The Keys to the Kingdom

The keys of the kingdom is a Christian concept of eternal church authority. Most Christians believe it was established in the 1st century AD, initially through ‘Saint Peter’ (being the first Pope and/or Papal authority), then through the rest of the 12 Apostles. The latter, continuing with the early Church Fathers, would eventually form the early church and its doctrine. It is this authority, having been given the keys, that subsequent doctrinal points have been built upon.

The authority can be literally traced to one passage in the New Testament, where Jesus mentions them first in response to ‘St. Peter’ answering a question (Matt 16:19), and secondly in speaking to a group of disciples (Matt 18:18). In these two instances, the concept of authority follows having been given the “keys of the kingdom of heaven“, and regards to ‘loosing and binding‘ things on earth, and thus, having loosened and bound the same in heaven. A third authority regarding sin is seen without mentioning “keys” in John 20:23.

Emblem of the Papacy

Nevertheless, the Catholic Church saw such a powerful potential within the ‘keys’, that it made it part of its coat of arms – bearing two crossed keys symbolizing its Divine authority here on earth. Thus giving the vicar of Christ full reign until the Messiah returns one day. 

Not all followers of Christ adhere to the further doctrinal concepts of sole authority held in any particular church, organization or individual today. There is much debate regarding the further doctrinal basis the church’s leadership established in the early centuries.

The result was the Protestant Reformation, which led to millions leaving the Catholic Church to try to reform Christianity. From that small beginning sprang dozens, then hundreds, and eventually thousands of churches and denominations—each holding different beliefs, yet each claiming to be Christian.

While Luther’s attempts at changing the Catholic Church were partly successful, in the final analysis they went nowhere near far enough. By his time, in the early 1500s, the Roman Catholic church had assimilated centuries of ideas, teachings and practices from other religions, just as the Roman religion had done in earlier centuries.

Catholicism had adopted as its major holidays Easter and Christmas, the first being a resurrection celebration of completely different gods of pagan antiquity and the latter being the birthday of the sun god, fully embracing its self-acclaimed authority.

From Greek philosophy the church had taken the ideas of the immortal soul and going to heaven or hell at death. From sun-worship it appropriated Sunday, the first day of the week, as its weekly day of rest and worship. The coming Kingdom of God as taught by Jesus Christ, the apostles and the biblical prophets, was replaced with an earthly kingdom in the form of the church.

Luther, who proclaimed sola scriptura—that we should follow Scripture alone—should’ve put his words into practice and led a real reform by going back to the original teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Had he done so, the world would be a very different place today!

The power to bind and loose, however, never extended so far as to nullify the commands of Torah or create new commandments. The authority of the sages and apostles only went so far as to interpret the application of the existing commandments. For example, neither the Sanhedrin nor the disciples had the authority to loose Israel from keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day nor could they bind them to observe a different day of the week as Sabbath.

Furthermore the Catholic Church introduced Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the mediator and advocate to intercede to God on our behalf. To say the “Hail Mary” countless times at family rosary and in nightly prayers, became a common practice among many devout Catholics. But in studying the Bible, we see that Jesus Christ is the true intercessor between God and man.  

“It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us,” (Romans 8:34).

The Catholic tradition assigns this position to Mary, the mother of Jesus, even if this is never mentioned in the Bible, the catholic church used the ‘keys of authority’ to make it part of their doctrine.

My understanding of scripture has led me to reject most of the teachings of the Catholic Church and conclude that they are based on the teachings of men apart from the Bible. I must therefore agree with Jesus’ statement directed at the Pharisees and apply it to the Catholic Church or any church that teaches man’s doctrine and not God’s.

“In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” Matthew 15:9.

It is not me or any man that condemns the teaching of the Catholic Church. Rather, it is the Bible itself, the Word of God, with which Catholic doctrine does not agree.

There are many other doctrines in the Catholic theology that are taught and for which you will find no Biblical proof. In fact, many churches share beliefs in common with the Catholic Church that do not align with scripture. Among them are the observance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day instead of keeping holy the seventh day Sabbath; the teaching that the reward of the saved is heaven instead of living with Christ in a Kingdom that comes to earth; infant baptism; praying to deceased saints, transubstantiation (Passover bread & wine become actual body and blood of Christ); the belief in the Trinity, which does not define the true nature of God – to name but a few. 

Some of these teachings were carried over from the Catholic Church into Protestant churches after the Protestant Reformation. As the Catholic Church readily admits, these changes have no basis in the Bible.

Is it not time that we return to the Word of God and His authority instead of the church’s?