What are the "keys of the kingdom" referred to in Matthew 16:19?

What authority did Jesus Christ give to Peter and the New Testament Church of God?


The Bible uses a key as a symbol of authority. In Isaiah:22:22, we see Eliakim the priest receiving "the key of the house of David…on his shoulder." Revelation:3:7 uses similar symbolism. A trusted servant to the king wore the key to the king's house on a hook on his shoulder. Therefore, he had the authority to open or close the king's house.

Assuming Jesus was addressing Peter in Matthew:16:19, some interpret this to mean that Peter had the authority to allow or disallow access to the Kingdom of God. This explanation has two inherent errors. First, although Jesus said something specifically to Peter in verse 18, He included all the disciples in His comments in verse 19.

This is reflected in related verses where the Greek for the pronoun "you" is plural ("ye" in the King James Version). Matthew:18:18 says, "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (emphasis added throughout). John:20:23 says: "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."

The "rock" of Matthew:16:18 is Jesus, not Peter. Peter was a leading apostle of the early New Testament Church of God for many years, but not its chief cornerstone—that was and is Jesus Christ (Ephesians:2:20).

Second, it's erroneous to think any man could allow someone into the Kingdom of God whom God would not allow into it. Similarly, no man could disallow someone access to the Kingdom whom God would invite into it.

The Greek in Matthew:16:19 (as well as Matthew:18:18 and John:20:23) is not always clearly translated. These actions are called "future perfect passives" and can be rendered, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven" (New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition). God is not obligated to bind an ungodly decision. In other words, Christ would lead the Church leadership to decisions that He had already bound in heaven, not vice versa.

Anciently, when one came to seek the king's help or counsel, the servant's job was to open the door to the king's house and assist him in reaching the king. Christ's servants, the ministry, have a similar responsibility to assist those God is calling in coming to their King, Jesus Christ.

Christ showed that the religious teachers of His day, who had access to the knowledge of God's ways, had failed in this duty. "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered" (Luke:11:52). Occasionally, the ministry has the sad duty to inform some that because of their choices and actions, the doors to the kingdom are being closed to them unless they repent. See 1 Corinthians 5 or 2 Thessalonians:3:14.

Revelation:3:7 speaks plainly of Jesus having the key. In ancient Israel, the human king was in fact the steward of God, the true King of the land. Similarly, the divine Christ will be the steward of His Father's Kingdom. With that authority, Jesus could allow or disallow someone entrance into the Kingdom—but no man had or has that authority. Christ's statement in Matthew:16:19 meant that His apostles had authority to represent Him, to teach as He taught them and to be instruments in helping people live the way the Kingdom of God. Christ still lends His authority to His true ministers today to do the same work. Sadly, many falsely claim this authority and misuse it.

For more understanding, please read our booklet The Church Jesus Built .


Melody.Moss's picture

I did not understand Matthew 16:19 before, but it is clear to me now. Thanks!

Saint Stephen

Saint Stephen's picture

I'm sorry. I don't understand the actual answer to this question. It plainly says Jesus gave peter the keys to the kingdom. I believe it is
a specific set of keys to the kingdom which Peter handed out in the beginning of the church. That specific keys which is handed to all of us to be born into the kingdom is Acts 2:38.

Sabry (not verified)

Sabry's picture

I believe Jesus gave Peter the key to bound on earth( Mathew 16:19)


Jesus was given Key in Revelation 1:18
and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Revelation 5: As commander and chief, Jesus is worthy to open the seven seals. When bowls are poored out the Lamb(Jesus) commands

Who is the angel in Revelations 20? I believe this angel is Peter who was given the key. Otherwise it would be Jesus however in Hebrew 1 Jesus was made higher than the angels.

Revelation 20 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.
Revelation 20:1-3 (in Context) Revelation 20 (Whole Chapter)

What does not make sense is that Jesus turns himself into an angel and falls from heaven.

Therefore, although I have no bibical proof who is the angel in Revelation with the key to the abyss, I can conclude that Peter was given some sort of special task and key to bound with the commander and chief authority.

Do I have the correct understanding to the key Jesus gave Peter?

Saint Stephen

Saint Stephen's picture

Sabry. That cannot be right. Peter cannot be an angel. They are clearly distinguished between man. Revelation 20 is not Jesus. It's simply an angel. We don't know the angels name. Unless someone can find it in scripture. Peter was given to bound and loose (Romans 6:1-7). Which he handed out in Acts 2:38. Matt. 16:18 Jesus says on this Rock meaning himself he'll builed his church. In Acts 2:1-4 is the first church gathering in 1 accord. Then Peter expresses the Keys in verse 38. Also Jesus explains to Nicodemus the Keys to the kingdom in John 3:1-9. Born of Water and Spirit. Water Meaning Jesus name baptism. Spirit referring being filled with the Holy ghost with evidence of speaking in tongues (Acts 10:44-48)

Sabry (not verified)

Sabry's picture


Thanks Stephen:

Your right the angel mentioned in Revelation bounds Satan up has no name.

Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

These keys are figurative, not literal, because in Matthew 23:13, Christ explains how various "'teachers of religious law...[had] shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven" (NLT 2007)--neither going in themselves, nor "allow[ing] those who are trying to enter to go in" (ISV 2010). (The article cites Luke 11:52, a parallel passage.)

Saint Stephen

Saint Stephen's picture


What does Matt. 23:13 got to do with Acts 2:38? Matt. 23:13 is Jesus explaining that the Pharisees are using righteousness for their own gain and that they block everybody from acheiving the Kingdom. Acts 2:38 is literal keys to the kingdom as referenced in matt. Matt. 16:19 is Acts 2:38. In Acts 2:37 you have the unbelievers that just recieved the gospel and Gods promise of pouring out his spirit. Then the unbelievers asked what shall they do. Peter who Jesus gave the Keys to, handed out the keys to the kingdom to everybody.

Sabry (not verified)

Sabry's picture

"Occasionally, the ministry has the sad duty to inform some that because of their choices and actions, the doors to the kingdom are being closed to them unless they repent."

Do you mean God's Kingdom?

Saint Stephen

Saint Stephen's picture


Isn't everything we work for as christians for the benefit of Gods kingdom?


KARS's picture

After reading this article twice. Here is what I have come to understand. As stated above the keys have already been established in heaven before God our Father's throne. Therefore when the ministry binds something on earth (meaning anointings, blessings and soforth) it is bond in heaven as a witness to God that this has taken place. The keys are wisdom, understanding, discernment in preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to those God our Father are calling out of the world.

Now when someone that has been enlighten to the Gospel of the Kingdom begins going sour and turns back to the ways of the world; they begin to snuff out the Holy Spirit and the ministry has no choice but to turn that individual out unless they repent.

Why? Because God our Father is not the author of confusion and will not tolerate that kind of behavior in His church or Kingdom.

The Pharisees, Sadducess, and scribes of Jesus day had made up their own rules and regulations which caused much grief to the children of Israel and preverted the laws, ordinances and Sabbaths by what they taught. That's why Jesus told them why do they need to be taught again what they should already have known.

It is a great and important responsible to be a man of God and preach the gospel of the kingdom in all sincerity and truth. It is not a game and should not be taken lightly.


abundantlife's picture

In order to better understand this verse you have to read all the verses in its entirety. Once a scripture is used out of context its void of power. Everything that takes place in the Bible happens for a reason, we serve a purposeful God.

Remember that Jesus begun this statement by asking a question, "Who do you say I Am?". Once Simon supernaturally revealed who He was, Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter (Petros in Greek which is a huge PIECE of a rock). That piece of rock represents the foundation of the church which was the revelation of Jesus Christ being the Son of the living God. With that understanding we can better interpret verse 19 when Jesus said, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven". The KEYS are JESUS because no one can go to the Father but through Him and He is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIGHT. Jesus is the only one that has access to the Father and to the Kingdom of heaven without Him/keys you can not have access to the things of God and His kingdom. Because Jesus is the keys we have the power to bind and loose and to trample over the works of the enemy. You may argue that keys are plural and Jesus is singular, but Jesus is all things. Not only is He the way, truth and the light he is a savior, healer, delivers, and so much more. For example if you are sick and need healing what do you need? JESUS right! That is why He said, whatever you ask for in my name it will be done. Jesus gives us access to those things that are in heaven through and by the power of His name. While baptism, communion, and the holy spirit are a very important part of our Christian faith none of these hold any substance without Christ. Jesus is the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is through our diligence to serve Him that we have the ability to manifest His great power on this earth. Because we are partakers with Christ we are called to be key bearer and lead those out of darkness into His marvelous light.


gerald1683's picture

stephen you're clearly right. the keys of the kingdom mentioned in matthew were not literal. it's all spiritual and those keys were preached by apostle peter in ACts 2:38. these are the original keys whereby a man can enter into the kingdom of god in heaven..

stephen thank you for sharing your thoughts in this forum.

Ramiro Asturias...

Ramiro Asturias Zamora's picture

In the reported dialogue between the Lord and Peter, the first one commends the second one, and then says, "upon this rock..." meaning "the rock of revelation" which must characterize His Church. Besides, Peter was not appointed to head the congregation in Rome. The Lord foresaw James "the Righteous one," who for some time had it made as a vicarious leader, with no major problems. There was an initian discussion, but Peter was no match before James, who just as the Lord himself, was a direct descendant of King David.

The Commander

The Commander's picture

Why Don't people believe you! Of coarse Peter was a small rock and JESUS IS THE ROCK! We can lead people to Christ and that's about it and that's His doings thru us anyway! Jesus was in Capernaum with Peter and the boys when he looked up at that 9000 foot mountain there and said Upon this Rock I shall build my Church! Then He looked down into the grottos below the Great 9000 ft rock and said and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it! These were Jesus's prop if I may! The huge rock mountain and the caves below it! Thx you, In Him alone, The Commander


Jane2014's picture

When Jesus gives the "Keys of the Kingdom" in Matthew to Peter, He is giving Peter the authority to use God's power here on earth. This same authority has been seen in all the prophets in the Old and New testaments; like the power by which Moses changed the staff into a serpent, or when the apostles went forth doing miracles in God's name. And with this power, Christ gave Peter the ability to seal things, else why does it say specifically that things will be bound in heaven and earth? Jesus gave those keys to Peter because of his righteousness, and willingness to submit to the will of the Father, so that God could continue His work on earth and show His miracles without being there Himself.

Saint Stephen

Saint Stephen's picture

Thanks Gerald for the reply. I'd like to give a more scriptural break down.

There's only 1 way to understand God's doctrine and it is the Lord's doctrine. If you want to further pursue the Lord's doctrine. Here's how.

Isaiah:28:9-13; explains we must follow precepts which means commands, line upon line meaning reading all God has for you, and here a little there a little. This is the spiritual finds of God. Gods word is a treasure and there's always more to be sought out.

Matthew:16:19 states that Peter gave him keys to the kingdom.

John:3:3-8 Jesus explains to Nicodemus how you're born into the kingdom.
Which is through the (Water)Jesus name baptism and the (Spirit)filled with the Holy Ghost with evidence of speaking in tongues.

Acts:2:38 Peter who received the keys explains how they receive redemption by Repentance, (Water) Jesus name baptism and the (Spirit) the Holy Ghost. This verse shows spiritually here a little there a little is the KEYS to the kingdom


rayi23's picture

The thing that gets me is that no one really knows what he meant. You could make up anything. That is the problem with the Bible and spoken words. I am not saying anything negative but only stating the obvious. That said, the thought that has always interested me is that there was a lineage of light passed from one savior to another throughout the Bible. From what we only know from this event when John the Baptist Baptized Jesus "The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God". Consequently, in the same manner, Jesus passed that same Spirit of God to Peter by giving him the keys to the kingdom of heaven, upon his passing, just like John the Baptist who would be behead. But it doesn't mean that Peter started the Pope lineage. There is way too much politics going on during that time. People will never understand the Bible if they don't open themselves up to the hidden meaning behind the stories in the Bible. Those stories are meant to guide us to a deeper understanding of spirituality, rather than creating Religions which is only political organization. You can't let people tell you what anything means. You listen, of course, but, in the end, it is you that must understand. Spoken words are only shadows of a real experience. If all you do is argue over the shadows, you will never understand what is the deeper meaning. You cannot allow yourselves to be boxed in by others opinions. In the end, it is you that will have to answer. It will not work if you say "but he said.......".


Daryl's picture

Matthew:16:19 Peter was given the keys of the kingdom, not the key to the kingdom. Christ is the key to the Kingdom Follow Peter throughout the book of acts. Every where that Peter went the Holy Spirit was introduced to the world. Matthew:16:19B Jesus was telling the disciples what is bound on earth will be bound in Heaven.. What is loosed on earth will be loosed in Heaven. This particular passage is addressing FORGIVENESS. Here is the true meaning to this particular passage. If we sin one against another and don't have forgiveness that SIN is bound on earth and bound in Heaven. If we forgive one another's sin then loosed on earth and loosed in Heaven. Forgiven sin will not have to be dealt with in Heaven but unforgiven sin will have to be dealt with in Heaven.
1 Tim:5:24 Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.
Forgiveness is one of the KEYS of the Kingdom Daryl

Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

Hi Rayi23, "as you suggest, the hierarchy of popes, cardinals, bishops, etc., is not based on the New Testament model. Christ emphasized responsible stewardship and loving service by church leaders (Matthew:20:25-28)—not the Roman authoritarian model. And we certainly agree that the simplicity of the gospel has often been lost in the shuffle of mainstream church politics and complex theologies. This was a problem even in the apostle Paul's day (2 Corinthians:11:3-4)": http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/i-have-no-doubt-god-exists-and-man-called-j...


PeterandtheKeys's picture


The hierarchy of Popes, Cardinals, and Bishops, etc, doesn't have to be based on the New Testament model. From as early as 96AD, only about 60yrs after the death of Jesus, there is written record in The First Letter of Clement to the Corinthians of the Episcopacy. That alone is just written record of how old the three fold episcopacy is! As we know tradition is much older than the writing of the New Testament!


MasonTD's picture

The "Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" refer to authority to do God's will on earth. The ultimate authority is God's will. The authority given to Peter is to carry out that which was already bound or loosed in Heaven by the will of God.

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