Speaking to His disciples on the coast of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus said to Peter, “…I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19).
Then, when they had come to Capernaum, He told his disciples, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18). In the first of these passages the phrase, “keys to the kingdom of heaven” is used. The concept of “keys” is that of a way of entrance. We use a key to unlock the entrance into our house, other buildings or our car. In both of these passages, the understanding of what the keys are is seen.
The gospel of Christ, orally proclaimed or written constitutes the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Christ first began to wield the keys, but then passed that responsibility on to the apostles upon His departure. The Hebrew writer said of these keys, “which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that hear him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:3-4).
The apostle Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17). There is no doubt that the gospel of Christ is the keys to heaven. However, though the word “keys” is not used with the following, we wish to include them among the “keys to the kingdom of heaven”, for they also are needed to open the way.
Desire to enter into heaven is a key. Let’s face it, no one will ever put forth the effort to learn the gospel of Christ without a desire to enter into the kingdom. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find…” (Matt. 7:7). And, “…seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
There must be a seeking if there is to be a finding. This requires recognition of the two options, eternal damnation or eternal life. In the long ago, God through Moses pointed the children of Israel to this recognition and to the choice they should make. He said, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. 30:19).
Knowledge is a key. This seems close akin to the gospel being the key, but let us consider it separately. God told Israel through the prophet Hosea, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…” (Hos. 4:6). Knowledge of God’s way is a necessity in order to gain entrance into heaven.
Paul said of his fellow Jews, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:2-3). We are not at leisure to just make up our own keys and expect them to open the door to heaven. Paul told Timothy, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (II Tim. 2:5).
Obedience to the gospel is a key. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
Doing the will of the Father is the same thing as being obedient to the Father. Just before His ascension into heaven, Jesus told His apostles, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). Obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ is a key to open the door to the kingdom.
The Hebrew writer said, “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9). Paul told the Thessalonians that when the Lord returned, He would take “…vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 1:8).
Just one more key to the kingdom of heaven. Perseverance is a key. No one who is a quitter will ever be a winner of the kingdom of heaven. Paul said that we will be presented “…holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel…” (Col. 1:22-23).
We must persevere through the times of trial and temptation, but also through the times of peace, tranquility and prosperity. In fact these prosperous and peaceful times may be the most dangerous. In the parable of the soils, Jesus said, “that which fell among thorns are they which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life…” (Luke 8:14).
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]