Matthew 16:19 – “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (NASB)
“Keys” represent authority. Jesus is giving authority of the kingdom of heaven (those things that reside in heaven) to man.
But what does that authority mean? And what does it mean to bind or loose on earth what has already been bound or loosed in heaven?
A quick internet search on this verse indicates “bind” and “loose” were “common to Jewish legal phraseology meaning to declare something forbidden or to declare it allowed.”
From this standpoint, the binding and loosing is the declaration (speaking) of things already forbidden (bound) or allowed (loosed) in heaven. By declaring them on earth it enforces on earth what has already been enforced in heaven. This seems, at least in part, to be the process God put in place for us to bring forth on earth what has already been declared by him in heaven.
Jesus models for us how we as Christ followers should live. And Jesus says he only did the works he saw his father do. When Jesus declared a man healed or a fig tree cursed, while it occurred on earth it had to have first occurred in heaven since Jesus only did what he first saw his father do. What that means is he only loosed or bound on earth what had already been loosed or bound by his father in heaven. That’s the model he is teaching us.
So what are the things already loosed or bound in heaven? While they would certainly include God’s commands of how we should live, I believe it is much more, not only because of what Jesus modeled for us through his acts of provision, healing and casting out of demons, but also because of what scripture explicitly tells us.
Ephesians 1:3 says God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” That means all of the spiritual blessings we will ever receive have already been given us in heaven.
But are spiritual blessings only available once we get to heaven? I believe not. They are not called heavenly blessings, they are called spiritual blessings. And we are spiritual beings even while here on earth.
Not only did Jesus say he came that we might have life and have it to the fullest (indicating it was for now and not just for later), but Colossians 3:10 tells us that we (our new, spiritual self) are being renewed into the knowledge and image of Christ. That is a present tense action, meaning it’s happening right now. And being renewed into the image of Christ is certainly not only a spiritual blessing we receive in heaven, but it is being released into our lives right now and with it come many other blessings at the same time.
So to sum up what I believe Jesus is telling us in this passage in Matthew…
We have been given certain authority over things in the kingdom of heaven. These things have already been bound or loosed in heaven — God’s truths and our spiritual blessings. We are to bind or loose on earth those things already bound or loosed in heaven, just as Jesus modeled for us. We do this by declaring them (speaking out loud) in the authority given us. As we declare and believe (in faith) in the authority we have to declare it, God somehow manifests it on earth as it have already been manifested in heaven.
This also parallels other truths the Bible teaches.
For example, Jesus tells us to pray for God’s will to be done (loosed or bound) on earth as it has already been done (loosed or bound) in heaven. Additionally, we also learn through scriptures that in many circumstances God chooses to refrain himself from performing his will on earth until we have first prayed for it (i.e. “loosed” it through prayer).
So these truths tie perfectly into this passage in Matthew: we are to take authority by declaring those things that are God’s will and for which he has already done in heaven to be manifested here on earth. And as we act with the authority that comes from being perfected toward the image of Christ, God will manifest those things here on earth.
This is not a prosperity gospel that says you can declare anything you want and get it. Rather, this is a spiritual truth that Jesus is teaching us. That truth is we have authority to declare those things that are in heaven to become manifested on earth. That is God’s will. And in some mysterious way God actually designed it to be our responsibility to participate in the accomplishment of his will, and this is how we do it.
Some additional thoughts on this…
There is some mysterious connection between what we do in the earthly realm and what has occurred in the heavenly realm. We proclaim in the authority granted us by Jesus. Jesus spoke into existence what he desired to happen. When he cursed the fig tree it withered immediately. He says if you believe you can say to this mountain ‘be picked up and cast into the sea’ and it will happen.
In this passage he is telling Peter that what you bind on earth will have already been bound in heaven and what you loose on earth will have already been loosed in heaven. Therefore, heaven and earth are inexplicably connected. They are not two separate and disconnected locations, but it’s almost as if heaven is the “power source” that causes things to happen on earth, and they are as one fabric though separate entities, much like the body and soul are one fabric but separate entities as well.
In other words, when we declare something to happen on earth (the natural realm) the power of heaven (the supernatural realm) comes to bear and makes it happen. This, I believe, it’s what Jesus means when he says to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The power of the spoken word, by faith in the name and authority of Jesus, is more powerful than most of us would understand. And could this be part of what it means to labor in prayer for God’s will to be done?