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The Keys to the Kingdom

No one knows who invented the first lock and key.  But it stands to reason that the necessity of protecting valuables mothered its invention not long after sin entered the world.  The oldest discovered locking mechanism is 4,000 years old and was found in Nineveh.  It is similar to other locks found in Egypt within that same time.  The Bible also makes mention of locks in the book of Judges, which isn’t long after this period.

In Matthew 16 Jesus uses this imagery to speak about the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is a place and dominion that you need a “key” in order to join.  We don’t generally think of heaven as being a place that is locked.  But Jesus here reveals that he is giving his disciples “keys” that would unlock its gates to specific people.

Do I Know Who Jesus Is?

Jesus had asked his disciples who people were saying that he was in verse 13.  Of course they gave several answers.  Then in verse15 Jesus makes it personal.  Who do you say that I am?  The question is directed to all the disciples.  They had been with him for a while now and Jesus checks to see what they have come to understand about who he is.  Peter is the one who steps forward and answers for the group.  Obviously he risks “getting it wrong.”  However, this time, Peter nails the answer in verse 16.  The first part of his answer is that Jesus is the Christ.  Now Christ is a transliteration of a Greek word, not a translation.  The translation would be Anointed.  So Peter declares that Jesus is The Anointed One.  Now what is he talking about?  In the Old Testament the first group we see being anointed (having oil smeared on or poured over) was the priests.  Aaron and his sons were anointed for the ministry they were going to perform.  It was a picture of the presence of God’s Spirit to empower them for the holy function they were called to do.  Later the same was done for those who were to be King of Israel.  Thus only those called to an important and holy job on God’s behalf were anointed.  This idea of anointing was later given a connection to another concept of a Messiah or Savior that would rise up to save Israel and the World.  We see this in Psalm 2.  In this Psalm God’s Anointed One becomes a specific title.  The messiah would be God’s Anointed One who would be given the kingdoms of the earth.  Thus Peter recognizes Jesus as this Messiah/Anointed One for whom the world had been waiting.

The second part of Peter’s statement is that Jesus was the Son of God.  Now in a physical sense we can understand Jesus being called the Son of God because he was directly created by God in Mary’s womb.  Jesus was miraculously born by a virgin girl through the power of God.  Just as God directly shaped Adam and breathed the spirit of life into him, so God directly creates the matter that would become the man Jesus.

Yet, Jesus was the Son of God in an even deeper way.  The apostle John brings this out in the first chapter of his gospel.  In regard to his humanity, Jesus came into being just over 2,000 years ago.  But in regard to his spirit, he had existed from before the creation.  In fact he was in essence not only with God the Father, but he and the Father were together One God.  Yes, this does bring up the mysterious Trinity that can be a mind bender.  But this is what the disciples came to know about Jesus.  He and the Father were two and yet One.  To see the Son was to see the Father.  Both Son and Father have eternally been One with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was the only, True God-Man that has ever existed.  All others have been pretenders and fakes.

The Key of  The Knowledge of Who Jesus Is

Jesus points to Peter’s statement as important.  First it was not given to them by a man.  It was God himself who had revealed this to the disciples.  How did God do that?  He did it by first sending his Son, Jesus, who performed miracles and spoke the words of the Father.  He confirmed this by the Scriptures that had been given before hand.  The disciples could recognize the God of the Scriptures in what Jesus said.  The third thing is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.  When push came to shove, something within the disciples testified that Jesus had the “Words of Life.”

In verse 18 Jesus then begins to talk about the Church he was going to build.  The Church would be built upon the truth of who Jesus is.  This truth is an immovable rock that is like a mountain in comparison to the small rock that Peter was.  But all of these individual rocks making their confessions of the Great Rock of Jesus and his true identity would build a group that even Hell itself could not stand up against.  I know that some try to make Peter himself the foundation of the Church but this seems to fly in the face of the language that is being used.  Yes, Peter is a part of the foundation of Jesus and His apostles, but that is it.  This knowledge of the identity of Jesus is a key that opens the way into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Thus the main task of the leaders of the Church is to use the Key of Knowledge to open the door to those who will receive it in faith.  However, this knowledge also repels some, just as it did in days of Jesus.  In like manner today, the truth of who Jesus is repels some and because they refuse to receive it, acts like a lock that both keeps them out of the Kingdom and stuck in their lost condition.  They are bound in a prison of their own making as they refuse to receive the truth.  So all who follow Christ and proclaim the truth of who he is have this key that both looses and binds those to whom they proclaim it.

Now the word “keys” is plural.  So it stands to reason that there are other keys and we will talk about those in the weeks to come.  But this key is critical and cannot be left out.

Here are some practical thoughts for those who have put their faith in Jesus.  People who have not heard the truth about who Jesus is are bound in a prison and kept back from his Life.  They are bound by a principle of death that comes from the effects of sin.  Only those with the keys to Life can help them.  God has given you a powerful key to life in the truth about who Jesus is.  Are you sharing it?  We must first see the plight of the lost before we will be motivated to help them.  What was it like for you before you became a believer?  May God start by reminding us of our own past, but also continue the teaching by opening our eyes to the pain, hurt, and death that is in the lives of people around us who do not know him.

Keys to the Kingdom audio