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From Mourning To Morning
by Wayne Blank
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, And shall come forth"
The word translated as "gates" in the verses above (it's the only reference to "gates of hell" in the Bible) is the Greek word (pronounced) poo-lay and means a door, or a barrier. The word translated as "hell" in the verses above is the Greek word (pronounced) hay-deez, and simply means the grave (to understand how the word "hell" is also used for a place of fire, see Where Is Hell?, also Planet On Fire!). The "gates of hell" as spoken by Jesus Christ in the example above means death, or more specifically, that which holds the dead.
At the fulfillment of the Messiah's mission, the "gates of hell" were temporarily breached for some of God's people; that is, their graves were opened and some of them were awakened from their "sleep" (see What Happens When You Die?). Some "which slept arose" and came out of their graves to resume their physical lives for a while, for the purpose of a further "witness" of the Messiah, both for the people of that time who saw them, and for the people of all time who read of them in the Word of God:
"And, behold, the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom [see also Why Was It Torn?]; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints [see also What Is A Saint?] which slept arose, And came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Matthew 27:51-53 KJV)
The "gates of hell" will be opened, that is, the graves of the dead will be opened, for Judgment (see also When Will You Be Judged?)
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, And shall come forth [see also Resurrections]; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." (John 5:28-29 KJV)
In the end, "the gates of hell" for the righteous will no longer exist, because death, for the righteous, will no longer exist:
"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:53-55 KJV)
Fact Finder: What is meant by "bind and loose"?