"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven".
What an awe-inspiring statement this is. But what were/are these keys? And are they for Believers today?
To find out, it is necessary to ask a few questions, such as:
What is the straightforward reading of the context?
Who are the words addressed to?
What is being referred to?
What would those who heard them understand them to say?
What is their cultural setting?
Does anything in these words have any relevance for Believers today?
The context begins towards the end of a conversation in which that Jesus had asked His disciples: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
After a number of responses from the disciples then He asked,
"'But who do you say that I am?'
Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'
Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Eklesia/Called-Out Ones, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven'," Matthew 16'13-19.
Apart from the question and Peter's answer, the whole context is what "Jesus answered and said to him". Further to that, the word "you" is the singular NT Greek word, not the plural.
But why Peter? Why not choose another disciple? The New Testament shows that the foremost of Peter's characteristics is that he speaks out!
And in this context what he spoke out had been revealed to him by the Father.
Little did he realise that, by having this charactistic of speaking out the first thing that came into his mind, he was showing himself to be the kind of man the Lord could use.
Jesus had history-changing things He wanted accomplished. The man He had chosen would need preparation.
One such preparation time was an occasion of strong challenge (John 21'15-21):
"Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Feed My lambs.'
He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Tend My sheep.'
He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love Me?'
And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed My sheep.
Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished;
but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.'
This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, 'Follow Me.'
Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following (and) seeing him, said to Jesus, 'But Lord, what about this man?'
Jesus said to him, 'If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?'"
After three and a half years of intimate association with the Son of God, the Disciples' time of grappling with Kingdom teachings and challenges was about to enter a new phase.
THE FINAL PREPARATION
Between the Lord's resurrection and ascension He wanted to convey to His Disciples His New Covenant Kingdom teachings.
However, He knew that in order to receive His teachings the Disciples would need the help of the Holy Spirit.
But, as John 7'39 says, the Holy Spirit "was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified".
So Jesus did something unique. "He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20'22).
Luke confirms this at the beginning of the Book of Acts:
"... until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen,
to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," Acts 1'1-3.
The Lord departed, leaving them time to be together and prepare their hearts to receive.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE KEYS
Obviously, keys open doors. Jesus had made it clear that He had specific doors He wanted opened. The Lord's assignment for Peter began immediately following the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The Disciples were told to wait "for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1'4).
They did, and:
"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance," Acts 2'1-4.
The Holy Spirit brought the inspiration and ability for Peter to use the Lord's keys.
The first one was to unlock the way of salvation to Jews:
"And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven," Acts 2'5.
Preaching the Good News of the Kingdom:
"... Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, 'Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words'," Acts 2'14.
By the time he had finished, the key had been fully turned and the result was that -
"Those who gladly received his word were immersed and that day about three thousand souls were added to them," v41.
As the Spirit led him, "doors" came before Peter and he used the Lord's keys to open them:
Salvation to the Jews, Acts 2'14-41.
Healing, Acts 3'4, 5'15, 9'34.
Speaking to rulers, Acts 4'8.
Administering discipline, Acts 4'33-5'10, 8'20.
Ministering the Immersion of the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans, Acts 8'14.
Raising the dead, Acts 9'40.
Salvation to the Gentiles, Acts 10'1-41.
Speaking out to uphold the work of God, Acts 15'7.
At times Believers read or hear someone state that the Keys of the Kingdom are promised to them. That might sound exciting but it's not true!
The really exciting news is that all the Kingdom doors have been opened and continue to be open. Understanding that all the keys have been used keeps us from being led away from truth.
Peter was told that:
"... whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven," Matthew 16'19.
But, while only he was given the Kingdom keys all Believers, the same ever-present power is also offered to all Believers:
"Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
"Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them," Matthew 18'19-20.
Prayer. Thank you, Father that all the Kingdom doors opened by Peter through the Holy Spirit are still wide open today.
In Jesus' name. Amen.