The Gates of Hell: Christ’s Triumph Over the Powers


In Matthew 16:13-20 is the famous story of Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, who then responds, “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (v. 18). Shortly after, Jesus leads them up to a high mountain where he is transfigured.

First off, let’s get this straight. It isn’t “Hell” whose gates Jesus is talking about, but Hades, a very different thing than what most people think. The Greek words are actually “Gates of Hades,” which is not a place of eternal burning fire, but rather the temporary holding place of dead souls before the judgment. It was the Abode of the Dead. (More on that in future posts)

In order to understand the spiritual reality of what is going on in this polemical sequence and its relevance to the cosmic War of the Seed, we must first understand where it is going on.

Verse 13 says that Peter’s confession takes place in the district of Caesarea Philippi. This city was in the heart of Bashan on a rocky terrace in the foothills of Mount Hermon. This was the celebrated location of the grotto of Banias or Panias, where the satyr goat god Pan was worshipped and from where the mouth of the Jordan river flowed. This very location was what was known as the “gates of Hades,” the underworld abode of dead souls.

The Jewish historian Josephus wrote of this sacred grotto during his time, “a dark cave opens itself; within which there is a horrible precipice, that descends abruptly to a vast depth; it contains a mighty quantity of water, which is immovable; and when anybody lets down anything to measure the depth of the earth beneath the water, no length of cord is sufficient to reach it.”[1] (this cavern shows up in the new novel, Jesus Triumphant)

As scholar Judd Burton points out, this is a kind of ground zero for the gods against whom Jesus was fighting his cosmic spiritual war. Mount Hermon was the location where the Watchers came to earth, led their rebellion and miscegenation, which birthed the Nephilim (1 Enoch 13:7-10). It was their headquarters, in Bashan, the place of the Serpent, where Azazel may have been worshipped before Pan as a desert goat idol.[2]

When Jesus speaks of building his church upon a rock, it was more of a polemical contrast with the pagan city upon the rock, than it may have been a word play off of Peter’s name, meaning “stone.” In the ancient world, mountains were not only a gateway between heaven, earth, and the underworld, but also the habitations of the gods that represented their heavenly power and authority.[3]

The mountain before them, Hermon, was considered the heavenly habitation of Canaanite gods as well as the very Watchers before whose gates of Hades Jesus now stood.

The polemics become clearer when one realizes that gates are not offensive weapons, but defensive means. Christ’s kingship is storming the very gates of Hades/Sheol in the heart of darkness and he will build his cosmic holy mountain upon its ruins.[4]

But the battle is only beginning. Because the very next incident that occurs is the transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-13).

The text says that Jesus led three disciples up a high mountain. But it doesn’t say which mountain. Though tradition has sometimes concluded it was Mount Tabor, a more likely candidate is Mount Hermon itself. The reasons are because Tabor is not a high mountain at only 1800 feet compared to Hermon’s 9000 feet height, and Tabor was a well traveled location which would not allow Jesus to be alone with his disciples (17:1).[5]

Then the text says, that Jesus “was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him” (Matthew 17:2–3). When Peter offers to put up three tabernacles for each of his heroes, he hears a voice from the cloud say, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased, listen to him” (vs. 4-5).

The theological point of this being that Moses and Elijah are the representatives of the Old Covenant, summed up as the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah), but Jesus is the anointed King (Messiah) that both Law and Prophets pointed toward.

So God is anointing Jesus and transferring all covenantal authority to him as God’s own Son. And for what purpose? To become king upon the new cosmic mountain that God was establishing: Mount Zion in the city of God. But wait, didn’t you read me say he would build it upon Hermon? Follow me, here…

In the Mosaic Covenant, Mount Sinai was considered the cosmic mountain of God where God had his assembly of divine holy ones (Deut. 33:2-3). But now, as pronounced by the prophets, that mountain was being transferred out of the wilderness wandering into a new home in the Promised Land as Mount Zion (ultimately in Jerusalem).

And that new mountain was the displacement and replacement of the previous divine occupants of Mount Hermon. Of course, just like David the messianic type, Jesus was anointed as king, but there would be a delay of time before he would take that rightful throne because he had some Goliaths yet to conquer.

Take a look at this Psalm and see how the language of cosmic war against the anointed Messiah is portrayed as a victory of God establishing his new cosmic mountain. We see a repeat of the language of Jesus’ transfiguration at Hermon.

Psalm 2:1–8 (NASB95)
Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers [heavenly as well?] take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed [Messiah], saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.[6]
Like Moses’ transfiguration in Exodus 34:29, Jesus’ body was transformed by his anointing to shine with the glory of those who surround God’s throne, evidence of divine status (Dan. 10:6; Ezek 1:14-16, 21ff.; 10:9).[7]

But that description is no where near the ending of this spiritual parade of triumph being previewed in God’s Word. One last passage illustrates the conquering change of ownership of the cosmic mountain in Bashan. Notice the ironic language used of Bashan as God’s mountain, and the spiritual warfare imagery of its replacement.

Psalm 68:15–22
O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan; O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan! Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain, at the mount that God desired for his abode, yes, where the Lord will dwell forever? The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary. You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there… But God will strike the heads of his enemies, the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways. The Lord said, “I will bring them back from Bashan, I will bring them back from the depths of the sea.

In this Psalm, God takes ownership of Bashan with his heavenly host of warriors, but then replaces it and refers to Sinai (soon to be Zion). It is not that God is making Bashan his mountain literally, but conquering its divinities and theologically replacing it with his new cosmic mountain elsewhere.

In verse 18 we see a foreshadowing of Christ’s own victorious heavenly ascension, where he leads captives in triumphal procession and receives tribute from them as spoils of war (v. 18). He will own and live where once the rebellious ruled (v. 18). He strikes the “hairy crown” (seir) of the people of that area (v. 21), the descendants of the cursed hairy Esau/Seir,[8] who worshipped the goat demons (as depicted in Joshua Valiant and Caleb Vigilant).[9] He will bring them all out from the sea of chaos, that wilderness where Leviathan reigns.[10]
But first, the Messiah must descend into that sea to claim his victory.

And that “sea” of descent is Hades. Stay tuned in the next post as we talk about Christ’s descent into Hades.

P.S. Need I say, this will all show up in Jesus Triumphant like you’ve never seen before?

For additional Biblical and historical research related to this novel, go to under the menu listing, “Links” > Jesus Triumphant.

[1] Wars of the Jews 1:405, Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987).
[2] Judd H. Burton, Interview With the Giant: Ethnohistorical Notes on the Nephilim (Burton Beyond Press, 2009) 15-23.
[3] Richard J. Clifford, The Cosmic Mountain in Canaan and the Old Testament(Wipf & Stock Pub, 2010), 1-8.
[4] Michael S. Heiser The Myth That is True First Draft,  Unpublished book, 266.
[5] Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 106.
[6] See also Psa. 48.
[7] Michael S. Heiser The Myth That is True, 65.
[8] “Edom,” Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 18. See the Appendix on Satyrs and Seirim in Brian Godawa Joshua Valiant, (Los Angeles: Embedded Pictures, 2013), 310-314.
[9] Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51–100, vol. 20, Word Biblical Commentary(Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 182.
[10] Heiser The Myth,  277-279.

Of Myth and the Bible – Part 4: Leviathan, Sea Dragon of Chaos

Leviathan, the sea dragon of chaos, as he is depicted in the novel series, Chronicles of the Nephilim by Brian Godawa. Available at Amazon.

Leviathan, the sea dragon of chaos, as he is depicted in the novel series, Chronicles of the Nephilim by Brian Godawa. Available at Amazon.

In the previous post, I talked about how the pagan Canaanite Storm God, Ba’al was subverted by the Bible. The Biblical writers appropriated the language of storm and applied it to Yahweh in effect to claim that Ba’al was not the god of Storm, Yahweh was. But that’s not all. The Canaanite mythology contained a narrative of Ba’al fighting with Leviathan, the sea dragon of chaos. Well, guess what, the Bible subverts that too. Continue reading

Of Myth and the Bible – Part 3: Ba’al, the Storm God


The pantheon of gods assembles to battle the chaos monster to protect their territory and kingdom. When the waters of the heavens part, the sea dragon of chaos breaks through and leaves destruction in its wake. The pantheon fights the sea dragon and its monster allies until it is stopped in its tracks by the mighty storm god.

Those who are educated in ancient Near Eastern mythopoeia will recognize this storyline as the Canaanite epic of Baal and Leviathan or the Babylonian epic of Marduk and Tiamat the sea dragon. But what they may not know is that it is also the storyline of the 2012 Marvel blockbuster movie, The Avengers. The purpose of bringing up this point is to call attention to the modern relevancy of this ancient narrative before we descend into the turbulent sea of ancient mythological memes and motifs that are too quickly written off as petty scholarly obsession with obscure archaic minutia that fail to connect to our lives in the modern world. Leviathan vs. the Storm God is still a tale we are retelling today in cultures both religious and secular.

The purpose of this post will be to take a closer look at that ancient Near Eastern narrative of divine combat as it was both appropriated and subverted by the Hebrew authors of the Bible as a polemic for their worldview. Continue reading

What in Hell Happened to Satan?


In the last post, I explained how the nations had been allotted to the fallen Watchers (“Sons of God”) as territories over which they ruled (Deut. 32:8-11). The satan, as the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), was most likely the Watcher of Rome, because Rome ruled the known world at the time, AND it was the oppressor of Israel.

So how are we to understand the Biblical tension of the satan being “cast down” (Jn. 12:31) and without power (Heb. 2:14), while simultaneously having the ability to prowl around and devour people (1Pet. 5:8)?

Through the entire Chronicles series, I have used a concept called “binding” of angels, demons, and Watchers through either supernatural restraint or imprisonment in the earth or Tartarus. Continue reading

Fight the Christophobic Madness in Hollywood Storytelling


If you are tired of how Hollywood rapes the Bible and subverts its stories for their Christophobic agenda, BUT you still would like to read movie-like stories of Biblical heroes as action adventure, and spiritual warfare, (Giants, Watchers and demons included) then start reading Chronicles of the Nephilim now.

You’ll be ready for the fantastical climax of Jesus Triumphant in June this year.

Chronicles of the Nephilim are on Kindle, paperback or audiobook exclusively at

Click here to sign up at the website for updates so you will know when Jesus Triumphant comes out, and get edgy newsletter articles. (No spam, only once a month or so.)

See the cool rotating banners for Jesus Triumphant here.

P.S. If you have a weak stomach or can’t handle biblical sex and violence, then this series will challenge you. There’s a lot of evil out there to redeem.

P.P.S. If you think this is another cheesy Christian attempt at “preaching” through art, you will be sorely disappointed. I hate that crap.

New Young Adult Version of Chronicles of the Nephilim


Edited Age-Appropriate for Teens and Above 

Chronicles of the Nephilim for Young Adults is a version of the original Biblical Fiction series that has been edited to be age-appropriate for Ages 13 and above, Grades 8 and above.

Fans of the Chronicles know that the original series is rated PG-13 (R in some places). But this version for young adults has edited the explicit descriptions of sin and toned down the violence to be rated PG for teens.

But it is the same rip roaring action adventure, romance and spiritual journey about Nephilim Giants, Watchers, and the Biblical Cosmic War of the Seed that will keep you on the edge of your seat and help you see the Biblical narrative with fresh perspective.

I have also taken out the theological appendices from each of the books that explained the Biblical and ancient historical research behind the fiction. If readers want to read these appendices, they can buy the book When Giants Were Upon the Earth that contains all the appendices gathered in one volume with extras.

All volumes are available on Kindle and in paperback exclusively at here.


OSCAR WATCH • American Sniper: Mature Patriotism for a Cynical America.


The true story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American military history.

Liberals and Leftists are gonna hate this movie because it’s pro-American, pro-military, depicts radical Islam accurately, makes a hero out of a gun-toting sniper, and does not judge the Iraq War as wrong. But putting such knee-jerk bigotry and simplistic politicization aside, this movie is morally good, profoundly true, and aesthetically beautiful.

Yes, killing evil people who deserve to die is good, true and beautiful.

In a decade of anti-American cynical Hollywood movies about the war against radical Islam, Clint Eastwood rises above the crowd again with a complex and nuanced portrayal of a quintessential American cowboy (complete with Southern drawl and superb performance by Bradley Cooper) who embodies the core values of middle America and becomes a humble patriotic hero for our cynical times.

That means it won’t win any Oscars for sure.

There are three kinds of people in this world; sheep who just live their lives without much awareness of the danger around them, wolves who seek to hurt those sheep, and sheepdogs who protect the sheep. This is the metaphor told to a very young Chris as a child by his strict father, who proceeds to demand his sons be sheepdogs. He concludes that if either of them turns out to be a wolf, he is gonna kick their ass.

Ad300x250-TEAWscriptThis kind of manly patriarchal firmness is deplored by today’s wimpy metrosexual egalitarian culture as “child abuse,” but it embodies America’s traditional cultural values of a firm but loving righteousness—the kind of righteousness that protects our world from totalitarian evil. And it sets up a profound context and understanding not merely for Kyle’s life that follows, but for America as the world’s sheepdog—not perfect or without fault, not without damage, but true and good.

Ironically, that very egalitarian liberalism that also detests Kyle’s dad for “clinging to God and guns” has encouraged our culture of mobs, child violence and school shootings because of its coddling of criminals, moral lawlessness and girlie boy indoctrination. In fact, the movie even makes the point that Kyle’s lack of zeal for his spiritual upbringing with the Bible may be part of his own personal troubles. Some goodness and truth actually does get through the Hollywood censors.

Chris is quite literally an American cowboy who receives the call to join the military when he learns about the attacks of radical Islam on American facilities around the world. He tells his future wife when he meets her that he is a Marine because he believes America is the greatest nation on the earth and he wants to fight to protect freedom.

Such sentiments these days are portrayed with cynical irony in most movies, but in the hands of Eastwood, it becomes the profound nuanced motivation of a young naïve man that will be tested and matured through his experience. As a citizen protected from the evil, he can only be driven by a higher cause, but he will learn the precious personal value of his fellow sheepdogs and the sheep he protects.

Most war movies these days, with the possible exception of Fury, seek to subvert the motivation of “higher cause” and “freedom” with a standard predictable theme that “it’s not about fighting for country or cause, it’s about the guy right next to you.” In fact, you will virtually hear that kind of statement at some point in most war movies.

This naïve liberal attempt to discredit “country and cause” as dangerous nationalism or some other simplistic politicized rhetoric, and to reduce transcendent morality to mere personal group identity has no place in Eastwood’s complex exploration of justice. Kyle begins his journey with a higher cause, but he ends it with a ministry to those men who suffer physically from their protection of freedom in VA hospitals.

Kyle visits a psychiatrist when he returns from the war for the last time. The doctor assumes he is suffering PTSD and asks him the shallow cliché line about whether he regrets some of the things he did in the war. Kyle says absolutely not. That he is ready to answer before God for every shot he made. Those people deserved to die and he was proud to protect Marines from them and to fight for freedom. What he was being bothered about was all the guys he could not save. In fact, in the story, Kyle even gets down from his sniper’s perch and joins the men on the ground because he felt too removed from the action.

Kyle remains devoted to the higher cause, but he now cares for the individuals who are the participants in that cause. It was not Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome that this good man suffered from, but Post-Evil Sheepdog Syndrome. He finds his redemption in realizing he can be of help to wounded vets, the men who weren’t saved.

Ad300x250-TEAWcommentaryThrough this positive portrayal of fighting for a just cause, Kyle’s journey is not without self reflection, and Eastwood does not capitulate to simplistic or narrow-minded jingoism. His is a mature patriotism that acknowledges the damage that fighting such deeply violent evil can bring upon a righteous soul.

Kyle wrestles with various sniper situations, such as whether or not to shoot a small child who is about to use a grenade launcher against a group of Marines. Even in a moment of such righteous killing, Kyle does not want to shoot a child (or a revolutionary mother for that matter). He values their lives even as they are seeking to end his.

The Hurt Locker, this is not.

No matter how just a war is, no matter how righteous you are in killing evil people who deserve to die, no one is undamaged by the effects of totalitarian evil like Islam and its radical wings. Which is why we cannot leave such evil alone or deny it exists, as much of the media and America’s current administration is doing.

The sheepdog bears the damage of these wolves with grace and honor. Because someone must bear the effects of evil for the sheep who cannot. And that is why only sheepdogs can understand and fully embrace their duty for freedom, God and country.

Unbroken: Broken Storytelling. Read the Book. See the Movie To End All Wars.

The true story of Louis Zamperini, a steel-willed Italian American who survived atrocities of WWII, including a plane crash, being adrift at sea for 45 days, and unspeakable brutality at the hands of Japanese captors in a POW camp.

Read the book. I will start with my punchline. I will give away my conclusion. I cannot be more emphatic. Read the book.

This is not to say that the movie, Unbroken is a bad movie. It is not. It is only half a movie. It is a set up without a pay off. It is a well-written, well-directed and well-acted half-story that views like an exciting build up to a powerful third act, and like a tease, is cut off before it can end, leaving you unsatisfied. It is a story about survival and the triumph of the human will without any real soul to it.

The story begins with a young Louis in his bombardier position on a WWII plane running missions. Act One flashes back to his youth, where we see Louis comes from a religious Italian family. He is a troublemaker, whose brother finds an outlet for Louis’ restlessness in running. This running ultimately takes him to the 1932 Olympics in Berlin, where Louis runs an impressive, though not winning race.

The War however, stops Louis’ dreams, and he finds himself on a bombing squad that crash lands in the ocean and sets him and two other survivors adrift for a record setting 45 days before capture by the Japanese.

The last half of the movie is then about his will to survive the brutality of a particular Japanese POW guard nicknamed, “The Bird.” We see Louis’ will standing strong against a truly barbaric and evil Bird, who seeks to break him by beating him into the ground.

The theme of the movie is about the unbeatable human will to survive the evil men do to one another. Early on, Louis’ brother gives him a slogan that is reiterated later, “If you can take it, you can make it.” Another phrase shows up, “A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.” And of course there are some amazing moments of pain indeed in this festival of suffering, that will bring you to tears, as Louis defies his captors in will if not in actual behavior.

The problem with it is that survival is as deep as it keeps. Mere survival and the power of the will. This is a shallow and unsatisfying story that lacks real transcendence of meaning. Which is such a shame because it sets up for a powerful redemption of the hero, and it even points in that direction, but we are left starving for that redemption, because it is “off-screen” and after the movie is over in a mere title card.

Jolie sets us up for the redemption that Louis is to have when in his life as a young child, we hear a sermon of a pastor preaching that “God sent his son, Jesus Christ not to wage war, but to forgive. To love thine enemy.” The midpoint transformation of the hero even occurs, when on the open sea, about to die, Louis says a prayer to God, “If you see me through this, I swear I’ll dedicate my whole life to you.”

Jolie does a fantastic job of setting up the feel of the first half of the story of Unbroken the book. But the absolute POWER of Unbroken is not in the will to survive, but in the will to forgive. That is the second half of the story she cut out. Zamperini went home to America and began to plot how to go back to Japan and kill The Bird. But when he became a Christian at a Billy Graham Crusade, he transformed and went back to forgive the Bird and the others. It was not until Zamperini was broken by God that he found his redemption. Jolie puts this on a title card at the end, “Louis did make good on his promise to serve God. He found that the way forward was not revenge, but forgiveness.” And it tells us he went back to forgive his captors.

Sadly, the very heart of what makes Unbroken so powerful a story of redemption is to Jolie, a mere postscript.

There is even a scene in the film where Louis takes on himself a beating in order to protect a fellow prisoner from being beaten. And this is a beautiful moving example of self sacrifice. But in the end, the only spirituality that is understood comes from the mouth of the praying religious pilot who, when asked by Louis whether there is some kind of grand plan by God, replies, “You just go on living, the best you can, have some fun along the way. And when you die, you meet an angel who tells you all the answers to your questions about life.” This seems more like the uneducated lack of understanding spirituality by the writers and director than anything an actual Christian would say or believe.

Look, I know how impossible it is to make a movie of a whole book. You have to cut a lot out and you can’t get it all on the screen. And I know that Zamperini, before his death, gave his blessing on the movie because he wanted it to reach a wider audience. But from a strictly professional storytelling perspective, Jolie and her writers (otherwise very competent screenwriters) set up a spiritual story that they didn’t pay off with redemption. They left it at mere survival and the will, a rather shallow and empty story without transcendence. And in that sense, I don’t expect secular screenwriters to care about transcendence. They don’t believe in true transcendence. They believe that survival is the strongest human urge, because they themselves do not understand the power and beauty of spiritual redemption and sin atonement. They are like Louis before his redemption. They are unbroken – and unforgiven.

Ad300x250-WordPicturesI wrote about this sad phenomenon of secular storytellers eviscerating the faith and spiritual element of movies about Christians. In my book, Word Pictures, I list off nine popular movies made by secular filmmakers, who either ignored, or cut out the faith of the heroes whose stories were intimately driven by their spiritual faith. Hotel Rwanda, The Pursuit of Happyness, Becoming Jane, Anna and the King, Pocahontas, The New World, Walk the Line, Hardball, and Valkerie. Some of them, like Unbroken, may have at best hinted at the faith.

I won’t attack or accuse these filmmakers of malicious motives. They may have had them, they may have not. But I certainly understand why they would subvert those stories and spin them to communicate their own humanistic worldview of self-salvation through good works or other. Secular storytellers do not believe in transcendence, so when they see the faith of these people, they simply are blind to its power. They must of necessity reinterpret that spiritual transcendence through their own paradigm of humanistic immanence.

They have no transcendence in their lives, so their stories communicate no transcendence.

Unbroken, the movie? Good, but falling way short of great storytelling. I would rather you read the book Unbroken. It will change your life.

TEAWposterDirectorCutAnd if you want to watch a true story about spiritual transcendence, and the power of forgiveness in a Japanese POW camp, watch To End All Wars, starring Kiefer Sutherland, on Amazon Movies On Demand. It’s got everything the movie Unbroken has about survival in suffering injustice. But it also has on-screen what Unbroken doesn’t: redemption, atonement, transcendence.