Did you know that there are keys to heaven?
Over the past couple of weeks I have focused on how there are many doors – many pathways – for us to take in life. Some of those pathways are opened to us by the Lord while the rest are pathways opened to wickedness, to failure. Now, for those not attuned to the Spirit, it can be a struggle to differentiate between these paths. In our responsive reading for today, the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Christ to “show them a sign from heaven” (Matt. 16:1).
These same leaders previously asked Jesus to show them a sign to prove Himself. I want you to understand that these leaders never had any intention of believing. Afterwards, Jesus warned His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16:6). Jesus then asked His disciples, in Matthew 16:13, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
After listening to their answers, we will see that Jesus then asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am (Matt. 16:15)?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The religious leaders, nor the rest of the people, knew who Christ was but Peter knew the truth.
Peter’s response brings us to my key verse for today’s sermon. Jesus responded to Peter’s answer, “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.” Jesus, I want you to see, gave Peter the keys to heaven.
Meaning of the Keys to God’s House
So, what did it mean for Peter to receive the keys to heaven? In order for us to understand the meaning, let’s first consider what it means to have keys in general. What do keys do?
In general, keys unlock and grant access to whatever the key goes to. For example keys can let you unlock a lock box, house, or car. With the ability to unlock, that means you have authority over what is locked. Now, while these thoughts focus on physical keys, keys don’t always have to be physical, do they?
What I mean by this is that the keys to something could also be insight and helpful tips. For example, a key for a coded message could help you decode the message. When reading read maps, a map key will let you know what every icon on the map represents.
So, we could say, Peter receiving the keys to heaven meant that Peter had access to the kingdom of heaven, right? We could also say that Peter, because he had keys to heaven, had authority to heaven, right? We could also say that Peter would be able to gain insight on heaven through his access as well, right?
So, those keys to heaven seem awfully special, right? To be able to access heaven anytime you want, to me, seems rather special. To be able to gain some insight on heaven, to me, seems rather special! I don’t know about you, but I want my own keys to heaven! Do you want some keys to heaven?
Can We Receive Keys to Heaven
So, were the keys to heaven only something Peter could receive? Or is there a way for anybody else to receive their own keys to heaven? Well, scripture makes it very clear to us that anybody can gain access to heaven. So, how do we get our keys to heaven? Well, let’s take another look at what Peter did to receive his keys.
Confess with your heart
Taking a look at Matthew 16:13, Jesus asked the disciples about who the people said He was. In Matthew 16:14, we will see that the people were confused about Jesus. Some of the people were saying that Jesus was John the Baptist. Others were saying Jesus was Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the several other prophets.
However, Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God. Jesus said to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah (Peter), for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven (Matt. 16:17).”
What made Peter’s answer so special was that this was not a profession of faith but a confession. I want you to understand there is a difference between a profession and a confession. A profession is the easiest of the two as a profession is something stated. Whereas a confession is made with both the mouth and the heart; this is what the Lord desires.
Listen to what Paul wrote, Romans 10:9-10, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
So, if you desire to receive your keys to heaven, a confession of faith is required. Remember that Jesus said to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that He gave He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Earning your keys requires effort
So, if you desire to receive your keys to heaven, we must understand that a profession of faith is not enough! As we have seen in recent weeks, faith requires us to strive and put forth some effort! There are many who think they are going to enter heaven because they have said they believe.
Jesus has made it quite clear that “saying” (professing faith) is not enough. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Notice the emphasis on actually doing the will of the Father.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
God desires sincere faith and not professed faith!
As we have seen the past couple of weeks, Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and life. No one comes to the Father in heaven except through Him (John 14:6). We have also seen that Jesus said He is the door that leads to life in the pasture (John 10:7-9). So, to open the door, we have seen that there are three means: asking, seeking, and knocking on the door (Matt. 7:7-8).
When God opens His door, should we stand there? No! We should enter. Now, before we enter, the one that opens the door will ask us, “Who do you say I am?” To receive your key, you must confess with your heart. Many have professed to believe, but have not received their keys to heaven. So, it is very important to know that if you desire to receive your keys to heaven your heart must confess faith.
The Great Responsibility of Keyholders
Many of us have already received their keys through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, will guide us into all truth which is the Word of God (John 16:13). I share this with you because the keys to heaven, again, are not physical; they are not brass/nickel. The keys to heaven are made up of the Scriptures— the Word of God, the divine truth.
Some may not think much of the keys to heaven. The rest of us will rejoice and celebrate having keys to the kingdom of heaven. You should celebrate receiving our keys to heaven! Now, I want to point out there is something else that comes with receiving the keys to heaven. Let’s take a close look at what Jesus said to Peter after giving him the keys to heaven.
With great power comes great responsibility
When Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, He spoke to what Peter could do with his keys. Jesus said to Peter, “Whatever you bind (with your keys) on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose (with your keys) on earth will be loosed in heaven.” I want you to understand that we have power (authority) either tie up or to set free. What is it that we can tie up or set free?
This statement from Jesus will make it clear why Jesus warned the disciples about the religious leaders. To the Galatians, Paul wrote that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Gal. 5:9). In scripture, leaven is anything that can cause sin to grow in one’s self or in others.
The religious leaders hindered others from walking by faith. Jesus said of the religious leaders, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in (Matt. 23:13).”
The religious leaders were supposed to be keyholders of the kingdom of heaven. By way of the law, they had access, authority, and insight to God’s kingdom. Rather than open the gates to heaven with teaching and living by the law, Jesus said they shut up heaven. What is worst is that they closed heaven to those that desired to enter.
All of us who have the keys to heaven must understand that we now have access, authority, and insight to the kingdom. Having the keys to heaven means that we carry a great responsibility! So, we should not abuse our access, authority, nor the insight we are able to gain through the word of God. Understand: having the keys to heaven doesn’t make you rulers over anyone’s fate!
Sadly, many professed believers shut up the kingdom of heaven today. They do this by moving with authority they have not received from God! Such actions are of spiritual immaturity and ignorance and they turns many away from heaven. As keyholders to the kingdom, sincere believers cannot afford to act irresponsibly. Why is that?
In John 8:31-32, Jesus said of His word, the keys we have, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” God’s word, His keys, are able to free those locked up in the chains of sin. If the keys to heaven set us free from the chains of sin, then the goal of keyholders should be to free others from sin!
Use Your Keys to Heaven
It would be rather selfish of us not to consider freeing others from their chains. One of the greatest travesties is that too many believers are withhold their keys. Why put forth the effort to get keys to heaven to not use them?
Such thoughts remind me of when Jesus shared the Parable of the Talents to the disciples (Matt. 25:14-18). In the parable, Jesus explained that a servant was given money by his master. Rather than doing something with the money, he chose to bury his money away. In response, his master called him wicked and lazy for not doing anything with the money. The master quipped that the servant could have at least deposited the money to gain interest. Do you think God has freely given you His keys for them to collect dust?
Unlock the door of salvation for others
With his keys, Peter chose not to be like the servant in the Parable of the Talents. Peter, on the day of Pentecost received the Holy Spirit and his keys. Peter use his keys and cried out for everyone to repent and be baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of sins. Peter preached for the people to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Throughout his life, Peter opened the door to the kingdom of heaven to those who received the gospel. Peter moved to free all people from their shackles if they desired to be freed. However, to those that disregarded him, he could not free them.
To that point, I remind you that Jesus said, “Whatever is bound (chained) on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever is loose (set free) on earth will be loosed (freed) in heaven.” So, those that we set free from sin on earth the Lord will also pardon. However, that we are unable to free from sin on earth, God will not free in eternity.
You and I have so much insight to share and to help those around us. What I mean by this is that we know there is a door to salvation. We know that the door can be opened if one knocks on the door. Most importantly, we know that the one that opens the door will ask those that knock, “Who do you say I am?”
So, why should we withhold this insight from anyone? Jesus wants us to share our keys to heaven! Why else did Jesus say to us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20)”?
As I said in last week’s sermon – How to Tell When God is Opening Doors – as keyholders of the keys to heaven, we are as the maids at the school of wisdom (Prov. 9:3-4). This means that we should be going out and proclaiming – testifying – of the Lord. All of us keyholders should be giving out the gospel – the freeing word of the Lord to those locked up in the chains of sin.
When we use our keys to heaven and free those locked up, we can start a great chain reaction. Those we free can then receive their keys from the Holy Spirit and then begin to free others from shackles of sin. You and I have the insight to lead so many souls away from the prison of sin and to the door of salvation. From there, they can meet Christ and He will welcome them to His table to eat of His bread and drink of His wine.
Afterwards, Jesus will tell those freed from sin to enjoy life in His pasture.