Question: What does Matthew 16:19 mean: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven"? Does this teach that Peter had the power to admit anyone to the kingdom of heaven or shut him out, and that therefore the Roman Catholic Church, built upon Peter, is the true church?
No! It does not teach anything of the kind. When anyone studied under a Jewish rabbi, it was the custom of the rabbi to give him a key when he had become perfect in the doctrine, signifying that he was now able to unlock the secrets of the kingdom. Christ's words refer to this custom. Peter, by his confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, had proved that the Father was revealing the truth to him (v. 17), and Jesus looked forward to the day when, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter would be guided into all the truth (John 16;13-14) and thus be competent to unlock the kingdom to men. Every Spirit-filled person, everyone taught by he Holy Spirit, has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. He has spiritual discernment and is competent to unlock the kingdom to men.
"Binding" and "loosing" were common expressions in Jesus' day for forbidding and permitting. What a rabbi forbade, he was said to "loose." Peter and the other disciples, as Spirit-filled men, would have discernment to know what God permitted and what God forbade. Whatever Peter, as a Spirit-filled man, forbade on earth would be forbidden in heaven, and whatever he permitted would be permitted in heaven.
We see Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, using the keys to unlock the kingdom to the Jews, and three thousand people entered into the kingdom that day. In Acts 10, we see Peter now using the keys to unlock the kingdom to the Gentiles, and a whole household entered into the kingdom that day.
Every time anyone preaches the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, he is using the keys. Not only did Peter have the keys, but we may have them today. Since we are taught by the Spirit, we may have discernment as to what God permits and what God forbids. Then, what we forbid here on earth will be the thing that God forbids in heaven and what we permit will be the thing that God permits in heaven.
~R. A. Torry~