Bringing the Text to Life

Hellscapes and Heaven's Gate Ephesians 2:1-10

There are two "open sesames" for the gates of heaven: "Just stop it" and "But God."

In both this week's psalm and epistle lessons, we hear about a God who snatches us from certain death and offers us more than rescue. We receive a chance for new life in relationship with the Divine. The psalmist speaks about "the gates of death" that yawn open before the stumbling, staring Israelites (Psalm 107:18), threatening to swallow them down into the shadowy eternity of sheol. The epistle writer also describes a state of impending death -- though it appears to be a living state of hell. Captivated by the persuasive powers of the "ruler of the air," fallen humanity -- "children of wrath" -- are hopelessly trapped in their own desires and passions.

Today, it is hard for us to imagine how such a simple boundary as a gate could be the impenetrable barrier between two worlds as the biblical writers saw it. In the ancient world, gates were important features. Gates made cities secure, and to "possess the gates" was to possess the city. Gates were civic centers where people met and...

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