In the Pirates of the Caribbean movie Jack Sparrow (one of the main characters) asks his crew: “What do the keys do?”. He gets back a very simple answer he was not looking for – “the keys open things?”

In Matthew 16:19, Yeshua tells his disciple Peter that he will be given the keys of the kingdom of heaven.  They would enable him to “bind” (or forbid) and “loose” (or permit) things on earth and it would be done in heaven as well.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19 NIV)

Behind the Judeo-Greek text is a Hebrew concept of the מַפְתְּחוֹת מַלְכוּת הַשָׁמָיִם (maftechot malchut hashamaim) – “keys of the kingdom of heaven”. What do these keys do? In this case “a key” מַפְתֵּחַ (mafteach) is a tool that opens the door into God’s domain. In Hebrew פֶּתַח (petach) is “an opening”. In Mishna, פְּתִיחָה (peticha) is “an introduction” (also an opening of something that follows). Both words come from the verb “to open” פָּתַח (patach). For contrast, the Hebrew verb “to close” is סָגַר (sagar) and to “lock” or “fasten” is נָעַל (naal). Neither word is related to the idea of a key in Hebrew, because the primary purpose of “a key” מַפְתֵּחַ (mafteach) is not to lock, but “to open” פָּתַח (patach).

Apostle Peter (whether on his own or as a chief representative of the twelve) has the power of the keys, but those keys are not used to “lock up” Heaven, but to open it.



  1. Peter did indeed open the Gates or 'Doors of Heaven' to the world - To the Jew in Acts 2, when 3000 Jewish men were converted, then in Acts 8 when Peter went to the Samaritans - who had been taught by Phillip, yet needed Peter to usher the Holy Spirit in their midst. Acts 10 finishes the "loosing" with the opening of the Door to the Gentiles with the conversion of Cornelius and his Holy Spirit baptism. Peter, given the Keyes by Jesus, opens the door to the Jew, the Gentile and the Samaritan.
  2. Prof, you say Mafteach is tool that opens a door into God's domain. Paul teaches to pray by the spirit and to pray with the mind. When the Holy Spirit came like tongues of fire on the disciples, they underwent a metamorphosis. They became bold and the Word became life to them. Peter was the one who got up and boldly spoke of things he clearly didn't understand prior to that. God's domain which you mention is a spiritual domain. Only by the spirit can it be revealed. I believe the keys to the kingdom is the Holy Spirit.
    • A very insightful observation! Yeshua said these things to Peter at the moment of his confession that he is the Messiah, the son of God. And he added that the Spirit of God clearly revealed this to him. So Peter already had some dose of God's Spirit in his life.
    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Stories of Jewish Church I: Acts 1-5 or . You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!
  3. It sounds strange that both something forbidden and something permissible in a legal sense would open heaven. Is the rock in Matt 16:18 Jesus? If so binding and loosing would not be the revelation of Christ, but the promise of Christ to complete what He has begun in us. (Phil 1:6). “We” (law-free) didn’t have vocab words for legal stuff, but Jesus didn’t care so I call it building fences around the Torah or the second death NOT. It was quite shocking to respond to Law in a law-free doctrine.
    • Actually, the act of forbidding and allowing things (legislating) comes as a result of successfully accessing the heavenly council by using those keys. Keys open understanding and wisdom to guide the community.
  4. English senior. Loving the emailed lessons, Bible teaching is in short supply in church so these are valuable lessons, Thank you
  5. When a christain cannot speak in tongues does it mean he hasn't the holy spirit or must all christains speak in tongues
    • That is a question for your spiritual leader. I was under the impression that there are many spiritual gifts in the NT teaching.
  6. I am fascinated by your explanations. We, my wife and me, find ourselfs in the prayer movement and co-ordinate the Children's Prayer Network in South Africa, (CPNSA ).My question to you, spiritual gifts as we find them in the New Testament, are there a correlation between them and the gifts you find in intercessory prayer?
  7. I was wondering what you teach about the fourth commandment—that is “remember the Sabbath day” that was established on that original seventh day after His creation of this world in six days (Gen. 2:1-3).? Thanks for your answer, Chuck Starnes
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