But let’s look carefully at Matthew 16:18: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The Catholic Church claims this text as proof that their church is eternal—forever. I love the way that text is written, “the gates of Hades will never prevail against it.” The New Testament was written in human language. Hades is a word from Greek mythology. The Greeks did not understand the state of death and had been deceived just like the Egyptians. Ellen White stated that as soon as Adam and Eve sinned, the devil instructed his angels that they were to convince men that they had immortality. (See The Great Controversy, 534.) People had to be convinced that something within them still went on living after they died. The different nations had different names for it. In Egypt it was called Ra. It was the belief of immortality of the soul.


Hades was believed to be a place under the earth that is very hot where people go for punishment. During the last two hundred years before Jesus was born, the Jews had begun to study Greek Philosophy and Jesus used that very theory, wrecking it for them when He showed them that all their ideas about it were not going to work. The story He told was of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.


The idea was that when you died you went to Hades to be purified. It was a precursor to the theory of purgatory that came along later. If you were really bad, instead of going to Hades, then you could be cast clear down to Tartarus, which in Greek mythology was lower than Hades. It is interesting that the word Tartarus is used once in the New Testament. The apostle Peter says that God cast the angels that sinned down to Tartarus; in other words, a place lower than the grave, Hades. Hades was a place of the dead, so when the New Testament uses Hades, it is talking about the grave.


When it says the gates of Hades are not going to prevail against Christ’s church, it means the grave is not going to prevail against Christ’s church, because Jesus is coming back and all of His people will be set free from the grave. That is going to be exciting. Though you may die, it is just a temporary sleep, for if you are in Christ, you will be raised up again.


The Catholic Church claims this text to prove she is infallible. However, there is a condition that somehow people forget. The church is built on the rock. Though the Catholic Church claims to be built on Peter and Peter is the rock, there is a problem. The New Testament was written in Greek. The Greek language is like Spanish and German and French that have masculine and feminine words.


A masculine or feminine word must also have a masculine or feminine adjective. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I say to you that you are Petras [a stone, a Greek masculine word], and upon this Petra [a large boulder or rock, a feminine word] I will build My church.” The genders of the words do not agree. Petra is not the same word as Petras. The closest you could come to it in English would be: “I say unto you, you are Mr. Rock, and on this Mrs. Rock I will build My church.” Jesus did not mean that the church was built on Peter.


Peter himself recognized that. He said, “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.” I Peter 2:6–8.


Peter never taught that he was the rock on which the church was built. He taught that Jesus was that Rock. Paul also is very specific about this. He tells the people in Ephesus that they are members of the household of God; then describes the church: “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being [joined] fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” Ephesians 2:20, 21.


The church, built on the Rock, Jesus Christ, is the only one that will not fall, and the gates of Hades or the gates of the grave will not prevail against it.


Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” Matthew 7:24–27.

The church that is built on the Rock obeys the teachings, the words of Jesus. To the church claiming to be infallible based on a misunderstanding of Scripture, God says, “Another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’ ” Revelation 14:8.