by John Eastman
The Church I used to attend taught that if you left their membership then they had the power to remove your name from the Book of Life in Heaven. This article will prove that no church has the authority to grant or take away one’s salvation.
This false belief comes from a lack of understanding Matthew 16:18–19. In these verses, Christ said to Peter, “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 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” (KJV).
Some churches have used these verses to claim that when they remove a person’s name from the church membership, then Christ will remove that person’s name from the Book of Life. This instills enough fear that most people will not dare to leave the congregation, even though they may know there are false ministers or teachings in the church. Students of the Bible know that only Christ is worthy of judging, granting or denying our salvation. In Today’s English Version (TEV), Acts 4:12, “Salvation is… found through Him (Christ) alone; for there is no one else in all the world, whose name God has given to men, by whom we can be saved.”
So, what was Christ telling Peter (and therefore the Church) in Matthew 16:18–19? In order to understand these verses, it is of vital importance to understand what Christ calls the “keys” and in what context Christ authorizes the Church to “bind” or “loose” someone.
This article covers the true gospel message that Christ brought to mankind from the Father. The proclaimation of a Gods physical kingdom with a king, laws, territory and subjects is not enough. Nor is the proclaimation of end time prophecies and the great Tribulation coming before the Kingdom of God. Those messages have been proclaimed by a variety of groups for centuries, and most people who heard them died, disappointed that they did not come to pass in their life time. But other believers, from the time of Christ until now, have understood the Gospel message and have rejoiced in what God has done. We hope this article, and the one about the Kingdom of God beginning on page 10 will clearly explain the true gospel message and help you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
John Eastman & Norman Edwards
We must learn who holds these keys, what they are, and what they do. This article will reveal the answers to these important questions.
Who originally received the “keys” and who holds them today? Matt. 16:18, Phillips Modern English (PME), “Now I tell you that you are Peter the rock, and it is on this rock that I am going to found My Church, and the powers of death will never have the power to destroy it.” Peter was the one whom Christ chose to found His church. When Christ gave Peter these keys, He was in essence giving them to His Church. Just as Moses was the founder of the Church in the Wilderness (the Old Covenant Church), and was given the law, the direction on priestly services, and a copy of the tabernacle design from heaven, so was Peter the founder of the spiritual church (New Covenant Church). Peter, likewise, received from Christ the things necessary for the spiritual church, such as the keys to the Kingdom of God. In both cases, no one has ever replaced these two because of their unique calling as founders. However, the services and work of God were continued after their deaths by the priesthood and church membership.
What do these “keys” do? Matt. 16:19, The Living Bible (TLB), “And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever doors you lock on earth shall be locked in heaven; and whatever doors you open on earth shall be opened in heaven!” Another translation (TEV) reads, “…what you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven; and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Brethren, these “keys” open the door to the Kingdom of Heaven!
What are these “keys”? The “keys” to God’s Kingdom are the gospel message that brings one to Christ, and through Christ we receive eternal salvation. Christ is the “door” to the Kingdom of God. In John 10:9 (TEV), Jesus said, “I am the door, whoever comes in by Me will be saved; he will come in and go out, and find pasture [spiritual food].” Christ gave the Church, through Peter, the “keys” that can lock and unlock a door on earth. I believe the keys are the entire gospel message preached by the Church, so that people receive the understanding that salvation is only through accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.
It is interesting to note that in Revelation 3:7 (NKJV), Christ talks about the key of David that also opens and closes a door, “…These things says He who is holy, He who is true. ‘He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.’” This key of David is also spoken of in Isaiah 22:22 (NKJV), “The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; So he shall open, and no one shall shut; And he shall shut, and no one shall open.” The key of David is the same key as that key that Christ gave to Peter in Matthew 16:18–19. These “keys” are simply the gospel message that tells mankind that salvation is through Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ received the promises of salvation given to Abraham, David, and ultimately passed down to Christ through David’s lineage. Luke 1:32–33 reads, “…and shall call His name Jesus… the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Also read in Gal. 3:16, 29, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made… and to your seed, which is Christ… and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
The salvation that God offered Abraham was only possible through Jesus Christ. If Christ had not succeeded as our Savior, then no one, including Abraham, would have ever received eternal salvation. Brethren, the salvation of mankind is on Christ’s shoulders, He and He alone is responsible for making our salvation possible and for judging who will receive eternal salvation. Christ is the “door” that leads to God’s Kingdom in Heaven, and the “keys” on His shoulders are none other than the gospel message to be delivered by the Church.
There are basically two reasons why some people will not receive the “keys” to the Kingdom of God, and therefore the “door” to the Kingdom of God will not be opened to them. The first reason is that God must draw and select a person before they can understand the gospel message. Christ said in John 6:44 (NKJV), “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me, draws him…” As you can see, the Father selects those who are called to Christ. The rest of the world remains “blinded” to the gospel message because they are not called at this time (these “blinded” will later be offered salvation at the second resurrection, Rev 20). In Mark 4:11–12, “And He said to them, ‘To you [the disciples] it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand...” Unless God calls someone, they will remain “blind” to the truth about salvation. In fact, Satan perpetuates this blindness, “Satan, who is the god of this evil world, has made him blind, unable to see the glorious light of the gospel that is shining upon him, or to understand the amazing message we preach about the glory of Christ, who is God” (2Cor. 4:4).
The second reason why some people will not receive the “keys” to the Kingdom of God is because they are not worthy to receive them. Christ explains in Matt. 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Christ is talking about those people who understand that Christ is the only way to salvation, but who reject following Him. For example, the Pharisees and Sadducees knew who Christ was and that He was from God. In John 3:1–2, Nicodemus said, “We know you are a teacher sent from God… no one can do these signs You do, unless God is with Him.” In Matt. 3:7–8, “But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers; who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance…” These were not worthy of the “keys” or the gospel message until they repented. Christ told the Pharisees also in Matt. 23:13, “But, woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” There was a way for these to go through the door to God’s Kingdom because they knew who Christ was, but they rejected this truth. They refused Christ’s message, the gospel message, and anyone else who was a follower of Christ was greatly persecuted by them, even put to death. And, these are the ones who ultimately put Christ to death, knowing Who He was.
This article would not be complete without pointing out that there are also ministers who have a false gospel message. These are ministers of Satan whose intent is to kill or spiritually destroy God’s true sheep. In John 10:1, 10 (TEV), “I tell you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheepfold by the door [Jesus Christ], but climbs in some other way is a thief and a robber… the thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy…” These false ministers come and try to steal Christ’s sheep and to take them through another door, or gate, that is opened with a false gospel message (a counterfeit key) and leads to their destruction. Some will gain a following through theatrical warnings on prophecy and end-time events, rather than spending their time preaching on the true gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. The end-time message about the Tribulation is not part of the true gospel message that Christ brought to mankind. We must always hear the voice of the true shepherd, Jesus Christ, which counsels us in Matthew 7:13 (TEV), “Go in through the narrow gate, because the [other] gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to hell, and there are many who travel it.” The true gospel message originated from the Father, John 8:28 (TEV), “I do nothing of my own, but say only what the Father has taught me.”
The word “gospel” in the Greek Dictionary #2097 means “good news”, which is the good news about the Kingdom of God.
It is a gospel of grace, (Acts 20:24) “…the gospel of the grace of God”.
It is a gospel of salvation, (Eph 1:13 and 2 Tim 1:10), “…the gospel of your salvation… Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
It is a gospel of obedience, (2Thes 1:8), “In flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It tells us how we can enter (and be a part of) the Kingdom of God. We can be born into God’s spiritual family as His sons and daughters by obeying the gospel. What can we do to obey the gospel?
• Repent of our sins (Acts 2:38)
• Accept Jesus Christ as our Savior (Acts 2:38)
• Be baptized (Acts 2:38)
• Receive the “laying on of hands” to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14–17)
• Obey the Ten Commandments —includes the 7th Day Sabbath (Luke 18:18–22, Ex 20, Rev 3:5)
• Observe the 7 Annual Holy Days (Col 2:16–17, Lev 23:1–44)
• Live by every word of God (pray, fast, study the Bible, give offerings to help preach the gospel, live by the faith of Jesus Christ) (Matt 4:4)
• Overcome sin through Christ’s strength and help so we bring forth fruits (Gal 6:22–23)
• Take the gospel message to the world (Matt 24:14). We are not fully clothed with the “armor of God” unless we wear the “shoes” that carry the gospel to the world (Eph 6:15).
Christians will continue to grow in their understanding about the gospel message as time goes on. In 2Pet. 3:18, “…grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ”. We are also promised this growth in 1 John 2:27, “But the anointing [Holy Spirit] which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things…”
In conclusion, the “keys” to the Kingdom of God is the gospel message. This message opens the way to Jesus Christ, who is our only “door” to God’s Kingdom and salvation. Although no man or church has the authority to add or remove our names from the Book of Life, we have a responsibility as Christians to obey this gospel and to proclaim it to the world!
The Greek for Matthew 16:19 is difficult. Almost any interlinear will show that there are words in the Greek text which do not have any corresponding word in most English versions. Most translations make it sound like God must bind whatever Peter says, whether He agrees or not. However, Youngs literal translation is more clear: whatever thou mayest bind upon the earth shall be, having been bound in the heavens, and whatever thou mayest loose upon the earth shall be, having been loosed in the heavens. This version gives Peter permission to bind and loose things on Earth, as long as they are bound or loosed in heaven. This exact same wording is given in Matthew 18:18 where the same power is given to all of the disciples (not just the 12 apostles). NSE