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I’m not asking whether the verse should say Hades or hell. The Greek text says Hades, though Jesus would not have had any pagan Greek notions in mind when he said “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” [his Church].

Nor does it matter if other translations say “shall not overcome” rather than “prevail against it” or “overcome” or "withstand". Matt 16:18 gates of hades will not "withstand" or "overcome" it - which one?

There are twelve gates in the walls of the heavenly city, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-14) but I don’t see any correlation with “the gates of Hades”.

My question is focused on why Jesus spoke of “the gates of Hades” in the plural. Why not one, single gate? If there are several gates of Hades, however, could anyone give a biblical basis for saying that, and suggest what those gates could be, if they are different (otherwise, there should only be one gate mentioned.)

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    Minor point - Hades is never called "hell" - that is Gehenna. Hades is just the collective noun for the place of the dead.
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 8:48
  • 3
    It could be as simple as a pair of gates forming a single entrance??
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 8:51
  • Hades occurs eleven times in the Greek scripture. Gehenna occurs twelve times, eleven of them in the mouth of Jesus (once, of James). Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 8:55
  • @Dottard - Hades and Gehenna are original language words in the N.T. whereas 'hell' is an English word and very poorly used, a lot of the time! Sticking with the actual words Jesus used, the consideration here is why more than one gate might (or might not) be spoken of with regard to Hades.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 10:38
  • It is not clear if the word in question should be plural or not. The Greek word “pule” could be singular also, or maybe even just singular. (Strongs number 4439) Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 12:33

8 Answers 8

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This is a query I’ve never spotted anywhere else, anywhere, so there’s very little material I can find on the subject. But a search has produced something, which, in tun, made me think. A fair comment was made in wondering if the answer “could be as simple as a pair of gates forming a single entrance”. Certainly, yes, Jesus could have been using ‘gates’ in the sense of only one opening in and out of one entrance, with two gates.

However, there could be more to it than that. This is where mention of the walled city of the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven, provides a few clues. There are four walls of equal length and height, three gates set into each side. Yet those gates are singular entrances, making 12 entrances. The 12 gates are described, leaving us in no doubt that they number 12, and not 24:

“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, every several gate was of one pearl…” (Rev.21:21).

In this instance, the visionary gates which Christ showed the apostle John, are spoken of and seen in the plural (“had twelve gates”) but they do not comprise a set of paired gates per entrance. No, 12 pearls are the total. Had there been 12 pairs of gates, 24 pearls would have needed to be mentioned, or saying that each pearl was split in half. This makes it clear that each of the 12 gates of the City, New Jerusalem, comprise one gate each.

What’s more, the function of these 12 gates is detailed as both allowing people in, and keeping people out. For those people described in vs. 8, no entrance will ever be gained to the heavenly City, not for all eternity to come. Yet vs.25 states that “the gates shall not be shut at all by day”. Does that mean they are shut at night? No, for the sentence continues, “for there shall be no night there.” This is clearly symbolic language, and not literal, for these 12 pearly gates are never shut at all, but none of the people in verse 8 can ever walk freely through them. Their identity debars them, not symbolic gates that are never closed:

“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (vs.27)

Does this link in with what Jesus said about the gates of Hades never prevailing against his Church (which is identified as that Holy City, New Jerusalem, in Revelation 21:9-10 – also called the bride of the Lamb.)? The contrast is there, and from such contrasts the answer to the question can be formed. There’s no need to delve into O.T. mention of “gates”, only to show that they have symbolic meaning, such as in Psalm 24:7 & 9 - “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of glory shall come in.” Literal gates do not have literal heads that can be lifted up to see the approaching King.

I found three consecutive monthly magazines of a Baptist church in Portsmouth, dated September to November 1997, where “The Gates of Hades” were delineated by the pastor, Guy R. Finnie. He likened the world of humanity held captive in the wicked one’s grasp to being his prisoners, behind which diabolos had slammed shut his various gates of Hades. He would never let them out and they could never by any manner or means effect their own escape. Ah, but Christ came into this prison of a sinful world to fulfil the prophecy in Isaiah 61:1-3 -

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” (Luke 4:18 Emphasis mine)

That is why the gates of Hades cannot triumph over Christ’s Church, because his Church is comprised of called-out-ones, liberated by the Holy Spirit and the fact that the risen Christ has the keys of Hades and of death – Revelation 2:18.

Once the spiritual nature of this is grasped, then it’s easy to see how various symbolic ‘gates’ have been clanged shut to keep people in. Pastor Finnie suggested three such ‘gates of Hades’ – the gate of Secularism, the gate of Individualism, and the gate of Populism. I would suggest a fourth – the gate of Materialism. All those systems operating in the world debar people caught up in them from entering the Kingdom of Heaven, unless a miracle of grace takes place, and the Holy Spirit liberates them (don’t forget how Jesus acknowledged the role of the Holy Spirit in this liberation campaign!) A visual aid as to the futility of well-meaning people supposing they can help spiritual prisoners with their kindly schemes and rehab programmes was penned by the author. Picture those who appear to be in the Church but who are worldly, as enthusiastically using worldly means to “reach the prisoners”. They are in the prison themselves to enact schemes to give the prisoners a higher hope, but all their marshalled resources and raised banners amounts to no more than all of them marching triumphantly around the prison exercise-yard! Unless Christ’s Church goes into the territory of diabolos wearing the full armour of God, to preach Christ’s gospel truth, no prisoners will ever find the gates of Hades yielding to the command from heaven to open up for this, or that one!

Those supposing they are in the Church of Christ but who are worldly people need to heed Christ’s warning to the church at Laodicea. They may have loved secularised services of worship, full of formality, ritual, holy words, or oozing sentimentality and gay abandon, but as far as true zeal for Christ was concerned, they were as good as a cup of tea, poured half an hour ago. Christ called those Laodiceans “wretched, miserable, poor, blind naked” (Rev.3:17). Just like the prisoners behind the dark doors of Hades. Yet Christ can, and does come in, when he knows the one hearing his knock is truly aware of his miserable captivity, to secularism, lust, money – whatever – then the prisoner finds that when he puts his hand to the door handle (an act of faith, if ever there was one) the keys of Hades in Christ’s hands have turned in the lock, and there is Christ! Hades can no more keep Christ out than it can keep in those of its prisoners Christ will not allow to rot there.

So, there are reasons to think about plural gates of Hades because they are not literal gates. Whatever systems diabolos uses to imprison, and to keep imprisoned, his captives, Jesus assures us that he has “the keys of Hades and death” and note again – plural keys, though there are two things Christ unlocks, both Hades and death, so perhaps one key of Hades unlocks all its evil gates!

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  • The question is straight about the possible reason of plural gates and you didn't address it.
    – Michael16
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 8:24
  • @Michael16 The Q asks why Jesus speaks of the gates of Hades in the plural; the consideration here is why more than one gate might (or might not) be spoken of with regard to Hades. I used the words of Jesus he spoke in the book of the Revelation to explore Jesus' meaning, plus added illustrations from a clergyman's writings to demonstrate what "the gates of Hades" could mean. You may think I didn't answer the Q but you offered no answer at all, so nobody can benefit from your thinking on this matter. However, the OP was satisfied that I did answer the question.
    – Anne
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 11:59
  • To directly address the question you could relate the 12 gates of Jerusalem (heaven) for the 12 apostles, hence conversely there could be 12 (multiple) gates (means) of hell. That reasoning could have been sufficed. What you write is more of a sermon.
    – Michael16
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 13:59
  • @Michael16 I must beg your pardon for being a bit of a story-teller. I am not trained in giving academic answers. I am a writer, and like to provide readers with more unusual approaches, to both catch, and maintain interest. Clearly, I failed in that respect with yourself!
    – Anne
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 14:30
  • However, Rev.21:12-14 shows that the 12 gates had the names of the 12 tribes of Israel on them, but the 12 foundations had the names of the 12 apostles, so I couldn’t go along with your suggestion there.
    – Anne
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 14:35
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The New Compact Bible Dictionary’s entry for "gate" says:

Gate, the entrance to enclosed buildings, grounds, or cities. The gates of a city were the place where the Oriental resorted for legal business, conversation, bargaining, and news. Usually consisted of double doors plated with metal … . Markets were held at the gate, and the main item sold there gave its name to the gate (“sheep gate” Neh. 3:1; “fish gate” Neh. 3:3; “horse gate” Neh. 3:28). …

Notice the “double doors”.

These gateways would have been wide, and from an engineering perspective it is a lot easier, and more structurally sound, to build two half width doors than a single full width door (think of the sideways torque on the upper hinge).

This would have been common practice in most societies at the time, and even today. For instance, look at the traditional Chinese character for "door" or "gate": 門 .

The surrounding area would have been known as the gate (singular), but the physical thing itself would have been a pair of gates.

Giant Door 1933 movie still

The following image of one of the gates of Jerusalem links to the article Exploring the Hidden Gate of King Solomon’s Jerusalem, from the May/June issue of Watch Jerusalem magazine.
The entrance "gate" itself would be in the upper left, where a couple of people can be seen just above the "X" in the word "COMPLEX".

Large castle-like structure attached to city wall.

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  • Double panel gate cannot be called gates. It is very absurd to think so. It is still used in some poor village homes.
    – Michael16
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 8:23
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It should be obvious that the using the Greek language or words which have roots in the mythologies doesn't mean one is believing those mythologies. The words like Thanatos, Hades are metonymy for death and underworld, grave or the abode of the dead. Hebrew literature itself is close to the Greek in the nature of allegorical narratives, personification of abstract things.

Metonymy Definition. Metonymy is a figure of speech in which one object or idea takes the place of another with which it has a close association. In fact, metonymy means "change of name." As a literary device, it is a way of replacing an object or idea with something related to it instead of stating what is actually meant. (literarydevices. net)

Despite some calling the double panel gate as "gates", I don't think it is correct. A single door containing multiple panels cannot be called doors or gates. A bronze double panel gate sculpture by Auguste Rodin is named The Gates of hell, but it itself is not gates, but a singular depiction of the various gates of hell.

Classical Usage

Entering the gates of Hades as a metaphor for the experience of death begins in classical writers with Homer who describes dying as passing the gates of Hades. (Iliad 5.646) The gates of Hades as the experience of death are also used by Aeschylus, while Euripides describes a phantom from the gates of darkness (skotou pylas) where Hades dwells. He also has the dying person beholding the gates of death. Theocritus addressed Artemas as one who moves the adamant at the door of Hades. Jack P. Lewis, Gates of Hell, JETS 38/3 (September 1995)

Dying experience as passing the gates of hades or a dying man seeing the gates of hades shows that the gates are progressive degrees of stages towards the deepest end.

Wikipedia on Gates of Hell, says:

The gates of hell are various places on the surface of the world that have acquired a legendary reputation for being entrances to the underworld. Often they are found in regions of unusual geological activity, particularly volcanic areas, or sometimes at lakes, caves, or mountains.

Gates in the Greco-Roman world:

  • Legends from both ancient Greece and Rome record stories of mortals who entered or were abducted into the netherworld through such gates. Aeneas visited the underworld, entering through a cave at the edge of Lake Avernus on the Bay of Naples. Hercules entered the Underworld from this same spot.

  • The god Hades kidnapped the goddess Persephone from a field in Sicily and led her to the Underworld through a cleft in the earth so he could marry her.

  • Pluto's Gate, Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin, in modern-day Turkey unearthed by Italian archaeologists is said to be the entry gate to the Underworld; it is linked to the Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.

  • Medieval gates: Into the medieval period, Mount Etna on Sicily was considered to be an entryway to hell

The Plutonium (Place of Pluto or Gate of Pluto) at Hierapolis (Holy city) is one of the gates of Hell named after Pluto, another version of the god of the underworld, situated in modern day Turkey. At this site, there is a natural opening of a cave which emits a high level of carbon dioxide, hence its use as a ritual passage to the underworld. Ritual animal sacrifices were common at the site. Archaeologists noted that the fumes emitted from the cavern still maintain their deadly properties as they recorded passing birds, attracted by the warm air, suffocated after breathing the Co2. Hierapolis was also a site for people coming to bathe in the high calcium carbonate water in hopes of being healed. This was a spiritual city of healing and also of the death, as it contains many graves. One of the grave belongs to the apostle Philip who arrived here in AD 60, fulfilling the promise of victory over the gates of hades. He started healing the sick from all kinds of diseases, witchcrafts, demon possessions and sins, giving them life, which resulted in him being crucified in AD 80. This gate of hell has been physically sealed by the Christian emperor in the 6th century ever since, along with the destruction of all the pagan temples. See documentary "Unearthed" Rome's Gate to Hell.

On a practical or biblical basis for the meaning of the plural gates of hell or hades, I gather can be understood as the various pangs and powers of death. As the RSV, NEB, REB uses powers of death. The gates can also be viewed as the progressive stages from grave to gehenna hellfire of the ultimate death. The various powers of death seems more plausible from the NT accounts as apostles and all the believers of Christ were given authority over death, demons, venom, curses and sickness. It pertains to both, first the physical mortal death and the second spiritual ultimate death.

[Rev 20:12-15 ESV] And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

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    Fascinating information regarding mythology and legends from ancient Greece and Rome. I know there is a Christian reference to “crossing over Jordan” as an allegory of passing from life to death although (as in Bunyan’s Pilgrims’ Progress) it alludes to entering heaven as opposed to hell. Thanks for your time, effort and research into “the gates of Hades”.
    – Lesley
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 15:29
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It is probably linked with the way the realm of the dead was perceived in the Second Temple period. Hades being likened to a contemporary city with many gates (Mat 16:18, Rev.20:13). It has no impact on the overall message of Matt 16:18 though. The church is build on Christ and His resurrection. The motive of a saviour breaking the enemy's gate from within is present all through the Bible as a shadow of Jesus returning from the realm of the dead (resurrection).

...and thy seed [Galatians 3:16] shall possess the gate of his enemies; (Genesis 22:17)

And they blessed Rebekah, and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed [Galatians 3:16] possess the gate of those which hate them. (Genesis 24:60)

Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her. And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him. And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron. (Judges 16:1-3)

The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the LORD on the head of them. (Micah 2:13)

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  • This doesn't even address the question
    – Michael16
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 8:24
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A similar picture may be found in the Old Testament:

10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it...16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28 NJKV)

Jacob saw a ladder extending from the earth to heaven. He identified the place in which he was as having the gate (singular) of heaven. If there was a gate at the top of the ladder, Jacob's dream was about the gates of heaven: one on the earth and one at the entrance of heaven. The "gates" of Hades can be understood as following the same pattern. There is one gate on earth and another at the entrance of Hades.

Matthew reports the discussion took place in the region of Caesarea Philippi (16:13). In Old Testament times this area was known for Baal worship and as the location of one of Jeroboam's golden calves (cf. 1 Kings 12:25-33). During Second Temple period it was the place of worship to the Greek god, Pan. Typically, Pan was worshipped in caves or grottos, not in Temples, and there is a large grotto in this area where numerous altars have been found.

So, just as Jacob awoke and understood there was a gate from earth to heaven in Bethel, Caesarea Philippi can be seen a having a gate from earth to Hades, and just as there is a second gate to the entrance of heaven there is a second gate to the entrance of Hades.

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Two sections of the grave (Hades), or realm of the dead that are pictured in Luke 16:19-31, Paradise and Tartarus.

"24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." (Luke 16:24-26, KJV)

It is possible that there was one gate for the section of Paradise, and one for the section of Tartarus as they were separated by the large impassable gulf. So, plural as in more than one.

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Usually big gate of a city consists of two parts, so it is said in plural “gates”, just like scissor is used by us in a form of being affixed to another scissor and thus we call it “scissors” in plural, while it is one thing, so that I can say “I bought one sharp scissors” and “I opened agape one gates”.

But why those two parts that lead us into the realm of hell? Those two parts of the gates can be any pair of wickedness, for example: 1. faithlessness and unmercifulness; 2. hatred and unforgivingness; 3. arrogance and self-conceit etc. etc. one pair making better gates (“better” in the sense of “more tasteful” with regard of the topic) than another.

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Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:8-14)

Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6-12)

And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables. (Mark 4:9-13)

All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them. (Matthew 13:34)

From these passages, we know that Jesus used parables. However, these parables do not always seem to be parables, as Jesus and Paul have shown. This demonstrates that God does not have to explicitly say that something is a parable for it to be a parable.

Jesus is the Word that became flesh, and the Bible is also God's word. Jesus always spoke in parables, and therefore, the entire Bible is written in parables–hence many people and events written therein foreshadow Jesus, and laws regarding animals. 'Jesus always spoke in parables' does not mean He was telling a story every time He uttered a word, but rather, He was secretly referring to something from the Old or New Testament and also giving clues on how to understand the Bible.

The "gates of hell" are not to be understood literally. There are multiple ways to interpret this phrase, but they all should lead to those who are 'unsaved'.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

Does not this sound familiar? A rock? Prevailing?

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. (Matthew 7:24-25)

The word prevail was not used in this passage, but it carries the same idea as making the foolish man's house fall. And where do the waters and the wind come from?

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. (Genesis 7:11)

And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged; The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; (Genesis 8:1-2)

The flood came from the deep, and hell that what hell is often referred to. The fountains and windows can be seen as gates. So, what are waters?

They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together. (Psalm 88:17)

There are a dozen verses that refer to the unsaved as deep water. See Jonah chapter 2. Incidentally, Jonah was a type of Christ in the moment when he was in the whale (or whatever he was swallowed by) and Jesus being tried by Pilate and Herod and mocked was foreshadowed by the "pains", "waters", "dogs", and "bulls" mentioned in Psalms and Jonah.

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; (Matthew 27:51)

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:2)

Sound familiar? The rocks being rent and the mighty wind are synonymous with the fountains of the deep being broken up and the wind taking the water away. Elijah, too, had a similar ordeal happen (wind, fire, earthquake) and is a type of Christ. Incidentally, both Elijah and Jonah asked for death and did not want to go on with the mission, which supports that these three men can help us understand the gates of hell.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. (Psalm 24:7)

Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass. Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word: Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven. He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD. (Psalms 148:1-14)

And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? (Genesis 37:9-10)

Gates in general refer to people. God often uses natural objects in place of people, especially in Psalms. Joseph's dream supports, at the least, His use of celestial objects to represent people.

My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof (Proverbs 1:10-19)

Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7:27)

And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deuteronomy 6:9)

For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth (Isaiah 38:18)

This is just one of several verses that speak of the immoral and strange woman. This woman represents the unsaved. Houses and gates are associated with each other; you can replace "house" with "gates". The fact that her gates lead to hell is the very apparent reason why the phrase is "gates of Hades". The reason why the unsaved are referred to this is because they can take people to Hades. Having such people in your company and taking part in their wicked acts will make you as they are--hellbound. They also get that name from the fact that hell is not just literal, but also spiritual-- a state of being. So: "gates" because they can sweep you away; "Hades" because that is who they are.

And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron. (Judges 16:3)

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. (Luke 15:4-5)

Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10:7-9)

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: (Matthew 7:13)

This is just more evidence of gates (posts and doors, too) being used to represent people.

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  • I appreciate the time and the trouble you have taken to post this response to my question but I am confused. You say, "Jesus always spoke in parables, and therefore, the entire Bible is written in parables". Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds, who failed to understand, but he did not always speak in parables. Therefore, your conclusion that "the entire Bible is written in parables" is unsubstantiated. I can see how the "gates of Hades" is a metaphor suggesting the unsaved go in, never to leave, and Jesus is "the gate" through which his sheep enter but Jesus did not always speak in parables.
    – Lesley
    Commented Mar 28, 2022 at 12:22
  • No problem. What I was trying to get across is that a parable is not only a fictitious story, but rather anything said (speech) or done (action) in the Bible. If it conveys spiritual meaning, then it's a parable. This is a rather unconventional definition, but nonetheless, there is substance to it. You might think that a parable was anything He said that the Jews couldn't understand, but there was a lot that the disciples could not either (John even reflects on this). Also, the miracles He did are parables-- they represented something spiritual (usually salvation).
    – Noah Dan
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 3:00
  • Also, I was not saying that the gates of Hades are something that the unsaved go through, but rather, they ARE the gates. Gates, doors, doorposts, and houses are often used to represent people. We can see that with Jesus stating He was the door and the gate, Samson carrying the doors and the posts on his shoulders (He's a type of Christ and Jesus made a parable of the same spiritual meaning), the Psalms telling the gates and doors to lifft up their heads, the immoral woman (the archetype of the unsaved) having her house lead to hell, and much more.
    – Noah Dan
    Commented Mar 29, 2022 at 3:10

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