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Jesus promised to Peter while they were at Caesaria Philippi, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven” (Mt 16:19). That involved the authority to forgive or withhold sins and the authority to make disciplinary rules for the believers. Though Jesus gave all the apostles similar power later (Mt 18:18), here Peter received that power specifically.

Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven only to Peter. Key is the symbol of authority. In the ancient world, a walled city will have only one prominent gate with one lock and a key. To hand over the key meant handing over authority over the city.

When Joseph interpreted the dream of Pharaoh in Egypt, he said to Joseph: “Since it is to you that God has made known all this, there can be no one as intelligent and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people will obey your orders. Only as far as the throne is concerned will I be greater than you” (Gen 41:39-40). Jesus also made a similar remark to Peter because God had made His revelation to him. Just like Pharaoh handed over his signet ring to Joseph saying, “See, I have put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt” (Gen 41:41), Jesus handed over the keys of the heavenly city to Peter. This also reminds us of Eliakim, who held the key to the House of David. “Upon his shoulder I will place the key of the House of David; what he opens, no one will shut; what he shuts, no one will open” (Isa 22:22).


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