A series of articles born out of critically thinking on the works of several Catholic Apologists and comparing their work with Scripture.
Keys to the Kingdom
The Key of David.
It is common to link the following two verses together to show that Peter received the keys to the kingdom of Heaven and has been given authority to rule over the Church.
Isaiah 22:22 "Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open.
Matthew 16:19 "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."
What about the key in Revelation? Then there is a tendency to ignore other verses that address the subject of keys and often overlooked is this verse in Revelation:
Revelation 3:7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:
Note the nearly identical language between Isa22:22 and Rev3:7. It would be careless to conclude that Isa22:22 refers in any way to any authority given to Peter given the parallel language of Isaiah and Revelation. In the book of Revelation, the "he" being referred to is obviously not Peter, but Jesus Himself. It is Jesus that has the "key of David" not Peter. The "keys" of Mt16 are not the same thing as the "key" in Isa or Rev. They cannot be since Christ Himself has these keys in Revelation 3. I will address the Matthew "keys" below, but the "key" of Rev3 and Isa22 speaks of Christ's Sovereignty over all things. It is He who determines who will be in Heaven, when the doors of Heaven will be opened, and when they are to be shut... not Peter or anyone else. By my own personal best estimate, the passage in Isaiah is a Messianic prophesy using Eliakim as a "type" of Christ. This is common in the Old Testament Scriptures. David was used as a "type" of Christ in many places as well as Moses and many of the prophets. They, themselves, were not Christ, but certain characteristics of them were Christ like and God chose to prophesy about Christ through them.
Keys open things
Purpose of keys
Let us think about keys for a moment. Keys are not necessarily a symbol of authority. There are people who want to push keys as being synonymous with authority, but they are not. If they were, janitors would be in charge of everything as could be plainly seen by all the keys on their key ring. They have access to nearly every door in the building, but they are not in charge of the building. I have keys to my office at work, but I don't necessarily have any substantial authority there: the owner does. The keys give me access to my office. Keys open things. Keys open locks. Keys open doors. Let us now look a bit beyond the above verses and see how God uses keys in some of the rest of His Word in the paragraphs below.
Keys of knowledge (keys of Heaven) taken from the Jews.
Jesus chewed out the Jewish leaders in the verses below for taking away the key of knowledge from the people. Why did He call knowledge a key? The key they were withholding from the people was the knowledge of the Way to Heaven. They had so perverted the O.T. Scriptures by their traditions and neglect that they themselves did not enter into Heaven, and they kept others who may have wanted to enter from entering:
Luke 11:52 "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering."
Nearly parallel language is found in Mt23:13:
Matthew 23:13 "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.
Here, Jesus is telling these Jewish leaders that they were "shutting" the kingdom of heaven against men. They were taking the keys away from the people. They were taking knowledge of the Word of God from the people.
Keys of knowledge (keys of Heaven) given to the Apostles.
Jesus, on the other hand, entrusted the New Testament fulfillment of the Gospel to the apostles first. He was entrusting them with the knowledge of the Way to Heaven. He was giving them the keys of knowledge to Heaven so that they could take these keys to the ends of the earth. People are given faith to believe (and therefore Heaven itself via faith in Him) by knowledge of Him... by the hearing of the Gospel:
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is…
Faith (which is a gift) is required to get to heaven. Faith comes by hearing. The apostles had to preach (or write) for people to hear. So, the keys to heaven, in a very real sense, is the preaching, teaching, and knowledge of the Gospel. All of us who have the Good News of the Way to Heaven, have the keys to Heaven.
Binding and Loosening.
I am not a Greek scholar nor do I read Greek. However, I understand from people who know Greek that the verb tense for binding and loosening in Mt16:19 actually makes for an awkward English translation. I recently found three independent collaborating sources that verify the awkward verb tense. One of which is Robert Young, a very well respected Greek scholar who wrote the Bible Concordance "Young's Analytical Concordance" named after him. He also made an English translation of the Bible:
Young's Literal Translation - 1898 Young's Literal Translation by Robert Young. An extremely literal translation that attempts to preserve the tense and word usage as found in the original Greek and Hebrew writings.
Mr. Young translated this passage this way:
Matthew 16:19 and I will give to you the keys of the reign of the heavens, and whatever you bind upon the earth shall be having been bound in the heavens, and whatever you loose upon the earth shall be having been loosed in the heavens.
As can be seen, the verb tense is awkward in English. It is very significant though that the verb tense indicates that the initial action (shall having been bound) takes place in the heavens. The later action is the Apostle's action. In other words, God has His law from everlasting. This law contains both binding and loosening of things (i.e. thou shall not kill, thou shalt love the Lord, thy God). Truth has always been there (in Heaven) (John 1:1, Psalm 119:89,160, Mat24:35) and it does not change. It is only in God's timetable that He reveals it to mankind (on earth). He does not hold mankind accountable for any Truth that He had not revealed to them. This verse is a reference to the revealing of His Eternal Law (Word from eternity to eternity) to mankind through the Apostles at the time the Apostles lived. God's Word has always been established in Heaven from eternity past. It was only when God revealed the N.T. parts of it to the Apostles that the binding and loosening of that part of His Word occurred on earth. Today we have all of the binding and loosening of the OT and NT in the form of the written Word of God. Peter and the Apostles did not receive some sort of special powers to forgive sins. Only God can forgive sins as it clearly stated in Scripture. In Mt16:19, God was telling Peter that He was going to use Peter (and the other apostles) to reveal His Law (Word) to the world.
Additional binding and loosening.
Another verse that has been used in association with binding and loosening is:
John 20:22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
John 20:23 "If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of anyone, they have been retained."
Only God can forgive sins. The Jews knew this back in Jesus' time (Mar 2:7). Jesus never denied that only God can forgive sins. The apostles are never recorded telling anyone "your sins are forgiven". The following quote illustrates how all of His church on earth can "forgive sins". In addition to forgiving anyone who sins against us, we can help them gain forgiveness from God:
"The custodian of the Gospel, however, is the body of believers, or the church. And they are to share that Gospel with others. And as they do this, God works through this Gospel to forgive the sins of those who are becoming saved. Therefore, in a real sense, it is the church, or the body of believers, that is forgiving the sins. No, it isn't the church that's forgiving the sins. It is God who is, but the vehicle through which God is accomplishing this is through the Gospel, which the believers are presenting to the person who is being saved. And so in that sense the church is forgiving the sins. Ultimately it's only God who forgives sins."
The following verses support this point.
Matthew 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out…
Matthew 10:14 "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. - [show them that their sins are retained by not listening to the Gospel]
And again in Acts,
Acts 13:49 And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.
Acts 13:50 But the Jews incited…
Acts 13:51 But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. - [shaking of dust from feet is seen as judgment against a place again - or sins have again been retained]
Even more binding and loosening as ambassadors for Christ.
The power to bind and loosen was not given only to Apostles, but, rather is given to all of us in the sense that we, who have the Gospel, have the keys to release others from the prison of their sins:
Corinthians II 5:18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,
Corinthians II 5:19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Corinthians II 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Corinthians II 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
The "us" and "we" above refers to those who were in the church at Corinth... not just to the Apostles or "their successors".