“’But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 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.’” — Matthew 16:15–19 (NIV84)
This section of Scripture has embedded into it Peter’s great confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But more interesting is Jesus’ proclamation that upon Peter’s confession the work of the kingdom of heaven would be established. The very Church that has existed since the time of Jesus has as its primary function the proper use of the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Notice the binding ability of these keys. They are used in the worldly kingdom but have heavenly kingdom ramifications. The keys have two abilities. They either loosen or bind things. What these keys loosen and bind cannot be changed. Not even the gates of Hades can overcome their work.
So, what do these keys do? What is being loosened and bound? First and foremost, these keys are the proper application of the message of the Gospel. We preach and teach the Law so that all might be aware of their sinfulness and their need for redemption. We preach the Gospel to those struck by the Law so as not to leave them in spiritual despair but to set them free by the redemption won by Jesus in His death and resurrection. The Church has the responsibility to properly share that message with the world until Jesus Christ returns to bring us home. The Law binds and the Gospel loosens. If one rejects the Gospel message, he puts himself into the bondage of the Law. His spiritual fate, if not moved to repentance, would be bound to destruction. But to those who receive the Gospel message, they are set free from the bondage of the law. This is not a wish but a certainty! Our forgiveness and salvation is certain and eternal. We are free because the Son has set us free, and the message of the Gospel has broken the bonds of our chains and made us heaven-bound.