Jesus, Peter and the crew were in Caesarea Philippi, a city in the northern part of Israel, and Jesus decides to give the boys a pop quiz. Jesus asks them who they think He is. Peter answers correctly. Then Jesus says,“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:18.
Now we can leave for another day the 500 year old controversy about whether the rock on which Jesus says He will build His church is Peter or the revelation of who Jesus is; instead I want to focus on the second part of what Jesus said.
In February 2010, I was in Israel and visited Caesarea Philippi , where I was surprised to learn that there, in the first century at the opening of a cave was a pagan temple. The opening of the cave was referred to as “The Gates of Hades.”
This is apparently old news in Israel, but I had never heard anyone in America explain that when Jesus was talking about the Gates of Hades he was not referring to hell, but paganism; but to stand there on that spot and know that Jesus was there when He uttered these words, the conclusion is inescapable. Jesus was prophesying that Christianity would replace paganism as the religion of the Roman Empire.
On October 27, 312 A.D., Roman Emperor Constantine I (a/k/a Constantine the Great) had a vision of a Christian symbol in the sky that led to his conversion to Christianity. By that time it is estimated that nearly 50% of the people in the empire had already converted to Christianity.
With the Edict of Milan in February 313 A.D. Constantine established religious toleration of Christianity. In 391 A.D. Theodosius I (a/k/a Theodosius the Great), outlawed public pagan worship and established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Within approximately 350 years of Jesus’ prophesy, Christianity had become the religion of the Roman Empire, just as Jesus predicted. GD