Matthew 16:18-20

18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

19 And 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.”

20 Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.

I will build (v.18) — based on the tense, this could be translated “I shall continue to build”

church (v.18) = a chosen or called-out assembly — not referring to the Body of Christ but to believing Israel

The word ecclesia was a very familiar word in our Lord’s time, and it had a Hebrew and a Greek use.The Hebrews spoke of the ecclesia. They had two words very much alike in their intention, and yet separated in use — synagogue, and ecclesia. They marked the facts in which the Hebrew people were different from other nations. Synagogue meant the assembling together of God’s people in worship. Jesus did not say, My synagogue. He said, My ecclesia. The Hebrew use of the word ecclesia marked the Hebrew people as a selected people, as a Theocracy. That was the great thought in the word, a God-governed people, not governed by policy or by human kings. That was the underlying thought in the Hebrew mind. Ecclesia was also in common use in Greek cities at the time. In one of the later chapters of the book of Acts we find that the whole ecclesia came together to discuss their affairs. It does not mean the Church of God. It was the town meeting, an assemblage of free men. — Morgan, page 212.

whatever you bind … (v.19) — given to all the apostles in Matthew 18:18

keys of the kingdom (v.19) — perhaps referring to the fact that it was Peter who first offered the kingdom in Acts 2:14-40 — to Israel only.

The key was a badge of authority, for the servant who had the key to his master’s storehouse had authority over all the goods that were in the storehouse. Authority was here conferred on Peter and the rest of the Twelve to administer in His name, to proclaim His truth, to declare salvation to people, and to assure those who believe that they are recipients of eternal life. 

It was not the declaration of the apostles that established the fact. This is made clear by a literal rendering of the words of Christ: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be that which has already been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be that which has already been loosed in heaven.” This rendering reveals that it is God who frees from an obligation or imposes an obligation on people. But the apostles could make an authoritative declaration as Christ’s representatives as to the true state of affairs because of response to their preaching. — Pentecost, page 252

bind (v.19) — used in Jewish legal terminology to mean “declare forbidden”

loose (v.19) — used in Jewish legal terminology to mean “declare allowed”

These phrases were perfectly familiar to the Jew, we find them in the literature of the time. They said, Shammai binds this, but Hillel looses; which simply meant, Shammai makes this obligatory, but Hillel leaves it optional. Binding simply meant an authoritative declaration concerning what must be done, or what must not be done. Loosing meant permission given to men to do or not to do. It was purely and simply a Hebrew method of describing ethical authority. — Morgan, page 215.

The Hebrew prophets were said to do what they were commissioned to announce (Jeremiah 1:10). Simon Peter was a Hebrew prophet, and so similar language was addressed to him (v.19); and his companions being Hebrew prophets a corresponding commission was given to them (Matthew 18:18); and all the disciples, including women, becoming thereby Hebrew prophets, the commission was enlarged to include them all (John 20:21-13). — Williams, page 715.

Peter (v.18) = petros — small stone, one that could be thrown

rock (v.18) = petra — immovable mass of rock

Remember, He was talking to Hebrews. If we trace the figurative use of the word rock through the Hebrew Scriptures, we find that it is never used symbolically of man, but always of God. So here at Caesarea Philippi. — Morgan, page 211.

gates of Hades (v.18) — power of death, referring to the resurrection

That this isn’t referring to the Body of Christ can be further seen by the fact that after Acts 2, we only hear of Peter and John (and the death of James) and that even they confined their ministry to Jews (Galatians 2:9).

So what was the Lord saying here? This is my understanding — Peter had just proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God (v.16). The Lord responded by calling Peter blessed because He has gained this understanding from God.

Jesus then goes on with a play on words. Peter is a small stone, but on the massive rock of Christ and who He is and what He was about to do as Messiah, He would establish the assembly of believing Jews that would enter the kingdom. Not even His death, which He begins to speak of in the very next verses, can stop His purpose. The apostles will be His spokesmen of this message and will announce it and explain it (as Peter himself did at Pentecost — AND they will be sitting on the twelve thrones over Israel during the kingdom— Matthew 19:28).

There is nothing here, including the use of the word “church,” that indicates anything other than the Jewish kingdom.

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