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The Awesome Keys of the Kingdom

By Elder Lawrence Nelson

In this message we will examine two questionable text found in the New Testament. Inspiration infers that each of us will be forced to give an answer as to our understanding of these vital verses. Satan’s forces claim that these texts give them the power to demand absolute obedience to papal authority. On the other hand, those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus declare that these same scriptures provide them with unmistakable proof to reject Rome’s demands and obey only Christ.

It is therefore of utmost importance that these two verses require divine understanding. Once we have discovered God’s explanation let us implant the truth so deeply within our minds that we will be able to stand without fear in the coming life and death issue. The gravity of this situation reveals that we seek God for divine guidance. So please bow your head with me as we pray.

Our loving Father, we plead for Thy Holy Spirit to guide us in this study that we may discern heaven’s intent as to the correct meaning of these two texts. This we ask in the name of Jesus, our Savior, Amen.

Let us open our Bibles to the first of these powerful texts. We shall find it in Matthew 16:19. Please note that it is Jesus who is speaking. “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

These are most powerful keys. Let me illustrate. I had the privilege to attend a General Conference session held in San Francisco in the middle of the last century. Never will I forget seeing Kato Ragoso. There he stood, more than six-feet tall. A barefoot, Seventh-day Adventist, ordained minister. He wore a wrap-around skirt and his bushy hair stood several inches on his head. They called him one of those “fuzzy wuzzies” from the Solomon Islands. Everyone was captivated by his pidgin English. I could listen to him by the hour.

Here is his thrilling story. Back in the 1940’s he had personally helped to save the lives of some two hundred of our US airmen who had been shot down over the jungle islands. One day an allied officer, under the stress of war, ordered Kato Ragoso to commit a very unchristian act. Being a faithful Seventh-day Adventist he refused to do so. The officer became angry and forced him over a gasoline barrel and beat him until the blood flowed. Then he commanded him again to commit this evil act, but he refused. This time the officer pulled out his handgun and “pistol whipped” him, breaking his nose and left him unconscious.

When he gained consciousness, once more he was ordered to commit this ungodly act. But he would not. By now the officer was so angry he placed him before a firing squad. Two times he was unable to give the command to shoot. The third time he tried to say the word, “Fire,” he was stricken dumb for two days. Now this devil-possessed officer determined to use another method that would kill him and his buddy, Ludi. So he threw them both in the brig and locked the door with his key and waited for the morrow to murder both men.

The fuzzy-wuzzy Adventists on the island heard of their desperate situation. They beat their drums calling for an all-night prayer meeting. In the wee hours of the morning, while still praying, a man walked out of the jungle to the gate of the prison. In his hand was a key that he used to unlock the prison door and called for Kato Ragoso and Ludi to come out and follow him. He led them down to the seashore where he had prepared a canoe with two paddles. By the moonlight they could see some hundred yards in all directions. This man who had delivered them said good-bye and the two fuzzy-wuzzies turned to thank the man – but he was nowhere to be seen. This angel had delivered them with a key by which he had opened the prison door while the officer’s key still hung on the wall of the sleeping quarters. The angel’s key made the difference between life and death.

Now back to the keys of Jesus who said, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” These keys have an awesome power for with them you can bind or loose on earth and with these keys you can bind or loose even in heaven.

Now you must admit that this is a mighty power and if that isn’t awesome enough let’s read what Jesus further described concerning the power of these keys. I’m reading now from John 20:23. “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” Now we are getting into some very, very deep water and I hope you can swim. By this I mean I hope you are able to do some serious thinking with me.

Perhaps the first question we should consider is this: “Does Jesus really have such keys that He can give them to whom He pleases?” In Isaiah 22:22 it will give us the answer concerning the Messiah. “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.” And John the Revelator declares positively that Jesus Christ has these keys. I’m reading from Revelation 3:7, “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” And Jesus Himself tells us in Revelation 1:18, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”

So there is no question about this for Jesus states, “I have the keys.” Now this requires that we ask still another question: “What are these keys?” Inspiration will give us the answer in Desire of Ages p. 413, 414. “‘The keys of the kingdom of heaven’ are the words of Christ. All the words of Holy Scripture are His, and are here included. These words have power to open and to shut heaven. They declare the conditions upon which men are received or rejected. Thus the work of those who preach God’s word is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. Theirs is a mission weighed with eternal results.” And that’s a most awesome power.

Since Jesus Christ has the keys He can give them to whomsoever He will. We will discover that He gave these keys to Peter and there’s no question about it. But the greater truth is that He also gave these same keys to each of the other eleven disciples and, what’s most thrilling and most fascinating of all, is to read that He gave these keys to you and to me. I’m reading Spirit of Prophecy , Volume 2, p. 273. “The words of Christ: ‘I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven,’ were not addressed to Peter alone, but to the disciples, including those who compose the Christian church in all ages.” And friend, that includes you and me.

Now for one more question: “What is our responsibility when we have these keys in our possession?” I’m referring to how we use the keys. Suppose we meet someone who is thinking of committing suicide. Their eyes are full of tears; their conscience condemns them for they have committed a very serious sin and they are pleading for help. Now with these keys of the kingdom you can tell this individual that if he comes to Jesus, just as he is, asking for forgiveness and repenting of his sins, Jesus will forgive him. And what’s more He will write “Forgiven” over the recorded sins in heaven. Furthermore, He will wash away the sin within the heart with His own precious blood so he may stand before God as though he had not sinned. And once again his conscience will be restored with peace that he longs for.

Beloved, this is using the keys to unlock man’s sinful heart on earth and open the door to heavenly forgiveness. As the scripture states, whatsoever you do with these keys in compliance with God’s will Christ will see that it is done – be it on earth or in heaven. And beloved, that is awesome! But these keys can also be used so that Jesus cannot do what He is able to do if the individual refuses God’s love. Let’s consider the same individual to whom we have just offered God’s salvation. He may shrug his shoulders and state, “I’m not interested. I have no intention to repent for I want to continue living the way I am.” You can then tell him that his sinful record will remain locked in heaven’s record book; that Jesus will not cleanse his heart and that he cannot expect peace. What have you done? You have shut the door to heaven’s salvation with the keys of God that were given to you – unless of course he changes his sinful way.

Now these keys can also be used the wrong way. I recall an experience I once had while I was the Youth Secretary of the Southern California Conference. One of my responsibilities was to be the pastor to all of our young Seventh-day Adventist men in the armed services of my country, located in the area of my conference. This was during the Second World War and required that when a soldier had a problem, I was to help him.

One day the telephone rang in my office. It was a call from a marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, near San Diego. This young man had recently accepted Jesus as his Savior and had been baptized. He had promised God to keep His commandments. Those were the days when Uncle Sam drafted men into the services – he had not enlisted. On the Sabbath following his baptism his officer ordered him, with the other men of his barrack, to dig a trench for battle practice. He refused by saying, “I cannot. For my God commands me to keep the Sabbath day holy.”

The marine officer became very angry and ordered him to be placed in the brig and face court marshal. I immediately got in my car and drove to Camp Pendleton. When I entered the training base the first thing that I did was visit the chief chaplain. As I walked into his office I noticed that he was a Roman Catholic priest. I immediately told him of this young man’s problem. He listened intently and then replied, “I have been informed all about him. He faces a court marshal in two weeks.”

Looking the chaplain straight in the eye I answered, “It is your duty to defend this young man for his conscience will not allow him to disobey his God.”

With a big smile he answered, “I’ll take care of this case.” I felt relaxed. Then he asked me, “Are you his pastor?” I answered, “Yes.” Then he said, “This is an easy case. All you have to do is to give him a dispensation to work on the Sabbath. Case dismissed.”

In amazement I spoke, “Hold on there, Chaplain. Wait a minute; not so fast. My church, under God, has never given me such authority. God expects me as His ambassador to do only as He commands. I must therefore stand by this young man and defend his conscience and urge him to keep the holy seventh-day Sabbath.” I continued, “I am also aware that your church gives you the authority to give a dispensation whenever you choose so that you may tell such an individual that he can break God’s eternal law but I cannot do this.”

There we stood. I, the representative of God’s remnant church, and there he stood, a representative of Babylon. Each of us claimed to have the keys to the kingdom. This Catholic chaplain believed the keys gave him authority to change God’s Word so he could tell the young man that it was not a sin to disobey God. And there I stood, a representative of Jesus Christ, with the keys that required me to encourage the soldier to obey God, that my church would pray that he would not give in an inch, that he should be faithful even though he may have to spend years in jail.

Well, I’ll not keep you in suspense. The Catholic priest discovered that I would not compromise so he decided that he would defend this young marine. Together we worked and the young man was eventually honorably discharged.

Beloved, you and I are soon to face the final struggle between the system of Babylon and God’s true church. I trust you will never follow the satanic power which claims it can give you a dispensation to sin. May you stand firmly with the church of Christ – those who keep the commandments and have the faith of Jesus – built upon the rock of salvation.

Let’s read about the rock from the scripture in Matthew sixteen beginning with verse thirteen. “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”

And now comes verse eighteen that you must clearly understand without any doubt if you are to be faithful to Christ in the coming test. And let me add here that I’m sure that the vast majority of God’s laity know nothing about Greek but of this one scripture you must know what it says in the original Greek – so listen carefully. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter.” Now in the Greek the word “Peter” is Petros which means a small pebble; a rolling stone – something unstable which you must never build upon for Petros is moveable. I continue, “But I say unto thee, that upon this Petra I will build my church.” Here the Greek work Petra is used which means a mighty rock. I cannot think of a better illustration than that of El Capitan – that mighty rock in Yosemite National Park in California – standing some 4,000 feet high composed of solid granite (and who can tell how deep it is embedded within the earth). In this scripture Jesus says He will build His church upon a might Rock which is Christ Himself which the Greek describes as Petra . Let me read it again, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter ( Petros ), and upon this rock ( Petra) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

No matter where you read from God’s word – be it the Hebrew of the Old Testament or from the Greek New Testament – Christ is always referred to as a rock upon which the church of Christ is built. For one example let me read Isaiah 28:16. “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” Beloved, the papacy does not have the keys of Christ which is founded on the Rock Jesus Christ. For the Roman Catholic system is founded on St. Peter which Inspiration reveals to be Petros – a pebble. Just as sure as you are listening to this tape the time is soon coming when you will stand before a judge appointed by a Catholic power and he will certainly use the Catholic interpretation of this text to convince you that you must obey the laws of the Roman Catholic system and keep Sunday holy since Christ gave the keys to Peter.

The Spirit of Prophecy clearly reveals this final issue. In the Review and Herald of May 7, 1901 I read, “Two great opposing powers are revealed in the last great battle. On one side stands the Creator of heaven and earth. All on His side bear His signet. They are obedient to His commands. On the other side stands the Prince of darkness, with those who have chosen apostasy and rebellion.”

The Jesuits have a satanic plan to lure you from the divine truth. This plan has been laid out in detail by Karl Rahnar and Heinrich Fries in a book published in 1983. It is entitled Unity of the Churches: An Actual Possibility. The book is built on the consensus formulated by the World Council of Churches called Faith and Order of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry. This book is studied in all the Jesuit schools. There are seven steps outlined, which reveal Satan’s plan.

1. There must be unity of all churches . In the Great Controversy p. 445 tells us, “When this shall be gained, then, in the effort to secure complete uniformity, it will be only a step to the resort to force.” Any student of the Spirit of Prophecy can see that the ecumenical program to secure unification of all churches is the last step before persecution. When you read or hear the word “unity” or the word “ecumenical” it should ring an alarm bell that persecutions will be coming soon.

2. The Protestant laity is to obey their leaders. Just as Catholic laity obeys the pope without question so Protestant leadership must be able to bring each church in union with Rome. Let me read this from page 54 of this book by Jesuits Karl Rahnar and Heinrich Fries published by Philadelphia Fortress Press. “With respect to ecclesiastical leadership, the average congregation in the Protestant churches in fact usually practices the kind of obedience to their church leaders that is customary in the Roman Catholic Church. On the basis of their theological expertise and their religious conscience the representatives of this ecclesiastical leadership can decide in favor of church unity and can also work with sufficient zeal among the church members to gain their understanding for this decision.” Do you grasp the meaning of that? – We have come to a time when in the Seventh-day Adventist Church our leaders are doing all they can to bring this church into conformity with the ecumenical program. Therefore we must weigh every church command from headquarters to see if it conforms to the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. We must not blindly obey our church leaders.

3. The churches will unite because they have become liberal. And this is exactly what has happened to our Seventh-day Adventist Church. I know of no other terminology which so accurately describes the Adventist Church of today as being “liberal.” On page 67 of this same book, it states, “Doctrines must become non-consequential. The time for inter-confessional polemics is gone. So is the time of controversies focused on substantive differences.” This book demands there be no controversy between Protestantism and the papacy. That means we must never call the pope the antichrist anymore. Is this the reason you seldom hear from our pulpits the Three Angels’ Messages? Is this the reason for the change in our church logo on the letterheads, church signs and revival mottoes? Whatever happened to the Three Angels’ logo? Think it over, beloved. The Jesuit plan in this book (I’m sorry to say) is being followed in our church today.

4. The churches may retain their structures. I continue to read on page 43 of this book. “In this one church of Jesus Christ composed of the uniting churches which can to a large extent maintain their existing structures. These “partner churches” can also continue to exist in the same territory since this is not impossible in the context of Catholic ecclesiology.” Now this is called pluralism – a term often used by many of our Adventist ministry and in our papers and books today. Again, Ellen White was shown that this was to come. I’m reading from the Great Controversy p. 445, “When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result.”

5. The churches are to live together in a reconciled diversity. Rahnar and Fries declare that “the Catholic Church will be satisfied if the individual has an affirmative relation to fundamentals and does not raise explicit and decided objectives.” (p. 36) Now, what does such language actually mean? – Listen carefully. All churches are to shut their eyes and ears to the truth. You must never teach what you believe to a member of another church. Rahnar and Fries are teaching the hanglagan message of the old Greek philosophers. I’m reading on from page 27, “The propositions of both sides when developed further and understood in a larger context do not really contradict each other.” Now isn’t that a sneaky position. Rahnar and Fries plead, “The Protestant Christian would not need to make a doctrinal and definite agreement right now to many of the propositions that the Catholic’s regard as binding to the faith. But he does not need to reject them definitely either. This Protestant Christian can most certainly assume that hopefully in the course of the future history of religious consciousness these Catholic propositions will obtain the kind of clarification and interpretation that will permit a definite agreement on his part not yet possible today without his having to feel duty bound to reject them directly.” What a subtle, devilish approach.

6. No church is to reject the dogma held by another church. I’m reading from page 25. “Nothing may be rejected decisively and confessionally in one partner church which is binding dogma in another partner church. Furthermore, …no explicitly and positive confession in one partner church is imposed as dogma obligatory for another partner church. This is left to a broader consensus in the future.” This actually means that you are to do as other churches. You are no longer to depend on your own study of God’s Word as we read on page 28. “One has to depend more and more on the knowledge of others which one can no longer assimilate or check himself.” Rahnar’s and Fries’ argument is precisely this – p. 32, “The church itself is the guarantor through its formal teaching authority as of the truth of the individual doctrines it presents.” This means that we don’t question what our church teaches concerning a belief or the actions that it commands. Inspiration foresaw this and declared in the Great Controversy p. 572, 573, “A day of great intellectual darkness has been shown to be favorable to the success of the papacy. It will yet be demonstrated that a day of great intellectual light is equally favorable for its success….The false science of the present day, which undermines faith in the Bible, will prove as successful in preparing the way for the acceptance of the papacy, with its pleasing forms, as did the withholding of knowledge in opening the way for its aggrandizement in the Dark Ages.”

7. The ministers are to exchange pulpits in a pulpit fellowship. On page 52 I read, “It is self-evident that there must be fraternal exchanges and intensive cooperation among the theologians of these partner churches even though this in no way requires the fusion of the institutional or organizational representatives of the theologies of these distinct churches.” Now isn’t that clever? I’ll never forget when out of the blue one day the Catholic priest of a near-by parish asked me if I would be willing to exchange pulpits with him. I’m sure you know my answer. I continue on reading page 48, “The solutions to these problems will nevertheless require that all sides give up certain number of old familiar customs so as to make possible not just coexistence with tolerance and much indifference but a true unity of these partner churches in truly loving recognition of their differences.”

You know, I may be classified as a fanatic, but I believe in the Bible way – “Be ye separate,” “Come out of her my people that ye be not partakers of her sins; that ye receive not of her plagues.” So there you have it, friend, the seven steps to be followed by all churches. Praise God, we should be thankful for the guidance given to us in the Spirit of Prophecy.

I continue to read from the book Great Controversy p. 445. “When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result.”

It’s a sad fact of our day but Protestant churches all over the country are getting ready to accept the Bishop of Rome. So states Dr. J.V. Langmead-Casserley, professor at the Seabury Western Theological Seminary. This Episcopal minister states in his book The Ecumenical Marriage (and by the way, isn’t that an interesting title?) as quoted in Group Thinks by Hartland Publications of 1989 p. 67. “If the Holy Spirit says that church unity is through the Bishop of Rome who are we to accuse the Holy Spirit of bad theology?” Can you see what’s coming?

And listen to Gibson Lewis, pastor of the East Aurora Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, NY. I read p. 15 from his writing. He wrote, “I do not see any reason for Protestants to not eventually to accept some understanding of the pope and acknowledge him as the earthly lord of the church. I believe that in faith and prayer and ecumenical endeavor we can work this out.” Beloved, it’s coming. The Jesuits Karl Rahnar’s and Heinrich Fries’ seven steps are being followed by all the Protestant churches and sorry to say – our own Seventh-day Adventist leadership.

Never forget, Peter was not the rock upon which God’s church is founded. Its commands are not to be followed or obeyed by God’s remnant church today. I’m reading now from Desire of Ages p. 413, 414, “The word Peter signifies a stone, – a rolling stone. Peter was not the rock upon which the church was founded. The gates of hell did prevail against him when he denied his Lord with cursing and swearing. The church was built upon One against whom the gates of hell could not prevail….‘The keys of the kingdom of heaven’ are the words of Christ. All the words of Holy Scripture are His, and are here included. These words have power to open and to shut heaven. They declare the conditions upon which men are received or rejected. Thus the work of those who preach God’s word is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. Theirs is a mission weighted with eternal results.

“The Savior did not commit the work of the gospel to Peter individually. At a later time, repeating the words that were spoken to Peter, he applied them directly to the church. And the same in substance was spoken also to the twelve as representatives of the body of believers. If Jesus had delegated any special authority to one of the disciples above the others, we should not find them so often contending as to who should be the greatest. They would have submitted to the wish of their Master, and honored the one whom He had chosen.

“Instead of appointing one to be their head, Christ said to the disciples, ‘Be not ye called Rabbi,’ ‘neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.’ Matthew 23:8, 10.

“‘The head of every man is Christ.’ God, who put all things under the Saviour’s feet, ‘gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all and all.’ 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 1:22, 23. The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they should do. This claim God does not sanction. The Savior declares, ‘All ye are brethren.’ All are exposed to temptation, and all are liable to error. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. ‘Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.’ The Lord ‘is the Rock, His work is perfect.’ Jeremiah 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 2:12. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”

Let us pray. Thank you God for giving us Thy Inspiration which is so clear that Christ is the Rock and not Peter; and that each of us have the awesome keys to the kingdom. Please help us to use them wisely. In the name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.