Keys of the King


There is a very interesting verse in the New Testament which once caused great debate between Protestants and Roman Catholics. The passage is found in Matthew 16:16-19. Jesus says to Peter. "I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

The debate centered on the identification of the keys. What were they.? We Protestants argued that they were Peter's confession. To confess Christ is to gain entry to heaven. Roman believers argued that the keys were jurisdiction (authority) over all Christians given to Peter and thus to the Roman Catholic church through the Pope. So what are the keys of the kingdom?

Obviously we need first to ask what is the kingdom? The kingdom of God (heaven in Matthew's gospel) refers to God's sovereignty and his kingly rule over the universe. God's way of ruling, said Jesus, was like a grain of mustard seed which is hardly noticeable in its beginnings, but grows and grows, till it becomes a massive tree. The most mysterious element of God's rule is that it is exercised preeminently through Jesus' death and resurrection. On the cross God overcame sin and death and so established his sovereign rule. From that event till the end of time "Christ must reign till all things are put in subjection under him", 1Cor.15.

Yet what of the keys? In Luke 11:52 Jesus said of the Jews that they possessed the key of knowledge in the Old Testament, but they didn't use it. So it is quite possible that the keys of the kingdom are keys of knowledge about God's rule. Jesus said earlier of his disciples that they were the recipients of divine knowledge, Matt.11:25. So then, possessing the keys of the kingdom means possessing the secret knowledge of God's rule. It is this knowledge which enables a believer to "bind" and "loose". A believer understands God's way of doing things (his will) and so can act, decide, proclaim in a way which is endorsed in heaven. Matthew 18 deals with the same idea. Prayer in accordance with the mind of God is ratified by God, and this because the person praying possess the keys of the kingdom - they understand the sovereign rule (will) of God. We can only be humbled when we realize that God has revealed his mind to us in the scriptures. 1Cor.2:10,16.