Keys at Caesarea Philippi
Part III - Keys of the Kingdom
To understand the significance of Jesus giving to Peter the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven we need to think about the importance that keys have. To do this we need to reflect on the significance of what a lock does. For example, if everyone had keys to a given lock then that lock would serve absolutely no purpose at all. It would keep no one out. A lock only has value because only one key works. Only one particular key (or set of duplicate keys,) out of the whole range of different possibilities of possible keys, can open that given lock. Therefore, whoever holds the keys to a given lock has the UNIQUE position of being able to open that lock.
To further understand the meaning behind Jesus giving Peter the Keys of the Kingdom we need to do a Bible study on the meaning of keys, and especially the meaning of the “keys of the House of David” as is found in Isaiah 22:15, 19-24.
In this passage below we read about Shebna being replaced with Eliakim. Eliakim now becomes second in command under King Hezekiah, the descendant of King David.
Eliakim becomes the holder of the Keys, and so becomes
the vicar, or the regent, or also called the “master of the palace” who ruled as
an agent or representative for the king.
A Father Figure
Jesus is called the son of David and the King of Kings. And a study of the Davidic Kingdom in the Old Testament reveals the context within which Jesus' hearers would have understood His words.
In Old Testament we can find both a position of the King, and also a second position called the Master of the Palace, or Regent of the Palace (or House.) This second person was the King’s representative, or vicar, who spoke with full authority for the King ( or Pharaoh as is seen in Genesis 41:39-40.) His position is denoted by the fact that he carries the keys that belong to the king. He also has special clothes, a robe, and is a father figure as stated in Isaiah 22:21. See the link to the article about King Hezekiah for a detailed scripture study on this point.
We read in Matthew 16:17 that it was God the Father in Heaven who picked Peter. It was to him that the revelation was given that Jesus was God’s Son. And so, Jesus says that He will give the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter. These keys denote that Peter is to become Jesus' vicar or representative and that Peter’s decisions are binding on all.
Some people will point out that the other Apostles also have the authority to bind and loose [Matt 18:18,] but this is precisely because and only because they are in union with Peter who alone was given the keys in Matt 16:19 where the pronoun “you” is in the singular.
We find this singling out of Peter from among the Apostles and the uniquely special role of authority that is given to him in the other Gospels as well. The one exception is Mark’s Gospel, but when we consider that Mark was Peter’s secretary who was recording Peter’s teaching at Rome this is to be expected. Peter was not one to boast about his authority especially given that Jesus instructed that the Christian authorities were not to go out of their way to make their authority felt. See Matthew 20:25-26.
In John’s Gospel only Peter is given the special commission to feed and tend the flock of Christ. See John 21:15-17 in Separate Article.
In Luke’s Gospel, again it is only Peter who is the benefactor of Christ’s special prayer that Peter’s faith fail not and that he strengthen his brethren even though Jesus says that Satan is going to attack ALL of the Apostles. See Luke 22:29-32 in Separate Article.
So, we can see above that the giving of the keys to Peter indicates the office, or governing position, that Peter is to have. These keys and office also denote succession. When the holder of that office ends his term in office another person is appointed to that position.
Similarly, consider that if the President of the
United States dies in office that position does not end. And the
office of the holder of the keys does not end with that persons death since
it also has a successor. And so, we see succession for the office of
the holder of the keys in Isaiah 22. And the early Church saw that
this position, or office, that Christ gave to St. Peter also had successors
long before they worked out which 27 books belong in the New Testament.
Jesus’ own words imply a succession for the position He was bestowing on Simon, who was now to be called Rock, or Peter.
So, even when Peter dies the netherworld, or death, would not prevail. This is because another person is appointed to that position of the holder of the keys.
Peter’s Successors - Early Church Fathers,
From Saint Peter to Benedict XVI - A list of names of the Popes, the Bishops of Rome.
Apostolic Succession - Separate Article
Some people contend that the Papacy came about from imperial favor, and others contend that it came about from the power vacuum that was created by the fall of the Roman Empire. And others contend that it came about when the laws prohibiting Christianity were abolished in 313 AD. Supposedly, this brought about such a great influx of pagans into the church that they overran the true Christians and corrupted the doctrines by introducing Papal authority. However, a sincere study of history shows that none of these objections to the Papacy have any validity.
Emperor Decius states that he “would have preferred to hear that a rival claim to his empire had been elected in Rome than that a bishop had been elected there.”
Clearly the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter,
had a religious and spiritual authority long before any of the above
supposed scenarios could have taken place. This quotation is recorded in St.
Cyprian’s Epistula to Antonian 55:9, in about the year 250 AD. (
In some collection of the Fathers it is listed as being
For a more in depth study of the meaning of the Keys and the Papacy see the following article:
Also see the following books for more information:
THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM, A Tool’s Witness to Truth, by Fr. Stanley Jaki, published by The Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, Illinois 60609. Ph: 217-228-5670. Also see
AND ON THIS ROCK, also by Fr. Stanley Jaki. It is published by Christendom Press, Front Royal, VA 22630.
The Donation of Constantine -