Matthew 16 is a very enlightening chapter in the Bible in our seeing how the direction of the Lord’s move today is to bring in the kingdom of God; in this chapter we have the way to build up the church and the enemy of the building of God.
The matter of the direction of the Lord’s move is critical to us today; in His move today the Lord desires to build up His Body, prepare the bride of Christ, and bring in the kingdom of God. These matters may not be new to us but we may be quite familiar with them, but together they form a direction, the direction of the Lord’s move today.
May we be saved from serving the Lord faithfully and laboring for Him diligently yet in the wrong direction! May we be saved from our concepts, past knowledge, and small understanding of the Body, the bride, and the kingdom, and may we be brought into oneness with the Lord to have the same direction as He has in His move.
May we not let our little knowledge deceive us, preoccupy us, and rob us of what the Lord is moving toward today. We all aspire that, in that day before the Lord’s judgement seat, He would approve us and thus testify that He knows us.
The Lord’s return is just around the corner; we have only a few more miles on the road until we will meet Him, and there’s just a short stretch of our journey before it ends; so we need to keep the direction of the Lord’s move which has been handed down to us by the Lord through the ministry, and we need to be one with the Lord to move in the direction He is moving.
The direction of the Triune God in the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is to build up the Body of Christ, prepare a bride for Christ, and bring in the kingdom of God. In Gen. 1-2 and Rev. 21-22, before and after sin came in, God wanted only one thing: to gain a corporate man (a man with his bride / his wife) to express Him and represent Him, and through such a one the kingdom of God would come in.
In Genesis 1-2 we see God’s intention, and in Rev. 21-22 we see the accomplishment of His heart’s desire: the New Jerusalem as the bride of the Lamb with the throne of God in the midst of it. Before we meet the Lord or pass through death, we need to hold fas what we have, which is the direction of the Lord’s move.
The kingdom of God is not something external: the kingdom is here right now, for the kingdom is our wonderful Lord Jesus who in a subjective way has sown Himself into our heart and is now growing and developing in us. We today as the church are the development and enlargement of the kingdom.
We must allow the Lord to spread in us to be His kingdom in reality. The kingdom of God must be the reality of the church today; if there’s no reality of the kingdom in the church life, the church life cannot be built up.
To be in the kingdom of God in reality we need to exercise the kingdom life for the building up of the church. To exercise is to put into action, use, operation, and effect. The kingdom of God, the realm of the divine life, has been sown into us and it is now growing and developing in us, and it requires our exercise.
We need to cooperate with the seed of the kingdom so that the kingdom can grow to the full for the building up of the church.
Seeing the Way to Build up the Church and the Enemy of God’s Building in Matt. 16
Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, is on the kingdom; the gospel we preach is the gospel of the kingdom, because Satan has set up his evil kingdom, and the gospel needs to be preached for God’s kingdom to come in.
When people hear the gospel and believe into the Lord, they enter into the kingdom of God; we repent for the kingdom, and the church is built up in the kingdom of God. In Matt. 16 we see the way to build up the church and the enemy of the building.
After Peter uttered the Father’s revelation given to him concerning the Lord, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, the Lord replied, On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of the heavens… (Matt. 16:18-20).
To bring in the kingdom of God is to have a built up church, and the building up of the church is the bringing in of the kingdom. Christ, the Son of the living God, builds His church on Himself as the rock, with stones such as Peter, transformed persons.
Christ is the rock on which the church is built, and this rock is also the revelation concerning Christ. Christ is the anointed One, the Messiah, the One sent by God to fulfill God’s plan and produce and build up the church.
The church is built on nothing and no one else except Christ, the Son of the living God, and on the revelation of this wonderful One. We need to see who Christ is and enjoy Him for the building up of the church.
Right after mentioning the church, the Lord also mentioned the gates of Hades, which are Satan’s authority or power of darkness; these gates attack the church to frustrate the Lord from building up the church.
As the Lord is building His church, the gates of Hades are attacking the church; Satan with all his forces are attacking the church, but we in the church have the keys of the kingdom to close these gates and release the kingdom of God on earth.
Don’t expect to have an easy and smooth time as you are one with the Lord to build up the church, for the gates of Hades are here to attack us.
The gates of Hades may be coming and be expressed, but our Christ is the resurrected One who overcame death! In order to build up the church, the Lord passed through death and enter into resurrection (Matt. 16:21). The revelation of the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection is related to the building up of the church and the overcoming of the gates of Hades.
The gates of Hades which attack the church will NOT prevail because our Christ has been crucified and resurrected, and He overcame death! However powerful death and darkness are, they shall not overcome the Christ who was crucified and resurrected!
The church was produced through Christ’s death and resurrection (see John 12:24), and the way for us to build the church is to experience Christ in His crucifixion and resurrection (see 2 Cor. 4:10-12; Gal. 2:20). The church exists and is built up only in the realm of resurrection through crucifixion; this is the way to build up the church.
Lord, show us the way to build up the church and how the enemy of Your building attacks the church! Impress us with the fact that the church was produced through Christ’s death and resurrection, and the way for us to build up the church is through death and resurrection! Lord, we want to be one with You as the One who builds up the church. You have overcome death and destroyed the devil through death. Hallelujah, our Christ is resurrected, and He now builds up the church in resurrection!
What are the Gates of Hades and how can we use the Keys of the Kingdom to Close them
Many believers wonder what are these “gates of Hades” that the Lord was speaking about, but we are not left in darkness concerning it by the Lord – right in the next few verses, as Peter with a good heart tried to rebuke and stop the Lord from going to the cross, the gates of Hades were exposed.
Peter, with a good heart, rebuked Jesus and tried to prevent Him from going to Jerusalem to be crucified (Matt. 16:22). In expressing his opinion and feeling toward the Lord, Peter had a good heart to take care of the Lord, but he didn’t know that by expressing his opinion he opened the gate for Satan to come out.
It was not Peter but actually it was Satan who came out through one of the gates of Hades, the gate of Peter’s self, to try to frustrate the Lord from building up the church (v. 23); this was the reason why the Lord, instead of saying, Peter, I know you love Me, but the reason I’m doing this is… – He said, Get behind me, Satan!
What came out of Peter’s mouth was not just Peter but Satan coming out through the gate of his opinion, for Peter set his mind on the things of men and not on the things of God.
The Lord therefore took this opportunity to expose three main gates of Hades: the self, the mind (expressed through opinions), and the soul-life; these three are the main gates through which Satan comes forth to attack and damage the church (Matt. 16:23-26).
Satan comes out through the gates. The first gate is the self. This means that we ourselves are one of the gates of Hades through which Satan comes out. Satan may come out through the gate of self even when we have a good heart. Whether our heart is good or evil, self is the first gate through which Satan comes out. In addition to the self, verses 21 through 26 also speak of the mind and the soul, both of which are also gates through which Satan comes out. Thus, the self, the soul, and the mind are the main gates through which Satan comes forth. Many times Satan has come out through your mind because your mind has been an open gate for him. W. Lee, The Exercise of the Kingdom for the Building up of the Church, ch. 1
We may have a good heart for the Lord, and our suggestion may be out of loving the saints, but if we don’t deny the self, take up the cross, and lose the soul-life, our good heart and mind can be used by Satan to bring death into the church.
We need to use the keys of the kingdom as shown by the Lord in Matt. 16:21-26: denying the self, taking up the cross, and losing the soul-life. Our self is an open gate of Hades, but self-denial is the key that shuts it.
When we take up our cross, our self, soul, and mind are shut up. When we lose our soul life for the sake of the Lord, we will gain it in the kingdom. We need to use these three subjective keys of the kingdom to lock up the gates of Hades for the church to be built up.
Lord Jesus, save us from opening the gates of Hades in our unrenewed mind, our soul, and our self. Show us the subjective keys of the kingdom which is to deny the self, lose our soul-life, and take up the cross. Lord, we want to be those who exercise the keys of the kingdom to lock up the gates of Hades so that the church may be built up and be the kingdom of God in reality. May our self be denied, our mind shut up, and the soul life be lost for Your sake in this age. Keep us exercising our spirit to lock the gates of Hades and release the kingdom of God!
References and Hymns on this Topic
- Inspiration: the Word of God, my enjoyment in the ministry, the message by brother James L. for this week, and portions from, Collected Works of Witness Lee, 1978, vol. 1, “The Exercise of the Kingdom for the Building of the Church,” ch. 1, as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, The Direction of the Lord’s Move (2016 Thanksgiving Conference), msg. 6 (week 6), To Bring In the Kingdom of God (2) – The Exercise of the Kingdom for the Building Up of the Church.
- Hymns on this topic:
# Though the gates of hades frustrate, / Yet the Church still stands for God, / Overcoming evil spirits / By her Lord’s victorious blood; / And at Christ’s return in triumph / All her foes will then be trod. (Hymns #836)
# “I will build My church upon this rock,” said the Lord Jesus, / And we see the building of His purpose and His plan; / Setting members in the Body as Himself it pleases, / Building us together in Christ our land. (Hymns #1236)
# Within those whom You’d call / Put such a restless caring / For building to give all— / These times are for preparing; / The gates of hell cannot prevail / Against the builded Church! / The hours are few, the builders too— / Lord, build, O build in us! (Hymns #1248)
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