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

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Christ’s statement in Matthew 16:19 Matthew 16:19And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
American King James Version×
and Matthew 18:18 Matthew 18:18Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
American King James Version×
show that His apostles had authority to represent Him, to teach as He taught them and to be instruments in helping people live the way of the Kingdom of God.

The Bible uses a key as a symbol of authority. In Isaiah 22:22 Isaiah 22:22And the key of the house of David will I lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
American King James Version×
, we see Eliakim the priest receiving “the key of the house of David…on his shoulder.” 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.

Revelation 3:7 Revelation 3:7And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things said he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens;
American King James Version×
uses similar symbolism, speaking plainly of Jesus having the key of David. In ancient Israel, the human king was in fact the steward of God, the true King of the land. Similarly, the divine Christ is the steward of His Father’s Kingdom. With that authority, only Jesus can allow or disallow someone entrance into the Kingdom—but no man had or has that authority. 

It is important to realize that the “rock” of Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×
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 Ephesians 2:20And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
American King James Version×
). Scripture calls Jesus “that Rock” in 1 Corinthians 10: 4. It is upon this rock—Jesus Christ—that our faith stands, Matthew 7:24-25 Matthew 7:24-25 24 Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house on a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell not: for it was founded on a rock.
American King James Version×
.

With regard to Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×
, the words “thee” and “thou” in the King James Version are singular forms of the second person personal pronoun, “you.” So, Jesus Christ was specifically referring to Peter in this passage. He was often the spokesman for the others and had a leading role in the early church. We must also note, however, that all the other disciples were in Jesus’ presence at that time (see verse 13).

In Matthew 18:18 Matthew 18:18Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
American King James Version×
the same command is given, but this time to all the apostles. Here, note that the second and third occurrences of the personal pronoun as shown in the King James Version is “ye” (the second person plural form of you), indicating that Christ is addressing more than one person—that is, all of His faithful apostles. So, not only was authority given to Peter (Matthew 16:19 Matthew 16:19And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
American King James Version×
), great authority was indeed given to all these men. After they were converted they spread the true gospel to the entirety of the world. 

Of course, it is 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 Matthew 16:19And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
American King James Version×
(as well as Matthew 18:18 Matthew 18:18Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
American King James Version×
and John 20:23 John 20:23Whose soever sins you remit, they are remitted to them; and whose soever sins you retain, they are retained.
American King James Version×
) 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.

Furthermore, in John 20:23 John 20:23Whose soever sins you remit, they are remitted to them; and whose soever sins you retain, they are retained.
American King James Version×
we read: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (NKJV). This does not mean that men have the power to forgive sins. Only God and His son Jesus Christ have this power (Mark 2:7 Mark 2:7Why does this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
American King James Version×
, 10). However, this verse states that Christ has given to the apostles and to all His ministers the authority to tell people that their sins have been forgiven by God. Please note the pronoun “ye” in this verse, which indicates that Christ is speaking to all of the apostles. Today, when ministers baptize and lay hands on people (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
and Acts 8:17 Acts 8:17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
), they can tell the repentant sinner that through the power of God and Jesus Christ, their sins have been forgiven. Man cannot forgive sins, but God can.

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 Luke 11:52Woe to you, lawyers! for you have taken away the key of knowledge: you entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in you hindered.
American King James Version×
). 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 2 Thessalonians 3:14And if any man obey not our word by this letter, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
American King James Version×
.

Therefore, Christ’s statements in Matthew 16:19 Matthew 16:19And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
American King James Version×
as well as in Matthew 18:18 Matthew 18:18Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
American King James Version×
show that His apostles had authority to represent Him, to teach as He taught them and to be instruments in helping people live the way of 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 .

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    Comments

  • Melody.Moss

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

  • Saint Stephen

    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.

  • ucgadmin

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

    Future

    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

    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)

  • ucgadmin

    Stephen:

    Thanks Stephen:

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

  • Ivan Veller

    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

    Ivan:

    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.

  • ucgadmin

    “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

    Rachel:

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

  • KARS

    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

    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
    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 Zamora
    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
    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
    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
    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 Isaiah 28:9-13 9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10 For precept must be on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, and there a little: 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12 To whom he said, This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13 But the word of the LORD was to them precept on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
    American King James Version×
    ; 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 Matthew 16:19And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
    American King James Version×
    states that Peter gave him keys to the kingdom. John 3:3-8 John 3:3-8 3 Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it wants, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell from where it comes, and where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
    American King James Version×
    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 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    American King James Version×
    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
    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
    Matthew 16:19 Matthew 16:19And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
    American King James Version×
    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 16:19 Matthew 16:19And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
    American King James Version×
    B 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 Timothy 5:24 1 Timothy 5:24Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.
    American King James Version×
    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
    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 Matthew 20:25-28 25 But Jesus called them to him, and said, You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority on them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
    American King James Version×
    )—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 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him.
    American King James Version×
    )”: http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/i-have-no-doubt-god-exists-and-man-called-j…
  • PeterandtheKeys
    Ivan, 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
    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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