A brief study of gates; my conclusion may be incorrect, but I have shown the steps and the reasoning involved. I hope it makes sense. Recently I heard an awkward (IMO) explanation of iron gates somehow charging a church…. We can agree that we should take the word literally, and give it the benefit of the doubt, unless it is clearly figurative. Such is the case of Matthew chapter 16.
Principalities: The realm of a prince.
Gates: The place where the power of a principality is centered. (City Hall, or Washington in our terms)
Seat of the Government, even of Kings - Jer. 38:7
Place of business - Psalm 127:5
In pagan cities, the gates were also the place of sacrifices - Acts 14:13
Judgments were made by elders assembled at the gates - Dt. 21:19; Lam. 5:14; Pro. 31:23
When Boaz needed a legal decision, he went to where the power was found—the gates - Ruth 4:1-11
Absalom hijacked the ‘gate:’ he usurped the power - 2 Sam. 15:2
Job, proclaiming his innocence, never used the ‘gate’ [the powers of the gate] to manipulate the poor - Job 31:21
David was feeling the pain of the ‘gate’—“they that sit in the gate speak against me…” - Psalm 69:12
Today, if we say we are ‘fighting City Hall,’ it’s understood that we are not pushing against bricks, steel, glass, etc., but rather we are fighting the schemes, the powers, the plans which the principality has cast against us (whether we be in the right or the wrong). Gates, back in the day, was City Hall.
Now, with that foundation, we approach the words of Jesus in Matthew 16. Throughout this section, He consistently uses figures of speech to communicate clearly:
Leaven= Doctrine of Pharisees (16:6)
Rock= The foundation, the fact: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:18)
Keys= Authority, the power to open and close, bind and loose
Gates of Hell = the powers of this principality (Satan’s plans)
The disciples stumbled at His figurative style (Mt . 16: 7): they lacked faith. We, having more light, are able to look back at these words and exercise both faith and understanding.