No, he spoke emphatically about the person of the Lord.  He IS the Christ, the Messiah.  He IS the Son of the living God.  He had been persuaded by divine revelation about who Jesus was and he spoke firmly and confidently of Him.  This was a most concise, and yet complete, confession of faith.

Before we go on to answer your good question, I think we need to consider the Lord’s words in the first part of verse 18, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…” Some mistakenly believe that the Lord is saying that His church would be built upon Peter because his name means ‘rock’.  Not so!  The Greek word for Peter is ‘petros’ and means ‘a piece of rock’.  However, when the Lord stated that He would build His church upon ‘this rock’ the Greek word used is ‘petra’ and it means ‘a mass of rock.’  The Lord’s church was not built upon a fallen, unpredictable, sinful man.  No!  It was built upon the rock-like profession of faith that Peter made…that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, and each one that honestly has that faith is added to the church.  Acts 2:47 tells us that, “…the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”  The Lord, Himself is the foundation of His church and He is also the head.  (Acts 4:10-11, 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 5:23).  Peter would later write about Christ being the foundation of His church in 1 Peter 2:4-9)

Now let us consider what the Lord said to Peter about His church, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  The Greek word for Hell is not the usual word ‘Gehenna’.  It is the Greek word ‘Hades’ which refers to those who are dead.  It speaks of death.  It literally means ‘the unseen’.

The Lord is teaching us here that death itself cannot triumph over the Lord’s church.  Satan’s greatest weapon is death.  We read in Hebrews 2:14-15, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”  Over the years, death has done nothing to diminish the Lord’s church.  Instead, the blood of the martyrs has served to increase and strengthen the church. 

The church will not fail.  It will exist until the very day the Lord Jesus comes to rapture His church out of this scene and take it to Heaven to be with Himself.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 tells us, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Have you been added to the church through true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?  If not, may the words of Acts 16:31 speak to your heart today.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”  (432.4)