In Matthew 16, Jesus told Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Several aspects of this passage are often misinterpreted, and I’d like to write some articles on it. It removes a lot of the confusion if we look at what exactly the passage says (and what it doesn’t say) and compare it to other Scriptures.
The Scriptures, authored by the Holy Spirit, speak with a unified voice. By the time we are finished with Matthew 16, we’ll have wandered through (at least) Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 40, Malachi 3-4, Luke 1, John 1 and 5, Galatians 2, Romans 9, Ephesians 2, several passages in Acts, and I & II Peter.
As we bring these Scriptures into view, we’ll hopefully not only correct some of the errors around Matthew 16. I’d like to go further than that, to strengthen the faith of believers as they see how many passages of Scripture fit together to speak with a unified voice. I’d also like to show how a failure to properly interpret passages like this can actually be used to undermine or misdirect faith, and how going back to what the Scriptures actually say can strengthen your confidence in that Book in your hand.
That’s an ambitious agenda! 🙂 But so far there’s no limit on how many articles I can write, so I’ll just keep writing until I’ve done all I want to with the topic!
Here’s our passage:
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 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.
19 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.
20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
I’ve titled the series “Peter and the Keys”, but we’ll also take the time to discuss “upon this rock” and the statement about “whatsoever thou shalt bind….”
For now, I’ll leave you with two pictures from Caesarea Philippi, where the event recorded in Matthew 16 took place, from HolyLandPhotos.org. If you click through on either, it will open a new page there and you can see Dr Rasmussen’s other pictures from Caesarea Philippi. The second shows the rock cliff face — perhaps part of the reason the Lord chose this location to tell His disciples, “upon this rock.”
This first picture is the Temple of Pan at Caesarea Philippi, perhaps a visual teaching aid to Christ’s reference to “the gates of hell.”
The second shows the rock cliff face — perhaps part of the reason the Lord chose this location to tell His disciples, “upon this rock.”
Caesarea Philippi is home to a spring that provides one of the headwaters of the Jordan River. For several reasons, I don’t consider it an accident that Jesus took His disciples to this place at this time. That also will be part of these articles.
More to come….
“Binding and Loosing” are rabbinic/legal terms – from the Hebrew/Aramaic אָסַר (assar) – to bound and מֻתָּר (mutar) – loosed. Contextually” it means “prohibited” and “permitted”. Essentially Jesus was giving Peter the authority to make legal rulings within the community at the time of the coming Kingdom.
I am curious/interested as to where you will go with this. One thing i am sure of – it does not have anything to do with binding Satan or getting what we want.
Hello, Noah. Sorry for the delay in answering, had some health things that have made it harder to fit everything in and blogging isn’t my top priority.
I still definitely plan to write a lot more on this topic. I think it helps in understanding the “keys” to recognise that this statement is made in the singular to Peter only. The “binding” and “loosing” statement is made later to all the apostles (in the plural), but the part about the keys is not repeated to them. The statement about keys was only ever made to Peter personally, so we have to at least consider the possibility that the two are not talking about exactly the same thing.