CHAPTER XXVI

PERIOD OF RETIREMENTS OF JESUS FROM THE LAND OF ISRAEL

ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
(Matthew 14:1-17:20)


14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report of Jesus 2 and said to his servants, This one is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead; and, therefore, powers are working in him. 3 For Herod had arrested John, and bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of Philip, his brother. 4 For John kept saying to him, It is not lawful for you to have her. 5 And, though he wished to kill him, he was afraid of the multitude, because they held him as a prophet. 6 But on the occasion of Herod's birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced in their midst, and she pleased Herod; 7 whereupon with an oath he swore to give her whatever she might ask. 8 And being incited by her mother, she said, Give me here upon a platter the head of John the Baptist. 9 Though the king was saddened, because of the oath and those reclining with him, he ordered it to be given; 10 and he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the maiden, and she brought it to her mother. 12 Then his disciples came, and took the body, and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus. 13 When Jesus heard these things, He departed from thence in a boat unto a desert place privately; and the multitudes, hearing, followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And going forth, Jesus saw a great multitude, and was moved with pity toward them, and healed their sicknesses. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to Him, saying, This place is desolate, and the hour has already passed; send the multitudes away, in order that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves. 16 But Jesus said to them, They do not have any need to go away; you give them something to eat 17 But they said to Him, Here we have nothing except five loaves and two fishes. 18 Then He said, Bring them here to me. 19 And He ordered the multitudes to recline upon the grass; took the five loaves and the two fishes; looked toward heaven; gave thanks; and, having broken, gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave them to the multitudes. 20 And all ate and were filled, and they took up that which remained over of the broken fragments, twelve baskets full. 21 And those eating were men, about five thousand, apart from women and children.

22 And immediately Jesus had the disciples get into a boat and to precede Him to the other side, until He should send the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into the mountain privately to pray; and, when it was evening, He was there alone. 24 But the boat already was many furlongs distant from the land and was being lashed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. 25 In the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking upon the sea. 26 And seeing Him walking on the water, the disciples became terrified, saying, It is a ghost; and they cried out from fear. 27 Immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good courage; it is I; cease being afraid. 28 And replying to Him, Peter said, Lord, if it be Thou, order me to come to Thee on the water. 29 And He said, Come. And getting down out of the boat, Peter walked upon the water and went to Jesus. 30 But, when he saw the wind, he became frightened, and began to sink, and cried out, saying, Lord, save me. 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, took hold of him, and said to him, You
are of little faith; why did you doubt? 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased; 33 and in the boat they knelt before Him, saying, Truly, Thou art the Son of God.

34 Crossing over to the other side, they came to the land, to Gennesaret. 35 The men of that place recognized Him, and sent to that entire region round about, and brought to Him all that were sick. 36 And they kept imploring Him that they might just touch the border of His garment, and as many as touched were completely healed.

15 At that time Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do Thy disciples transgress the traditions of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat food. 3 But replying, He said to them, Why do you also transgress the commandment of God on account of your tradition? 4 For God said, Honor your father and your mother, and whoever speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death. 5 But you say, Whoever says to his father or his mother, That wherewith you might have been profited by me is given to God, 6 he shall by no means honor his father or his mother. You nullify the word of God because of your traditions. 7 Hypocrites, accurately Isaiah prophesied concerning you, saying,

8 This people with their lips honor me,
But their heart is far from me.
9 Vainly they worship me,
Teaching for doctrines commandments of men.¹

¹ Isaiah 29:13.

10 Then He called the multitude and said to them, Listen and understand: 11 not that which enters into the mouth defiles the man, but that proceeding out of the mouth, this defiles the man. 12 Then the disciples came to Him, saying, Dost Thou know that the Pharisees,
upon hearing this message, were offended? 13 And replying, He said, Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind leaders of the blind; and, if one blind man leads another, both will fall into the pit.

15 Replying, Peter said to Him, Explain to us this parable. 16 And He said, Even now are you also without understanding? 17 Do you not know that everything entering into the mouth goes into the stomach and then is cast out into the draught? 18 But the things coming out of the mouth come forth out of the heart, and these things defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts: murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness,
and blasphemies. 20 These are the things defiling the man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile the man.

21 When Jesus left there, He withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanitish woman of those regions came and kept crying out, saying, Have mercy upon me, Lord, Son of David. My daughter is terribly demonized. 23 But He did not answer her a word. Then His disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send her away, because she keeps crying after us. 24 Then replying, He said, I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25 Then she came and knelt before Him, saying, Lord, help me. 26 Replying, He said, It is not fitting to take the children's loaf and to throw it to the little dogs. 27 Then she said, Yes, Lord, for even the little dogs
always eat of the crumbs falling from the table of their masters. 28 Then replying, Jesus said to her, 0 woman, great is your faith! Let it be done as you will. And her daughter was healed from that hour.

29 Now when Jesus left that place, He went along the sea of Galilee, and went up into the mountain, and kept sitting there. 30 And great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, the crippled, the blind, the dumb, and many others, and laid them at His feet; and He healed them, 31 so that the multitude marveled when they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled made whole, and the lame walking around, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

32 And Jesus called His disciples and said, I am moved with pity toward the multitude, because already three days they have remained with me, and they do not have anything to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the road. 33 And the disciples said to Him, Whence can we get bread enough in this desert place so as to fill such a multitude? 34 And Jesus said to them, How many loaves do you have? They said to Him, Seven loaves and a few small fishes. 35 And Jesus commanded the multitude to recline on the ground, 36 and He took the seven loaves and the fishes; and, having returned thanks, He broke and kept giving to the disciples; and the disciples,
in turn, to the multitudes. 37 And all ate and were filled, and of the fragments which remained, they took up seven baskets full. 38 And those eating were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 When Jesus had sent the multitudes away, He got into a boat and went into the regions of Magadan.

16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up and, to test Him, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 And replying, He said unto them,² When it is evening, you say,
It will be fair weather: for the heaven is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the heaven is red and lowering. You know how to discern the face of the heaven; but you cannot discern the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation constantly seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. Then he left, and He went away.

² "The following words to the end of verse 3 are omitted by some of the most ancient and other important authorities" (American Standard Version).

5 When the disciples went to the other side
of the lake, they forgot to take bread. 6 And Jesus said to them, Look out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 7 But they thought within themselves, saying, We took no bread. 8 But knowing it, Jesus said, Why reason among yourselves, 0 you of little faith, because you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet know, and do you not remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets full you took up? 10 Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets full you took up? 11 How do you not consider that not of bread I spoke to you? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 12 Then they understood that He spoke not to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

13 As Jesus was coming into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is? 14 They said, Some
say, John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. 15 He said to them, But who do you say that I am? 16 Replying, Simon Peter said, Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God. 17 Replying, Jesus said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father, who is in heaven. 18 And I say to you that you are Peter [Gr. Petros], and upon this rock [Gr. Petra] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I shall give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind upon the earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose upon the earth will have been loosed in heaven. 20 Then He strictly charged the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Messiah.

21 From that time
and forward, Messiah Jesus began to show clearly to His disciples that it behooved Him to go to Jerusalem, to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be killed, and to be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him and began to reprove Him, saying, Lord, may God be merciful to Thee; this shall by no means come to Thee. 23 Turning, He said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan; for you are a stumbling block of mine, because you are not considering the things of God, but the things of men.

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wills to come after me, let him deny himself, and let him take up his cross and keep on following me. 25 For whoever wills to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life because of me will find it. 26 For what is a man profited if he gain the entire world, but forfeit his own life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then will He render to everyone according to His practice. 28 In solemn truth I am telling you that some of those who are standing here will by no means taste of death until they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom.

17 And after six days Jesus took Peter, and James, and John his brother, and led them up into a high mountain privately. 2 And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as the light. 3 And, behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Replying, Peter said to Jesus, Lord, it is good that we are here. If Thou art willing, I shall make here three tabernacles: one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. 5 While he was talking, behold, a white cloud overshadowed them; and there was a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is My Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him. 6 And the disciples heard, and fell upon their faces, and became exceedingly afraid. 7 Jesus came and touching them said, Get up and stop being afraid. 8 When they lifted their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus only.

9 And as they were coming down out of the mountain, Jesus strictly charged them, saying Tell the vision to no man until the Son of man is raised from the dead. 10 And the disciples asked Him, saying, Why, then, do the scribes say that it is necessary for Elijah to come first? 11 And replying, He said Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I am telling you that Elijah already has come, and they did not recognize him, but they did in his case whatever they wished; in like manner also will the Son of man suffer by them. 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.

14 When they came to the multitude, a man came to Him, falling on his knees and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy upon my son, because he is an epileptic, and he is sick, for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought Him to Thy disciples, and they have not been able to heal him. 17 Replying, Jesus said, 0 generation without faith and perverted, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me. 18 And Jesus rebuked it, and the demon came out of him, and the child was healed from that hour.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, Why were we not able to cast it out? 20 And He said to them, On account of your little faith; for in solemn truth I am telling you that, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will speak to this mountain, Remove from here to there, and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible to you.

CHRONOLOGICALLY Matthew 14:1-17:20 covers the first six months of the last year of the public ministry of Jesus. By this time the opposition against Him had grown to such an extent that it became necessary for Him to retire from Galilee into Gentile territory. At first He went across the sea of Galilee to the northeastern shore and fed five thousand men, besides women and children, who followed Him from various parts of the country (Matt. 14:15-33). After feeding the five thousand, He came back to the west side of the sea, landing in the place called Gennesaret. Upon arrival, He was met by a great host of people, including His enemies, as well as many who brought their sick to Him for healing (Matt. 14:34-36). Thereupon Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem attacked Him because His disciples were not observing the traditions of the elders in regard to washing their hands before eating (Matt. 15:1-20). Immediately He withdrew from the Holy Land into the regions of Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 15:21-28) and healed the daughter of a Canaanitish woman.

Leaving those parts, He returned to the country east of the sea of Galilee, called Decapolis, a circle of ten cities, where He fed a vast multitude—four thousand men, besides women and children (Matt. 15:29-39).

Then He took a boat crossing to the west side of the sea of Galilee. But, being attacked again by the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who demanded that He perform a sign from heaven, He left immediately with His disciples. Landing on the northeastern coast of the sea, He went into the regions of Caesarea Philippi for a short while (Matt. 16:5-17:21). From this fourth retirement, He returned to Galilee.

I. FEEDING THE MULTITUDES
(Matthew 14:13-21, 15:29-39)

Matthew 14:13-21 contains an account of the feeding of the five thousand upon Christ's first retirement. In Matthew 15:29-39 appears the account of the second feeding of a multitude—four thousand. Feeding the multitudes on these two occasions was miraculous. What indeed is a miracle? As intimated previously, a miracle is an act of God which causes wonderment on the part of men. But are not miracles contrary to the laws of nature?

God's moral government extends throughout the universe. He feeds His creatures every day by causing the rain to fall and the sun to shine. More explicitly, He gives man his daily bread, but does so by acting in His regular way. He gathers elements from earth, air, and water, and compounds them in the proper proportions in His little laboratory of stalks of grain, and extends the process over a period of months. People become so very much accustomed to His regular way of giving them food that they lose sight of the fact that it is the eternal God who is feeding them and think of the entire situation as if it were a process resulting from cold, inanimate laws of nature. For God to by pass His regular procedure of feeding humanity and to produce food in a manner which is called miraculous is out of the ordinary—an exception to the rule. An illustration of this principle is seen in the Gospel Records. The Lord Jesus miraculously fed above five thousand men, besides women and children, on a given occasion. He performed the miracle which produced actual bread and flesh of fish that satisfied the hungry multitude. On that occasion He gathered the elements necessary for the production of bread and of fish from earth, air, and water and compounded them in the proper proportions, acting upon the grain in such a way that those elements were in the same condition as if they had been grown in the field and had been ground and baked in an oven. The same phenomenon is true in regard to the fishes. His acting thus was an occasion of filling a rush order in a given emergency. Throughout the Scriptures—both Old and New Testaments—are records of miracles wrought by various messengers of God and by the Saviour himself.

But the philosopher David Hume, as previously indicated, asserted that miracles are incredible. He thus denied that Jesus Christ fed the five thousand, as the Gospels clearly state. Both Matthew and John who were present assert that Christ did perform that miracle. Hume was not present, yet he had the temerity to say, in substance, that the record is false—the record of these two credible witnesses who were present, saw, and knew the facts concerning which they testified, namely, that Jesus did perform this miracle.

II. THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES

Notwithstanding the fact that Jesus had performed many miracles, which were His credentials proving His Messiahship and divine mission, certain Pharisees and Sadducees came to Him in an effort to trap Him. They asked Him for a sign from heaven. He stated that they could read the heavens as to whether or not there would be foul or fair weather, but could not read the signs of the times which proved that they were in Messianic times and that the Messiah had already come. That none are so blind as those who will not see is universally true. If a person does not want the truth on a given point, no matter how clear and how positive the evidence supporting it may be, it will not be convincing to him. One has to will to do the will of God in order to see the truth. To will to do the will of God is to determine in the depths of one's soul to obey the will of God regardless of circumstances or what the price may be.

Certain signs foretold by the prophets are indicative of the closing of this age. For instance, the unanimous testimony of Moses and the Prophets is that in the end time there will be a falling away from God and from clean, chaste living. Another sign of the end of the age is peoples turning away from the Word of God to fables and fancies. One of the sure signs of the end of the age is the development of the world situation. According to Daniel the Prophet, in the end time a world government—a super-kingdom over all nations—will develop. This kingdom will devour the whole earth, tread it down, and break it in pieces; and its ruler will reign with an iron hand. Everyone who knows the political trend of today realizes that such a regime is now in the making. The strife between capital and labor likewise is another sign of the end of the age.

But there is what is properly called the
sign, the infallible, the unmistakable sign of the end of the age and the Second Coming of the Messiah. This question is discussed in the notes on Matthew, chapter 24, of this volume, page 297ff.

III. PETER'S CONFESSION OF JESUS AS THE MESSIAH
(Matthew 16:13-20)

When Jesus and His apostles came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked them concerning what men thought of Him, the Son of man. In the six months preceding this period of retirement, Jesus had sent the twelve apostles throughout Galilee, preaching. They had come in contact with the people and had felt the pulse of the great Galilean populace. Hence Jesus asked them what expressions they had heard from the people concerning Himself.

According to their replies, some said that He was John the Baptist, who had been killed, but had been raised from the dead. Others were of the opinion that He was Elijah the Prophet, who, according to the last two verses of Malachi, is scheduled to appear before the great and terrible day of Jehovah; yet others declared that Jesus was Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. From these various answers one can see that the people were thinking about Jesus and were strongly impressed by Him. Something profound and mysterious about Him made them believe that He was one of the prophets who had been raised from the dead.

Turning to the apostles, Jesus asked who they thought He was. Peter instantly replied: "Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God." The word
Messiah means "anointed." Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed in the Old Testament days by an authorized representative of God, inducting them into their official positions. The term anointed applied to these three offices. The anointed one was generally understood to be the king unless there were indications pointing to one of the other positions. The prophet Samuel anointed Saul to be king over Israel. When the Lord rejected Saul, Samuel anointed David as king. Thus these two became known as the Lord's anointed. So were all the kings that sat upon the throne of David. Such being the significance of the word anointed, Peter's use of it indicated that Jesus was the King of Israel, the Son of the living God, the God-man. Peter saw and recognized the truth that the Messiah of Israel is the Son of God—in a peculiar and unique sense, in which no one else can be called a Son of God. In the recognition of this truth, Peter was simply repeating what the prophets had said.

Isaiah, for instance, saw the Messiah of Israel reigning, not only over Israel, but over the entire world: "6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:6,7).

This prophecy foretells the coming of a child, namely, a son—the Son of God—who is given to Israel. He is recognized as the Wonderful one, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. He is to mount the throne of David and establish a well-organized righteous government in Israel. His rule will spread and increase until it includes all nations, tribes, tongues, and people. He will reign in righteousness. Jeremiah the Prophet saw a vision of the same one, the Messiah of Israel, the Son of the living God. In the following prophecy Jeremiah saw the one who is called the Branch, a descendant of the house of David reigning over Judah and Israel in righteousness and recognized as "Jehovah our righteousness." When He comes to reign, He will perform miracles which will so far eclipse all those that were wrought when Moses led Israel out of Egyptian bondage that they will never come to mind again.

5 Behold, the days come, salth Jehovah, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness. 7 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that they shall no more say, As Jehovah liveth, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 8 but, As Jehovah liveth, who brought up and who led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries whither I had driven them. And they shall dwell in their own land (Jer. 23:5-8).

Zechariah also saw Messiah and spoke of Him:

... 12 and speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh Jehovah of hosts, saying, Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: and he shall grow up out of his place; and he shall build the temple of Jehovah; 13 even he shall build the temple of Jehovah; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (Zech. 6:12, 13).

It becomes increasingly evident that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the fulfillment of the Messianic predictions which foretold that God would enter the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth and restore Israel eventually to favor with Himself and to the position of being head of the nations instead of the tail, as at the present day.

Replying to Jesus, Peter said, "Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus formed His reply after the pattern used by Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon, Bar-Jonah [the son of Jonah]." But there is a great contrast between the two men and the expressions, "Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God" and "You are Simon, Bar-Jonah." One is God in human form; the other is simply a man.

That Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, was revealed to Peter by God Himself: "... flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." God made a special revelation to Peter regarding Jesus' being Messiah, the Son of the living God. What He did for Peter, He will do for anyone else who wills to do the will of God—as Jesus promised: "If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or
whether I speak from myself" (John 7:17).

To you, my friend, I wish to say that, if you are in doubt as to Jesus' being the Messiah, the Son of the living God, but wish to know from the very depths of your soul, you can and will know—provided you are willing to do the will of God, even at all costs and at all hazards. If you want to know the will of God in order that you might carry it out in your own life, the God of truth will lead and guide you providentially and bring the truth to you so that you can take your stand upon it, be blessed, and be used of Him in a mighty way. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6).

Peter's original name was Simon. When, however, Simon answered the call to follow Christ, Jesus gave him the name
Cephus, an Aramaic term which means "a stone"; and, at the time Simon made this great confession, Jesus spoke to him by his new name Peter, a Greek word meaning "a small stone." The Lord gave Peter this name by way of anticipation. By nature Peter was very impetuous and went to extremes. When, however, the Spirit of God came into his heart, he became like a solid rock, standing for the right and for the truth. Eventually, if tradition be true, he laid down his life in martyrdom for the Lord, whom he loved and served.

Jesus said to Peter, moreover, "And upon this rock I will build my church." The word rendered
rock in this sentence is the Greek term petra. This word is in the feminine gender and means "a large solid ledge of rock." It is in contrast with petros—in English, Peter, a word in the masculine gender which, as just stated, means "a small rock." When Jesus said, "Upon this petra," He was not speaking of Peter whom He called Petros, a little stone. Upon what then did Jesus say He would build His church? G. Abbott Smith, in his Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, shows very beautifully the contrast between the words petros and petra. In defining petra, he states: "A rock, i.e., a mass of live rock as distinct from petros, a detached stone or boulder." In the imagery that Jesus used, He declared that He would build His church upon a massive large rock, which is different from the one used to represent Peter—a small stone or boulder. Upon what was the Church built? Upon the great truth that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Jewish Messiah, the Son of the living God. In speaking of the foundation of the Church, the Apostle Paul declared, "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 3: 11). Jesus was rejected and was executed, but was raised from the grave on the third day in accordance with Old Testament prediction. Concerning the Resurrection, the Apostle Paul wrote that Christ "was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead ..." (Rom. 1:4). The crowning proof that Jesus of Nazareth was and is Messiah, the Son of the living God, is His Resurrection from the dead in power and glory. On the day of Pentecost (Acts, chapter 2), the same Apostle Peter declared to a vast throng of people in Jerusalem: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified" (Acts 2:36). Thus the foundation of the Church was laid on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection of Christ. This foundation was the great fact proclaimed by Peter on that occasion: that God had made Jesus both Lord and Christ—demonstrating this fact to the world by the Resurrection of Christ.

According to this prediction, Jesus intended to establish His Church upon the great fundamental fact which He speaks of as a solid rock. He then made a further revelation : "... and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." The imagery here used doubtless was borrowed from the locality where Jesus was when He made this prediction. Cities in Palestine and surrounding countries are usually built on knolls. Sometimes they are called mountains. Jesus pictures a city as located on one such knoll. Then He speaks of another one on which He himself expects to build a city, His Church. The authorities of the existing city—the kingdom of Satan—will send their forces through their gates against those who are attempting to build this new city—the Kingdom of Christ. The opposition will not succeed, but will fail in reaching its objective. The Church's foundation was laid on Pentecost. Since that time God's servants have been building upon that one foundation. Satan and his emissaries have launched persecution after persecution and attack after attack against the building of this great spiritual edifice, but they have not succeeded, and they never will.

Jesus promised to give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the Church. What is the significance of these words? Keys are the means by which doors and gates are locked or unlocked. On the day of Pentecost, Peter was granted the privilege to open the gates of the kingdom of heaven, or the doors of the Church. The Lord honored him in the same way at the conversion of the first Gentiles to the Christian faith (Acts, chapter 10). On both occasions, Peter told the people how they could enter by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Was it granted to Peter to pass on the keys of the kingdom to successors, as the Roman Catholic Church claims? Did Peter have any priority or superiority over the rest of the apostles? Since the Lord gave Peter the right and the privilege of opening the doors of the Church on the two occasions just mentioned, let no one assume that Peter was given any priority or authority that was not delegated to the rest of the apostles. This fact is clearly seen by a glance at Acts, chapters 10 and 11. When Peter returned to Jerusalem from his ministry at the household of Cornelius, the apostles and the brethren held a meeting. Those of the circumcision reprimanded Peter for going to the Gentiles and receiving them into fellowship by confession of faith and baptism. If Peter had had any priority over the rest of the apostles, they and the brethren—the entire church at Jerusalem—would not have had the boldness to reprove him and to call him to task about what he had done. Peter did not understand that the Lord had conferred more authority upon him than upon the rest of the apostles; for, in writing his First Epistle, chapter 5, verse 1, he exhorts the elders, saying, "The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ ..." Peter recognized his position among the apostles as being one of the company without any special authority whatsoever. One cannot, therefore, in the light of these Scriptures, believe that Peter had any pre-eminence and authority above the rest of the apostles. Furthermore, the doors of the Church have never been closed since Peter opened them to the Jews at Pentecost and to the Gentiles at the household of Cornelius. There is then no need of his having a successor to repeat a work that has already been accomplished. He, therefore, has no successor.

Jesus, moreover, said to Peter, "I shall give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind upon the earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose upon the earth will have been loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19). The rendering of this verse is that which is recognized by all Greek grammarians as the literal, exact translation of the original text. In other words, certain things, said Jesus, would be bound in heaven. These, and these only, Peter would bind on earth in proclaiming the gospel as on Pentecost. Also certain things would be loosed in heaven. These and these only would be loosed on earth. The binding and the loosing in heaven come first. Guided by the Spirit of God, Peter was to do that which God in heaven had already determined. How could he thus act? Psalm 119:89 gives a little hint: "Forever, 0 Jehovah, Thy word is settled in the heavens." Being guided by the Spirit of God, the Apostle Peter, when opening the doors of the Church, would simply be saying just what had been determined and ratified in heaven.


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