Question: Please explain Matthew 16:19. What does it mean when Jesus said to Peter that He would give him “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”?
Answer: Matthew 16:19 reads in full, “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.” Such a glorious and awesome truth is expressed here! Let us examine it a little.
“Keys” would be an instrument by which an entrance would be unlocked and opened into the kingdom of heaven. This is evidently the WORD and the SPIRIT of God. Jesus said in John 3:7, “…Ye must be born again” and in John 3:5, “…Except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” How is a person born again? I Peter 1:23 says, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the WORD OF GOD, which liveth and abideth for ever.” James 1:18 says, “Of his own will begat he us with the WORD OF TRUTH, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” In I Corinthians 4:15 we read, “…For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” John 1:13 declares that those who receive Christ are born of God. In Romans 1:16 Paul says that the GOSPEL OF CHRIST is the power of God unto salvation.
All the above scriptures make it clear that access into salvation or the kingdom of God is through the gospel. But the gospel is a two-pronged thing. In Zechariah 4:6, we read concerning the two olive trees in Zecharaiah’s vision “…This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” So the Gospel of Christ must be composed of both the WORD and the SPIRIT the Word anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. In John 6:63, Jesus said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Paul said in I Corinthians 2:4-5, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” God help us all at this point. II Corinthians 3:6 says, “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” So we see the Word alone is not sufficient but it must be accompanied by the Spirit and backed by Holy Spirit anointing.
Therefore, we conclude that God’s Word and His Spirit are the keys to the kingdom of heaven and open an access into Christ and salvation. Hebrews 5:9 says that Christ “…became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” So we see that as one obeys God’s Word and meets the conditions laid down therein for being saved confession of sin (I John 1:9), repentance (II Corinthians 7:10-11; Acts 3:19; Luke 24:47; Mark 1:14-15), restitution (II Corinthians 7:10; Luke 19:8; Ezekiel 33:15), and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the merits of His shed blood, the door swings wide open to him and he is accepted into the kingdom of God.
This is exactly what Jesus gave to Peter in this text and also to all the apostles, and further to their successors throughout this gospel age of time; even NOW to the holy, God-called, God-qualified, Holy Spirit filled ministry which God has in the Church and in the world at this present time. They also possess these keys to the kingdom of heaven.
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” It is evident here that Jesus ordained and commissioned a perpetual ministry who would have the same power and authority (the same keys of the kingdom God’s Word and Spirit) as those early ones had. This was to last unto the end of the world and just as God encouraged Joshua by telling him, “…As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee,” (Joshua 3:7) he says the same to His true ministers today, “As I was with Peter, James and John and their immediate brethren, so am I with you.” His promise was, “…I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20.) That reaches to us down here in this end of the gospel age the same as it applied to those disciples in the early beginning of this gospel age.