Why Jesus gave the apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven and what is the authority given him to bind and loose on earth and in heaven? (Matthew 16:19)


I have a question from the Scripture, if you can give me your explanation. Matthew 16:19 says that Peter will be given the keys of the kingdom of heaven … and regarding binding and loosing … what does it mean? Thank you very much.

To understand the text, it is important to see it in the context, and here it is …

Matthew 16:13-20

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 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.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20)

What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?

The thing that made Peter different than all the other apostles in this passage is his testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This truth represents the essence of the Gospel and if a man does not understand and does not believe it in any way, he can not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Preaching the gospel is the key by which a person may reach the kingdom of God, as the Apostle Paul wrote:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)(NASB)

When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees he said:

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. (Matthew 23:13)(NASB)

Do you know how they shut off the kingdom of heaven from people? It is also Jesus who tells us:

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” (Mark 7:6-13)(NASB)

Pharisees shut off the entrance into the kingdom of heaven before people by invalidating the Word of God by their tradition. The Lord Jesus gave Peter and all of His disciples the Gospel, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes and the key to the kingdom of heaven.

What is the power to bind and loose things on earth and in heaven?

Maybe you believe that only the Apostle Peter was given this authority? There is another passage in the same Gospel of Matthew, after two chapters, where the Lord Jesus says again the same words and the context explains what He means. Here is the whole text:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:15-20)(NASB)

The biblical text reveals the following things on bounding and loosing:

  • Bounding or loosing on this earth in this specific text refers to a pronouncement given at the judgment of the church to the sinner who does not repent. The church represents the gathering of the disciples of Christ from the local community.
  • Decisions made by the Christians who have come together to ask something carry weight in heaven and will be heard by the Father
  • The Lord Jesus is always with his disciples who have gathered together to make decisions in His Name, that are according to His will

This text doesn’t give anyone reason to believe that if he is a Christian, he can make any decision he wants, without thinking of the written Word of God and these decisions have power in heaven. And every Christian must also think that he will give an account of the decisions he makes or if he doesn’t share the Gospel with anyone, or adds other teachings and traditions to the Word of God and thus, shuts off the kingdom of heaven from people, neither he will enter it nor will he allow others to enter. What are you doing with the keys of the kingdom of God?

Translated by Felicia Rotaru