On Binding And Loosing: The Keys Of The Kingdom.

Matthew 16:19 (NKJV)


In Bible days, the one with the keys to a kingdom had unlimited access and control (see Isa 22:22). “Keys” therefore speak of authority, power and dominion in the Jewish thought.

Here (Matt 16:19), Jesus speaks of giving “the keys of the kingdom.” Those keys belonged to JESUS originally, the Seed of David. Revelation 3:7 says, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, ‘HE WHO HAS THE KEY OF DAVID (i.e. Jesus), He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.’” These keys symbolise His power and dominion—He is KING! Jesus then delegates that same authority to the leaders of His Church. It is believed by some that the “keys of the kingdom” (Matt 16:19) were given to every believer. This, however, is not the case.

Jesus actually gave those keys (i.e. the right to exercise authority within the Church) to LEADERS, contextually. Observe that He made this statement to PETER.

Matthew 16:17 (NKJV)

17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are YOU, SIMON BAR-JONAH (Peter), for flesh and blood has not revealed this TO YOU, but My Father who is in heaven.

Then vs. 19 says, “And I will give YOU (i.e. Peter) the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever YOU (Peter) bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever YOU loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The word “you” appears morphologically in the second-person singular, in the Greek (σοι), referring to just Peter. It is Peter who receives the keys; he would be able to “bind and loose.

To “bind and loose” is to disallow and allow things from happening in the Church. Peter would have the power to do so, and God would support his decisions (i.e. whatever he allowed or disallowed). This is what is meant by, “it would be bound or loosed ALSO in Heaven.

It was this same Peter that Jesus appointed as shepherd over His flock.

John 21:15-17 (NKJV)

15 So when they had eaten breakfast, 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.” 16 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.” 17 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.

These statements “feed My lambs,” “tend My sheep” and “feed My sheep” imply oversight. Jesus was giving Peter a role of overseer (in fulfillment of Matthew 16:19). He was giving him authority over His people (i.e. the flock). These are “the keys of the kingdom“—that imagery represents authority meant for the leaders ALONE. That heavenly “kingdom” (which is not of this Earth) is the Church, the flock of Christ (see Heb 12:22-24).

This authority is actually in TEACHING. Church leaders derive their authority from the written Word. The keys represent the ability to speak words which carry spiritual import, and which must be adhered to.

Note as well that this authority was not for Peter alone. It was for ALL the apostles of Jesus. Jesus repeats the SAME idea of binding and loosing in Matthew 18, when discussing Church discipline.

Matthew 18:17-18 (NKJV)

17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to THE CHURCH (i.e. the elders/leaders of the Church). But if he refuses even to hear THE CHURCH (i.e. its leaders), let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. 18 “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.

Similiar to what is said to Peter (in Matt 16:19), He reiterates here to the other apostles. Interestingly, this time, the word “you” in vs. 18 appears in the second-person PLURAL, in the Greek (ὑμῖν). So, He is referring to all the apostles here (plural). The same authority given to Peter (to lead His Church as apostle), He gives to them.

To “bind and to loose” in this context (Matt 16:19 & Matt 18:18) refers not to exorcism (i.e. to stop the operations of a demon-spirit). It is for the elders/leaders of the Church to judge. The ancient Jews understood this manner of speaking; to “bind a thing” (in the Jewish thought) was to forbid it, while to “loose a thing” was to allow it. This simply means the Apostles had the authority to decide what was lawful and what was unlawful (in the Church), and to discipline those who erred. They could settle disputes, excommunicate where persistent disobedience so demanded, and teach.

God would also support their decisions—He put them in charge! He would “bind in Heaven” what they had “bound on Earth,” and “loose in Heaven” what they “loosed on Earth.” That is, He would affirm, agree with and verify their judgements.

Jesus says this differently, in Matthew 19. There, he uses the imagery of thrones, in place of keys, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration (i.e. after His resurrection), when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory (i.e. His ascension), you who have followed Me (the Apostles) will also sit on TWELVE THRONES, JUDGING the twelve tribes of Israel’” (vs. 28). That is, they would have a place of leadership/authority over the saints, primarily Jewish saints (“the twelve tribes of Israel“).

In Revelation, John explains this, by way of metaphor. Revelation 21 says, “Now the wall of the city had TWELVE FOUNDATIONS, and on them were THE NAMES OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES OF THE LAMB” (vs. 14). The city of God (His Church) is built on “the foundation of the Apostles,” referring to their teachings.

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJV)

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES and (kai- who are) prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom THE WHOLE BUILDING (the church), being fitted together, grows into A HOLY TEMPLE in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for A DWELLING PLACE of God in the Spirit.

Vs. 20 speaks of the Apostles being God’s “prophets” i.e. those who speak inspiredly, to reveal the mind of God in the New Testament. Their “foundation” is therefore what they spoke/taught i.e. their doctrine. They laid the foundation for the Church’s belief and practice. Thus, Peter and the Apostles of the Lamb receive the KEYS of the Kingdom (i.e. the Church); the right to exercise authority there, via words.

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter and the rest of the Apostles used those “keys” (i.e. authoritative words) to “open the gates of the kingdom” (i.e. the Church) and invite men in.

Acts 2:14 (NKJV)

14 But 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.

Those “words” were teachings from the Scriptures (see vv. 15-36). And after Peter’s great sermon, 3000 men are saved.

Acts 2:37-41 (NKJV)

37 Now when they heard this (Peter’s words; the keys), they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and THE REST OF THE APOSTLES (this shows that not only Peter had these keys, the other apostles did too. Peter was just the chief speaker.), “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (he is using the keys to call the unregenerate to repentance) 40 And WITH MANY OTHER WORDS he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day ABOUT THREE THOUSAND SOULS WERE ADDED TO THEM.

These “keys of the kingdom” belonged to Peter as well as the rest of the Apostles, and that is why the next verse says, “And they continued steadfastly in THE APOSTLES’ DOCTRINE and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (vs. 42).

The “keys of the kingdom” are therefore used to invite men into the Kingdom (the Church) and to train/disciple/lead those men, once they are in the Church. The Apostles exercised their authority to lead the Church, by their teaching. Jesus gave them that role of oversight in His Church, and we see them exercise this role, throughout the Book of Acts.

It was the Apostles who were at the forefront of preaching the Gospel. This they did, with signs and wonders following.

Acts 4:33 (NKJV)

33 And with great power THE APOSTLES GAVE WITNESS TO THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD JESUS. And great grace was upon them all.

It was the Twelve, together with Matthias, who replaced Judas (see Acts 1:15-26), who settled disputes amongst the Early Christians.

Acts 6:1-7 (NKJV)

1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then THE TWELVE summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, THEY (the Twelve) laid hands on them. 7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Similarly, in Acts 15, when there was conflict concerning circumcision, it was the apostles and elders who came together to deliberate.

Acts 15:6 (NKJV)

6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.

The ministry of other saints was also submitted to the Apostles. After Philip had preached at Samaria and saved many, the Apostles come down to them immediately (Acts 8:14-15).

In Galatians 2, Paul calls Peter, James and John “pillars” of the Church, “And when James, Cephas, and John, WHO SEEMED TO BE PILLARS, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (vs. 9).

The word “pillars” translates the Greek “styloi” (στῦλοι) which literally refers to the columns in a house; what causes the house to stand erect. Paul then uses this word figuratively here (Gal 2:9) for those persons upon whom an organization depends. The institution of the Church is likened to a BUILDING, and it derives its stability and authority from the strength and authority of these men (i.e. the pillars).

So the Apostles were at the forefront, in Acts, leading the Church, just as Jesus said they would (Matt 16:19, 18:18, 19:28). We may say that they “sat on thrones,” wielding “the keys of the Kingdom” (metaphorically speaking); that is, they exercised authority over the people of God.

Also, note that Jesus never meant for the exercise of authority within His Church to die with the Apostles. Although the foundational Apostles (the Twelve) hold a special office in the Body which is untransferable to anyone (i.e. they laid the Church’s doctrinal foundation), Church order and leadership persists, even till today. The keys of the kingdom (authority to lead God’s people) have passed down from the Apostles to every ecclesiastical leader, down through Church history.

Those keys simply represent AUTHORITY within the Church; the right to exercise rulership. ANYONE who has the place of oversight in the Church has these SAME keys handed over to him (i.e. the right to rule over God’s people). The chain of custody is from Jesus to Peter, to the eleven, to elders of Christ’s Church.

The leaders of God’s people have authority over them (“the keys of the Kingdom”). That authority is to be exercised over the sheep (Heb 13:17), and also to further the Kingdom, just like the Apostles did, in Acts.

The Kingdom of Jesus is a growing force. It is to spread into all of the Earth. The parables of Jesus illustrate this fact. In Matthew 13, He tells the parable of the leaven to explain this truth.

Matthew 13:33 (NKJV)

33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is LIKE leaven (yeast), which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal TILL IT WAS ALL LEAVENED.”

His point is this: the same way a little yeast causes the dough to swell, so the Kingdom would start small and then INCREASE. Its influence would spread. The Kingdom of Jesus is to advance into all the world.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of ALL THE NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Mark 16:15-16 (NKJV)

15 And He said to them, “Go into ALL THE WORLD and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Luke 24:47 (NKJV)

47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to ALL NATIONS, beginning at Jerusalem.

Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in JERUSALEM, and in ALL JUDEA and SAMARIA, and to THE END OF THE EARTH.”

Observe the movement: the influence grows centrifugally, from Jerusalem, to Judea, then to the nations of the Gentiles (“Samaria and the end of the Earth”). Jesus envisions His kingdom (His Church) expanding, into all the nations of the Earth, and the leaders would play a key role, in this expansion.


(For more explanation on this, get the sermon-series “My Pastor And I PART 2” by Pastor Josh here).


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2023. 

1 Comment

  1. Deborah K.O.

    I am so blessed by this. This teaching is enlightening.
    This is like my first time of thoroughly coming to this site to read and it’s a wow.
    Thank you sir.
    Thank you Holy Spirit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *