The Keys of the Kingdom" /> The Keys of the Kingdom" /> The Keys of the Kingdom" />

"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." (Matt 16:19).


There is much confusion here about just what Peter would do, and what kind of authority this would give to himself, or any that come after him. 


The Lord here says that Peter himself would enter the kingdom, and that he would have as a herald, a God-given general authority (symbolized by possession of the keys). Preaching the good news would be the means of opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers and shutting it against unbelievers. The book of Acts shows us this in action.


After His ascension, Peter and the disciples were to continue Christ’s work on earth, of preaching God’s word to men. In that regard, they were to have the same authority as Himself. The apostles did not usurp Christ’s authority over believers and their eternal destiny, but they did exercise the authority to discipline the wayward as needed. (See Matt. 18:18 -binding & loosing also)


Notice that in the Matthew 16 the Greek syntax, literally states: “Whatever you bind on earth will have already been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have already been loosed in heaven.” Here we get a hint that the passage isn't speaking of an ongoing power granted via apostolic succession, but rather something that would be completed by Peter's actions. The matter of just what "binding" and "loosing" was, referred to the broad proclamation of God's will on the earth. Particularly- it was the closing (binding) and opening (loosing) of the kingdom of heaven to men, based on their professed faith or lack thereof. It was to be something momentous.


So, let us begin to exegete the passage. First, we see that the pronouns are singular- "thee" and "thou," and cannot apply to the whole company of the Apostles. If the others were included, the pronouns would be "ye" and "you". Neither must this passage be confused with Matthew 18:18 which deals with church discipline. It is augmented by that passage, but has a different context.


Here in Matt. 16, Peter alone is in view; also, the keys are not keys to heaven per se, but to the kingdom of heaven. And those are things that differ. The act of Christ in delivering the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven into Peters hands, with authority to bind or loose, will become clear if we are careful to search for its meaning only in the scriptures themselves.


The Lord Jesus was about to leave the Earth, to be absent for a long time. It was necessary that, before his departure, should make it known who could enter the kingdom, and upon what conditions. The New Testament had not yet been written. He here selects Peter, to speak for him in this regard.


If Peter's movements are carefully traced after his Lord's departure, it will be found that it is he, and he alone, who opened the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven.


There were three of these keys received by Peter from The Lord Jesus's hands. The first key was used on that great day of Pentecost, when Peter was the spokesman and when he opened the doors of the Kingdom to the people of Israel, to the Jews. "The promise is to you, said he, and to your children, and to all that are a far off, even as many as the Lord Our God shall call." Acts 2:39.


To be sure, the other disciples preached on that day, but Peter had to be present and approving. He was the chief spokesman. Again, after the persecution that arose after the death of Steven, Philip went to Samaria and preached to the Samaritans; but though many believed the word, the Holy Spirit fell on none of them. "Now when the apostles that were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John who, when they were come down prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for as yet it was fallen upon none of them, only they that had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" Acts 8:14-17. This was Peter's second key. He had now opened the doors of the Kingdom to the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans were strictly speaking, neither Jew nor Gentile, but a mixture of the two.


The third and last key was used in Acts 10, to open these doors to the Gentile World. Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, was commanded by an angel of God to send to Joppa for Peter. Peter, by the vision of the great sheet, was shown that even the unclean Gentiles were no longer unclean, for God had cleansed them. Peter went to Cornelius house and preached the gospel to those assembled there.


Peter was not the Apostle to the Gentiles, that was Paul's office, and Paul was converted in the preceding chapter. But Peter, the Apostle to the circumcision, had to be the first to take the gospel to the uncircumcision, for Peter had the keys. In each of these three instances, God showed by the visible descent of the Holy Spirit upon the hearers, that what Peter was doing upon the Earth, was ratified in heaven.


Never again was there any use for the keys to the kingdom, for the doors were wide open so that all who would might come. In the case of the Ephesians, who had received only John's baptism per Acts 19, Peters presence was not needed, for he had already opened the door to all the Gentiles.

The 3 keys of the kingdom have all been used, and the doors opened; to Jews, to Samaritans, and to Gentiles. Never to be repeated- they remain open. No need to pass anything to supposed "successors" of Peter. The fact that the action was completed, negates any suggestion of apostolic succession or inherited powers.


The in-depth details that illustrate the differences between these terms (heaven, the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of God), must be left to other studies. Suffice it for now to point out that the kingdom of heaven (the term used in our study above) is the sphere of profession and ultimately relates to the future setting up of the visible Kingdom on the earth. It is the visible outward manifestation of that which professes to be subject to the king. For this age it includes the false and the true, the wheat and the tares. For further learning see Matthew 13 studies on this web site.


-adapted from M. Day and augmented by helpful information/logic found at and wbc.