Do the kingdom keys operate on Earth to establish Heaven’s preapproved decisions? Or, do they operate to establish by kingdom on Earth what God already decided in Heaven? Or, does Jesus say He will agree with what His Ecclesia decides on Earth because He will back up His representatives?
This discussion is all over the board because of doctrinal systems involving Sovereignty, kingdom, Church-Age dispensationalism, and Christianized determinism. The discussion usually returns to some dialogue about forgiving sins or deciding what is right and wrong for those who ignore the kingdom aspects. When or if it is applied to intercession as it relates to kingdom decrees and displacing usurping spiritual enemies, the dialogue answers to whatever judicial authority a person believes to be legitimate for God’s people.
Who Has the Keys
First, we know Jesus had the kingdom keys at the time He gave them. He gives them to His originating apostles. The passages that speak of kingdom keys tell us about the interaction between Jesus and Simon Peter, and Jesus and His originating apostles. In the first mention, Jesus addresses Simon Peter in the singular, “I give you the kingdom keys.” In the second mention, Jesus addresses all the apostles, “I give you all kingdom keys.”
So, the kingdom keys were given to His representatives. At this time of He speaks of them, that is His Twelve originating apostles. The kingdom keys were not given back to Jesus when the originating Twelve died. The keys became part of the authority and authorization of the kingdom of God where those leaders established and expanded the kingdom as His representatives.
We cannot say that every believer carries the kingdom keys. The kingdom keys operate in kingdom leadership forums and functions. We can say that every kingdom citizen enters the kingdom where kingdom keys operate. We can explain how kingdom keys operate. We realize that the keys benefits and involves all who are citizens when they become functional in the building, body, and bride. (We do not understand kingdom keys to be magic wands authorizing anything and everything to the one carrying them in Jesus’ Name, as some imagine.) The use of kingdom keys is part of a process.
What Do Kingdom Keys Do?
In the most simplistic sense, the keys lock and unlock. That is obvious from the word “keys.” However, Jesus explains what they do in both instances of mention (Matthew 16 and 18), and they do more than lock and unlock. That is, the words are metaphoric and carry meaning that He explains, applies, and implements. The use of the keys is a process that requires application and implementation. The activity establishes something on Earth by kingdom authority and power.
Oddly enough, evangelicals who cannot see anything but “getting people saved” and the church-anity of moderns, say the kingdom keys were used by the originating apostles to open the kingdom to people. They used them to unlock the kingdom so people can enter “the door.” That conclusion ignores Jesus and lacks logic. We hear Jesus speak of what the kingdom keys do, and He implies nothing of the sort. His representatives do not stand at the door and decide who gets in. That whole “Simon Peter at the gate of heaven thing” is based upon the worn-out Roman error. We reserve that idea for jokes about getting into heaven. Simon Peter did not use the kingdom keys one time to say, “OK, now people can enter the kingdom of heaven, I say so.”
What happens when we use the keys? We must consider whether the keys do something on Earth that after we use the keys causes a responding condition in Heaven, or is there a condition in Heaven that we use the keys to establish on the Earth.
The verb tense becomes very important to understanding Jesus. That means the verb tense becomes the target of controversy for those attempting to prove some doctrinal system or idolatry of doctrine. All of a sudden – and this is not unusual – a crucial passage of Scripture becomes “controversial.” This distracting controversy serves to weaken its message and authority. So, I will not be allowing that in this discussion! The words of Jesus will not be diminished to serve the idols of doctrine! They say what He says and mean what He means.
The verb tense is beautiful! Holy Spirit inspires the use of this verb, tense, and voice. The hub issue is about the future perfect periphrastic. That means “a roundabout way of saying” something. While we might say, “Why can’t this be more simple?” We should say, “Thank you, Holy Spirit, for making things so clear.”
The usual discussion of the meaning of this verb begins with whatever doctrinal position you intend to defend. Roman Catholics start with Simon Peter as the first pope and continue to explain how kingdom keys decide who is in the kingdom of God and which sins are pardoned or not pardoned. The meaning of the verb for this scenario is “God will mark down whatever you decide.” (Enough of that error.)
For others, the discussion is about “what is to be done so that it stands as a condition and what is already done and stands as a condition.” So, the verb means, “Whatsoever has already been decided in Heaven is what you will have authority to establish on the Earth.” So, “What God already decided and authorized, you will decide and authorize on Earth.” In either case, what is established will continue to stand.
The future perfect periphrastic says, “Something will have already be bound or loosed.” This viewpoint of the keys suggests “it is done and will stay that way permanently.” Or, “What you loose on Earth will have already been loosed and continue in that condition in Heaven.” This does not address whether God did it first. and we do it next, or God did it there, then we do it here.
“The consensus of ensuing interpretation . . . is that the church on earth is to be carrying out Heaven’s decisions, already sanctioned there. The Spirit communicates these decisions via inspiration or guidance. The reverse process is not in view in this verse,” says Paul Elbert. I tend to agree with this conclusion for more than one reason, but let us look further into our options.
We have three possible options:
- With the keys, we establish something on Earth to which Heaven immediately agrees; kingdom leaders receive revelation by Holy Spirit of Heaven’s decisions and install them with the keys on Earth. Heaven ratifies the decisions because they are now both in Heaven and on Earth.
The Message: “A yes on Earth is a yes in Heaven. A no on Earth is a no in Heaven.”
- With the keys, we establish something on Earth that God already established in Heaven; that is a revelation of existing in Heavenly kingdom culture is applied and implemented to establish the same condition on Earth in kingdom culture. In this sense, we narrow the scope of establishing to internal kingdom issues. The keys only determine what is allowed or not allowed within the kingdom.
- With the keys, we establish something on Earth and Heaven agrees because the leaders represent Heaven. Heaven backs up representatives but hopes for a better establishment in the future. That is, Jesus says, “Heaven backs you when you decide with these keys even if you are wrong.” This point of view means subsequent leaders might make a different decision, and a more mature Ecclesia will have a more mature representation of Heaven on Earth. Kingdom keys establish, so they can also reestablish. This perspective includes a response to Ananias and Saphira receiving a kingdom-key death sentence by Simon Peter. Heaven did not authorize the death sentences but carried them out because Simon had the keys. Heaven backed him up but didn’t originate the decision. A more loving Simon Peter would not have used the keys to kill people.
The verb itself offers us this much assistance:
- The verb carries the meaning of an action or state that has come about in the past with continuing effect; “you bind what is already bound.” And, completed action in the past with a continuing state or result: “shall have been bound.” Should we translate the verb, “what God has already decided you can establish with the keys,” or “what you establish with the keys, God will establish in response?”
- Or, shall we translate the verb simply as “what you bind is bound?” without a translation point of when heaven agreed? The understanding that God will back up in Heaven what we decide on Earth? If we do this, we are ignoring some aspects of the meaning of the verb as well most of what Jesus says about kingdom keys. It might be allowable as a translation of the verb, for sure, but it is a choice among the options available.
Further Biblical Considerations
Jesus speaks of kingdom keys in the context of assembled ekklesia construction and expansion. The sense of the expansion comes with the idea that His enemies are displaced from their strategic authority positions. Jesus also speaks of His ekklesia in contrast with the enemy’s ekklesia. We cannot ignore this verse when considering how to apply the next one.
Who has authority to call for an ekklesia, and who will answer when an apostle gives the call? This is important to the first question of “Who has the kingdom keys?”
Jesus makes the point that He will send someone with kingdom keys to assemble His lineage of inheritors into a functional legislative, judicial, and administrative foundation for governing His kingdom culture. “I will build My ekklesia.” He will build – oikodomeo – “I will house-build My ekklesia.” Combine the “called into assembly from the kingdom” idea of ekklesia with “build or carry out what is begun in an Oikos” and the general sense of how He intends to produce the finished product appears.
We have a construction project. We have gates. We have keys. We have an assembled governmental decision-making body led by apostolic leaders. We have Heaven and Earth as two places to establish the decisions judicially, legislatively, and administratively. The administration carries out the legislative while the judicial clarifies the application and implementation of decisions made.
If we begin with the kingdom of Heaven coming to Earth, and our context is “God already has a kingdom in Heaven and wants that kingdom in the Earth,” we see the Father’s revelation through Simon Peter and the addressing of Simon Peter personally because he is the one with this revelation in a different light: Jesus is “Messiah, the Son of the God Who lives.” He is the reason Heaven will have jurisdiction on the Earth. So, He can discuss what to do with that revelation.
Thus, we have the entire conversation of Matthew 16 as part of our discussion of kingdom keys.
Calling a Kingdom Ecclesia into Assembly
An apostle calls together an ekklesia, sent by Jesus to represent His claim of jurisdiction, a claim with higher authority than His usurping enemies, who have the kingdom keys to announce to the ekklesia what the King wants. The assembled ekklesia is the kingdom of Heaven on Earth in representative function. The assembled ekklesia operates with a oneness of agreement with Jesus, thus agreeing with one another, to say, “What God wants in Heaven will be done on Earth.”
Whatever way we should translate the verb – and, remember that we do not have a definitive decision by experts about that – we must avoid the pitfalls of doctrinal idolatry. We read the conversation, and the meaning of Jesus becomes clearer.
Kingdom keys in the hands of His representatives lead the kingdom Ecclesia to establish on Earth what God wants. The kingdom on Earth and in Heaven is the same kingdom, but what is already established in Heaven must be established on the Earth. If not, no reason for the kingdom keys or the Ecclesia would exist. (We would end up with the modern word “church” as holding pens for accumulated believers waiting for a future event without effect upon the Earth. We could scrap the Great Commission for “get folks saved.”)
The apostolic representatives lead the kingdom on Earth into increasing levels of agreements and expansions of kingdom influence. Heaven has more and more influence on the Earth through this expanding Ecclesia. The King gains more and more of His rightful inheritance through this expansion.
Kingdom keys are a functional aspect of the Ecclesia with representative leadership providing oversight (elders) in the governmental aspects of kingdom culture. The legislation, administration, and judicial decisions, applications, and implementations of God at work in history. Providence producing purpose.
When we say, “Heaven,” we speak of the condition in which God rules angels, where Jesus sits at the right of the Father, where the will of the Father happens wihtout interruption or diminishing hesitation. Heaven’s eternal, unlimited spiritual power and authority becomes available to establish and expand what is decided by Ecclesia assembly and kingdom key authority. Angels are involved with kingdom key operations.
Practical Applications and Implementations
This sounds as if an Ecclesia should have immense spiritual influence in the region where it properly functions.
As Acts 19:20 describes Ephesus after three years or so of Kingdom Center function: “In this way, the word of the Lord gained momentum through overcoming spiritual power and took dominion.”
The region contained many unbelievers at this point. The region was ripe for riot and revival at this point. But the spiritual influence of the Ecclesia was significant enough that it had dominion. Applying and implementing that dominion was the next order of kingdom business, but Ephesus did become the center of Christianity for two hundred years.
The Ecclesia has this governmental authority when led by an apostolic order that operates on the foundation of a kingdom culture. Apostles and prophets function at foundational levels. Ecclesia assembles matured, prepared, positioned, and postured people to agree with the word of the Lord for the region. The spiritual influence overcomes with spiritual power available from spiritual reality (ischuo, not dunamis), angels and God, and dominates the spiritual arena. The Ecclesia has dunamis power to manifest miracles, signs, and wonders in the natural arena, displacing demons, healing diseases, and revealing the kingdom through kingdom Gospel preaching and teaching.
We need to discuss more than verb tenses to translate the words of Jesus. We need to get the verb tense correct, but there is more to translation than verb tense. We need to reexamine the meaning of all the words He uses in Matthew 16 and 18 concerning kingdom culture and Ecclesia within it. We need to examine the meaning of the word, ekklesia, and step away from the modern definition of church to understand kingdom keys.
More importantly, we need to carry these keys, use them, mature in use of them to do what Jesus gave them to His kingdom Ecclesia to accomplish. We need to represent Him and Heaven with spiritual influence in the regions of the Earth.
Kingdom keys bring God’s decisions from Heaven as Ecclesia decisions on Earth. They are applied and implemented within the kingdom culture, and they overcome existing spiritual conditions in the existing cultures. They displace the authorities, rulers, and cosmic dominators that produce darkness. Ecclesia announcements of God’s many-faceted strategic wisdom shift the prevailing spiritual conditions of regions (Ephesians 3:10).
Within the kingdom, the keys allow or disallow. They provide final decisions about internal relational dynamics. They are the last word on the issues that breach relationships within the kingdom of God. Matthew 18:18 records this application and implementation process. We are left with an understanding of “allow and disallow” from that discussion as it relates to kingdom keys.
The kingdom keys within the kingdom produce spiritual influence through the kingdom Ecclesia that affects entire the regions and nations. That is, the keys operate in the Ecclesia constructed by Jesus through representative apostles. The process of assembly includes both people and preparation; time investments occur as prepared people are then positioned for function within a building, body, and bride. Thus, kingdom keys mature in authority and power as the Ecclesia matures in authority and power.