Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries

 

Peter and the Keys to the Kingdom

 

 
Did Christ really give Peter absolute power in the Kingdom of Heaven?  
Did the keys that Christ gave him render him a Pope (in the Papist sense)?
So, why were the keys to the Kingdom given (to him specifically)?

 

 

1. The misconstrued Gospel passage

When the Papist heresy severed itself from the Lords Church, it began to look for passages from the Holy Bible for the purpose of justifying the Popes authority, thus rendering him an absolute monarch amongst the faithful.  And indeed, given that the Holy Bible is such a voluminous Book, there are numerous passages therein, which every heresy can resort to (after purposely misconstruing them), in order to support its views.

But the Holy Bible is no ordinary book, and the passages that are misconstrued for the purpose of serving the one or  the other cacodoxy, when seen in the light of the remaining Scripture, not only cease to serve the falsifier, they actually become weapons that turn against him, exposing his deception and his lies.  Thus, we shall now examine very carefully the specific passage that has undergone distortion for the purpose of serving the interests of Papism, and show how its proper interpretation does, indeed, expose the falsifiers.

The passage in question is Matthew 16:9.  However, for the topic of this discussion to be better comprehended, we shall firstly present the passage along with its English rendition, from verse 13 to 20, as follows:

Matthew 16:13-20

Original (Greek) text

English rendition

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13 On coming to the regions of Caesaria of Philip, Jesus asked His disciples, saying: Who do the people say that I, the son of man, am?  

14 They said: Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah, or one of the Prophets.  .

15 He says to themBut who do you say that I am?  

16 In response, Simon Peter said:  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. 

17 And in response, Jesus said to him:  Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, as this information was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father who is in Heaven.

18 And so, I too say to you, that you are Peter, and that this is the rock upon which I shall build Me the Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail over Her.

19 And I shall give you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whomsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound in the heavens, and whomsoever you shall unbind on earth, shall be unbound in the heavens.

20 Then, He instructed His disciples to not tell anyone that He is Jesus, the Christ (=the anointed one).  

These are the lines that the Papists use, to convince us that the rock that Christ referred to was supposedly Peter, and that ever since that moment, he was also understood to be the exclusive overlord of the Church, with full authority (being the key-bearer) over the kingdom of heaven and the salvation of all his brethren, and furthermore, that this authority is inherited by the Popes of Rome, etc., etc..

Naturally, none of the above assertions is correct!  But lets examine a few important details first:

 

2. The issue under discussion

We should notice, before anything else, that the central theme of their conversation was NOT PETER, but JESUS CHRIST Himself!  

Specifically, Christ was asking His disciples: Who do the people say that I, the son of man, am? and His disciples duly informed Him of the confusion that prevailed among the outsiders.  

Then He asked them: But who do you say that I am?  This specific question is promptly answered by Peter, the most effusive and most impulsive of the disciples: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. 

Please note that, up until this point, the exclusive topic of their conversation was Christs identity!  NOT Peter's Peter entered the conversation on impulse, to reply to a question that was posed to ALL of the disciples who were present.

Peters reply pleased Christ, Who furthermore informed him that those words were not his own, but that it was God Himself who had revealed Christs true identity to him.  Christ made it clear to Peter that His identity of Son of God which had just been revealed to him- was in fact a Divine Revelation.

Please also note that, even though we are approaching the end of this narration, the exclusive topic of the conversation is still the identity of Christ!  The only element that has been added is that the information that Christ is the Son of God was a Divine Revelation.

Christ then continues His comment to Peter, with a play on words: And I too say to you, that you are Peter, and, that this is the rock upon which I shall build Me the Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail over it.

In those times, the Hellenic language was the internationally spoken one; hence, the name Petros that Christ chose to use was likewise a Hellenic one. Thus, by making use of the Greek meaning for Peters name, Christ made a play on words between petra (rock) and Petros (Peter), essentially telling him the following:  

Since My Father has revealed to you who I am, I too shall provide you with a revelation: Just as you are Peter (a solid rock), so shall this (divinely-sent) confession (that I am the Son of God) be the solid rock (the foundation) on which I shall build My Church. And not even the gates of Hades will ever prevail over it (the Church).

This is the way that the Church has always perceived Christs words, throughout the ages.  The rock that Christ referred to was NOT Peter;  With the word rock, Christ was implying the basis of the Christian Faith, the dogma, that Christ is the Son of the Living God, and that was precisely the topic of their conversation, not the person of Peter.  Peters intervention was merely an OPPORTUNITY that Christ utilized, to add His own revelation: that the basis of His Church would be His consubstantiality with the Father.  Christ made it clear from the very first moment, that this basis would be so powerful, that not even the gates of Hades (in other words the heresies, through which one enters Hades) would be able to overpower the Church!  And indeed, all of History has verified those words of Christ!  The Church is solidly seated on that basis, viz., the dogma that Christ is the Son of the Living God. Furthermore, all of the innumerable heresies which have appeared over Time have tried to negate that basis and present Christ as a creation or as only a man or whatever else; but none of them was able to impose its positions on the Church and thus drag Her into Hades. Many people have been led astray by these heresies and have been led into Hades, but not the Church.  The Church did not become a heresy.  She remained firmly planted on that rock, that basis that Christ is the Son of the Living God. However, that is another, huge topic, which is not intended for analysis for the moment.

So far, Christ has not diverted from the topic of Who He actually is.  This topic is the basis of the conversation.  And this is where we enter upon the subject of this article:  Peters keys.

Christ, now addressing Peter (and in the presence of the other disciples), continues with the following statement:   

And I shall give you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whomsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound in the heavens, and whomsoever you shall unbind on earth, shall be unbound in the heavens.

These words by Christ were now addressed specifically to Peter; nevertheless, they were the CONTINUATION of the words He had said previously.  These words are CHRISTS OWN REVELATION to Peter.  Because, after telling Peter that His identity as Son of God was revealed to Him by God, Christ hastened to add a revelation of His own. This particular revelation by Christ was twofold:

First, it involved the matter they were discussing, i.e., the dogma that Christ is the Son of God and also what would happen in the History of the Church, with regard to that dogma.

Second, Christs revelation to Peter, which pertained to Peter specifically.  This was a kind of reward, for his inspired statement. It was also a reassurance that Peter himself would have an active and central role in matters of the Heavenly Kingdom.  And, given that mention was made of the gates of Hades that would not prevail over the Church, Christ made reference to keys that would open the Heavenly Kingdom, reassuring Peter that he would be receiving them.

Since the conversation regarding Christs identity had now finished, Christ merely closed the subject by instructing His disciples to not (yet) mention to anyone that He is the Christ (the Anointed One).  The time was not ripe for this announcement by the Church.

 

3. Was it actually a case of exclusivity with Peter?

It is time now, to find out what those famous keys were, that were given to Peter by the Lord.  But first of all, we should look into the following detail: Was Peter really given a certain exclusivity, as opposed to the other disciples?

To help us out, we shall use an example:  If I were to say to one of my sons I will give you the keys to the house, would this automatically mean that I will be giving them ONLY to him?  Does it mean that I will NOT give the house keys to my other children also? Of course not!  I may give the keys to one of my sons first, but I will definitely give keys to the others afterwards!  So, for the Papists to insist that only Peter was given the authority of binding and unbinding whatever pertained to the Heavenly Kingdom is absolutely arbitrary and off the mark.

The fact is, the Holy Bible itself rebuts such a status of exclusivity!

Matthew 18:18-20:

"Truly I say to ye (Greek plural "you"), that whatever ye (Greek plural "you") may bind on earth shall be binding in Heaven, and whatever ye (Greek plural "you") may unbind on earth shall cease to be binding in Heaven.  Again I say to ye (Greek plural "you") that, when two of you should agree on earth on every matter that they may petition, it shall be done to them, by my Father in Heaven. For where there are two or three congregated in my name, there shall I be, amongst them.

Observe carefully! Here, Christ is speaking in the plural!  He is no longer addressing Peter exclusively; He is addressing all the Apostles who were present! And according to the first verse of this chapter, these words (the very same words that He said to Peter about binding and unbinding) are now being said to all of His disciples!  It was the authority of Bishop, which He was bestowing on ALL of His disciples, and to their successors, the Bishops of the Church.  So, this supposed unique authority of the Pope -as Peters successor- is entirely unfounded!  ALL the Bishops of the Church are successors, to ALL of the Apostles!  And the authority to bind and unbind consequently belongs to all of them, and not just one of them.

Observe how Christ makes it absolutely clear that this authority is valid, when two of you should agree on earth. Not one (Peter), but two!  In fact, further down He even says THREE! (where there are two or three congregated in my name...).  Therefore, a Holy Synod has the authority that can bind and unbind, and not one, sole Pontiff!

This same spirit underlies the words in John 20/: 22,23:

"And as soon as He had said this, He blew upon them and said to them:  Receive ye Holy Spirit; if ye (Greek plural "you") should forgive someone their sins, they shall be forgiven. If ye (Greek plural "you") should bind them, they shall remain bound.  

Again we notice that the binding and unbinding of sins was given to all of the apostles, and not only to Peter.  Binding and unbinding is not the property of one apostle alone; it is the property of all the Apostles, and of all the Bishops that the Apostles appointed as their successors, by the authority that was given to them.

But even if we conceded that apart from the confession Son of God- the words of Christ regarding the rock had a secondary, parallel fulfillment in Peter (as the foundation of the Church), again Peter is not alone!  See what the Book of Revelation says:

.and the wall of the city with its twelve foundations, upon which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb  (Rev. 21:14).

In other words, even if we accepted a parallel, latent and smaller fulfillment of Christs words (that Peter is understood to be the rock on which the Church would be built), it STILL does not make him the ONLY rock; indeed, the Book of Revelations presents him as one rock among another 11, which bore the names of the other Apostles!

The Church was indeed built upon the foundation of the twelve Apostles, with Christ as Her cornerstone (you have been set upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, whose cornerstone is Jesus Christ Himself Ephesians 2:20). We are talking about Christ here, not Peter!  And when we speak of the Cornerstone, we are referring precisely to the admission: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!!!

Consequently, there is no exclusivity that is linked to Peter alone, the way the Papists want to present it in order to support the Popes monarchy.  What does exist is the exclusivity of the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops.  This was the authority that the Christians throughout the ages understood Christ to be implying, and not the Popes!

Having been given the authority to bind and unbind, Peter (and all the other Apostles, as well as their successors, the Bishops) were enabled to forgive or to withhold someones sins, to set down laws and regulations for the operation of the Church, and to place themselves or whoever they wanted into the Kingdom of God !!! Provided they are all in agreement This is not an authority of arbitrariness and transgression, but an authority that functions in collaboration and condescension with the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.

 

4. What Peters exclusivity actually was

But, to be fair, (but not in the sense of approving the spiritually blind Papist), it appears that there was, finally, a certain degree of exclusivity with Peter!  Not the way that the Papists understood it (or introduced it, as an understanding thereof), but something far simpler:

Indicatively, we could underline the following points:

1.  Christ said those words to Peter first.

2.  He said them to Peter, even though He also had the other Disciples with Him.  

3.  Even though He said those same words later on to the others, nevertheless, the first time that He said them as a prophecy, He said them ESPECIALLY to Peter, whereas He could have included the other Disciples right from the beginning, when making this prophetic statement about binding and unbinding.  But He didnt Why was that?

4.  Even though He said the same words to the other Disciples later on, the part about the keys to the Kingdom was told ONLY to Peter.  I wonder why?

We must keep in mind that nothing in the Holy Bible is perchance.  And these preceding observations must preoccupy us.  Could it be, finally, that something else applied in Peters case, for the remaining Disciples to not be a part of it? And if so, what was it?  

As we have shown earlier along, this exclusivity was not an issue pertaining to salvation, nor was it an exclusivity of authority, or an exclusivity of forgiveness, or an exclusivity to bind and unbind; because all these powers were given to each one of the Apostles.  So, what was it about?  What separated Peter from the other Apostles? (Especially with regard to the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, that God entrusted to him).

Now stop to think about the following:

1.  When do keys play their major role? When the door is already open, or while it is still shut?  

2.  Why does He speak of keys and not a key?  

3.  So, if He had given the same authority to all the Apostles, what would make someone STAND OUT from the others as a key-bearer, given that all of them had keys?

With these questions, something is now beginning to clear up!  So, we shall move on to the next questions:

4.  Who was the Kingdom of Heaven closed to?

5.  When did the Kingdom of Heaven open?

6.  Did it open straight away, for everyone, or was it opened in stages?  

Now things are becoming even more discernible!  Which brings us to the last questions that will help us solve the riddle:

7.  Which Disciple was the first to open the Kingdom of Heaven?   

8.  When did he open it, and for who?

9.  When a door is unlocked by someone and is left open, what need is there for someone else to lock it again?  What would someones keys be worth, if the need never arises to use them again?

10. Are there Scriptural passages that give us information on these queries?   

To begin with the last question, we reply:  THERE MOST CERTAINLY ARE!!  The Holy Bible provides us with an answer to all these questions, and it reveals very eloquently the way that Peter used the keys to the Heavenly Kingdom, before the others!

The Kingdom of Heaven, in Jesus Christ (who is the "gateway of the sheep" according to John the Evangelist, in chapt.10), was opened on the Day of the Pentecost, upon the arrival of the Holy Spirit among the congregated Disciples of the Lord.  It was on that day that the Christian Church came into being.  What happened on that day?  Lets take a look at the Holy Bibles narration, in a simple rendition:

. The entry of the Judeans into the Kingdom

Acts 2:1-5,:

"And when the Day of the Pentecost came, they were all of one accord, in the same place. And suddenly a noise was heard from the heavens, like a rush of wind, and it filled the house in which they were seated. Then tongues like flames appeared above them, which separated and sat above each one of them separately.  And they all became filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in foreign tongues, the way that the Spirit gave them to speak.  And in Jerusalem, there dwelled Judeans, pious men from every nation that exists under the sun.

..

Acts 14:

 And Peter, after standing up together with the eleven, raised his voice and spoke to them:  Men of Judea, and all of you who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and hearken to my words

..

Acts 37-42:

And when they heard these things, their heart mellowed, and they said to Peter and to the remaining Apostles: What must we do, brethren men? And Peter said to them: Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, in absolution of his sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit;  for the promise is for you and for your children, and for all those afar, whosoever the Lord our God may invite.  And with many other words did he plead and prompt, saying: Save yourselves from this perverted generation. Thus, after gladly accepting his word, they were all baptized. And on that day, about three thousand souls were added.  And they remained faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, and to the community, and to the cutting of bread and to the prayers

We therefore observe here, that the first step was the entry of the Judeans into the realm of the Heavenly Kingdom, through their baptism in water and in the Holy Spirit, thus making 3000 people members of the Church.  Peter was the one who took the lead in the Apostles speech, and also the one who filled as he was with the Holy Spirit- had said to the Judeans present that they would enter the realm of the Kingdom. He was therefore the one who FIRST opened the Kingdom of Heaven, for the Judeans!  

 

. The entry of the Samaritans into the Kingdom

Some time later, a persecution took place in Jerusalem on account of the martyrdom of the First Martyr Stephen, and the Christians scattered throughout the land, for fear of the persecuting Jews (among whom was Saul / Paul, who had not yet converted to the Christian faith). The Scriptural narration says the following:

Acts 8:1, 5,6:

"And on that day there was an immense persecution against the Church that was in Jerusalem and everyone was scattered about the lands of Judea and Samaria, except for the Apostles. As for Philip: after descending to the city of Samaria, he preached Christ to them. And the crowds, as though one soul, paid attention to the things spoken by Philip, hearing about and witnessing the miracles that he performed.

...

Acts 12:

But, when they believed in Philip, who was preaching the things related to the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both the men and the women came to be baptized.

...

Acts 14-16:

And the Apostles, who were in Jerusalem, when hearing that Samaria had received the word of God, sent to them Peter and John; who, after going there, prayed for them, so that they would receive the Holy Spirit, because it had not descended upon any of them, as they were only baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, according to this narration, even though the evangelist Philip had preached the word and had also baptized the Samaritans, the door to the Kingdom was still shut for them!  The Holy Spirit had not yet been given to them!  I wonder why?

The Samaritans were neither Jews, nor Gentiles. They were something in between. Their forefathers were people who had been transported to that region after the destruction of the State of Israel by the Assyrians and they had believed in the God of Israel. In other words, they were not idolaters.  But they did have a peculiarity: they did not accept all of the Hebrew Scriptures, only the Pentateuch, and they did not worship God in Jerusalem, according to the Law of Moses. They were, in a way, a heresy of Judaism. And while the door to the Kingdom had been opened from the Day of the Pentecost for the Jews, for the Samaritans it was still shut!  Even after they had believed in the sermons of Philip the evangelist!  Although they had been baptized in water, God had nevertheless not sent them His Holy Spirit!

The Apostles, therefore, sent Peter (again) and John, to place their hands upon them and pray so that they might transmit the Holy Spirit to them. In other words, Peter and John would be opening the door to the Kingdom, this time to the Samaritans, for the first time!

It is not by chance that for a second time, Peter (together with John this time), uses the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Peter, for the second consecutive time, is the one who unlocks the door to salvation for another group of people, on the basis of the Apostolic authority that was given to him by the Lord.

With this opportunity, it is important for us to note two more things:

1.  Peter was SENT BY the Apostles an act that proves he was not something exceptional among the other Apostles, as far as authority was concerned.  On the contrary, it shows that he was in fact obeisant to the missions that the Body of the Apostles sent him on.  

2.  John is SENT TOGETHER WITH Peter - an act signifying that TOGETHER they unlocked the Kingdom of Heaven for the Samaritans.  Therefore, Peter was NOT the sole key-bearer of the Kingdom; it was possible for any of the other Apostles to act with him!  Quite simply, Peter was the only one who was present during EVERY NEW OPENING of the Kingdom for new groups of people, as we shall see further along.

 

3. The entry of the Gentiles into the Kingdom

Following the entry of the Samaritans, one more group of people (the largest) was now left, for which the Kingdom of Heaven was not yet open.  And they were the Gentiles.  What was Peters role in the history of the Gentiles entry into the Kingdom?  Well, the narration in Acts is quite enlightening:

Acts 10:1-29:

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!" Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked.  The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is known as Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea."  When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heavens opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice said to him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."  This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them." Peter went down and said to the men, "I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?" The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say." Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself." Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?"

...

Acts 10:33,34:

Behold, we are all standing before God, to listen to everything that was commanded to you by God. Then, as Peter opened his mouth, he said:  Truly, I know that God is not discriminatory, but, in every nation, whosoever fears Him and does works of justice, He shall be acceptable to Him.

...

Acts 10:44-47

While Peter was still saying these words, the Holy Spirit came over all of those who were listening to his speech.  And the faithful who were of the circumcision, who had come along with Peter, were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit poured forth over all nations; for they heard them speaking in tongues and magnifying God. hen, Peter remarked:  Is there anyone who will obstruct the water, so that these people not be baptized, even though they have received the Holy Spirit like we have? So he instructed them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.

Thus opened the door to the Kingdom for the Gentiles also.  However, this door did not open automatically. It needed the doorman, the key-bearer of that Kingdom, who was to receive this new group of people. And of course he could have been none other than Peter!

Couldnt God have opened that door, without Peter?  Couldnt an angel preach to them? And yet!  The keys to the Kingdom were given to Apostles.

Besides, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself had promised the unlocking of the Kingdom to Peter! That is why, before Peters summoning, no-ones entry into the Kingdom would be completed: Before Peters invitation, the Jews HAD NOT been baptized. Before Peter had transmitted the Holy Spirit to the baptized Samaritans together with John, they WERE NOT REBORN in the Holy Spirit.  And before Peter had preached the Gospel to Cornelius the Gentile, God had not given the Holy Spirit to any Gentile.  Furthermore, without Peters instruction for Cornelius entire household to be baptized - without that baptism - his rebirth would have been partial, and the door to the Kingdom still closed.  

It was Peter who first confessed that Christ is the Son of the Living God.  And Christ, as a reward, promised him that he would be the first to open up the Kingdom, to each new group of people in mankind.  And the Lord kept His promise!  

He did NOT promise Peter any paramount authority, above all the other Apostles; but He did promise to give him keys and indeed, Peter was the one who UNLOCKED the Kingdom of God for the first time. And God also did not allow anyone into that Kingdom, before Peter had given his consent, with the Apostolic authority of binding and unbinding that was given to him.

(And this first time at unlocking is, by nature, something that cannot be transmitted to any Pope...)


 

Text by: . .

Translation:  K.N.

Article published in English on: 13-7-2007.

Last update: 9-4-2014.

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