You Have the Keys of the Kingdom – Matthew 16:19

You Have the Keys of the Kingdom – Matthew 16:19

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:19

Recently, Julian and I have been watching every episode of Friends in order – it has been our mission throughout all three lockdowns – using our time well, that’s for sure! When I read this passage in Matthew during my devotions, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the episode of Friends in which Ross gives his girlfriend Mona the key to his apartment. When you are given the key to someone’s apartment, whether as friends, family or spouses, it is a significant moment. A key symbolises a much deeper and poignant moment. It means more than just being a handed a small piece of metal.

As I imagine many other people are, I am very protective about my house keys, and to whom I give a spare key. I am not going to give a key to my house to someone I cannot trust! It is incredible then, how Jesus declares in this passage that we are given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. God entrusts us with the keys! There are five aspects to this that I want to delve into in this post that have significant implications to our lives as Christians. Each should encourage us in our journey of faith.


Before we delve into the five aspects, we must take a moment to consider the context of the verse. It is unwise to pin a theological idea on one verse alone, without considering the wider context of the passage. Once we have done that, I will also strengthen each area’s significance by demonstrating that they fit, and are supported by, a wider reading of Scripture.

Jesus says Matthew 16:19 in the context of a conversation with Peter. The Greek word for ‘you’ in this passage is singular. Therefore, if taking this verse exclusively, it would be possible to argue that the keys of the kingdom belong to Peter alone.

However, in Matthew 18:18, we find a parallel verse in which, the Greek word for ‘you’ is plural, thus directed at the entire church. Although this passage does not explicitly reference the keys of the kingdom, the parallel language of binding and loosing is used. This demonstrates that the authority represented by the keys of the kingdom in the passage directed at Peter is not exclusive to Peter alone.

The beautiful truth of this imagery is that the keys of the kingdom are given to each believer. Yet the reason for being given the keys is nothing to do with our own righteousness or actions, but everything to do with Jesus. The keys are given to us through the Gospel. The keys are representative of the redemption found through Jesus. This theological truth is reiterated throughout the Scriptures. Perhaps the most pertinent passage that summarises this truth and all of its beauty is Romans 3:22-26:

‘This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.’

The kingdom’s keys are given to us as a free gift of God’s grace through Jesus.


In the episode of Friends, soon after Ross gives Mona the key, he changes the lock on the door! God will never change the lock – the key to the kingdom he has entrusted to you is eternal!

When Jesus came to Earth, he came so that we might be restored to God for all eternity. In Matthew 27:51, as Jesus died on the cross, it says that the temple’s veil was torn in two. The veil separated the Holy of Holies, the space where the presence of God dwelt, and the rest of the temple. It symbolised the sin that separated humanity from God. Only once a year was a single priest allowed to enter into the presence of God. The tearing of the veil symbolised the redemption and restoration of Jesus. No longer is humanity separated from God.

Not only was it torn in two, but it was torn from top to bottom. From the writings of Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, the veil was likely approximately 60 foot high and four inches thick. Only God could have torn the veil. It was no act of humanity. It was torn as a result of God’s abundant grace! We are eternally in good standing with God through the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. No longer separated by sin and shame, needing to make sacrifices to atone for our sins. We are now atoned eternally through Jesus Christ.

In our own lives, many things change. We experience the highs and lows of life. Yet God is everlasting and with us through every circumstance we face. God is our strength and our refuge (Psalm 46), and will not change throughout the whole of eternity!

Access and Intimacy

The tearing of the veil demonstrated newfound access to God for humanity. The access we have to God is incredible, no longer do we need to access God through a priest, but we can speak to God directly and be in his presence. In Hebrews 4:16 it says that because of Jesus we can ‘approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’. No longer is the presence of God reserved for a select few, as it was in the Old Testament, but each of us can come into his presence. And we can do so with confidence!

Alongside the newfound access to God restored to us through Jesus, there is also a newfound intimacy. As someone adopted through Christ, given the key to the kingdom, we can have an intimate and close relationship with God. We are given the Holy Spirit to live within us. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit might come upon someone for a time for a specific task and then depart; we can see this in Saul’s story in 1 Samuel, for example. Yet in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is promised to be with all believers forever.

In John 14:16-18, Jesus says to his disciples; ‘“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”‘.

This access and intimacy with God is a stunning truth; that God is always with us. 


When you are given the keys to someone’s home, there are often some privileges you become entitled to that you didn’t have before. It comes with the growing sense of comfort that comes with having free access to a home, and the permission that the house owner has granted. Perhaps you can now help yourself to any food in the house, to wear your sweatpants or pyjamas, or to host guests! When you are given a key, you are granted permissions that you might not have had previously.

In addition to Access and intimacy with God, there are certain privileges we have. The Bible says that we are adopted as sons and daughters of God, and we are made heirs with Christ. in Romans 8:14-17, Paul writes: ‘For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.’ 

The theology of adoption is a powerful one, that is often sidelined and not focused on enough. God adopts us as his own, and we receive all of the privileges given to a son or daughter. We are made co-heirs with Christ, even though we were not deserving. We are adopted into God’s family. Perhaps you haven’t had the best example of a family in your life, yet in the family of God, you belong. We can call God Abba, Father. 


In addition to all of the benefits we have discussed above, certain responsibilities come from being given the keys. When you move in with someone, whether that’s your spouse, or into a house share, or as a lodger, you are given some responsibilities. For example, you might be required to financially contribute to the house, partake in cleaning and household chores, and look after the home.

When we accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ and receive the keys of the kingdom, we are also given a command. In Matthew 28:19-20 it says:

‘”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”’

There is a response required when we receive God’s generosity and grace. Jesus commands us that our responsibility is to share the Gospel with those around us. To make disciples. Our mandate as Christians is to share the good news of Jesus that we have received! When we see the broken and hurting world around us, we should be compelled to make a difference. The difference we make should be twofold; if we can, we should make a tangible, immediate difference in the lives of those around us. For example, feeding the hungry or supporting those in times of hardship. Yet, this command is more significant than that; we should be making an eternal difference to those around us – sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that each person would have the opportunity to see their eternal destiny changed, and restored into right relationship with God.

God alone brings salvation to the lost, but, incredibly, God uses us in his redemptive roadmap for the whole of humanity.


Matthew 16:19 also highlights an authority given to believers. Jesus says that ‘whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’. The key’s given to us also symbolises an authority we have, worked out through the responsibility we have been given to share the Gospel. There is significant power in the words that we speak, as they have the power to bring life or death to those around us. Proverbs 18:21 says that ‘the tongue has the power of life and death’, which is amplified by the command given to us to make disciples.

God is the ultimate authority, yet he appoints us to authority. Whether that be as a parent, church leader, husband or king, there is a functional authority given. Yet to every believer, God gives the authority and mandate to share the Good News of Jesus! Our authority is found rooted in our obedience to the Great Commission we have been given. There is an authority that comes with doing God’s work.

Conclusion and response

It is a beautiful truth that each one of us, through Jesus Christ, have been given the keys to the kingdom. We are adopted and given the right to be children of God, with eternal access and intimacy with the Creator of the Universe. We are entrusted with privileges, responsibility and authority as we live in obedience to God. The truth of this is utterly mind-blowing! The grace and mercy of God is overwhelming and demands a response from us.


Are there any areas of your life that are not yet in obedience to God? How can you give those areas to God today?

Do you recognise God as your Father? Pray for a deeper revelation of what this means today.

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