googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven

"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matthew 16:19

In a recent post, I talked about Jesus’ conversation with Peter where He called Peter, “a rock.” In that same conversation, Jesus promised to give to Peter, “the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” What exactly does that mean?

In the KJV, there are exactly eight verses using the word key: Besides this verse it also appears in Judges 3:25, Isaiah 22:22, Luke 11:52, Revelation 1:18, Revelation 3:7, Revelation 9:1, and Revelation 20:1. No other passage cites, “the keys to the kingdom of heaven.”

Of the passages that cite keys, only two are of particular note:

And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
Isaiah 22:22

This is certainly a reference to Jesus as seen in Revelation 3:7:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

Since there is no other passage that explains what the keys to the kingdom of heaven are, we should look at the context of the passage to help us understand.

When we read the entire verse, after Jesus promises the keys to the kingdom, He immediately follows up saying, “and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” I suggest to you that the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” precisely is the power of loosing and binding. Indeed, what else can it be? And furthermore, most people understand this authority of binding and loosing was given by Jesus only to Peter. But the reality is, the authority was not given to only Peter. We see later that Jesus gave this same authority to all of the disciples (Matthew 18:18).

Of course, this begs the question: what is the authority to loose and bind? Some people believe it is the authority of the priesthood to forgive sins. I think an examination of the Greek sheds a little more light on it.

The words binding and loosing appear in the “perfect” aspect. The perfect aspect represent events in the past that have effects into the present (see my post, An Open Door). The most forceful example of this is perhaps Jesus’ persistent use of the phrase “it is written.” It would literally read, “it is having been written.” In this passage, it literally says, “it has been bound” and “it has been loosed.” But both are modified with the future verb estai (it shall be). So the passage literally reads, “it shall be having been bound… it shall be having been loosed.”

Most scholars understand this to mean that whatever the disciples proclaimed on earth, has already been decided in heaven. That is, when they speak, they are speaking not their own will but the will of God. Whatever they say will be bound has already been bound and what they say will be loosed has already been loosed.

As I discussed in another post, God did give certain authority to His prophets and apostles to speak the word of God before we received the cannon of Scripture. I believe here is just another example of that. Jesus tells the disciples that they will have the ability to announce to the world what has been bound and what has been loosed.

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