Matthew 16:18b and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The promise here is a simple one, but one that should give us great courage. Death, sin, Satan, and all the powers of darkness will not overcome God’s people. Why? This is Jesus’ Church. He will overcome all and so his people will overcome all. The human heart is so easily gripped by fear that Christ must constantly remind us that he is in charge. He is the one with authority. We are weak and the powers of Hell so mighty. The forces of darkness rally against us. We rarely hold positions of power and authority in the world. Governments clamp down on us and burn Bibles. Churches are destroyed and Christians killed around the world. Hollywood actively opposes the Christian faith with billions of dollars with of movies and TV shows every year. Christianity is bad mouthed by the media. Wolves are within the fold. Wolves are outside the fold. Yet somehow the Church marches on. Somehow civilizations fall, yet we do not. Somehow Rome, France, Spain, England, and now America fade into the sunset, but the Church marches on. She preaches and prays and worships and gives alms. She meets in huts and store fronts and houses and cathedrals. She tells her people to turn the other cheek and to live peaceably with all men and to lead a quiet and peaceful life and to deny yourself. Yet she conquers all. Nations like Russia try to stamp her out and fail miserably. Jesus cannot lose. Hell doesn’t have a chance. I think this is why Christians like to read and write stories about underdogs. For example, we love Lord of the Rings. A small Hobbit with hairy feet saves the world. I am reading a story now to the boys about an assistant pig keeper who is fighting against the forces of evil. Christians feel these types of stories are true to the real story, the story of Christ the carpenter’s son and all his losers who conquer the world.
(Excerpt from my sermon this past Sunday.)
Here is a longer quote from Trinity and Reality about hell. This section of his book is truly terrifying. The picture of man in Hell, as lonely, isolated, separated from God and man, burning physically and psychologically was a picture not easily dismissed from the mind.
“Man in hell cannot control his thoughts and motives. He is caught in the iron trap of his sinful self because that is all that is left of him. God no longer restrains his sin, upholding the nobler aspects of his character as Gods’ image. At the same time, the man cannot satisfy his lusts either. He is confined to a world in which lust rages without limit and without satisfaction. The more he lusts, the greater his frustation–the greater his frustration, the more the fires of lust burn.
Thus, hell is dis-intergration in the sense that the sinner contradicts his own self. The horror of hell is the horror of the man who looks into the mirror of his soul and sees all the monsters, all the fearsome and foul fiends he so loathes and abominates. The fire of hell is the fire of a conscience that can no longer escape the penetrating self-accusation, the clear and complete knowledge of one’s utter perversity–all the excuses gone, every form of self-justification and self-deception stripped away, so that nothing is left but the most unpleasant, unendurable, unbearable truth. The psychology of hell is the psychology of a man whose greatest torture is to become what he truly is and know it with infallible certainty.” (p. 186)