Matthew 16:13-18 – “When Yeshua and his disciples arrived at Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets’. ‘But who do you say that I am?’ he asked. Simon Peter replied, ‘You are Ha’Mashiach, the Son of the Living God.’ And Yeshua said to Peter, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter [Petros G4074] and on this rock [Petra G4073] I will build my church, and the Gates of Hades will not prevail against it’.”
G4074 Πέτρος Petros pet’-ros [masculine]; a piece of rock; a pebble, a grain of sand, a detached stone or boulder, a stone that might be thrown or easily moved.
G4073 πέτρα Petra pet’-ra [femine]; a mass of rock, boulder, literally a living rock, a bedrock, – a picture of the Bride of Christ, or the church.
Many prophecies have dual or multiple fulfillments. This statement of Yeshua’s, or prophecy if you will, is one of them. Let’s examine the possibilities:
The Best Exposition
The Ground At Caesarea Is The Rock
Matthew 16:18 – “I will build my church on this petra [mass of rock], and the Gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
The Gates of Hades is the term describing the entrance to the underworld. According to Jewish tradition, it is a gloomy desolate place situated in the centre of the earth, the place where the dead reside. Gates are also the place of deliberation and counsel. Kings sat in the gate to pronounce edicts and make judicial rulings. Lot was sitting at the city gates when the angels arrived. Boaz sat in the gate when he purchased Ruth.
Caesarea Philippi, which stood at the base of Mount Hermon, was perhaps one of the most evil cities of the day. Historically it is the place where Jeroboam built the golden calf. By the time of Yeshua it had become the religious center for worship of the Greek god, Pan, and was know to the Greeks as the city Panias. The cliff walls above the city, called by scripture the “high place”, had been carved out and dotted with many shrines and temples to Pan, and the cave entrance formed what many considered the gate to the underworld where Pan and the fertility gods lived during the winter. At that time, water flowed out of the cave to form one of the main tributaries to the Jordan River.
For Yeshua to bring his disciples into this arena must have been appalling to their minds. But a lesson was in play – when Yeshua asks them who people said he was, Peter must have been taking in the sights of dozens of statues of Pan, who was thought to be the “god of the shepherds, the son of the living god” and the altar to Pan that stood in front of the cave. Off to the right of this cave was the Fortress of Nimrod. Just to the left was the location called The Gates of Hades!
Peter, perhaps for the first time in history, gets it! He boldly declares, “You, Yeshua, are the Son of the Living God!” To which Yeshua replies, “I will build my church on this petra, and the Gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
Yeshua’s church would be built on the petra of Caesarea Philippi, facing the gates of Hades! At that time, gates were the main defensive structure for a city. The gates were meant to keep attackers out. So, when Yeshua tells his disciples he is going to build his church right in front of the literal Gate of Hades he is declaring that they are to attack evil, to build his church as an offensive agency against the moral and evil corruption of the world – to keep it penned in and on the defense.
He also declares that the underworld will not be able to prevail against it. Ray Vanderlaan puts it this way: “He didn’t want his followers hiding from evil: He wanted them to storm the gates of hell.” Water flowing out of the Gates of Hell may appear to increase the farther down the Jordon River one travels, and the evil that flows with it may also seem to increase, but it is the true water that flows out from under the throne that increases, bringing life to all it touches (Ezekiel 47:1-10, Revelation 22:1-2).
Three Common Expositions
1. Yeshua Himself Is The Rock
1 Corinthians 3:11 – “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Yeshua Ha’Mashiach.”
Another common position taken by many is that Yeshua, himself, is the rock and this has warrant and can be easily supported. Yeshua referred to himself as the “stone upon which many would fall and be broken” (Matthew 21:44, Luke 20:18). Isaiah 28:16 calls Yeshua a stone: “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation,” and Daniel 2:35 also calls Yeshua “the stone that smote the image, became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” However, those stones are not the same Greek or Hebrew words as Petra, although the metaphors are appropriate. Other scriptures call Yeshua the spiritual petra, the petra that is Yeshua (1 Corinthians 10:4); and a petra of offense (Romans 9:33, 1 Peter 2:8).
2. The Confession Is The Rock
Luke 8:13 – “But the ones on the rock [petra] are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy . . .”
This position also has warrant. For the feminine word rock, or petra [πέτρα G4073] means: a mass of rock, a boulder, literally a living rock, a bedrock! The feminine petra occurs several other times in the Newer Covenant scriptures: the petra of soil upon which belief grows or withers (Romans 8:5-8); the petra of rock upon which a house is built (Matthew 7:24-25, Luke 6:46-49). In essence, Yeshua may have been saying: “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, also called Petros [rocky easily swayed pebble that thou art], for the confession you have made is the Petra, [the bedrock] upon which I will build my church.”
3. Peter Is The Rock
This is the position upon which the Catholic Church has established its authority. But this position is not supported by the Greek text. Simon is called Peter: petros [Πέτρος G4074] in the Greek. The masculine word Petros means: a piece of rock; a pebble, a grain of sand, a detached stone or boulder, a stone that might be thrown or easily moved. And this is exactly what we see with Peter who doubted when he walked on water (Matthew 14:27-31), who denied Yeshua (Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33 and Luke 4:8, Luke 22:55-60), and who Paul rebuked when Peter acted hypocritically by eating differently when Jews from Jerusalem were present (Galatians 2:11-14).
A Fourth Exposition
Abraham Is The Rock
Another position taken by Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries is that Abraham the rock.
Isaiah 51:1-2 – “Look to the rock [tsûr] from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; when he was but one I called him, then I blessed him and multiplied him.”
Again, this position may have merit: the word tsûr [H6697 צוּר] means a cliff, a rock, a boulder. Abraham’s seed is Yeshua (Genesis 12:7; Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 19:9; Galatians 3:14)
Mark Biltz believes that Yeshua is referencing scripture pointing back to Abraham. He also believes that Hades will not be able to prevent the righteous dead from rising when Yeshua calls for their resurrection. However, the rock from which Abraham is hewn is a tsûr; not a petros, nor a Petra!
Matthew 28:19 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all . . . for I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Today Yeshua asks you and I the same question he posed to the disciples, “Are you willing to confront the evils and corruption of your time?” If so, stop hiding in homes, stop hiding in fancy mansions that you call churches, stop hiding in plain sight. Stop being politically correct, stop cringing at truth. For crying out loud, STOP acting as if you are on the defense – it is hell and Hades that are on the defense – you and I are on the offense!
Many prophecies have dual or multiple fulfillments. Yeshua’s prophecies of the rock is one of them. The rock soil of Caesarea is the foundation upon which Yeshua would build his church that would prevail against any attack that Satan could bring against it. We are on the assault, on the offense, and hell’s gates will not stand before us. Not the other way around, as many suppose. Hell’s defenses are unable to withstand the power of Yeshua’s blood, Yeshua’s name, Yeshua’s word of testimony.
Yeshua is also a rock indeed, the foundation upon which all else stands. The confession that Yeshua is the rock is made by many. Peter, however, is not that rock.
Today we are one day closer to the return of Yeshua than we were yesterday and tomorrow we will be even one day closer. For almost two thousand years the Jews would proclaim “Next year in Jerusalem!” I now proclaim “Next Yom Teruah in the clouds!” Prophecy continues to unfold as foretold by the Hebrew prophets. Repent, Pray, Be Redeemed. Yeshua Ha’Mashiach is coming soon – get busy reaching the lost.
Related Links (Updated Nov 2021)
Vanderlaan Gates of Hell Article
One In Jesus Gates of Hell Article
CARM Peter Becomes the Head of the Apostles Section
New Advent Peter the Rock Article
RaptureParty PowerPoint with graphics: Upon This Rock Updated Slides 2021