Captain Jon-Phil Winter Has Been to Hell and Back
The following was contributed by Captain Jon-Phil Winter, Corps Officer for The Salvation Army 614 Corps. You can find them on facebook here.
Have you ever been to hell? I have, well just to the gates of hell. I even have photographic evidence.
I was recently afforded the opportunity to go to Israel as part of an educational tour. Part of that tour took us to Caesarea Philippi. It is near here that scripture records Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ:
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[c] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. – Matthew 16:13-20 (ESV)
What I discovered on my trip is that Jesus and his disciples did not enter into Caesarea Philippi because it was a pagan city with a pagan religion. Part of that religion included human sacrifices. The unfortunate ones to be sacrificed would be thrown into a cave mouth that was known to the inhabitants as the Gates of Hell. Suddenly for me this scripture takes on more meaning when I know that Jesus mentions these gates in a place where people believed the gates of hell actually were.
Of course, you don’t have to travel all the way to Israel to feel as if you’ve been to hell. There are many circumstances that can bring us to a place that feels like hell. We struggle, we suffer, we may even wail and gnash our teeth, but there is nothing that is greater than the truth of who Jesus is. Knowing this truth gives us the confidence that whatever we face will not be greater than His revelation.
By his strength and with his wisdom we will be guided through whatever kind of hell we may find ourselves in, not being overcome by it but instead knowing the victory that He provides.