In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus said to his disciple Peter, “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 be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:19). A couple of chapters later he said very similar words to his other disciples (Mat 18:18).

What are the most common explanations and teachings about these “binding and loosing” verses that one hears today? Most people assume that they have something to do with spiritual warfare and binding the devil. Indeed, the surrounding context is about disciple’s authority, only the devil is not involved here.

In reality, binding and loosing are known technical legal expressions in the ancient Jewish world. “To bind” is to restrict, to confine, to limit and in a legal sense “to forbid something”. On the opposite side “to loose” is to unbind, to untie, to free, to release which in a legal sense means “to permit something”.

Here is an example from the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. He writes that under queen Alexandra of Jerusalem, the Pharisees “became the administrators of all public affairs, empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind”. (Jewish War 1:111). Josephus said that the Pharisees had the authority “to loose and to bind” and no, not demons or Satan.

When Jesus used this terminology in the Gospels, he did not speak about prayer or spiritual warfare either. The context is legal and the terms should be interpreted through first-century Jewish context. Just like the Pharisees in Josephus’s quote, the disciples were given a right to legislate, a right to make rules and norms, allowing and forbidding things in their own community. And that is binding and loosing first century’s style.

Developing the capacity to understand the scriptures in their Jewish context will make your study of God’s Word so much richer!



  1. This is very enlightening. The Western/Greek mindset (maybe American) has surely distorted this meaning which you eloquently provided. Thank you.
    • The Pharisees didn't receive power from on high(Holy Spirit) so they may have picked up and used the term of binding and looking but they didn't have the power to do so. And Who. speaks of not wrestling against flesh and blood but against principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

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    • The disciples were given the authority to bind and to loose what Jesus taught them. This was concerning the kingdom of God which is the church. They had the authority to preach the gospel of the church and they had the authority to loose and bind anything concerning the church. They did not have the right to make rules and norms concerning the church. They were to allow and forbid things they were taught by Jesus and the Holy Spirit concerning the church. That's loosing and binding. This had nothing to do with community issues.

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    • Jesus told the women that was bent over and could not straighten up for I believe 28 yrs, Women thou art loosed from your infirmities. Would this not an example of loosing and binding?

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    • You are most welcome. I am glad that makes sense. Sometimes it is challenging to explain a new concept in just a few words. But I guess that is why we offer classes. :)

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    • Not all perverted the truth. Ellicott said “ They point primarily to legislative or interpretive functions, not to the judicial treatment of individual men....When he resisted the attempt of the Judaizers to ‘put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples’ (Act 15:10),He was loosing what was also loosed in heaven. When he proclaimed ... the eternal laws of righteousness, holiness, and love, he was binding those laws on the conscience of Christendom.”
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  2. An opinion, My own: re: Binding & Loosing, Context of Scripture, if am I allowed 1st, if Jesus Christ, Could it be perhaps in reference to binding or loosing. If Saying Get thee behind me, is a type of binding, regarding authority, & can it be considered scriptural, if used in the more ancient times, as used by Jesus Christ. There was a Man, Jehu, commanded by a prophet to Do tasks in Ancient Israel, one command similarly used was Turn to, behind me, used several times in scripture by Jehu. In One book of Kings I believe.
    • Dear George, my point is very simple, that when Jesus uses such terminology it has a concrete and specific meaning "to allow" or "to forbid". Interpret the text with these meanings and you build on that.

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    • Prophets do not command. They are teachers and messengers. Scripture is not an instructional. To interpret the scriptures correctly, it would be incorrect to use the messages within the parables to exalt self. Intended to glorify God.
  3. The “spiritual“ interpretation comes in to play with the context of the binding and loosing being done on Earth *and* in Heaven. Please explain: How does one confine the meaning of binding and loosing in HEAVEN to a strictly earth-bound interpretation of legislation? Thanks.
    • Remi, God is involved in the affairs of mankind. People who are led by him (in this case Yeshua and apostles) would not legislate something that would go against the authority of Heaven (God). That is how the ruling stands in both places.

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    • I believe the sealing power refers to sealing husbands to wives, children to parents for time and all eternity. In the case of divorce the unbinding When you consider we are God’s creations in a Pre mortal life , placed on Earth in families this is a beautiful concept.
  4. The total ministry of Christ was to open the human understanding to the spiritual world. Everything He did was to show how blind mankind had become. To limit the binding only to the administration of the church would limit the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ was continually defeating the powers of hell by freeing those held captive. Christ told us we are to bind the strong man to take his possessions To regulate the binding and loosing to only earthly matters would negate the spiritual power Christ has given us through the Holy Spirit.
    • James, no disrespect, but no one was ever "told" or "commanded" or even gently "directed" to "bind the strong man". No such language in the gospels. Jesus simply used such words as an illustration that he as the Son of Man had the power to do as he wanted to Satan. He is stronger than the string man. Please re-read Mark 3:27 / Mat 12:29.

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  5. Thank you for this explanation. I always wondered if the church was binding the devil then who kept letting him loose. Good teaching
    • Debra, the ability to bind the powers of the enemy depend completely on the relationship with Yeshua. If you don't have a deep personal relationship with him which gives you access to his power & authority, you can bind & loose til the cows come home, & it won't have any effect. Sadly, in today's church, there's very little real power & a lot of show.

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    • Question: The Apostles used this delegated authority to lay the groundwork for the church. Which rules to put on the Gentile believers. Which ones not to. Specifics about handling the offerings, church discipline, etc. Does this delegation extend to the whole church? Or did it extend only to the Apostles?
    • “Who keeps letting him loose”?.... SIN keeps letting him loose. Legally, in the spirit realm, When we sin, it’s like giving satan the keys to unlock the binding, so to speak. We’re just going around in circles.

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  6. Fruitful! Your example from Flavius Josephus has helped me to identify the problem I have had with this teaching on binding and loosing. Something very important seemed to be missing. I now realize that we added language because the teaching was missing. Our Christ followers added “being gifted” in place of binding and loosing. I was not a Christ follower so I added “Jesus built fences around the Torah" (borrowed language).
  7. The Word Of GOD Is Spirit and Life. John 6:63. That means every Word spoken by MESSIAH CHRIST JESUS is a Living Enity. The meanings of JESUS Words are progressively upgraded to deal with whatsoever stubborn spirit that must be bound or loosed to advance the Kingdom of GOD. Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 2:44, Revelation 11:15-17 and Matthew 18:17-19 codified this authority. Therefore, only the Holy Spirit can authorize the exact truth in any given Rhema. Those who don't have the Holy Spirit INDWELLING them cannot decree what exactly JESUS' Words says. Shalom. Amen. Oged.
  8. The comments above make interesting reading; but all miss the mark. Yeshua was giving Kefa (Peter) and later the other Apostles (Heb Shaliachim) their smicha; their ordination. They were given the authority to represent the sect of the Nots'rim (Nazarenes). To bind and loose was specifically the authority to make halacha- rulings on how Torah was to be observed. They could not change Torah, but they could prayerfully and led by the Spirit make rulings on the minutia of obedience. They could also admit or disfellowship others.
    • I didn't miss the mark. I repented. What I see in Matt 16:17 is that repentance (son of Jonah) is revealed by the Father (not man). The foundation is Jesus. And what is being built on the foundation (binding & loosing) should be built carefully by governing authorities (coincidentally this is why the mark of God is important). As far as dis-fellowship, the church was never my authority.

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    • Another interesting thing about the smicha of Kefa, it was said in front of a grotto which had a spring whose depths could not be plumbed. Pagans worshiped there, and it was called "The Gates of Hell." So when in verse 18 Yeshua told His first Shaliach "The gates of Hell will not prevail against it (His assembly, sic)," Yeshua was declaring war on ha'satan and demonic forces. He threw down the gauntlet so to speak right on their very doorstep! This was the first step in establishing a command structure for an army which would evangelize the world!

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    • Yes Dan, I just chose to use a simpler language everyone can understand. Instead of make halakha = legislate, instead of smicha = authority and etc... I am glad we are on the same page.
    • Yeshuah told Peter "Thou art Peter" (translated pebble)
      "UponThis Rock (Yeshuah himself),
      I build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
      Just verses before, Jeshuah told Peter "Get thee behind me Satan!"
      Now you think he's going to build his church upon Peter? Think again

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  9. Yeshua is a Jew ,He did not come starting churches .This is false theology .Constantine created the Roman Catholic Church in 313 AD /CE .All of the Talmidim were Jews not Gentiles .On the Day of Shavuot /Pentecost they were all Jews who waited in Yerushalayim for the Ruach HaKodesh /Holy Spirit to be poured out on them .The Talmidim were called ,especially Kefa /Peter and Sha'ul /Paul were called to preach to the Jews and to the Goyim /Gentile .The Word of G-d was written my Jews not gentiles .
    • Constantine did not start the Roman Catholic Church. The Church in Rome existed long before that time. Clement, the bishop of Rome, wrote a letter to the Church at Corinth in the late 1st century. Ignatius of Antioch wrote letters to several churches, including the catholic Church of Rome, while being carried to martyrdom in c. AD 110. Jesus built His Church "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." Mt 16:18.

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    • Remember that Christ prophesied to his apostles before his death that the temple will be destroyed and that no two stones will lay on each other. In 70 AD Roman emperor Titus invaded Jerusalem and that prophecy was fulfilled. The time of the gentiles began. the Catholic Church was born.
    • To interpret the scriptures correctly we need holyspirit the author even as much as we ought to understand the original text meanings and the contextual background. Peter already made a shocking revelation on the personality of Yeshuah. It was in furtherance to that that Christ made other declaration...
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