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The keys to the kingdom of heaven are God’s Words (John 1:12; 17:3). Christ Himself points that the “key” here referred to as “the key of knowledge” of how to enter the kingdom (Luke 11:52). The words of Jesus are “spirit” and “life” to all who receive them (John 6:63). It is the words of Jesus that bring eternal life (John 6:68). And they are the keys to the new-birth experience (1 Peter 1:23).
As the words spoken by Jesus convinced the disciples of His divinity, so their sharing these words with others reconciles the world to God (2 Cor. 5:18–20). The saving power of God’s Word is the only thing that allows people into the kingdom of heaven.
Christ simply gave Peter and all the other apostles (Matt. 18:18; John 20:23) the authority and power to lead people into the kingdom. It was Peter’s realization of the truth that Jesus is indeed the Christ that placed the keys of the kingdom in his possession and let him into the kingdom, and at the same can be said of all Christ’s followers till He comes again.
The belief that Christ has given Peter a degree of authority greater than that which He gave to the other disciples, is not scripturally based (Matt. 16:18). Because among the apostles it was James and not Peter who exercised administrative functions over the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13, 19; cf. chs. 1:13; 12:17; 21:18; 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 2:9, 12). And in a certain occasion, Paul “withstood” Peter “to the face” for a wrong course of action (Gal. 2:11–14), which he certainly would not have done had Peter received the authority that some now claim for him upon the basis of Matt. 16:18, 19.
In His service,
The BibleAsk Team