Open Doors USA compiles an annual World Watch List of “the 50 countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus.” In 2019, the top five nations on the list were North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan. One of every nine Christians worldwide experience high levels of persecution, and eleven Christians each day are killed for their faith.
Truly, to follow Jesus one must count the cost, but in the end we know it will be worth it all because He has won the victory: “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (v. 18). Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (v. 13). Their answers reflected the confusion of the crowds (v. 14). Then He asked, “Who do you say I am?” (v. 15). Peter, given understanding by God, famously confessed Jesus to be “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (vv. 16–17). Verses 18–19 then employ three images—rocks, gates, and keys—to describe the future of Messiah’s kingdom. Peter’s role is highlighted, as explained in the Moody Bible Commentary: “[I]t was Peter who, using the keys of the kingdom, opened the kingdom for the Jewish people (Acts 2), the Samaritans (Acts 8), and the Gentiles (Acts 10), so that Jesus’ prophecy about Peter seems to have actually come true in that he does function as the foundation of the Church.”
The gate image indicates that the power of death cannot stand against Christ’s church and the life-giving power of God. Hades or Sheol is the realm of the dead, protected, as it were, by its city gate. The church in this picture is on the attack, assaulting those gates and defeating by God’s power all the forces of evil!
>> Open Doors USA’s website offers free prayer resources to help us, as individuals and churches intercede for persecuted believers worldwide. We would encourage you to visit their website and use their resources to pray for those enduring persecution.