Sunday, January 12, 2020 -
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
This verse, along with Matthew 18:18, the very words of Jesus, are two of the most misinterpreted verses found in scripture. Where we see it difficult to interpret verses, there are several things we must do to adequately understand what is being said – through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. First, it is imperative we study the context of the verse. If our interpretation does not fit with the context, it is necessary we dig deeper. Secondly, we must examine other Scriptures that use the same words of similar principles in an attempt to grasp the meaning of certain terms, such as “loosing” and “binding” in this example. And thirdly, we must examine the text in the Hebrew or Greek to determine if the tense, meaning, or nuances, of the original language, provide clear clues as to its meaning. So very often, as hard as the translators try, it is impossible to adequately translate into the very limited English language the truths of the real meaning of the text.
In Matthew 16, the context begins back at the beginning of the chapter, when the Pharisees and Sadducees came once again testing (or tempting) Jesus asking for another sign, even though He’d already performed so many miracles. He rebukes them, as in the past, accusing them of lack of discernment for ignoring the signs of the times and the sign of Jonah, who was a perfect picture of the Messiah’s coming, death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus then warns the disciples to be on the constant lookout for the leaven (false teaching) of the religious leaders.
Then, at this point, Peter becomes perhaps the first to vocalize Jesus as the one and only Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living (in perpetuity having always been and always will be) God. The disciples are finally grasping who Jesus is, in spite of the fact He had not yet revealed the plan for the redemption of mankind (see Matthew 16:21)! And so Jesus calls Peter blessed, “Simon Barjona (son of Jonah),” He says, because God Himself revealed this to him, unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees in verse 4. Jesus calls Himself the “Rock” upon which He (I Corinthians 3:6) will build His church over which Satan will have no power! This is the first mention of the word church (ekklesia) in the New Testament, meaning the set of ones called out of an unbelieving world. The church belongs to no one but Christ. He alone will build it, He alone will possess it in the most complete sense! We are saved and become blessed by confessing Christ as the Rock, as did Peter. Christ is the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20) and provides an immovable foundation. He is the one who will destroy all the earth’s empires (Daniel 2:34-35). You and I will become the temple, and Jesus, our unshakable Rock, and foundation provides the keys of hell and death (Rev. 1:17-18). Jesus is declaring here that the enemies of the gospel will fail. We see this today. In places where there is the worst persecution, the church is growing the fastest. China and Iran are prime examples. I see this happening now in my situation!
All of this sets the context for verse 19. Satan’s dominion has no power over Christ’s church. And He promises us the keys of the kingdom of heaven!
It is at this point we must examine the terms Christ uses here, now that we know the context. Always it seems that the terms loosed and bound when used by Jesus, or other writers, are in the context of the power over sin and Satan. Revelation 1:5 is in some versions translated “to Him who loved us and loosed us from our sins by His blood.” The word here is different than the word that Jesus uses in Matthew 16:19 but synonymous. The word “loosed” in Revelation 1:5 is also translated as “cleansed” in some versions. We find the same word Jesus uses in Matthew 16:19 in Acts 2:24, which the King James Version translates, “whom God raised up having loosed the pains of death.” Jesus uses the term “binds” in Matthew 12:29, where He allegorically speaks of binding Satan (the strong man).
And then we must not ignore Matthew 18:15-20, where in verse 18 Jesus uses the exact same words as in Matthew 16:19. This is a passage regarding church discipline. If a sinner is unrepentant, he is to be treated as an outcast. In this context, the sinner, who does not repent, is bound (given) over to Satan by the church, and hence by God (in heaven). Yet if he repents, he will be loosed from Satan’s grasp on earth and freed from the bondage of sin and death in the heavens. The word “again” in Matthew 18:19 links that verse to the previous verse, so it is clear that the context is in terms of sin, repentance, and God’s forgiveness. So it would seem that this, too, would define the context of Matthew 16:19 and the binding and loosing there – the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
In still other Scriptures where this same word is used that is translated here in Matthew 16:19 as loosed (luo), is used in the context of destroy or break. Christ can destroy and break the power of sin over our lives. Yet if we fail to repent of our sin, Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:13, using this same word, bind (or bound – deo), that we will be bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And lastly, we must look at the actual text in Greek, where we find that once again the English translation is inadequate. A more accurate translation would be, “and whatever you shall bind on the earth shall be as having been bound in the heavens, and whatever you shall loose on the earth shall be as having been loosed in the heavens.” Christ has just said that the church is made up of those who believe and acknowledge the deity of Christ as Peter did. This is the first step in recognizing the power there is in repentance of one’s sin. We see in the Greek language that heaven’s decision to bind or loose is prior to the actual binding or loosing on earth. The binding and loosing are over the power of sin in our lives. The power for us to bind the power of sin and Satan’s influence in our lives has already been provided to us. But we must recognize and acknowledge from hence it comes – from the power of Christ in our lives! As Christ states so clearly in John 8:31-36, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…Truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin…If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” In Christ, we are no longer held in bondage to sin (Galatians 3:4), praise the Lord! But we must recognize that Christ has already freed us, and upon His finished work alone we are free from the power of sin. Not through our own efforts or strivings – but through the finished work of Christ on the cross alone!