What Can Be Loosed?
This question springs from the context of Matthew 16:13-20: “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.”
First, Jesus is speaking to Peter, stating that he (including the rest of the apostles: notice the plural pronoun in Matthew 18:18; also read Acts 2:1-4,14), would receive authority from Jesus to bind and loose laws/principles (after being immersed in the power of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:1-4). Jesus’ apostles were to be infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth, miraculously enabling them to accurately and flawlessly recall the sayings Jesus had spoken to them during His earthly ministry (John 16:13-15; Matthew 28:20). They would be able to give a proclamation of the terms (or conditions) that God had given for man to obey in order to obey to receive the remission of sins (Luke 24:46-49) and thus enter under God's saving reign. Peter and the rest of the apostles were opening the entrance of the kingdom of heaven to those who desired to enter so that they could be saved from their sins.
Second, a more accurate rendering of the text is contained in the New American Standard: Matthew 16:18-19: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” The Greek perfect tense indicates an action(s) that has already taken place in the past, but abides permanently in the present. The Greek passive voice indicates that God had already made up in His mind in times past and taken action with regard to the New Testament doctrines, given to the apostles and prophets, preserved permanently in God's inspired word.
Thus, the rules/principles governing the law of Christ, the doctrine of Christ, the faith, the truth, the gospel, etc. have already been established in heaven by God and preserved in the New Testament by the apostles and prophets. No man has the authority from God to loose what God has already bound (in heaven/the New Testament) or bind what God has already loosed (in heaven/the New Testament).
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