Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Defining Peter 2 - Gates of Hades / Keys to the Kingdom

This is the follow up post to Defining Peter 1. Although it is not necessary to read that first post, I would still recommend doing so.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 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.(Matt 16:18-19).

Gates of Hades will not overcome it...
Gates of Hades is definitely talking about the Gates of Hell. In other words, Jesus is promising us that His Church will never be destroyed. It will last from the Book of Acts to Judgement Day.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven...
In order for us to better understand all scripture, I think it is vital that we become better Jews. Let's face it, the Bible was written to a people and culture that existed 2,000 years ago and sometimes, without being familiar with that culture, a lot of information is lost and misunderstood. Sometimes, many of us approach the Bible like it was written in 21st Century modern english. This is not a good practice.

When the disciples heard that Jesus was giving Peter the keys to the kingdom, they would have known exactly what Jesus meant. This imagery of keys is not a new concept in Jewish culture. In order to better understand what these words would have meant to a Jew, let's see how it is used in the Old Testament

I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open(Isaiah 22:22).

This passage is taken from Isaiah 22, where Shebna is removed from his high office as the King's Chief Steward and is replaced by Eliakim. Notice that neither Shebna or Eliakim have the role of the King, however the office is given the authority to shut and open. This authority is given in the form of the key to the house of David. The House of David refers to the Davidic Kingdom.

It all fits together. Jesus is giving Peter alone the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven telling him whatever he binds on Earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever He looses on Earth will be loosed in Heaven. This is the same language of authority that Isaiah uses in order to describe the office of Eliakim. A language that the Jewish disciples would have recognized and understood. The authority that Peter has was because of the role given to Him by Christ. The Chief Steward of the Kingdom of Heaven is a role that Peter and his successors are to play in governing Christ's Church here on Earth.

There is another Scripture where Jesus gives the ability to bind and loose to the other Apostles (Matt 18:18). However, Jesus never gives anyone but Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, Peter has supreme authority over the Church on Earth, above and beyond the Apostles. Don't misunderstand me. The Apostles work together with Peter all being led by the Holy Spirit in order to lead the Church to all truths (Acts 15:28). Peter just has the role of Chief Steward of Heaven. Jesus is King, Peter is the Chief Steward, and the remaining Apostles are the other Stewards.

This is why the Pope is so important in the Catholic Faith. Just like the Chief Steward in Isaiah was not meant for one man alone, but instead was a role that was created and meant to be occupied, so is the role of the Pope. Peter was the first Pope. His successors flow all the way through time down to the current Pope, Pope Benedict XVI. He is the leader of the Church here on Earth. That is why when He speaks, people listen. They may agree or disagree with what he has to say, but the fact that they listen at all shows his importance within the Christian Community.

Side Note: This was the clincher for me. Once I realized that Jesus did create a Church here on Earth with Peter as it's Earthly Shepherd, and that Jesus' Church would be led to all areas of truth by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus was going to co-sign every decision made by the Pope in communion with the Magisterium, I was pretty convinced that I was going to become Catholic. There were many practices of the Catholic Faith that I did not believe in, including Mariology, Communion of Saints, Confessing Sins to a Priest, however after giving the Church an opportunity to speak for herself, she has not failed to convince me of her truth. If this is the Church that Jesus created, why wouldn't I join?


Chad and Tammy said...

I Corinthians 1:11-13 (NIV):

My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

Carlus Henry said...


That verse you quoted, I could not agree with you more. We are not called to be divided, we are called to be united in Christ.

Denominations, which truly does divide Christ, was an abomination to Paul as well as all of the leaders of the Early Church.

Interestingly enough, the Corinthian story does not end at 2 Corinthians. There is actually more to it than that. Clement of Rome, the fourth Pope, writes a letter to them because this time, they have decided to overthrow the presbyters (priests) that the Apostles has put in place of authority over the Church. You can read more about it here:

I would advise reading the whole thing, but in the interest of time refer to Chapters 44, 46, 47.

I believe that the Catholic Church is the same Church that was led by Peter and the rest of the Apostles. I believe that every Catholic Priest carries within them a sacred blessing that can be traced back to the Apostles and to Jesus Christ Himself. I am not dividing Christ. If anything, by rejoining His Church, I am reattaching a long lost limb.

Belteshazzar Mouse said...

Yes, Chad! That is why I am a member of Christ's Church! I do not follow Benedict, I follow Christ, who guides us through the Holy Spirit through his servant, Benedict, here on earth.

Now, I am not a big fan of all that Benedict has to say, or the way he says it. However, I know that the Holy Spirit has prevented the Church from going astray. I am with Carlus in that when I feel challenged by a doctrine of the Church, I look into it. The Church has not failed me yet, in spite of my inclinations otherwise.

What surprises me most by this post is that I see this passage in reference to the thousands of protestant churches that exist. (I follow Luther, Wesley or Calvin, or my own guidance...)

Can anyone tell me if the Catholic Church even had a name before the protestant reformation (I really do not know)? The word catholic has been used by the church to mean universal, though I am not certain when this became a name for the Church.