Keys to the Kingdom

Standing by the then known “Gates of Hell” or gates to the underworld, Jesus offers Peter and the disciples, the “Keys to the Kingdom” of Heaven. He promises that the “gates of hell” cannot prevail over it.


Introduction – Caesarea Philippi

The Messiah

The Rock

The Keys

Bible Passage

Matt 16.13-20; Mark 8.27-30; Luke 9.18-21; John 6.67-71

Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”


Bible Passage

Matthew 16:17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter (Petros), and on this rock (Petra) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 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.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Caesarea Philippi

Situated around 25 miles or 40 Km north of Sea of Galilee was Caesarea Philippi. A large cave from which water constantly flowed out to the Jordan river was considered the place of Pan. People in that area believed their fertility gods lived underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves.

They believed these were the gates to the underworld or gates of hell. The people of Caesarea Philippi engaged in horrible deeds and perversive sexual acts in the area.

When Jesus brought his disciples to the area, they must have been shocked. Caesarea Philippi was like a red-light district in their world and devout Jews would have avoided any contact with the despicable acts committed there. [2]

Caesarea Philippi

Caesarea Philippi

Today Caesarea Philippi is a site of archeological importance, and lies within the Hermon Stream Nature Reserve built by Israelites.

A Byzantine church dated around 400 AD was discovered on top of the cave entrance, and Roman-era temple to Pan, adapted to fit the needs of Christian worshippers. It is thought to have been built to commemorate Jesus’s interactions with Peter. [3]

Messiah, son of God

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end,

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,

To order it and establish it with judgment and justice

From that time forward, even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this

Messiah, son of God

While there are spots in the Old Testament which indicate that the Messiah is the Son of God in the passage above, it is hard to digest.

Peter not only recognizes Jesus as Messiah, but realizes He is the Son of God.

It is God who gives Him this revelation – then

and God alone who reveals Jesus in His true light today.

Messiah, son of God

Messiah, son of God

Accepting Jesus as Messiah means accepting His Lordship, not only in the world, but also over our lives.

It means trusting EVERY word of His in EVERY situation.

Peter was well on that road and was blessed.

He was still to learn to trust in suffering as well and that was one hard lesson he never forgot.

The rock

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter (Petros – or loose stone), and on this rock (Petra – bedrock) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 

The rock

Jesus does not say, “You are Petros, and on this petros I will build my church.” He says, “You are Petros, and on this Petra I will build my church.”

“Petros” is a loose stone weighing a few Kgs. “Petra” on the other hand refers to bedrock stone. In Matthew 27:60, it says that Jesus’s tomb was cut out of the petra, the bedrock. A solid foundational stone. [4]

Christ, The rock

In short, Jesus is telling Peter, you are a stone and on me (Jesus) I will build my church.

The double meaning could have been that rock over the cave at Caesarea Philippi – Pan worship in that area was replaced by worship of Christ as a church was built above Pan temple a few centuries later..

Christ, The rock

Peter himself refers to Jesus as “Petra”, “the rock”.

1 Peter 2:7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”[c]

8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock (Petra) that makes them fall.”[d]

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

The keys

Matthew 18:18 “ whatever you bind…”

This passage is often misunderstood for uncontrolled authority.

Many claim this authority inappropriately.

Christ’s disciples did take on leadership of the Church and these “keys” can be attributed to the sanctity of the epistles written which completed the then “Law” to make the complete Bible.

The keys

The expressions “bind” and “loose” were common to Jewish legal phraseology meaning to declare something forbidden or to declare it allowed. [5]

In Galations 1:8-9 Paul “binds” the “gospel” and teachings in the apostolic letters as incontestable with harsh consequences on those who pervert them.

The keys

The expressions “bind” and “loose” were common to Jewish legal phraseology meaning to declare something forbidden or to declare it allowed. [5]

In Galations 1:8-9 Paul “binds” the “gospel” and teachings in the apostolic letters as incontestable with harsh consequences on those who pervert them.

Key of Knowledge

Jesus refers to the knowledge of the words of life as keys in this passage

Luke 11:52 “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”

The keys - Application to us

While we don’t have the apostolic authority to vary from the existing teachings in the bible, we speak based on Christ’s and apostolic instructions, opening the kingdom of God to many others who believe in Him.

“When you speak those words faithfully, you are using the keys of the kingdom to open the kingdom in people’s lives.” [3]

Discipleship is all about obedience not authority.


1.What are indicators that the Messiah holds the rightful place in our lives?

2.What does Christ the Rock mean to us?

3.In what ways can we use the keys God has given us to open the doors of heaven to others?

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