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-What does Matthew 16:19-20 tell us about the kingdom of heaven?

QUESTION: What does Matthew 16:19-20 tell us about the kingdom of heaven? “Jesus said: ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.” Matthew 16:19-20 NKJV


ANSWER: In Matthew 16:16 Peter had confessed the Lord Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus appreciated this confession and pointed out that God the Father, not man, had revealed this to Peter. On this confession He would build His Church. Notice, He says, “I will build,” not “I have been building” or “I am building” My Church. The confession of who Jesus is, not Peter as a person, is the rock on which the Church is built. When we look at Peter’s history as Scripture details it for us, it is plain to see that he would have been a very shaky rock on which to build the Church! The Church and “the kingdom of heaven” (more precisely, “the kingdom of the heavens”) are not one and the same thing. The Church began on the day of Pentecost. It is composed of every true believer in Christ, and each member is indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit. There are no keys to the Church and certainly no mere man can admit anyone to heaven. The popular picture that Peter is the doorkeeper of heaven – the one who decides who will be admitted into heaven – is absolutely erroneous. The kingdom of the heavens is the sphere of Christian profession and includes not only true believers, but also the unconverted whose profession is not true. In the absence of its King who ascended back into heaven in Acts 1, Peter was privileged to open the door to admit repentant Jews in Acts 2, and concerned Gentiles in Acts 10.

Binding and loosing takes us a step beyond this use of “the keys.” This responsibility is here given to Peter, but in Matthew 18:18 this same responsibility of binding and loosing is entrusted to the “twos and the threes” who are gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus, wherever they may be physically. Peter would be conscious of what he had confessed in Matthew 16:16; Christians gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus are graced with His holy presence in their midst and act on His behalf. In such situations heaven then backs up their act, for it is more than simply their own act. We realize, of course, that since God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, He will never bind or loose anything that is not in accord with His holy will. Man can never manipulate or use God for wrong purposes. Claims men make to wield some exclusive power over God cannot be substantiated by Scripture and are blasphemous in character.

Matthew 16:20 brings us to somewhat of a turning point in Matthew’s gospel. The Lord’s words and the miracles He had done should have brought Israel to realize that He was the Christ, the Messiah so often promised in the Old Testament. The disciples had earlier been sent out to preach that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. The King, the promised Messiah, was in their midst. But since His people would not receive Him as King, the Lord now tells them they should tell no one that He was the Christ. There was no point adding to their guilt. Pearls should not be cast before swine (Mt. 7:6). From this point on we no longer see Jesus presenting Himself to the nation of Israel. From here on Jesus speaks to His disciples not only of the suffering and death that awaited Him, but also of His resurrection. His pathway would soon take Him to the cross!

Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

The Kingdom Of Heaven
“The kingdom of heaven is not heaven itself … It speaks of a mixed condition of things, such as has prevailed in Christendom ever since the beginning of the present age.”

— H. A. Ironside

With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org

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