Possessing the Gates of Our Enemies – Part One

—by Rev. Malcolm Hedding, ICEJ Board Member and International Spokesman

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Gates in Scripture are places of power, authority, defense, splendor and safety. Whoever holds them or sits in them is in control of everything. Sadly, the unseen demonic world controls most of them today and they do so chiefly to resist the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As always, however, there is a contextual element to our understanding of Scripture, and this is no less true in terms of coming to terms with the promise of God to Abraham recorded in Genesis 22:17. That is, that Israel will posses the gates of her enemies, on condition that she walks in the will and purpose of God.

Israel was called by God to be a “shining light theocracy” whereby the reality and character of God’s redeeming love for the world would be displayed through her to the nations. It is probably true that the only time when she truly possessed the “gates of her enemies” was during the reigns of David and Solomon and thereafter for short periods during the reigns of people like Hezekiah and Josiah. Nevertheless, this remarkable promise will be finally fulfilled during the glorious messianic reign of the Messiah. In that soon coming day the nations that will not honor the God of Israel by coming up annually to Jerusalem to worship Him will be judged (Zechariah 14:16ff).

The Church by its calling is not territorial. Her calling and authority is a spiritual one whereby the evil gates of spiritual dominion that block the purposes of God in revealing the light of the Gospel are torn down. Paul wrote of this struggle in this way:

“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God should shine on them.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:11-12)

So then, to possess the gates of our enemies requires dedicated, importunate and energetic prayer since we are up against the unseen but real and wicked “rulers of this age.” This is no easy struggle! Christians routinely get these areas mixed up and consequently claim and assert things in prayer that are just not biblical. They sound spiritual and very triumphant, but they are just not true! We should then note the following:

  1. God is already finished with the structures or systems of this world and thus our chief task is to call people out of them by the preaching of the Gospel (1 John 2:17; Revelation 18:3-5). We are not called to rehabilitate the world systems.

  2. The preaching of the Gospel to every person is the sole and only purpose laid upon us by Christ Himself. We call this the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-16). Paul went to Rome, not to rehabilitate the Roman government but to preach the Gospel there (Romans 1:11-16).

  3. The Church, however, is called to retard wickedness or restrain its growth by being “salt and light” in the world; salt preserves and light shines the way (Matthew 5:13). This enables the Gospel to be preached and this is the only reason why we pray for our political leaders and governments (1 Timothy 2:1-7). We want peace, not so that we can live our lives as we please, but for the easy flow and proclamation of the Gospel. In other words, we seek to possess the spiritual gates of our nations and enemies so that people can hear the saving message of Jesus. We should never forget to thank God for those places in the world where this can happen, but the powers of darkness are even now working overtime to regain these gates.

  4. In certain pivotal times in history, in order to prevent the overflowing of wickedness, the Church by its devotion and prayers has greatly impacted governments and their leaders. In all cases, the onward march and proclamation of the Gospel was in the mind of God. Here are a few examples of this:
  • The spiritual conquest of Rome in the fourth century AD opened the empire to the preaching of the Gospel. Rome in fact was shortly after this destroyed by the so-called Barbarians, but the message of Jesus took root in all of Europe, North Africa, Ireland and Britain.

  • The Great Awakening in the original 13 colonies of what would become the United States of America impacted the revolutionary leaders so greatly that they were enabled by the grace of God to put in place a Constitution, which gave free course for the Gospel to be preached throughout the land without hindrance. America also became the great catalyst thereby for the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world. This freedom is today being vigorously challenged by gates of hell!

  • The saving of the British army trapped at Dunkirk during the Second World War was achieved because of the ‘wrestling’ prayers of the Church of Jesus in the nation. Chiefly this was spearheaded by Rees Howells, the great intercessor of the time. This remarkable miracle saved Europe and no doubt the world from the wickedness and evil of Hitler’s Third Reich.

  • We could also reference people like William Wilberforce, who being an eighteenth-century Christian politician in England abolished the slave trade in the British Empire. Then there is David Livingstone, and Lord Arthur James Balfour, whose evangelical faith inspired him to make the famous declaration which paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel, and of course Billy Graham, who routinely spoke with presidents, queens and leaders of countries.

It is to be noted that in all of these cases Christians never took over the governments of these nations, but they highly impacted them and served in them as salt and light. The lesson is clear; we possess and take hold of demonic gates for the furtherance of the saving message of Jesus Christ and not to hold physical territory. We are a spiritual body of people that is comprised of all peoples from all over the world. We are not held together by nationalism, but by Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:19-22).

History has shown and proved that when Christians seek temporal power, and many are doing this today, the results have been catastrophic and the Church has suffered greatly from spiritual adultery, blindness, compromise and wickedness. This is the warning contained in Revelation 17. It is a spiritual whore that seeks temporal or territorial power!

5. What we urgently need today is the restoration of corporate prayer meetings in local churches everywhere. The early Church made corporate prayer an absolute priority and thus the pages of the Book of Acts affirm this all the time (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1; Acts 4:24-31; Acts 13:1-2). Today, this is not so as the weekly prayer meeting, if they even have such a gathering, is the least attended meeting of the church. Jesus said that His house should in the first place be a house of prayer for all nations (Matthew 21:13). The local church today is anything but a house of prayer and this is precisely why we cannot take down the gates of hell! It has been said that the Sunday worship service demonstrates the popularity of the preacher, the Wednesday night Bible Study demonstrates the popularity of the Bible, and the Friday night prayer meeting demonstrates the popularity of God!

Dear friends, trying to take down the physical gates of this world by “claiming this” and “rebuking that” is easy and misguided, but assaulting the gates of dark demonic rulers and principalities will require wrestling prayer, dedication and effort. Somehow then, we urgently need the grace of God to bring us to this place. Peter was given the keys to the gates, that once under demonic control were torn down, enabling the Gospel to go forth from Jerusalem and to the Gentiles. We must pick up these keys again that by them we too can possess the gates of our enemies and witness the triumph of the Gospel.

FOR MORE on this topic, make sure to watch the ICEJ Webinar: “Possessing the Gates of Our Enemies” – Part One.