The “Keys” of the Greatest Government Put to Use
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you may bind on earth will be the thing bound in the heavens, and whatever you may loose on earth will be the thing loosed in the heavens.”—Matt. 16:19.
1, 2. (a) In ancient Roman mythology, who was the supreme janitor in heaven? (b) Historically, what may be said for Jesus Christ as the holder of a key?
IS THERE a janitor or concierge up in heaven? In ancient Roman mythology Janus, the god of gods, was the supreme janitor in heaven and on earth. The temple of Janus still stands on the north side of the Roman Forum, near the Curia, but he is no longer worshiped. Nevertheless, what about the historical personage, Jesus Christ, now glorified in heaven at the right hand of the true “God of gods,” Jehovah? (Deut. 10:17) About the year 96 C.E., when dictating a letter to be sent to the congregation in Philadelphia in Asia Minor, this glorified Jesus said to the apostle John:
2 “And to the angel of the congregation in Philadelphia write: These are the things he says who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens so that no one will shut, and shuts so that no one opens, ‘I know your deeds—look! I have set before you an opened door, which no one can shut—that you have a little power, and you kept my word and did not prove false to my name.’”—Rev. 3:7, 8.
3. (a) What relationship did Jesus Christ bear to David? (b) Why did Jehovah give to Jesus Christ “the key of David,” and how does he use it?
3 Counting from David, the first Jewish king of Jerusalem, Jesus Christ is the 43rd in the royal line of descent from that famous king. With Jesus Christ that royal line ends, because he became the permanent heir of the kingdom of David. (Luke 3:23-31) For that reason Jehovah God gave to his glorified Son “the key of David.” The kingdom of David was a typical theocracy, a typical kingdom of God. (1 Chron. 29:23; 2 Chron. 13:5, 8) In the hands of the glorified descendant of David, Jesus Christ, this kingdom becomes a real, antitypical kingdom of God. As rightful holder of “the key of David,” he opens up or shuts down privileges and opportunities to persons on earth with reference to the kingdom of God.
4, 5. Near Caesarea Philippi, what privileges did Jesus Christ say that he would confer upon faithful Peter?
4 Looking forward to opening up privileges of service to his faithful apostle Simon Peter, Jesus once said to him: “You are Peter [Greek: Petros; Latin, Petrus], and on this rock-mass [Greek: tautēi tēi petrai; Latin: hanc petram] I will build my congregation, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you may bind on earth will be the thing bound in the heavens, and whatever you may loose on earth will be the thing loosed in the heavens.”—Matt. 16:18, 19.
5 Jesus said those historic words some time after the Passover of 32 C.E., in the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, near the headwaters of the Jordan River.—Matt. 16:13-17.
WHEN GIVEN AND USED
6. Those “keys of the kingdom of the heavens” were of what kind, and what did they represent?
6 Like “the key of David,” the “keys of the kingdom of the heavens” were not literal, material keys of an earthly kind. They were spiritual keys, namely, the privilege, honor, assignment and authority to initiate or open up a program of information, instruction and personal intervention with respect to the kingdom of the heavens. By means of this, those persons who chose to seek first the kingdom of the heavens could take advantage of the provision that God then made available through Jesus Christ, the Heir of the heavenly kingdom. Thus they entered into something not open to them before.
7. Earlier, at Jerusalem, Jesus had revealed to Nicodemus that basic conditions for anyone to enter into the heavenly kingdom of God?
7 Two years earlier, at Jerusalem, Jesus had revealed to a ruler of the Jews, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, certain basic conditions that a believer had to fulfill to gain entrance into the heavenly kingdom of God. Jesus said: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” What, “born again” from his same human mother? No, but Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit.”—John 3:1-6.
8. Would it be logical for anyone not already a baptized, spirit-begotten Christian to possess and use such “keys,” and what example do we have in this regard?
8 So could a person who was not himself already “born from water and spirit,” not already a baptized, spirit-begotten Christian, possess and use the “keys” to open up to others the entryway into God’s heavenly kingdom? This would hardly be logical. Thus the “keys of the kingdom of the heavens” were not given to John, even though he baptized Jesus and was the first to preach: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.”—Matt. 3:1, 2.
9. How do we know whether Peter was spirit-begotten when he was given the first of the “keys,” and what about the circumcised Ethiopian proselyte mentioned in Acts 8:27, 28?
9 Well, then, was the apostle Peter spirit-begotten when Jesus Christ gave him the first of the “keys” to use? Yes, for, on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., Jehovah God used the glorified Jesus to baptize with the holy spirit about 120 disciples, including Peter, who were waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem. First after Peter had thus been begotten by God’s spirit, he rose up to speak to more than 3,000 Jews and circumcised proselytes who gathered to witness how the prophecy of Joel 2:28, 29 had begun to be fulfilled. If the circumcised Ethiopian proselyte who is mentioned in Acts 8:27, 28 was among the “reverent men” then dwelling in Jerusalem on that day of Pentecost, he did not get over from the temple to hear Peter. (Acts 2:1-12) But he got his opportunity later on.
10. When and how did Peter use the first of the “keys”?
10 Peter forthrightly told those thousands of observers that they had committed a crime as a religious community by impaling Jesus Christ 52 days previously. Then those conscience-stricken “reverent men” asked: “Men, brothers, what shall we do?” Peter was the one to answer: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all those afar off, just as many as Jehovah our God may call to him.” Peter continued on. “And with many other words he bore thorough witness and kept exhorting them, saying: ‘Get saved from this crooked generation.’” (Acts 2:14-40) Thus the spirit-begotten Peter used the first of the “keys.”
11. How did thousands of those listening to Peter get “born again” or “born from water and spirit”?
11 Did any of those natural Jews go in through the now open entryway as Jews to whose forefathers Jehovah God had made the promise of Joel 2:28, 29? Acts 2:41, 42 answers: “Therefore those who embraced his word [Peter’s word] heartily were baptized, and on that day about three thousand souls were added. And they continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to sharing with one another, to taking of meals and to prayers.” Through their getting baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ and thereafter receiving the free gift of the holy spirit, they were “born again,” “born from water and spirit.”—John 3:3, 5.
FOR WHOM THE SECOND KEY WAS USED
12, 13. (a) If Peter had needed to use only one key, what would this have meant? (b) However, what did Jesus say about this to his disciples just before his ascension to heaven?
12 Peter had been promised, not one key, but “the keys of the kingdom of the heavens.” This meant at least two keys. So, when was he given the second key, and in behalf of whom? If Peter had needed only one key, then only natural Jews and circumcised Jewish proselytes would make up the 144,000 whom Jesus Christ builds upon himself as the rock-mass to be his complete spirit-begotten congregation. (Matt. 16:18; Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1-3) But was the heavenly salvation to be limited to only those admitted by Peter’s use of a key on the day of Pentecost? Well, what did Jesus say just before he ascended to heaven on the 40th day from his resurrection? On that day, in the vicinity of Jerusalem, he said to his disciples:
13 “In this way it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from among the dead on the third day, and on the basis of his name repentance for forgiveness of sins would be preached in all the nations—starting out from Jerusalem, you are to be witnesses of these things. And, look! I am sending forth upon you that which is promised by my Father [in Joel 2:28, 29]. You, though, abide in the city until you become clothed with power from on high.”—Luke 24:46-49.
14, 15. According to Acts 1:8, how did Jesus make distinctions with regard to extending the preaching of repentance to “all the nations”?
14 However, according to Acts 1:8, Jesus went into more detail as to how the preaching of repentance on the basis of his name was to be extended progressively to “all the nations.” There he said: “But you will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”
15 Here Jesus divided off Samaria from “all Judea.” For that matter, all along through his earthly ministry he distinguished between circumcised natural Jews and circumcised Samaritans.
16. How did it come about that on his way back to Galilee Jesus spent two days with the residents of the Samaritan city of Sychar?
16 After the Passover of 30 C.E., during the first year of his public activity, he had to pass through Samaria on his way from Judea to Galilee. In that connection it was observed that “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” (John 4:9) However, at Jacob’s fountain near the city of Sychar, Jesus chose to talk to a Samaritan woman. She proved to be, in fact, the first person to whom Jesus confessed that he was the Messiah or Christ. Was this because she was not a Jewess? (Matt. 16:20) Moreover, at the invitation of the Samaritan residents of Sychar, he and his apostles stayed with the Samaritans for two days and talked to them. A number of them believed and said to the Samaritan woman who had borne witness to them: “We do not believe any longer on account of your talk; for we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man is for a certainty the savior of the world.”—John 4:39-43.
17. What position did Jesus take toward those believing Samaritans and water baptism?
17 Yet, even after this, Jesus continued to draw a difference between Jews and Samaritans, despite the belief of some Samaritans in him. Did Jesus call for any of those believing Samaritans to be baptized in water with John’s baptism? No! This was significant, inasmuch as immediately before the account of Jesus’ visit to Samaritan Sychar, it is written: “When, now, the Lord became aware that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John—although, indeed, Jesus himself did no baptizing but his disciples did—he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. But it was necessary for him to go through Samaria. Accordingly he came to a city of Samaria called Sychar near the field that Jacob gave to Joseph his son. In fact, Jacob’s fountain was there.”—John 4:1-6.
18. Two years later, when Jesus was passing through Samaria on his way to Jerusalem, what attitude did Samaritan villagers show?
18 Did things go so favorably for Jesus two years later? He and his disciples were going in the opposite direction, to attend the Jewish festival of the booths at Jerusalem. Then Jesus’ messengers “went their way and entered into a village of Samaritans, to make preparation for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set for going [whither?] to Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they said: ‘Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and annihilate them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. So they went to a different village.” (Luke 9:51-56) Had Jesus yielded to the violent temper of James and John, this might have prejudiced the Samaritans against Christianity.
19. (a) When Jesus sent out the 12 apostles by twos, what instructions did he give concerning Samaria? (b) According to John 8:47, 48, what was the attitude of Jews in general toward Samaritans?
19 Even a year earlier, before the Passover of 32 C.E., when Jesus sent out the apostles to preach by twos, he said to them: “Do not go off into the road of the nations, and do not enter into a Samaritan city; but, instead, go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, preach, saying: ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matt. 10:5-7; Luke 9:1-6) Months later, after the festival of the booths of 32 C.E., Jesus sent out the 70 evangelizers and gave them instructions like those given to the 12 apostles. The villages and cities in which they preached God’s kingdom were probably in Judea, not in Samaria. (Luke 10:1-24) They made no report of visiting Samaritan places. They went to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Why so? Because those evangelizers were not given authority greater than that of apostles. The general attitude of the Jews toward Samaritans was betrayed when Jesus told the unbelieving Jews that they were not from God, and they retorted: “You are a Samaritan and have a demon.”—John 8:47, 48.
20. Why did the Samaritans not get any benefit from Peter’s use of the first of the “keys of the kingdom” at Pentecost in Jerusalem, and so what question arises?
20 Jesus made a distinction between Samaritans and Jews when he said to the Samaritan woman: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews.” (John 4:22) Jesus classified a Samaritan as a “man of another nation” or, more literally, “of another race.” (Luke 17:16-18; see word-for-word reading of Kingdom Interlinear Translation.)a The Samaritans, who worshiped at Mount Gerizim, did not attend the Pentecost in Jerusalem in 33 C.E. So they got no benefit from Peter’s use of the first of the “keys of the kingdom of the heavens.” (Acts 2:5-11) When, therefore, did the 12 apostles give Samaria their attention after the holy spirit had been poured out at Jerusalem that they might share in what Jesus foretold in Acts 1:8?
21. How did Philip the evangelizer come to be in Samaria, and why did much joy result from his presence?
21 After Pentecost many things happened to the Christian congregation in Jerusalem. Persecution that followed the martyrdom of Stephen scattered all the members of the congregation from Jerusalem except the 12 apostles. (Acts 8:1-5) Not by apostolic orders and instructions, but because of the persecution, Philip, a close fellow worker of Stephen, and other Jewish Christians fled north to the district of Samaria. (Acts 6:1-6; 21:8) There Philip, who had been favored with the gift of miracles by God’s spirit, preached the good news about the resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ and performed many miraculous signs in the way of healings. “So there came to be a great deal of joy in that city.”—Acts 8:8.
22. Because of the water baptism of many Samaritan men and women at the hands of Phillip, what question comes up?
22 What was the effect of this? “When they believed Philip, who was declaring the good news of the kingdom of God and of the name of Jesus Christ, they proceeded to be baptized, both men and women.” This included a certain magician named Simon who “had been practicing magical arts and amazing the nation of Samaria.” (Acts 8:9, 12, 13) At this point the question arises, Were those believing Samaritans born “from water and spirit”? Well, the water of baptism had entered into the matter, but what about the spirit? If they had become spirit-begotten after their water baptism, then Philip was the one who opened the way for this new group, Samaritans, into the “kingdom of the heavens.” But did he really do so, although he was not one of the 12 apostles? What does the inspired record show?
23. Why is Phillip not reported as making any promise of the holy spirit to the Samaritan candidates for baptism in Jesus’ name?
23 This Philip was not one of the apostles to whom Jesus said: “Whatever things you may bind on earth will be things bound in heaven, and whatever things you may loose on earth will be things loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 18:18; 16:19; 10:2-4; John 1:43-48) So Philip is not reported as making any promises of the gift of the holy spirit to the Samaritans in connection with their water baptism. He was not authorized to say, as Peter did to the Jews on the day of Pentecost: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.”—Acts 2:38.
24. (a) Did the Samaritans, by getting circumcised and keeping feasts set out in Moses’ writings, get into the Mosiac Law covenant? (b) After water baptism in Jesus’ name, were they at once born “from water and spirit”?
24 The Samaritans were not in the Law covenant Moses had mediated for the Israelites at Mount Sinai, even though the Samaritans viewed the first five books of Moses, the Pentateuch, as God’s Word and observed a Passover and a Pentecost at Mount Gerizim in the district of Samaria. (2 Ki. 17:29, 30; John 4:19, 20) So their circumcision of the flesh did not of itself make them Jewish proselytes. The Samaritans were not implicated in the impalement of Jesus and so did not need to be baptized in water for God’s forgiveness of such a gross sin for which there should be repentance. But the Samaritans got baptized at Philip’s hands in the name of Jesus Christ as being the Messiah (Christ) and “the savior of the world.” (John 4:25, 26, 28, 29, 42) Did they, on this account, become “born from water and spirit”? No! For they did not then get the holy spirit.
25. How does Acts 8:14-17 show why the baptized Samaritans had not been born from water and spirit?
25 Why was this? Acts 8:14-17 tells us: “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they dispatched Peter and John to them; and these went down and prayed for them to get holy spirit. For it had not yet fallen upon any one of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they [Peter and John as apostles] went laying their hands upon them, and they [the baptized Samaritans] began to receive holy spirit.” This does not mean simply miraculous spiritual gifts.
26. Thus the baptized Samaritans become qualified for what privilege, and Peter, in the presence of John, made use of what instrument?
26 Here first the baptized Samaritans became “born” from spirit as well as from water and were qualified to enter God’s heavenly kingdom. (John 3:5) The activity of the spirit here was like that reported later in Acts 10:44-46 and Ac 11:15-17. Thus in behalf of the believing baptized Samaritans the apostle Peter used the second of the “keys of the kingdom of the heavens.” True, the apostle John was there with Peter, but, earlier, on the day of Pentecost, 11 other apostles were with key-bearing Peter.—See also Matthew 18:1, 18.
27. How does Acts 8:18-23 show Peter taking the lead in dealing with Simon the former magician?
27 Peter’s priority is borne out by what Acts 8:18-23 next tells us: “Now when Simon [the magician] saw that through the laying on of the hands of the apostles the spirit was given, he offered them money, saying: ‘Give me also this authority, that anyone upon whom I lay my hands may receive holy spirit.’ But Peter said to him: ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought through money to get possession of the free gift of God. You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not straight in the sight of God. Repent, therefore, of this badness of yours, and supplicate Jehovah that, if possible, the device of your heart may be forgiven you; for I see you are a poisonous gall and a bond of unrighteousness.’” This indicates that Peter was taking the lead as Christ’s principal agent on this occasion. As the one to whom the keys of the Kingdom had been committed, he spoke.
28. To whom else was the Kingdom opportunity then open, and where did the spirit-begotten Samaritans begin worshiping?
28 From then on the same opportunity could be presented to others in the district of Samaria. Accordingly, Acts 8:25 tells us: “Therefore, when they [Peter and John] had given the witness thoroughly and had spoken the word of Jehovah, they turned back to Jerusalem, and they went declaring the good news to many villages of the Samaritans.” Now the baptized, spirit-begotten Samaritans began to worship their heavenly Father, Jehovah, neither on Mount Gerizim nor at Jerusalem, but in his great spiritual temple.—John 4:21.b
29. After Saul’s conversion to Christianity, what happened to the spirit-begotten congregation in Judea, Galilee and Samaria, and where did Phillip settle down?
29 Philip and other Jewish Christians had been obliged to flee down to Samaria because of the persecution promoted by the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus. But after Saul himself was converted to Christianity, things changed for the congregation in Palestine. “Then,” according to Acts 9:31, “indeed, the congregation throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria entered into a period of peace, being built up; and as it walked in the fear of Jehovah and in the comfort of the holy spirit it kept on multiplying.” Philip, however, finally settled down in the seaport city of Caesarea, where the Roman governor of the province of Judea had his headquarters and where an Italian band of soldiers was stationed.—Acts 8:40; 21:8; 10:1; 23:23-35.
a See Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 1, p. 266, under allogenēsʹ.
b All of this took place during the latter half of the final week of the “seventy weeks” of years foretold in Daniel 9:24-27a. During that 70th “week” Jehovah God was keeping in force toward the natural Israelites the Abrahamic covenant in which the Israelites found themselves by natural descent from Abraham. (Gen. 12:1-3; 22:18) In contrast with Philip who fled from the persecution to Samaria, Acts 11:19 tells us: “Those who had been scattered by the tribulation that arose over Stephen went through as far as Phoenicia and [the island of] Cyprus and Antioch [in Syria], but speaking the word to no one except to Jews only.” The 70th “week” of special favor to the natural Jews because of the Abrahamic covenant ended in early autumn of 36 C.E., it having begun with Jesus’ baptism and anointing in 29 C.E. So the admittance of the baptized Samaritans to the heavenly Kingdom privileges did not open the way for all other non-Jews “to the most distant part of the earth” or spearhead the great flow of such uncircumcised Gentiles into the spirit-begotten Christian congregation.
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The Key of David