In the Fulness of Time/Part 107

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2008
Having presented many infallible proofs of His Messiahship in Matthew 8-11 even to the point of performing miracles in the presence of the servants of John the Baptist, it became evident to Jesus that He would not at this time be received by official Israel as Messiah/King.

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The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 16:19

Mt. 16:19 “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

In discussing the previous verse, the matter of the “keys” to death and Hades were mentioned as being in the possession of Christ, so that after His ascension the souls of all believers were removed from the upper section of Hades, formerly known as “Abraham’s bosom,” and “paradise.” We are assured in verse 18 that the gates of Hades no longer have power to take captive any member of the Church. Now, in verse 19, a further statement by Christ gives the other side of the coin, namely, that Peter will be given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” If keys symbolized the authority of Jesus over death and Hades in Revelation 1:18, then it must have a similar connotation for Peter with regard to the kingdom of heaven. Going back to what was said about the Age of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13 after the rejection of Christ by the officials in Israel, the kingdom of heaven in which Peter is given authority must be associated with some of the “mysteries” to be fulfilled during the sowing and growing phases of that “age” predicted by Christ.

Keys are normally used for the opening and shutting of doors. This principle will also be true when Christ returns as “he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth” (Rev. 3:7). As Peter has been given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he will have the privilege of opening what is called “the door of faith” in Acts 14:27, to the three classification of mankind, the Jew, the Samaritan and the Gentile.

In Acts 2 it is Peter who introduces the Jews assembled at Jerusalem to the new ministry, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, promised by Christ in Acts 1:5 and fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. As already noted, it is called “the beginning” by Peter in Acts 11:15 and thus was the first “key” used.

In Acts 8 Philip went to Samaria and preached Christ unto them: “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17). Samaritans were a mixed breed of Jew and Gentile, thus the second “key” of the kingdom of heaven was administered by Peter (aided by John) to open the door of faith to them. It is safe to infer from the verses quoted that at this point these Samaritans were placed into the Body of Christ (the Church) as they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The third “key” was used by Peter to open the door of faith to the Gentiles in Acts 10:44-45; 11:13-18. It took the direct persuasion of God to convince Peter that “God also to the Gentiles granted repentance to life” (Acts 11:18). Somewhat later, after Paul’s first missionary journey, he returned to Antioch and reported that God “had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). When the Church Council assembled at Jerusalem, “Peter rose up and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knoweth the hearts, bore them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us” (Acts 15:7-8).

After these three keys were used to open the door of faith to all classes of mankind, Jew, Samaritan and Gentile, there was no further use for them, yet, there was a continuing need for the authority of “binding” and “loosing.” The New American Standard Bible preserves the sense of the Greek periphrastic future perfect participles: “it shall have been bound” (estai dedemenon) and “it shall have been loosed” (estai lelumenon) both here in Matthew 16:19 and in Matthew 18:18, as well as in the statement in John 20:22-23 concerning the remission and retaining of sins.

Several important observations can be made:

First, this authority to bind and loose was not restricted to Peter, but was given to all the apostles in John 20:22-23, and was also promised to the Church as a whole in Matthew 18:18.

Second, the original wording, as given above, as well as the parallel passage in John: “Whosoever’s sins ye remit shall have already been remitted, and whosoever’s sins ye retain shall have already been retained.” It must be noted that neither the apostles nor the Church originated these decisions; they were made in heaven. The authority was given simply to assert the truth of such decisions in their ministries.

Third, just how did they assert this authority? There is no record that these exact words were ever used as a formula for pronouncing someone as saved or lost; however, there are instances in Scripture which give direct evidence of the application of this authority.

In 1 Corinthians 5:3-5 Paul asserted: “For I verily, as absent in body but present in spirit have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

In Titus 3:10-11: “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”

Finally, in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 the method of applying this authority is illustrated by the triumph song of a victorious army, leading their captives in chains, either to be in bondage or to certain death. Paul says: “Now thanks be to God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ in them that are saved, and in them that perish; To the one we are a savor of death unto death; and to the other, the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?”

So, today when the gospel is received by a sinner, we can authoritatively say, “You have been loosed from your sins.” But when the Gospel is rejected we can say with equal authority, “You are still bound in your sins.” In both cases we are simply affirming decisions which have already been made in heaven! Just as surely, we know that “In the fulness of time” this will become an eternal fact and condition!

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