At the table of knowledge and wisdom at Boyd Wurthmann Restaurant one morning, we were talking about the pandemic. I was reminded of what I was told in Israel about 15 years ago.
At the time of Jesus, the most important god in Caesarea Philippi was Pan, the Greek god of shepherds, music and fertility. Pan is half-goat, half-man. The Greeks believed that Pan was born in the cave that we were looking at off to the left from where we were standing.
Our guide told us that every once and awhile Pan and all the false gods would come screaming down the hill, terrifying the people of the town. This wild commotion was called “Pan-ic,” or “Pan-demonium.” Pandemoniaum was “the capital of Hell in Milton’s Paridise Lost.” This word is made up of two words: “pan” meaning, “all,” and “demon” meaning, “all the demons”. From this crazy screaming frenzy of “all the demons” we get the words panic, pandemonium, panorama, pantheism, pandemic…
As our Holy Land group looked over toward the cave in the huge rock mountainside, we were told that there is a hole in the floor of the cave which opens to an underground river. The pagans believed that the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld.
One of the evil customs of the day was to drop a baby down the hole into the stream of water below to appease the god of fertility (Pan). If the baby lived, the sacrifice was rejected and the baby was killed. If he died, the gods were satisfied. Either way, the baby died. As in any dealings with Satan, you can’t win. The hole in the cave floor was called, “The Gate of Hell.”
When Jesus brought his disciples to this area, they must have been shocked. Caesarea Philippi was like the red-light district and devout Jews would have avoided this area and any contact with the despicable acts committed there. This was an evil city.
But right here, in the heart of paganism and evil god worship, Jesus asked one of the most important questions ever asked on planet earth: “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Then Jesus asked THE most important question anyone will ever be asked:
“But who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (emphasis added)
Jesus said, “…I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the Gates of Hell shall not overcome it.”
“This rock…” has a double or even a triple meaning: What is “this rock?” Was Jesus talking Peter, whose name means, “rock?” Or Peter’s confession? OR… did He mean that the church of Jesus Christ would be built right here in Caesarea Philipi, on this rock where the “Gate of Hell” receives baby sacrifices to appease Satan?
Ray Vander Laan says Jesus didn’t want His followers hiding from evil. He wanted them to storm the gates of Hell. Gates do not attack. Gates are defensive. STORM them! (Go into all the world…) The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ.
Folks, our whole country has become a Caesarea Philipi, a place of evil practices. May we be a participant in storming the gates and building the church of Jesus Christ ON THIS ROCK!
Greater is He that in you than he who is in the world. I John 4:4
Jesus is the Son of the Living God. -Peter