Authority, and submission to authority. This topic has has become the hot-button among many Christians today, especially over the past few decades, but what has totally been lost in the shuffle is: whose authority is it, and what it is for?
Interestingly enough, Jesus spoke on this subject by introducing the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and He was not referring to the ways of human authority and submission to that human authority in this context. He spoke merely about keys.
But where are these keys, and where are they to be found in practice? This a curious case, and one that will be discussed today.
Jesus spoke to His disciples about His authority working within the church, and how that authority functions by summing it up as the “keys to the kingdom of Heaven.”
“And 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.” Matt. 16:19
Jesus warned His disciples against being like the other nations and possessing authority over others. Instead, He encouraged them together to possess the keys of the kingdom, in binding and loosing. Binding and loosing is exactly opposite of what was going on in the synagogues of Jesus’ time.
The pharisees were loosing when they should have been binding, and binding when they should have been loosing. They restricted (loosed) the sinners, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the lepers from entering into the Kingdom through grace by faith. And, they joined (bound) together only with those like them to form an elitist sect of society.
Jesus rebuked the pharisees for being “blind guides” who would not enter into the kingdom, and blocked others from entering in as well. They sought to be like the other nations with extreme cast systems of the haves and have-nots, unaware of how the years of captivity of Israel under Bablyon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, ect… allowed certain traditions of man to creep in and mix-in with the orthodox teachings of the law.
The pharisees were seeking after, not the kingdom of God like Jesus taught, but for elite status and prestige, to be seen above others, to be preeminent, and they consistently misused power and authority for their own selfish gain. The keys of the kingdom were not given to them, but to the church of Jesus Christ that was being formed by the dregs of society, those considered rubbish, the despised, the throw-aways…yet these became the called out ones, the ekklesia of God.
In fact, the kingdom of God, as Jesus taught, is in direct contrast to the kingdoms of this world. This contrast can be most easily seen with those who enter in, and who exercise true Kingdom authority.
This contrast and conflict between the kingdoms of the world and the Kingdom of God explains the extreme tension between the pharisees and the disciples of Jesus. One sought to gain power and authority for themselves to be elite among the nations, the other sought for Christ to be all in all, that His Preeminence would fill the earth. The former put all their focus on their own preeminence, the latter on the Preeminence of Christ as Paul said,”(Christ being) Head over all things to the church.” (Eph. 1:22)
“And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Isa. 22:22
It seems possible that the pharisees were seeking after the keys of David that they read about in old testament scriptures and defined that as to hold authority or power over others. The key, or keys, of David is an interesting matter because of the gross misinterpretations about it. Many religious sects and cult-like groups have cited the scriptures about the key of David as justification to their treatment over others to exercise power over them.
This is not new, and has been going on since the dawn of man, but it seems that the subject of the keys of David, or more aptly, Christ, is something that is often misunderstood, or misinterpreted, with perilous results…often heavy spiritual abuse leaving many disillusioned from the faith.
Isaiah spoke about the keys of David going from the steward of the temple of the old testament, Shebna, to Elikim, who is a type and shadow of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose body is the temple of the new testament. There is a shifting in order of man to order of Christ, from the first Adam to the Last Adam, from the earthly to the Heavenly.
The keys of the kingdom Jesus referred to were the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. They are Heavenly keys, of Heavenly authority.
John in His revelation of Jesus Christ, also mentioned about these keys.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” Rev. 3:7
Paul shared on this in his letter to the Ephesians when he spoke of the saints there having ascended in Christ Jesus together, and seated together in Him, at the right hand of God…in a place of authority. What is interesting to note here, is how Paul made it clear that it is Heavenly authority, not something one has to earn by doing good deeds, but is one’s inheritance in Christ, and at the same time a corporate authority in which the Kingdom of Heaven comes upon a unison of agreement.
This authority Paul referred to was the very same power that raised Christ from the dead, and that raised those who trust in Him from the dead as well, and raised them up in Him all the way to the throne of Grace, seated in Him together where He IS. It is clear how Paul spoke of this authority, that is never for individuals who would set themselves over others, but was the working of Christ, who is Head over all things, and to the church.
This Heavenly authority works by way of submission to the Absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ, and God’s Eternal Purpose is centralized by this Lordship, or Preeminence of Christ, filling the earth.
The keys to the kingdom display the authority of Christ in His inclusiveness in the binding, and exclusiveness in the loosing — in gaining entrance to the kingdom of Heaven by the narrow gate, or the exclusion from the kingdom by choosing the wide gate of destruction.
The using of these keys is hallmarked in the proclaiming of the gospel of the kingdom of God, where as the church not only advances the kingdom, but becomes its visible reality and evidence, the manifold wisdom of God seen not only on earth, but in heavenly places.
One of the greatest challenges, even for those who have left traditional church meetings to meet in homes — and one that I have found through my own journey over the past several years– is to avoid the misuse of exclusion and to be aware of this subtle trap of becoming elite in our own minds, thinking we are the only ones who are right, so that those who are on the outside who have need to hear of the good news of the Kingdom, are not neglected, or even forsaken.
When the lost are neglected, and forsaken, it is because we do not yet know what the keys of the Kingdom are, and what they are for. But, when we Re-discover and Re-claim these keys, the opposite happens, the forsaken and neglected find total acceptance, Life and unity in Christ the One-New Man.
The True beauty of the Kingdom of God is seen in Christ’s diversity of His All-Inclusiveness and All-Exclusiveness. Like with the first century saints, the Kingdom of God is All-Inclusive where those who enter in enter through grace by faith and not by merit or social status. This Kingdom is present through the church who advances it. Yet, at the same time, the Kingdom displays the All-Exclusiveness of Christ as well with its narrow gate and ways that appear so up-side down to us.
I saw this shown beautifully recently, in the movie, “The Hobbit 2:The Desolation of Smaug” based upon the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, where only a dwarf or a hobbit, one who is small in his own eyes, could fit inside the secret door to the Lonely Mountain and gain access to the hidden kingdom of Erebor.
It is interesting to note, that in the story, it is Bilbo Baggins, the most insignificant character, who was the one who figured out how to find the key hole under the moon light, and who used the key that the True King Thorin Oakenshield had worn around his neck, to enter into the hidden kingdom through the narrow passageway.
Likewise, it is through Christ, who holds the only the right to the Kingdom of God, that one can enter in — and only through the new birth in Him. For those who have truly discovered and experienced the Kingdom, they find it’s gate is as truly narrow as Jesus claimed it to be, with one needing to become small, not large or powerful, to enter in… and also to use the Keys.
What can be learned of this is to loosen our own quest for significance, and to bind ourselves to seeking first Jesus Christ in all things, who is the Kingdom of God in all its fullness.
When doing so, we, like the church of Philadelphia, learn to walk in agape Love, towards the body of Christ as well as those who do not know Him.
So, when do the Keys to the Kingdom become lost to us? Simply put, they become lost to us when we cease giving Christ preeminence in everything, and they are recovered when we return to giving Him first place in all things. The Key belongs to the Rightful King and is used in unison with Him for His purpose, not ours. The body must submit to the Head, and this union is represented by the neck (in which joins the Head and body together) where in “The Hobbit” the key was worn by the King of Erebor.
It is time to Re-discover the Keys of the Kingdom, looking for them that hang around the neck of He who is Head over all things, and for that matter, it’s time to Re-discover the Kingdom itself, which is not just some realm or nature, but the Ruling Presence of Christ Himself.
And in doing so, we find that the keys are not for those who set themselves up as kings over all, but for the dwarfs and the hobbits, so very small and insignificant, the sinners and the tax collectors who are despised by all, and the dregs of society who are utterly forsaken. These are the ones fit for the kingdom, ones who are willing to submit to His Absolute Lordship and who instead of trying to become great in the eyes of others, would rather say…”Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”
So, you who find yourself among this motley crew of Jesus’ followers…the Keys are for you. Their purpose is to advance the Kingdom by allowing others just like you, not the exalted, but the lowly, to enter in through grace by faith in Jesus Christ the King… He who made it quite clear about who enters into His Kingdom and who exercises its authority to His rag-tag bunch of disciples when He told them, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen! (Matt. 6:13)