Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. (NLT)
In times like this when the church is facing so much adversity and opposition, Jesus’ promise of the triumph of his church is quite an encouragement. Powerful forces are arrayed against the church, but the church will ultimately win out.
Yet we need to be careful not to get too carried away with cheap triumphalism. For one thing, the church cannot ignore its own complicity in its troubles. Rank hypocrisy, harsh divisiveness, insensitive arrogance, bullying and abuse, all have contributed to some degree to the church being “on the nose” in various quarters.
For another thing, Jesus is not promising that the church gathering I might attend, or the denomination to which I belong will ultimately prevail. Jesus is making no promises to any particular church structure or institution. In our lifetime we may well see church buildings close, church leaders fall by the wayside, institutions and movements fade away. Church history is littered with just such examples.
All the powers of hell and death cannot ultimately knock out the reality of Jesus who gathers his people around him. Our local church, our favourite preacher, our admired movement may or may not survive present trouble. But the people who are elsewhere termed the bride of Christ will continue to belong to the one who has conquered all and who invites them to share in his victory.