Many Keys, Many Treasures, Many Rooms – Brad Jersak
During a discussion I was having about Matthew 16, a teacher-friend of mine in Aberdeen pointed out Jesus’ promise to give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
- Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
Notice: keys, plural—not key, singular. If the entry to the kingdom has just one narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14) or Jesus himself is the singular Door (John 10:7-9), why not just give Peter the one key to the one door? Why keys? Was he like me, needing an extra set by misplacing them?
Rather than seeing Peter’s keys as our entry into or exclusion from the kingdom, their function in context has to do with binding and “loosing” (releasing). And not Peter only. We’ll see this same authority as work in Matthew 18, “wherever two or three are gathered in my name,” voicing together (literally, ‘symphony-ing’) God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.
In other words, the keys are not about our entry into the kingdom or family of God. Rather, they are about access to the many storehouses or treasuries of God through prayer. We’re not talking about the consumerism of the world system here, nor spiritual greed that gropes for ego-centric cravings.
Rather, the many keys may be akin to Philippians 4:19 – “God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” And what is more needful than the Pearl of Great Price himself?
Treasures Old and New:
Remember that Jesus also said, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Matthew 13:52).
Notice that the disciples—Jesus-followers—don’t need the keys to get into the kingdom of heaven. They are already in the kingdom. Their task—their keys—loose or release the treasures from the storehouse. Old treasures and new treasures here is especially about the revelation of who Jesus is!
Peter had just received that revelation:
- 15 …Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”
- 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
- 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”
Jesus is, of course, the greatest treasure of all. The riches of the revelation of Jesus are released or drawn from God’s kingdom storehouse. It includes both old treasures (Old Testament prophecies of Jesus) and new treasures (New Testament testimonies of Jesus). And these treasures are available to all who hold the keys of the kingdom, to be withdrawn and freely shared. They never run out.
On that same day, another friend—a woman who works in Cyprus (the one in the book of Acts)—asked a similar question. When Jesus promises to prepare a place for his disciples, again we see a plural: rooms. Here’s the passage:
- 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14:1-4).
The same word is also sometimes translated as dwelling places, abodes, or mansions. Later in the same chapter, Jesus uses it one more time (this time in the singular):
- “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).
This time, the NIV uses the word “home.” In whom? In “them” (though it’s singular). So take note: Jesus said he would be leaving, preparing many dwelling places for his people, and then making them his dwelling place.
I would suggest that the dwelling places he’s describing are not condominium units or mansions in the sky that we inherit after we die. Nor is the leaving and returning he describes a reference to leaving us behind in this age and coming to get us in the age to come. Don’t worry; there is an “end of the ages,” but that’s not what he’s referring to.
Rather, especially in the context of his long, intimate message from John 14-17, the “leaving” he’s referring to is consistently his death. And his “return” in this section of John is, first of all, his resurrection. He’s going somewhere they can’t go and will never need to go (Hades… on a rescue mission).
But also, there is a strong sense in these chapters that while he leaves at his ascension and returns at Pentecost so that now, Christ is in us by the Spirit. Moreover, Jesus adds that his Father, will likewise make his abode, his home, his dwelling place in each of us. The kingdom of God, consisting of many rooms, with access to many treasures, supplied with many keys is “within you” (just as Jesus had been saying all along). Better yet, you and I have become the dwelling place of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
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