The temple of Solomon was built on a very special rock. The Foundation Stone was considered the center of all creation, and a junction between heaven and earth.
As Jeff Cavins notes, the Jews also believed that the rock served to cover and hence plug up the gates of hell. So long as God was worshipped there as his covenant demanded, those gates could remain (more or less) sealed.
Speaking of this same rock, Isaias explains that the Lord sometimes chooses certain of his servants to exercise power over it. When he lays “the key of the house of David” upon their shoulders, they acquire the authority to open and shut the gates of heaven, and guard those of hell (Is. 22:15-22).
Such a servant is to be “a peg in a sure place.” If that “peg be removed,” all hell may break loose, “and that which hung thereon, shall perish” (Is. 22:23-25).
In Cesarea Philippi, the Lord gives to Peter and his successors the keys to heaven, and with them the duty to guard the gates of hell (Mt. 16:19).
The rock upon which Peter was to exercise this authority is not the stone of Mount Moriah, whose temple the Romans were soon to destroy. Rather, the worship over which Peter is to preside, which will deter the forces of hell, is an adoration “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24).
Peter receives this commission after proclaiming Jesus to be “Christ, the Son of the living God,” a truth not revealed to him by “flesh and blood,” “but by [our] Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 16:16-17).
Moments later, Christ rebukes Peter for causing scandal. When it came to the Passion of Christ, Peter had opted to favor “the things that are of men” instead of “the things that are of God” (Mt. 16:23).
Today, there seems to be no shortage of demons spilling forth from the gates of hell.
Though we must each take up our own cross (Mt. 16:24), let’s not forget to offer up sacrifices for the servant of the servants of God, who stands upon the rock facing heaven and covering the netherworld.
When Peter lifts his eyes to heaven, we are spared the full brunt of Satan’s assaults. When he turns his gaze to “the things that are of men,” the battle intensifies.
No matter what Peter does today or tomorrow, we know that one day “the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father” (Mt. 16:27), and all shall be well for them “that love his coming” (2 Tim. 4:8).
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