"You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church expansive with energy that not even the gates of Hell can keep it out" Matt. 16:18 (emphasis mine).
"will not continue overpowering or prevail in resisting it" Matt. Mitchell translation.
I did a double take as I read that verse. Could it really mean what it says? Both versions depict the church on the offense not the defense. The gates of hell aren't strong enough to resist its attack and there's only one reason to mount an assault...people.
This is one of those "what if" moments when I allow myself to think outside my typical Pentecostal, Charismatic, Evangelical, Fundamental, what-ever box and ponder. "What if I've got it all wrong?" Are we missing out on something Jesus has empowered us to do?
To be clear, I am not a universalist. I don't believe all roads lead to God. As a Christian I fully believe Jesus' claim of exclusivity as the only way to God found in John 14:6. It is non-negotiable. Period.
So, since Jesus can't lie and Matt. is true, how does this work? How do we the church invade hell and release the captives (they're the only thing there worth taking). After His death, Jesus invaded hell, preached to those there and staged a prison break. Awesome. Jews and gentiles alike heard the good news and took advantage of a get out of jail card now opportunity.
What about those who died one nano-second after Jesus cleaned house? I struggle with this. Is it so-sad-too-bad that you didn't die fast enough and now you've missed the bus to heaven? Romans is clear that God doesn't show favoritism. So, what about those who arrived too late?
Jesus made a very bold statement in John 14:12 that still makes me squirm a lot because I haven't seen it fulfilled in my life.
"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father."
To date, being open and honest, I've not turned water into wine. I haven't feed the masses with a sack lunch, raised any dead people or even walked on water. I have on a few occasions prayed and people were healed, but I'm far from batting 1000 in the do what Jesus did department. What are the "greater things" that He was referring to?
It is preferable that a person never go to hell in the first place. Sharing with others a relationship with Jesus is important but not the only thing God accomplished in His grand scheme of salvation. What if,just like Jesus, believers can enter hell also and raid it? The people there aren't dead. This is a radical thought but if I am to take Jesus' words at face value then according to the Bible it is possible.
If this is true, there is still the all important element of man's free will. God never overrides anyone's ability to make bad decisions even when their spiritual future depends on it. If He gave those born before Christ the opportunity to hear the Gospel and then the chance to decide after physical death, what about the billions who've died since then and never heard?
How about you? As a believer, if it is possible to actually invade hell and free captives there, would you do it? If it is possible and God commissions you to preach to those you think deserve to be there would you go?
I realize this is very unconventional and my purpose isn't to be controversial. I am posing a questions based on scriptures I'd rather skip over because they challenge me and make me uncomfortable. They make me wonder, "What if?"