Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:17-19
There was a time when Hades was not hell. It was not a place of torment but of lament; a shadowy existence where the once living would melancholically reminiscence about their former vibrant life. Hades was the much dreaded end of all humanity.
All share a common destiny – the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. Ecclesiastes 9:2-3
The existence of Hell with all its creative imaginings of eternal fire and torment is debatable but there is no doubt about Hades. It is a place that awaits of all humanity. An existence where we won’t be remembered anymore despite our best efforts to be remembered in this world.
Living a shadowy existence is not reserved for the afterlife, unfortunately. It is a present reality for many. Some have wealth and power to create an illusionary heaven on earth. They create a façade to hide from their reality. Most can not afford this illusion and they are forced to face their Hades on a daily basis. It is a consequence of the Fall. God warned Adam:
“but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:17
Alas, from Adam to present times, humanity desires to be like god and decide what is right and wrong. They want to create their own justice. They want to be judges of their own destinies. They think that heaven is within their reach, yet all they have created is a ever present state of Hades. Some continue to pretend that they have a secure piece of heaven in this Hades. They try to exclude anyone who reminds them that it is an lie. The message of the gospel is of no use to them. They are only interested in it if it can guarantee that they can hold unto the “heaven” of their own making in the afterlife. For these, the power of the gospel only takes effect in the afterlife. They have no use for the gospel in the here and now. Jesus said that those who are well have no use for Him. He came to heal the sick; those who are able to see that Hades is the world that fallen human beings have created.
It is understandable that instead of religious leaders and powerful Roman officials, God chose a lowly fisherman to confess the true nature of Jesus. The others would find the Messiah to be troublesome rather than a blessing. Peter was conscious of his lowly status. He confessed when he met Jesus for the first time that he was a sinful man (Luke 5:8). This was the man Jesus chose to open the gates of Hades. Peter knew what it was like to live in Hades. Until Jesus came into his life, he was living in oblivion. Now, he was given the Truth that would make Him the richest man in the world but it was not his to keep. He needed to share this truth and the gates of Hades was a good place to start.
What are we suppose to do there? There is no clear instruction except to unlock the gates. The key can be none other than the person of Jesus, in other words, His love. It is this key that touched the hearts of His disciples. The gates of Hades have existed far too long, keeping many out of the land of the living. We can open these gates with confidence because we encountered the reality of His gracious love in our hearts. However, we cannot make people leave Hades. They have to do it for themselves. They need to listen like Peter did to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Jesus made it clear that it wasn’t Peter’s intelligence or wisdom that made him see things clearly; it was the Holy Spirit. We go forth to Hades because we know that the Holy Spirit will there waiting for us. If not, Jesus wouldn’t send us there. We are given this honor to participate in this work with the Holy Spirit. We are given the keys to remove the obstacles that impede people from living a full life instead of a shadowy existence. This is the opposite of the world’s view. It is always placing obstacles to separate people. The word ‘diabolos” for the devil means the one condemned to sever relationships. We bind all the powers that severe relationships and release things that will unite us.
This week I was surprised once again by a question that was never asked before. Dreyson wanted to know what I like to do in my spare time. He stressed the word, “like”. Our relationship has come to a stage where the children and teens are interested in our daily lives. He knows that we don’t have a TV. He cannot imagine life without TV. I told him that I liked to read a lot. Then he asked a follow-up question, if I completed college. I told him that I spent too much time in colleges. I had enough of them. Then he had a curious look on his face. Then as if it never occurred to him before, he asked, “Are you rich?” I guessed he thought going to college twice means that I had money. It was hard to explain the concept of scholarship. However, the reality is that compared to his family, I am rich. I told him that I am richer than his family but in the eyes of society, I am not rich but I am definitely not poor. He smiled and liked my answer. Then he asked what I had planned for tomorrow. I told him Mary and I were going to the museum with him. We had planned this earlier this week. He smiled. He wasn’t trying to be smug but he wanted to hear from me that we have a date reserved for just him and us. Then our conversation wandered off to many directions. We sat there on the floor of a dirty city square. One person richer than the other without any obstacles between us because Jesus was in the center of it. He united us to become one.