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"Teachings of Messiah" Series

Is the Church Built on Peter?

How Did Peter Understand Yeshua's Declaration to Him?  And What is The Authority of the Disciples to Bind and to Loose

By David M Rogers

www.BibleTruth.cc

Published: August 2007

Second Edition: July 2010

Third Edition: December 2014

Table of Contents

The Confession of Kepha

I Will Build My Church

Is Peter the Rock Upon Which Messiah Was to Build?

What is "the Church"?

What Was Yahusha Promising to Build?

The Assembly of Israel and Its Authority

The Authority Given to Peter:  Keys of the Reign of the Heavens

The Disciples' Authority to Bind and to Loose

Conclusion


Near the top of the list of most misunderstood, misinterpreted and misapplied passages of the New Testament is that of Matthew 16:13-19.  The Roman Catholic Church has historically interpreted the confession of Peter and Messiah's response as the establishment of the Papal line and their authority to change and annul the Law of God and to establish their own laws, precepts, traditions and holy days.

This is clearly in violation with what Jesus said in other places such as Matthew 23:8-10 where Jesus teaches his disciples that they were never to be called Rabbi, Father or Seated One.  The title Pope means Father.  The Pope allegedly speaks with authority when he speaks ex-cathedra (when "seated").  Thus the Church claims that the Pope wields the authority which Jesus said was His alone.

Protestants stumble and wrestle with refuting the Catholic interpretation but essentially don't know how to effectively repudiate it.  They regard Messiah's response as a declaration of the formation of a new structure they like to refer to as "the Church," built upon the messianic claims of Jesus.  This too is a grave error of interpretation of this portion of the Bible.  This inaccuracy leads to many other errors in theology in both Catholic and Protestant circles.

This study article aims to present scriptural evidence from a content generated perspective using grammatical and contextual verification that Peter's confession and Jesus' declaration to be merely the reaffirmation of the prophets that Yeshua was rebuilding the fallen tent of David, the House of Israel, and that his disciples have been given the authority of the Torah to guide them in their leadership of His assembly.

The Messiah's declaration of the building of the "church" refers to the restoration of David's fallen tent and the re-gathering of Israel through Messiah which the Prophets spoke about, not the establishment of a new institution called "the Church."  Jesus (hereafter using Yeshua or Yahusha, his true Hebrew name) essentially conveys the Torah and more particularly the biblical Right Rulings to his disciples as the proper means of administering order and settling disputes in Messiah's family.

The Text is as follows:

Now when [vwhy (Yahusha) came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His taught ones, saying, “Who do men say the Son of Adam is?”  And they said, “Some say Yochanan the Immerser, and others Eliyahu, and others Yirmeyahu or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “And you, who do you say I am?”  And Shimon Kepha answering, said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living Elohim.” And [vwhy (Yahusha) answering, said to him, “Blessed are you, Shimon Bar-Yonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father in the heavens.  And I also say to you that you are Kepha, and on this rock I shall build My assembly, and the gates of the grave shall not overcome it. And I shall give you the keys of the reign of the heavens, and whatever you bind on earth shall be having been bound in the heavens, and whatever you loosen on earth shall be having been loosened in the heavens.” (Mattityahu 16:13-19, The Scriptures)

The Confession of Kepha

To this point in time in Messiah's ministry, Yahusha (Hebrew name aka "Jesus")  had not yet made a clear, explicit verbal declaration that he is the Prophet like Mosheh and the Messiah which the Torah and the Prophets proclaim.  He had already implicitly indicated so on many occasions through his miracles, teachings and activities.  But his talmidim (Hebrew, disciples, "taught ones") were still uncertain of his true identity and were afraid to ask.  So on this occasion, Yahusha put the question to them about who he was rumored to be:

Now when [vwhy (Yahusha) came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His taught ones, saying, “Who do men say the Son of Adam is?” (Mattityahu 16:13, The Scriptures)

The "son of Adam" could be generically a reference to any man.  But Daniel the prophet's use of the term gave it a messianic flavoring.  Furthermore, this is a title which Yahusha had used of himself, so his talmidim vaguely understood he was speaking of himself as the fulfillment of Daniel's prophetic utterance.

Their response reflected the prevailing thinking of the people.  The religious leaders and all the sons of Israel had been discussing and debating who they thought Yahusha was.  So his disciples responded:

“Some say Yochanan the Immerser, and others Eliyahu, and others Yirmeyahu or one of the prophets.” (Mattityahu 16:14, The Scriptures)

By this time, Yochanan (John) the Immerser had been beheaded by Herod and was rumored to have been resurrected and returned as this one doing miracles.  This was far-fetched, of course, as many wild rumors are.  Others were supposing that Yahusha was Elijah or Jeremiah or some other prophet because of the miracles he performed and the teachings he brought.  In fact, there are other places where the people were discussing the possibility that Yahusha was the Prophet spoken of by Mosheh, but the disciples didn't report that conjecture here.

Without responding to these rumors, Yahusha personalizes the question by directing his inquiry toward what his own disciples were thinking:

He said to them, “And you, who do you say I am?”  And Shimon Kepha answering, said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living Elohim.” (Mattityahu 16:15-16, The Scriptures)

Peter, whose Hebrew name is Shimon Kepha, replied succinctly, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living Elohim."  Kepha was always impetuous and spoke frankly about what was on his mind.  While the other disciples had some doubts and so were cautious to make such an audacious claim, Kepha was not.

Peter's confession of faith regarding Yahusha's identity is not in dispute here.  Kepha recognized through his works and words who Yahusha was claiming to be.  We concur with Peter.  There is no doubt that Kepha was correct in identifying Yahusha as the Messiah of promise and the very Son of the Living Elohim.  This relationship that Yahusha had with the Father is one of identity (see our study, Is Messiah the Deity, or Not?).

I Will Build My Church

Yahusha's response to Shimon Kepha's confession has been confused and misunderstood.  Though the Sanhedrin, made up of primarily Pharisees and Sadducees, were unable to correctly discern the true identity of Yahusha, Peter had a clear perception, because he was being led by the Set-apart Spirit.  The Sanhedrin refused to comply with the Torah of Mosheh and were subsequently blinded to the truth, but Kepha had an open mind and heart and was ready to receive the truth.  Thus,

and [vwhy answering, said to him, “Blessed are you, Shimon Bar-Yonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father in the heavens. (Mattityahu 16:17, The Scriptures)

The other disciples didn't yet understand Yahusha's identity.  But Kepha understood because the Holy Spirit had given Peter insight which the others didn't have.  Thus, Kepha was "blessed" because the Father had made this known to him.

We should not underestimate the importance of the Father's revelation to Peter in this passage.  It wasn't through Peter's own greatness that he understood the identity of Yahusha.  It was the Father's mind on this matter given to Peter through the Holy Spirit that gave Peter understanding about Yahusha.  Thus, we should not be quick to attribute to Peter a greatness above the other disciples as we proceed to interpret the remaining portion of this teaching of the Master.  The credit must always go to Yahuwah.

Yahusha proceeds to tell Peter:

“And I also say to you that you are Kepha, and on this rock I shall build My
assembly, and the gates of the grave shall not overcome it. (Mattityahu 16:18, The Scriptures)

The more familiar King James Version translates this way:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Messiah Yahusha seems to be saying that he will build his assembly ("church") on "this rock" which the Catholic theologians interpret to be Peter.  But is Peter really the rock Messiah was talking about?  Let's find out.

Is Peter the Rock Upon Which Messiah Was to Build?

Many Bible translators have operated under the assumption that the gospel of Matthew is inspired (perfectly accurate and originally written) in the Greek language.  These have noticed in the Greek New Testament manuscripts a probable word play on the name Peter (in Greek, "Petros") and the rock (Greek, "petra") on which Messiah would build.

The logic goes something like this: since Peter is here described by Jesus as a "rock" and since Jesus would build on "the rock," then it seemed reasonable to conclude that Peter is "the rock" who is the foundation of the church.   Thus, it has become foundational doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church that Peter himself is that "rock" on which the "church" would be built.  So in their view, Peter is the first in a line of Popes who have the authority over the Church and that the Popes, therefore, have ultimate authority over all things ecclesiastical, including annulling God's law to establish their own laws, precepts and holy days.

But that conjectured word play of the Greek never actually happened because this conversation never occurred in the Greek language.  Current Bible scholarship is recognizing with a high degree of certainty that Yahusha spoke in Hebrew (not Greek) and that Matthew's gospel was written in the Hebrew language.  In fact, it has been know from very early in the Christian Age that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew and that Messiah and his disciples spoke in Hebrew, not Greek!

Papias (ca. 60-130 CE) was the bishop of Hierapolis.  Speaking of Matthew the tax collector who became a disciple of Yahusha, he wrote that

Matthew collected the oracles in the Hebrew language, and each interpreted them as best he could (Eusebius H.E. 3,39.16 as taken from The Ecclesiastical History, 2 Vols., ed. and trans. Kirsopp Lake and J.E.L. Oulton, Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1926-1932)

Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius and several others also acknowledge that Matthew's gospel was written in Hebrew.  So there is very little doubt that this fact is historically accurate.

In the Hebrew texts of Matthew, there is no such play on the words Peter and rock.  There are a few ancient manuscripts of Matthew's gospel in Hebrew which are being studied for their contribution to New Testament thought.  There is a different word play in this passage in that Hebrew text of Matthew.  The Hebrew word for stone is even and the Hebrew word for "I will build" is evneh.  Thus, in the Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew's gospel, Messiah said to Peter, "You are a stone (even) and I will build (evneh) on you my house of prayer."  The word play is not on "Peter" and "rock" as some think.  The name "Peter" does not even occur in this statement by Messiah.  The word play is on "stone" and "build": "you are a stone and I will build..." 

The emphasis is not on Kepha, per se.  Yet, even in the Hebrew text of Matthew, Yahusha seems to be indicating that He was going to build upon Peter.  The Hebrew text says, "and I will build on you."  So, Peter appears to be the focus of what Yahusha was promising to do.  But does this mean that Messiah is denoting that His Assembly will be built upon Peter alone as the Rock of the Church?  No.  The Rock being built upon is Messiah himself, not Peter.

There are many places in the Bible where we find out who "the Rock" is.  Throughout the Old Testament, in the Torah and the Writings and the Prophets, the Rock is always identified as Yahuwah Himself.  First, the patriarchs understood that Yahuwah is the Rock:

But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Ya'acov, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Yisrael, because of your father's Elohim, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb. (Genesis 49:24-25)

Jacob describes the LORD, Yahuwah as the Mighty One of Ya'acov, the Shepherd, the Rock of Yisrael, Your father's Elohim and the Almighty.

Next, Moses also calls Yahuwah "the Rock" in the Song of Moses:

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful Elohim who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Devarim 32:4)
Yeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the Elohim who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior. (32:15)

But not just Moses.  The Psalmist also refers to Elohim as "the Rock":

Yehovah is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my Elohim is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (18:2)
For who is Elohim besides Yehovah? And who is the Rock except our Elohim? (18:31)

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Yehovah, my Rock and my Redeemer. (19:14)
Come, let us sing for joy to Yehovah; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. (95:1)

Finally, the Prophets speak of Yehovah as "the Rock":

Yehovah Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Yisrael he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Yerushalayim he will be a trap and a snare. (Isaiah 8:13-14)

There are many other references to Elohim Yahuwah as "the Rock" in the Tanak.  These are but a few of them.

Not only is Father Yahuwah often depicted as "the Rock" of his people, but the Son, Messiah Yahusha, is also portrayed as "the Rock" of salvation to his people.  Speaking of the wandering in the wilderness, Paul tells us that the sons of Israel got water out of a rock.  The rock represents someone.  He explains that

they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Messiah. (1 Corinthians 10:4)

The rock in the wilderness not only represented the Messiah, but it WAS the Messiah.  In other words, the Rock is the one who was leading Israel through the desert, and the Rock is supplying the water for his people.  Yahusha is identified as that Rock.

Peter himself writes in his epistle about the "rock" of prophecy, who is the Messiah:

"A stone that causes men to stumble and a Rock that makes them fall." (1 Peter 2:8 quoting Isaiah 8:14)

Yahuwah Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Yisrael he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.  (Isaiah 8:13-14)

Scripture uses the metaphor of a rock to describe Yahuwah and his Son Yahusha in the work that they do.  So, the Rock Yahusha is speaking of is Yahusha himself.  Nowhere in the Bible is Peter ever depicted, described or portrayed as "the Rock" that God is building upon.

What exactly did Messiah Yahusha say elsewhere concerning the foundation of his church/assembly?  Was Peter in his mind when he spoke of these things?  Hardly!  When confronting the Pharisees who rejected his claims to be Messiah, Yahusha quoted the Psalmist:

And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? (Luke 20:17)

This Messianic Psalm provides an insight about the Messiah who would be first rejected and then exalted.  The Psalmist wrote about those who would reject the coming Messiah:

I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.  The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.  This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:21-23, KJV)

So this prophesy indicates that the head stone, the corner stone of the building of Yahuwah, would be rejected by men.  And the Pharisees were those men who were rejecting the one who would become the head stone.  Peter is not that head stone.  Messiah is the head stone and the subject of all these prophesies.

Yahusha was quoting the Psalmist as he confronted the unbelieving Pharisees.  The prophet Isaiah agrees with the words of the Psalmist.  He notes,

So this is what Adonai Yahuwah says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. (Isaiah 28:16)

The stone to be laid in Zion was a tested stone.  This stone was to be the cornerstone for a secure, solid foundation.  Messiah is that cornerstone.  Yahusha implied that he is that cornerstone and foundation of Elohim's building.  This prophetic utterance has nothing to do with Peter.

It may also be helpful to us to ask the question, "What did Peter understand about the meaning of Yahusha's enigmatic statement to him?  Did Peter indicate in any way that he believed he was the foundation or rock upon which the "Church" of Yahusha would be built?"  So we turn to what Peter wrote to find out how Peter understood Yahusha.

Kepha, in his own words, says that all who have this understanding that Yahusha the Messiah is the "Living Stone" come to Him, Yahusha.  And all who come to Him are "like living stones" which build up the household of Elohim:

As you come to him, the living Stone-- rejected by men but chosen by Elohim and precious to him-- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Elohim through Yahusha Messiah. (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Peter's epistle uses a different Greek word, usually translated "stone," rather than "petra" - "rock" as was utilized in the Greek Matthew to describe what Messiah said to Peter.  Yahusha is the Rock in Matthew and the Stone in Peter's epistle.  There is no real distinction between the two.  A rock is a stone and a stone is a rock.

But notice that Peter does not single himself out as the "stone" or "rock" that the spiritual house of Messiah is built upon.  He indicates that the Messiah is the Living Stone who is the foundation and that all of us, including Peter himself, are "like living stones" who are being built into this spiritual house of Elohim.  All who place their allegiance in Yahusha as Messiah, not just Peter, are "living stones" and are being "built into a spiritual house"!    Thus, not only Peter, but all his disciples, are stones upon which the household of Elohim is built.  Peter does place himself above all others.  He sees himself as one the the stones of the house, no better or more important than all the other stones.  And Peter recognizes that Messiah is the Rock or Head Stone of the assembly, the nation of Israel.

Next, Peter goes on to quote from the same passage of Scripture in Isaiah which speaks of Messiah being the capstone:

For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."  Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message-- which is also what they were destined for. (1 Peter 2:6-8)

Peter is here affirming again that Yahusha is the Rock or Stone laid down to be the chief cornerstone.  Peter is not under any allusion that he himself is the Rock on which the church is built.  He acknowledges Yahusha as the chosen and precious cornerstone of Messiah's assembly.

But Peter doesn't stop there.  He lays down yet another clue about what he understood Yahusha was saying to him as recorded in Matthew 16.  He goes on to write:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to Elohim, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of Elohim; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Writing to the assembly (church) of Messiah, Peter uses four descriptive phrases about the assembly of Messiah.  All four of these references are House of Israel references.  Israel is the chosen people:

Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, Yahuwah has chosen you to be his treasured possession. (Devarim 14:2)

Israel is a royal priesthood, Israel is the holy nation. Israel is the people belonging to Elohim:

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the sons of Yisrael." (Shemot 19:5-6)

Though these are clearly references to Israel, Peter is calling the church (assembly) of Messiah these things.  The inference here is that when Peter and when Messiah Yahusha speak of the church (assembly) of Messiah, they are talking about the House of Israel, not a new institution.

Furthermore, Peter speaks to the church of Messiah using the terminology of the prophet Hoshea who speaks about the sons of Israel.  Peter says,

Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of Elohim; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

He is quoting the prophet, who said:

Yet the sons of Yisrael will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living Elohim. (Hoshea 1:10)

I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love (mercy) to the one I called 'Not my loved one. 'I will say to those called 'Not my people, ''You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my Elohim.' (Hoshea 2:23)

What other conclusion can we come to when Peter uses multiple titles and names of the sons of Israel when he speaks to the "church" of Jesus?  It would take an enormous leap of faith to conclude anything but that Peter understood Messiah's pronouncement to him as an indication that Messiah would build his assembly, his church, the house of Israel, in accordance with all the prophesies he had come to fulfill.

Turning to Paul, what does Paul have to say about the building which Yahusha is building?  After describing the reconciliation between the two houses of Israel - Jews and Gentiles - Paul writes about the household that Elohim is building through Yahusha Messiah:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with Elohim's people and members of Elohim's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Messiah Yahusha himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in Yahuwah.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which Elohim lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

There are several notable things Paul points out in the short passage.  First, all the people who join by faith to Yahusha make up the household of Elohim.

Second, Peter is not singled out as the "rock" or foundation of Jesus' "church" (his assembly).  Neither is Peter described as the foundational cornerstone of the "church."  Paul describes the foundation of Elohim's household as being made up of all the apostles and prophets, not just Peter.  And the foundational cornerstone is Yahusha himself.  Peter has no special exalted position in the building or its foundation.  Peter is one of many apostles and prophets who consist of the foundation, with Messiah Himself as the chief corner stone.

The foundation of this structure which Paul is describing has one primary "Stone."  That stone is not Peter.  The head stone is Messiah.  The rest of the foundation is made up, as in any building or structure, of many stones (or rocks or blocks) laying side by side.  Those foundation blocks are all his apostles and prophets, not just Peter and not having Peter as the primary, exalted, main stone of the structure.

So when Yahusha told Peter that he would build his assembly "on you" or "on Peter," we would be correct to see in this statement the inclusion of Peter in that foundational structure made up of the apostles and prophets, as Paul puts it.  In other words, yes Peter was a rock or stone that is foundation of the assembly of Messiah, but not just Peter.  Peter was speaking prophetically for others when he declared that Yahusha is the Son of Elohim.  Thus, it is his confession that qualifies him to be included as one of the foundational stones for the church of Jesus.  Yahusha was speaking to Peter as one who makes the proper confession about the identity of Yahusha.  All the apostles and prophets who correctly confess that Yahusha is Lord are the foundation of the assembly of Yahusha, with Yahusha himself as the chief cornerstone.

The exaltation of Peter as head of the Church is a delusional doctrine.  The written records of Jesus, Peter and Paul say no such thing.  Peter never pictured himself as head of the church.  Paul never pictured Peter as head of the church.  Interpreting Matthew 16 as indicating that Peter was head of Jesus' church is irresponsible and antichrist in nature.  It removes the glory from Messiah and gives it to Peter.  We who seek truth and strive to rightly divide the Word of Truth will have no agreement with the false teaching that Peter is the Rock on which the Assembly of Yahusha is built.

What is "the Church"?

The next notion which we need to debunk is that of Messiah building some new organization called "the Church."  The major problem with this rendering and interpretation of the text is that neither the Torah of Mosheh (the Law) nor the Prophets ever spoke of, mentioned or alluded to the Messiah building a new structure which he would be head of.  The Torah and the Prophets have a great deal to say, however, about the restoration and re-establishment of the House of Israel, which Yahuwah promised to perform in the last days.

Messiah never spoke against the Law and the Prophets or outside of the same.  He himself indicated that he had come to fulfill the Torah and the Prophets.  All of his teaching is in perfect harmony with what was revealed in the Torah and the Prophets.  So, rather than try to concoct a scenario in which Messiah would build a new organization unto himself, it is much more consistent and congruent with Scriptural principle to at least attempt to understand Messiah's statement as supporting and explaining in further detail something the Torah and the Prophets spoke of.

In the Greek New Testament text, the word ekkleesia is translated as church.  This word can also be properly translated assembly.  When we look at the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the work ekkleesia is almost always used to translate the Hebrew kehilah.  This is very important if we wish to understand what all the New Testament writers understood by the term ekkleesia.

The Hebrew Scriptures use two words which translate as “congregation, assembly, people.”  Hlhq – pronounced “kehilah” is usually translated assemblyHd[ “pronounced "edah” is typically translated congregation, assembly, multitude, people, swarm.  Kehilah and edah are virtually synonymous.  Again, kehilah almost always translated to Greek as ekkleesia.

How does the Tanak use the word kehilah?  Primarily as a reference to the House of Israel.  The kehilah of Israel is the assembly of Israel.  The twelve tribes of Israel when gathered together are referred to as the kehilah of Israel.  Thus, when Yahusha and the rest of the New Testament writers speak of the kehilah, they are talking about Israel, not a so-called new institution known as "the Church."

What Was Yahusha Promising to Build?

In conjunction with that idea of the rebuilding and restoration of the House of Israel spoken of by the Torah and the Prophets, the Hebrew language uses a word, sometimes translated "to build" but which can also be rendered "to rebuild."  Thus, Messiah's declaration to Peter could be translated, "I will rebuild my assembly..." without stretching the underlying thought of text at all.  And in fact, this translation of the text has much to commend itself, particularly when we consider the numerous times the Prophets spoke concerning the re-establishment of the House of Israel.

None of the prophets spoke about Elohim building a new assembly for Messiah.  But the prophet Amos speaks of the rebuilding of David's fallen tent:

For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.  In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old (Amos 9:9-11 KJV).

Here, the house of Israel is spoken of as sifted and scattered among the nations on account of their sin.  And in this context, Yahuwah informs us through the prophet that he will one day restore David's fallen tent (a reference to the house of Israel) and rebuild it as in days of old.  The nation of Israel is the only institution which the Torah and the Prophets mention that Yahuwah would restore and build up again.  There is no mention of any other new structure that Yahuwah would "build" in the "last days" except for the house of Israel. 

As before, we might want to inquire into what Peter himself said concerning the assembly which Messiah Yahusha said he would build.  How did Peter understand Yahusha's words to him that day?  Did he expect Messiah to build on Peter?  Or did he interpret Yahusha's declaration to him as fulfilling something the Prophets had said?  What did Peter say or write that shows us how he interpreted Yahusha's words to him?

It is specifically with reference to the Amos prophesy cited above that James describes the "building" of the New Testament assembly (church) and the inclusion of the gentiles in the assembly.  James tells us that Peter brought this message to all the disciples concerning how Yahusha was to build his assembly:

Simeon (Simon Peter) has explained how Elohim first concerned himself to select from among the Gentiles a people for his name. The words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written, 'After this I will return, and I will rebuild the fallen tent of David; I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, so that the rest of humanity may seek Yahuwah, namely, all the Gentiles I have called to be my own,' says Yahuwah, who makes these things known from long ago (Acts 15:14-18, citing Amos 9).

Amazingly, Peter cites the prophet Amos as indicating that Yahuwah would rebuild Israel, David's fallen tent, in the last days and in the process bring along many Gentiles into the faith.  The Gentiles are seen as being grafted into the house of Israel when David's fallen tent is being rebuilt from its ruins.

The Messiah's resurrection and ascension and the subsequent sending of the Set-apart Spirit is emphatically explained to be a fulfillment of the prophecies which describe the restoration of the house of Israel, NOT the building of a new thing.  Kepha speaks of the activities on Shavuot (a.k.a. Pentecost) as being a fulfillment of what the prophets said would happen to the house of Israel in the last days:

But this is what was spoken about through the prophet Yoel: 'And in the last days it will be,' Elohim says, 'that I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy (Acts 2:16-18).

This citation by Kepha of Yoel 2 stops short and leaves out the important context.  Certainly Peter had the whole passage in mind here, but only a portion of it is recorded in Acts 2.  The prophet goes on to say:

It will so happen that everyone who calls on the name of Yahuwah will be delivered. For on Mount Zion and in Yerushalayim there will be those who survive, just as Yahuwah has promised; the remnant will be those whom Yahuwah will call. For look! In those days and at that time I will return the exiles to Yehudah and Yerushalayim (Yoel 2:32-3:1).

Here the pouring out upon all flesh is connected with what follows - the returning of the exiles of the house of Israel back to Yehudah and Yerushalayim.  Again, this is evidence that when Yahusha spoke of "building of the church" he was referencing the re-establishment and restoration of the exiled houses of Israel.

In Acts 3 is recorded the events immediately following Shavuot (that famous Pentecost).  Here Kepha (Peter) speaks of those events as fulfilling what the prophets wrote about long ago:

But the things Elohim foretold long ago through all the prophets--that his Messiah would suffer--he has fulfilled in this way.  Therefore repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of Yahuwah, and so that he may send the Messiah appointed for you--that is, Yahusha. This one heaven must receive until the time all things are restored, which Elohim declared from times long ago through his set-apart prophets. Mosheh said, 'Yahuwah your Elohim will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must obey him in everything he tells you. Every person who does not obey that prophet will be destroyed and thus removed from the people.' And all the prophets, from Shemuel and those who followed him, have spoken about and announced these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that Elohim made with your ancestors, saying to Avraham, 'And in your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.' Elohim raised up his servant and sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each one of you from your iniquities." (Acts 3:18-26).

First, Kepha describes the events of Shavuot as the beginning of the fulfillment of the restoration of the house of Israel as spoken of by the prophets.  These events were precursors of the restoration of all things (i.e. the restoration of David's fallen tent - the house of Israel).

Next, Kepha describes those folks in his listening audience as "sons of the prophets and of the covenant that Elohim made" with the fathers.  Certainly those who insist that a "new thing" was created (i.e. "the Church") would never describe themselves as "sons of the prophets and of the covenant of the fathers."  Yet, that is precisely who Kepha is speaking to - he is speaking to "Israel", not to some alleged "New Testament Church"!

Therefore, Messiah's response to Kepha's confession must be understood as describing Yahusha's work to rebuild and restore the house of Israel, as foretold so many times by the Prophets of old.

The Assembly of Israel and Its Authority

Matthew 16:18 is a pivotal Scripture, well know in the Christian world and usually translated something like this:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Roman Catholic Church interprets this statement as speaking about the Universal (Catholic) Church.  Protestants agree to the extent that they believe Jesus instituted a new thing which he called "his Church."  Let's break this text down a little to ascertain these claims.

The word translated as church in our text is the Greek evkklhsi,a (ekkleesia) which means a regularly summoned legislative body, assembly; a casual gathering of people, an assemblage, gathering; people with shared belief, community, congregation.  This Greek word is the one used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew kahal or kehilah

The Hebrew Scriptures use two words which translate as “congregation, assembly, people.”  Hlhq - pronounced “kehilah” is usually translated assembly Hd[ “pronounced "edah” is typically translated congregation, assembly, multitude, people, swarmKehilah and edah are virtually synonymous.  Edah comes from the root word, d[;y' ("to appoint") from which the word d[eAm ("moed" an appointment, an appointed assembly!) comes.  It also has additional derivatives.  (For an in-depth word study analysis of these terms, see The Miqra page in this website.)

Since Yahusha spoke from the perspective of the Torah and the Prophets and in the Hebrew tongue, it makes better sense to interpret what he is saying from a Hebraic context.  The Messiah came to the Hebrew speaking House of Israel.  His mission is to fulfill prophesy regarding the House of Israel.  Thus, this talk of building a church is certainly a reference to the assembly of the House of Israel.  So rather than trying to force an interpretation of his words as indicating that he would build a new thing - the Church - let's see this in the context in which it was written.

More important to us here is what the Torah (Law of Moses) says about the kehilah (assembly of Israel).  The Torah is explicitly given as an inheritance to the kehilah (church) assembly of Israel:

Mosheh delivered to us an instruction (Torah), an inheritance for the assembly (kehilah) of Ya'acov (Devarim 33:4).

As an inheritance to the congregation of Israel (Ya'acov/Jacob), the Torah (Law), made up of the statutes and rulings (decisions) was to be the way of life for all Israel.  Furthermore, all disputes, disagreements, judgments and decisions, including capital crimes, felony and misdemeanor level infractions, and lawsuits of any kind, were to be decided upon by the elders of Israel on the basis of the Torah.

In the case of an accusation of a crime or infringement, the Torah requires at least 2 witnesses in order to convict an accused transgressor.

At the testimony of two or three witnesses they must be executed. They cannot be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.  The witnesses must be first to begin the execution, and then all the people are to join in afterward. In this way you will purge evil from among you (Devarim 17:6,7).

And

A single witness may not testify against another person for any trespass or sin that he commits. A matter may be legal only on the testimony of two or three witnesses (Devarim 19:15).

The Messiah Yahusha, as he always did, affirmed the validity of the Torah of Moses for the "church" (assembly).  Even in the case of a brother who has "something against you," if the brother refuses to listen to you during your private encounter with him, you take it to the next level:

But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the congregation. If he refuses to listen to the congregation, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.  I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.  Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.  For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them (Mattityahu 18:16-20).

If a dispute can be settled privately, that is always the first step we should take.  But ultimately, the congregation is to make decisions about personal disputes on the basis of the statutes and rulings of the Torah.  And only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

The kehillah has the authority to render decisions and settle disputes because it is Yahuwah's agent in dispensing righteous decisions based upon the Torah which is made up of the chukot (statutes) and mishpatim (righteous rulings).  Thus, whatever they bind on earth (a decision based upon the righteous mishpatim) has already been bound (decided upon) in heaven, because He has already given us these decisions in the Torah!  The assembly is NOT making new law when they agree upon a matter in settling a dispute.  They are to make these rulings based upon the Scriptural Law, and thus the thing really is "bound in heaven" because the decision is based upon the right-ruling of the Torah, which "Heaven" has already decided upon!

The assembly's responsibility is to ensure the proper use of the Torah in settling disputes for the congregation (church).  They are Elohim's agent in issuing righteous rulings and thus are the supporting body for truth.  Sha'ul (also known as Paul) explains this in his letter to Timothy:

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these Instructions to you in case I am delayed, to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of Elohim, because it is the congregation of the living Elohim, the support and bulwark of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

If the assembly of Elohim does not support the truth in its legal decision making, who will?  Therefore, by applying the chukot and mishpatim of the Law in legal disputes, the kehillah is the support and defense of the truth that is found in Torah.

The Authority Given to Peter:  Keys of the Reign of the Heavens

Yahusha's next statement, then, must also be understood in the context in which it was declared:

And I shall give you the keys of the reign of the heavens, and whatever you bind on earth shall be having been bound in the heavens, and whatever you loosen on earth shall be having been loosened in the heavens  (Mattityahu 16:19, The Scriptures)

While there is general consensus that Messiah is speaking about giving some authority to Kepha, there is no little debate about the details of the how, what, why and who of this statement.

The Catholic Church sees this authority as their right to change Law, overturn Law and create new Law.  And so we must ask ourselves: "is it possible to alter the Almighty's Law or overturn it?"  There are a myriad of places in the Law and the Prophets which expressly prohibit the changing, adding to or abrogation of Elohim's Law.  Yahuwah himself instructed through Mosheh:

Now, Yisrael, pay attention to the rules and right-rulings I am about to teach you, so that you might live and go on to enter and take possession of the land that Yahuwah, the Elohim of your ancestors, is giving you.  Do not add a thing to what I command you nor subtract from it, so that you may keep the commandments of Yahuwah your Elohim that I am delivering to you (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 4:1,2).

And,

You must be careful to do everything I am commanding you. Do not add to it or subtract from it! (Devarim 12:32).

In the Psalms, David says repeatedly that the Law of Elohim is eternal, everlasting, never ending:

Yahuwah, your Instructions endure; they stand secure in heaven. (Psalm 119:89)

Long ago I realized that you ordained your rules to last. (Psalm 119:152)

Your justice endures, and your law is reliable. (Psalm 119:142)

And Messiah himself said,

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah (Law) or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the Torah (Law) until everything takes place. (Matthew 5:17,18)

This sounds very clearly to be a definitive statement about the abiding validity of the Torah.

Therefore, in light of the explicit revelation of Scripture and the confirmation from the lips of Messiah, the Law of Elohim cannot be altered, nullified or replaced by an institution of man.  The Catholic Church has no authorization from the Scripture or from the mouth of the Almighty to meddle with the Almighty's Law.  The Torah is unchangeable.

What then is this authority which has been given to Peter and all the apostles and prophets?  And what are the keys of the reign of heaven which Peter was to receive?  The prophet Yeshayahu (a.k.a. Isaiah) speaks about the key which is connected to the authority to bind and loose:

"At that time I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah. I will put your robe on him, tie your belt around him, and transfer your authority to him. He will become a protector of the residents of Yerushalayim and of the people of Yehudah.  I will place the key to the house of David on his shoulder. When he opens the door, no one can close it; when he closes the door, no one can open it.  (Yeshayahu 22:20-22)

Here, the "key" to the house of David that Eliakim was to receive was authority over the house of David to open and close ("to bind and to loose," or "to prohibit and to permit").  This "key" is the proper and authorized authority to rule over the House of David which is the people of Israel.

The promise to the church of Philadelphia in the book of Revelation also associates this key of David with the authority to bind and loose, and the right to rule and reign:

To the angel of the congregation in Philadelphia write the following: "This is the solemn pronouncement of the Set-apart One, the True One, who holds the key of David, who opens doors no one can shut, and shuts doors no one can open" (Revelation 3:7)

This "key" appears to be the right to rule and reign over the house of Israel.  Messiah has been given this key of David, the authority to execute righteous judgment on his people Israel.

What is the standard by which the house of Israel was to be managed, administered and judged?  The Torah of Mosheh was that standard.

Now, Yisrael, pay attention to the rules and right-rulings I am about to teach you, so that you might live and go on to enter and take possession of the land that Yahuwah, the Elohim of your ancestors, is giving you. (Devarim 4:1)

Now this is the commandment - the rules and right-rulings that Yahuwah your Elohim instructed me to teach you so that you may carry them out in the land where you are headed and that you may so revere Yahuwah your Elohim that you will keep all his rules and commandments that I am giving you--you, your children, and your grandchildren--all your lives, to prolong your days. (Devarim 6:1,2)

The nation of Israel was to be operated according to the laws and right-rulings of the Torah.  All disputes were to be settled by the application of the laws and right-rulings. The Instruction (Hebrew, "Torah" or "Law") was made up of two parts:

Now this is the commandment - the rules and right-rulings that Yahuwah your Elohim instructed me to teach you so that you may carry them out in the land where you are headed.... (Devarim 6:1)

The "rules" (Hebrew, chukot) were the basic laws or precepts.  These would include the ten commandments, for example.  These precepts are basic guidelines for behavior.  The breaking of these commandments usually resulted in a severe penalty.  The "right-rulings" (Hebrew, mishpatim) were the "judgments" or correct disciplinary measures in the event of a minor misdeed.  Included among these, for example, is the commandment to help return your unfriendly neighbor's animal when you find it gone astray, and to require the restitution of property plus a fifth of its value to the one wronged.  The mishpatim were the "judgments" which Israel was to administer when someone was found guilty of wronging another.

The "keys of the reign of the heavens" about which Yahusha spoke to Peter is the authority given to the disciples of Yahusha to manage and reign over his body by the use of the rules (Hebrew, chukot) and right-rulings (Hebrew, mishpatim) of the Torah.  These tools ("keys") are the means by which to instruct and manage the body of Messiah.  They are the laws and judgments by which all of Israel is to live.

The Disciples' Authority to Bind and to Loose

Now let's consider the instruction in Matthew 16:19

whatever you bind on earth shall be having been bound in the heavens, and whatever you loosen on earth shall be having been loosened in the heavens.

Much is made of the grammatical construction in the Greek manuscripts in this verse by New Testament Greek scholars.  Rightly so, because the grammar is very important to the understanding of the meaning of this instruction.

"Shall be having been bound" and "shall be having been loosened" is very awkward English.  But it accurately renders the periphrastic future perfect tense of the Greek text.  It is constructed by attaching the future tense of the "to be" verb to the perfect participle of the action verbs.  It essentially means, "when this judgment is 'bound,' it shall already have been bound in heaven" and "when the judgment is 'loosed' (released), it shall already have been released in heaven."  The action, when declared by the disciples, will at that point in time already have been done by heaven.

What Messiah was actually saying was, "the judgment which you render shall have already been rendered."  Why?  This is not because the disciples have been given independent discretion to make their own judgments about people and their cases.  This is what many Christians think this statement means.  But Yahusha was not giving his disciples carte blanche authority to decide cases using their best judgment merely because they were his disciples.

Keep in mind that Yahusha was always upholding the authority of the Torah of Mosheh as the correct walk of faith and the authoritative body of instructions for his people Israel.  The prophets tell us that the Law of Messiah's reign is the Torah of Mosheh.  So, since the "keys of the reign of the heavens" are the laws and judgments of the Torah, Yahusha is merely affirming this for his disciples.  They are to use the laws and judgment of the Torah to administer the body of Messiah.

Any decisions that have to be made in the assembly of Messiah must be done in accordance to the mishpatim.  When all disputes and disagreements among Messiah's people are handled and settled according to the judgments of the Torah, then it is easy to see how that the decision was already made in heaven.  Any loosing or binding must be done in accordance with what has already been decided by Elohim and written into the Torah.

Thus, when the elders decide to "bind" in accordance to the dictates of the mishpatim of the Torah, then heaven has indeed already decided the case and has "bound."  And when the elders decide to "loose" according to the dictates of the judgments of the Law, then heaven has already "loosened" because the decision has already been made by Elohim and it has been written into the Torah as a judgment.

There is no new authority that Kepha has been given.  Neither is there any new authority that the body of Messiah (the "church") has been given.  The authority that Messiah has given to his apostles and prophets is that authority which has been encapsulated into the Torah and had already been given to Israel.  These are the righteous judgments which the Almighty has issued for the building up of and administration of Messiah's assembly.

The keys of the reign of Messiah are rightfully placed in the hands of Messiah's disciples, because theirs is the Torah, and their inheritance is the Torah.  Messiah Yahusha's declaration to Peter is merely an affirmation of what has already been established.  The prophets declare that Messiah will teach the Torah to the nations:

In the future the mountain of Yahuwah's temple will endure as the most important of mountains, and will be the most prominent of hills. All the nations will stream to it, many peoples will come and say, "Come, let's go up to Yahuwah's mountain, to the temple of the Elohim of Ya'acov, so he can teach us his paths, and we can follow his ways." For Zion will be the center for moral instruction (Hebrew, "Torah"); Yahuwah will issue edicts from Yerushalayim.  He will judge disputes between nations; he will settle cases for many peoples. (Yeshayahu [Isaiah} 2:2-4)

The judging of disputes and settling of cases during the Messianic age will be done in conjunction with the moral instructions of the Torah.  The mishpatim are those laws which are the judgments between disputers.

The prophet Micah says the same thing:

...and many nations will come, saying, "Come on! Let's go up to Yahuwah's mountain, to the temple of Ya'acov's Elohim, so he can teach us his commands, and we can live by his laws." For Zion will be the source of instruction, and Yahuwah's teachings will proceed from Yerushalayim.  He will arbitrate between many peoples, and mediate for many distant nations. (Micah 4:2,3)

It is well known that Messiah will rule and reign on earth during the Messianic age and enforce the Torah.  And his disciples will reign with him.  So, why should it be any surprise that the disciples of the Messiah should be using those same laws and judgments of the Torah to administer the assembly of Messiah in the present age?

Conclusion

The Christian Church has misinterpreted many Scriptures because it has ignored the Torah of Scripture.  The Torah has not been done away with any more than heaven and earth have disappeared.  The Messiah taught his disciples that the Torah is still valid and that walking in accordance to the commandments of the Torah is the correct way to express faith in him.

Yahusha claimed through his teachings and lifestyle, and through implicit and explicit dialogue that he is the Prophet who was to come - the very Messiah of prophecy.  And for those of his disciples who recognize and confess this fact of his identity are given the Torah as the correct way to administer his assembly, settle disputes and issue decisions which affect the body of Messiah.

This is what Messiah was conferring upon Peter - not a new authority to be head of his people, but the authority that all Israel received to manage and administer the nation by the righteous Torah which Yahuwah himself had given.  The laws and right-rulings of the Torah is the standard by which all judgments and decisions are made.  This authority to administer justice was given to all Israel as an inheritance and as such, Peter and the apostles received this authority from Yahusha the Messiah to manage his assembly (the church), the Body of Messiah.

END