In these verses, Christ stated, “And I say unto you, that you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
In order to understand the meaning here, we must start reading from Matt. 16:13. Christ asked the disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?”
Peter answered, “ You [Jesus] are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (vs. 16). Then Christ responded, “You are Peter [petros, which means little rock], and upon this rock [petra, means very great rock, referring to Christ Himself] I [pointing to Himself] will build My church” (vs. 18). Most people assume here that Christ is building His Church on Peter. But this is not the case. Christ is the great “Rock” upon whom the Church is built (Deut. 32:3-4, 15, 18; I Cor. 10:4; Eph. 2:20; I Pet. 2:6), not Peter (Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col. 1:18).
Christ was telling Peter that He (Christ) was about to establish the New Testament Church, lead it (Eph. 5:23), be with it always (Matt. 28:20), and that the gates of hell [Hades—the grave] would never prevail against it. God’s Church was to continue to exist, doing His Work through the ages as a “little flock” (Luke 12:32), until the end of the age, when it would circle the whole world with the good news of the kingdom of God (Matt. 24:14). This Church would be persecuted (John 15:20; 16:33), but would never die out, remaining until Christ’s Return.
In Matthew 16:19, Christ continues, “And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…” The “keys” He is referring to here is symbolic language meaning that He gives His ministers the knowledge of how to enter the kingdom. This knowledge shows the way of life a Christian must follow in order to achieve salvation. Luke 11:52 shows Christ reproving certain lawyers for hiding or suppressing this knowledge, thus preventing themselves and others from entering the kingdom.
Continuing, “…and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven…” Some will say that this verse gives men the power or authority to change what God has said in the Bible. This is absolutely not the case! No man can change what God has said! The true ministers of God have been given the authority to bind only that which is in agreement with God’s laws. That, then, would be backed up—bound—by God. When God’s ministers make a decision, it is based on Scripture—based on God’s will. But this in no way is giving ministers the power to forgive sin. Only God can and does that (Mark 2:7). God does give ministers the ability to discern when a person has repented of certain sins, thus concluding that God has forgiven them.
For more detailed information of where that Church is today, please read our booklets, Where Is God’s Church? and Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History!. Also on the subject of salvation, please read Just What Is Salvation? and What Is the Kingdom of God?