Daily Word

Keys of the kingdom  | Matthew 16:19-20

19 I will give you the keys (authority) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth [ g ] will have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth [ h ] will have [already] been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He gave the disciples strict orders to tell no one that He was the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed).

Matthew 16:19-20 (AMP)

Play on Peter

We’ve been following this interaction between Jesus and Peter (though he reflects the interests of the other disciples) regarding Jesus establishing His Church. Yesterday’s verse sets the stage for today’s verses. Jesus used a play on words with Peter (rock) to show that on a profession of faith in Christ as Messiah as Peter’s that Jesus will establish His Church. He was not saying that He will build His church on Peter, himself, contrary to Catholic church belief. Today He talks about the authority that the church has.

Keys of the kingdom

The AMP version adds explanatory text to better communicate what Jesus is saying in the original Greek. So “keys” refers to authority. What is the authority of the kingdom of Heaven? Keys are used to lock/unlock so a door can be open or shut. The kingdom of Heaven is God’s dwelling place, His reign. So Peter is given special gifting to open the door of the kingdom to allow people to come in. 

“There is no doubt that Peter had a special place among all the disciples, and that he had some special privileges: … He opened doors of the kingdom to the Jews in Acts 2:38-39. He opened doors of the kingdom to the Gentiles in Acts 10:34-44. Yet there is no Biblical argument whatsoever that Peter’s privilege or authority was passed on.” (enduringword.com)

Bind / Loose

The AMP version helps clarify this statement. The basic idea is not that Peter (or any apostle) has special authority in Heaven, but that what they declare has already been declared in Heaven. What are some examples?

  • A good example is in Acts 15:20 where this same council (as above) gives instructions for allowable and forbidden behavior to address an issue that arose in Antioch.
  • Another example is based on John 20:23 where Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” But to be clear, their sins are already forgiven; the disciple only declares the truth. 

Don’t tell a soul

Jesus ends by telling the disciples to not share this special God-given revelation that He is the Christ with anyone. Wow! How could they keep such wonderful news quiet?! Why did He tell them that?


  • Do we have this kind of authority today to bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] or loose [permit, declare lawful]? Sure. There are things declared in the Bible to not do – “don’t be unequally yoked” and freedom to do things – not obey OT practices. Consider Matthew 18:15-20, the correction of a brother who sins. The same “bind and loose” phrase is used here.
  • How about us? Are we going out and telling the world that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? We are not restricted to not tell as the disciples were. Let’s be sure to go.
Antique keys. Image from Pxfuel.com

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