Upon This Rock

Originally published 7/31/2001

(Mat 16:13) “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?”

Jesus had recently fed the multitude with loaves and fishes and afterward had gone to the city of Magdala, which means tower. Magdala was the home town of Mary Magdalene, which means ‘Mary of Magdala’. Mary means “rebellious” so Mary Magdalene could mean “rebellious tower” (which she was until Jesus cast out her demons—Mark 16:9 & Luk 8:2). From Magdala, he traveled to Caesarea Philippi where we pick up the story. Caesarea Philippi is named after Herod’s son, Philip, who rebuilt the city of Paneas and dedicated it to Tiberias Caesar. After Philip’s death, the city was renamed Neronias. But in Jesus’ time it was known as Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus knew the answer to His question; He only asked this question to teach his disciples and to teach us.

(Mat 16:14) “And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.”

John the Baptist was earlier beheaded by Herod. Some thought Jesus was the reincarnation of John; in fact even Herod believed this (Mark 6:14). Elias is the prophet Elijah and Jeremias is the prophet Jeremiah. According to John Wesley (co-founder of Methodism with his brother Charles), there was a tradition among the Jews during the First Century that either Jeremiah or another ancient prophet would rise again before the advent for Messiah. Thus, some thought that Jesus was either Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Reincarnation was and is an accepted belief in pagan circles and apparently in First Century Jewish circles. Note that Jesus asked his disciples what other people thought of Him.

(Mat 16:15) “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?”

After warming them up and piquing their interest, he then asked the most important question of all time.

(Mat 16:16) “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

We are led to believe that Peter was impetuous and quick to jump in ahead of the facts. While he may have been overeager at times, I don’t for one moment think he was not intelligent. I have read his epistles, and brethren, he was very intelligent. I feel like Peter had the correct answer more often than we give him credit. He certainly had the correct answer here. But he did not think of it; God gave it to him.

Jesus is the Christ—Christ, or “Cristos” in the Greek, which means “anointed.” The Hebrew word for anointed is “mashiyach” or Messiah. Jesus, “Iesous” in the Greek, “yeshua” or Joshua in the Hebrew means “God’s Savior.” Since Joshua or Jesus means “God’s Savior,” and Christ means “anointed,” Jesus Christ means Joshua the Messiah, or literally, “God’s Anointed Savior”. Jesus is God’s Anointed Savior. For Him to be your Savior, you must believe in Him. John 3:16 (KJV), “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

(Mat 16:17) “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.

There are some key points about this verse aside from the obvious. The obvious is that Peter was blessed because his Father in Heaven had given him the truth: that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah. Here, “blessed” means fortunate.

Some other points: Simon is the Greek for Simeon, which is Hebrew. Simeon, or Simon, means “hearing.” “Barjona” is an Aramaic word, which is the combination of two Aramaic words, “bar“, and “jona“. In Hebrew, “bar” means “son” or “son of”; “Jona” or “yona” (there is no J in Aramaic or Hebrew) is both an Aramaic and Hebrew word, which, in English, is Jonah. Now yona, or Jonah, means dove. The dove was the sign of the Holy Spirit coming on Jesus at his baptism (Mat. 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32).

The upshot is that Simon Barjona literally means “hearing, son of the dove.” Spiritually, it means that Peter heard that Jesus was the Christ from God via the Holy Spirit! By using his full name, and instead of calling him by his nickname, petros, or Peter, Jesus meant exactly that.

(Mat 16:18) “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.

There is a lot of confusion about upon whom the church was built. The traditions of some churches say that Jesus was building his church on Peter, a man. That just is not so.

As fallible as men are, there is no way the church could be built on a man. It must have been built on Jesus Christ. The Greek supports this view.

In the Greek, Peter is “Petros.” “Petros” just means a piece of a rock larger than a pebble or stone, but still a little rock. It is a movable rock. The Greek for “rock” here is “petra“, a mass of rock or bedrock. This implies a foundation stone. Peter, the little, moveable rock, is not a foundation stone. Cephas, which Jesus used in John 1:42 is the Aramaic word for Peter. It also means a stone or moveable rock.

The definition of the word Πετρος, Petros, or Peter, is 1. apparently a primary word; a piece of rock (Strong’s) 2. a stone, distinguished from πετρα, petra (Liddell-Scott).

The definition of the word πετρα, petra, or rock in the verse, is 1. a mass of rock (Strong’s) 2. a large stone (Thayer) 3. bedrock or massive rock formations (Bauer-Danker)

The first use of the rock, Peter, the piece of rock, is not the rock upon which the church is built. The church is built on the second rock, the massive rock, that is to say, Christ, the rock of our salvation, the stone the builders rejected, the chief cornerstone, the foundation stone laid in Zion.

Again, who is the foundation stone? Jesus Christ, the stone the builders rejected and the chief cornerstone (Psa. 118:22, Mat 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17), the foundation stone (Isa 28:16), and the rock of our salvation (Psa 89:26, Psa 95:1).

Would Jesus build His church on a little piece of a rock or on a solid foundation stone? I think the answer is obvious: The foundation bedrock. Some commentators believe that Jesus was pointing at Peter when he uttered his name and that He pointed and Himself when He said “Upon this rock.”

The word translated hell is actually “αδης, hades.” Hades is the abode of the dead, or the grave. It is the unseen place of departed souls (Strong’s number 86 in the Greek dictionary). Many teach that this means that Satan won’t be able to stand against the church. Such thought believes that Satan is in hell and is the ruler of it. That is simply untrue. Satan is loose upon the earth—he goes to and fro in the earth and walks up and down in it (Job 1:7, 2:1; 1 Pet 5:8). Eventually, Satan will be cast into the lake of fire along with death and with hell and with the unsaved (Rev 20:10, 14-15).

With Christ as our head, Satan certainly won’t prevail against the church. The Revelation tells us this. But that is not the teaching here. The teaching is that the grave and death will not prevail against the church. The church is the many membered body made up of individual Christians who will live forever. They prevail against the grave and against death because they never die. Though they will die the natural death of the body, they will live forever as immortals after physical death (Isa 25:8; 1 Cor 15:54). Thus the grave and physical death will never prevail against God’s people.

Remember what Paul says about the church in Romans 8:35-39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? {36} As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. {37} Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. {38} For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, {39} Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul is saying that nothing at all, including the grave or death will ever separate us from God. So even if we are killed in the body, neither the grave, nor death will have conquered us. We are the conquerors, super conquerors, in fact, since nothing can ever conquer us. That is the meaning of the gates of hell.

(Mat 16:19)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.

Many jokes, stories, and movies show Peter, or Saint Peter, at the “pearly gates” of heaven with a key chain and a book of admittance, allowing some to enter while rejecting others. It is a cute fairy tale, but what is the real meaning of this verse?

What is a key, and what key (or keys) does one need to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and why were the keys given to Peter?

A key can be several things. A key is an instrument that turns the bolt of a lock. It is a means of gaining entrance. It is the deciding factor in an argument. It is the explanation of or solution to a puzzle. It is the stone in a stone arch that holds it all together (keystone). It is the most important part of something.

A key unlocks. There is an unknown quality to salvation as far as the unsaved go. Those who have not received salvation are in a way locked out of the knowledge of the Word of God, the mystery, and the peace that passes all understanding. Upon salvation we are given the gift of the Spirit and the He unlocks the word of God to us. Has someone who was not a Christian ever told you that they did not read the Bible because they could not understand it? I remember saying the same thing, but when I was saved, the Bible came alive to me. The reason is that the Spirit is the key that unlocks the Bible. When I received the Spirit, He opened my eyes to the Bible. Salvation is the key that gives us the peace that passes all understanding. This peace is the result of our no longer fearing death. We know, as the Apostle said, that nothing can separate us from God. What is the mystery of salvation? It is the fact that Jesus came and became our permanent sacrifice for sin. He replaced or fulfilled all the religious ordinances of Moses. Being saved and receiving the Spirit unlocks that mystery to us. So salvation is one of the keys to Heaven. Because the Bible in unlocked to us, we can discover all the benefits of salvation.

A key is a means of gaining entrance. In order to gain entrance to heaven, one must be saved. As Paul said: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. {14} How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? {15} And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! {16} But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? {17} So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:13-17) In order to receive salvation, one must understand what it is. How does one understand that? By hearing and believing the Gospel, which is the good news about salvation. So the Gospel is another key, in fact it is the essential key, meaning it is the most important key to our salvation.

The word of God is the final factor in any argument. Those who do not believe in the Bible may not accept this premise, but their disbelief does not make it any less true. The Bible can prove all things, for “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: {17} That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The Bible is the key to our understanding of all profitable things. The Bible, the Word of God, is another key.

Hebrews 11:1 states: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The world is puzzled by our belief in Christ. They do not understand. To them it is just another “thing” people do (“Its your thing, do what you wanna do”). We are said to “have gotten religion.” To the world our faith is an avocation or hobby. That is why the world insists that we Christians check our faith at the door of government institutions such as schools. They think, like the hobby of, say, model railroading, that we can just leave our hobby at home. No, faith is not a hobby. In is the integral part of our salvation and our being. When we have faith, we become one of God’s children. We are not pretending to be the children of God; we actually are the children of God. That is in our soul and in our spirit. We cannot check it at the door. Faith is the key to the puzzle of salvation. With faith, we know that we are saved and that God is on His throne and that the Christ makes intercession for our sins.

As for the keystone, we have already said that Christ is the Rock of our salvation, the foundation Rock of the church, the stone the builders rejected Who has become the chief cornerstone, the stone laid in Zion. Jesus Christ is the keystone to all (Isa 28:16; Eph 2:20). He was, is, and always will be; He created all (John 1:3); He came to earth to be the Atonement for our sins (1 Joh 4:10). He is the True Key to all Keys. Without Him, we would not have any other keys.

Finally, in our definition of a key, we said that a key is the most important part of something. Our Christianity and all that goes along with it, is the most important thing in our lives. Christ is the most important thing to us. If He is not the most important thing in your life, perhaps you should review your salvation. Or perhaps you have fallen away from your First Love and you need to get back to it. Your “religion,” that is your salvation, is the most important thing to you and it is important because Jesus Christ, Who is God (Joh 10:30), is the most important thing in your life (Exo 20:3; Mat 10:37, 22:8).

The keys that Jesus gave to Peter, and thus to the entire church are Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Salvation, Faith, the Word of God, and the Gospel.

The late Dr. John Walvoord, explaining this verse, wrote, “In this declaration, Christ was making clear the authority and important place of Peter as having the message which unlocks the entrance into the kingdom of heaven. This, however, is no justification for attributing to Peter authority which was not shared with the other disciples. Although the singular is used here in the word thee, in Mat 18:18, a similar pronouncement is made using ye, applying to all the disciples. In a sense, every believer who has the gospel has the right to declare that those who believe the gospel are loosed on earth as well as in heaven, and to declare that those who reject the gospel are bound in earth as well as in heaven1.” Thus the key that unlocks the entrance to Heaven is the Gospel message.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
Ed­ward Mote, cir­ca 1834

What about binding and loosing? It sounds like whatever Peter says will happen in Heaven and on Earth. Common sense tells us better. The Gospel binds and loosens. It binds up our sins and rids us of them, and it looses us to the freedom of salvation. Binding and loosing simply means that God will bless our works done in Jesus’ names and for Jesus’ sake. If our works will be used to further the Kingdom, then God will bless our works. We will get whatever we need in the furtherance of the Gospel. If we bind Satan on earth, that is backed up in Heaven. Whenever we loose the gospel on earth it is backed up in Heaven. God allows all things to work for good when we are one of His children. Whatever we bind or loose on earth in Jesus name will also be bound and loosed in Heaven. Paul sums up binding and loosing in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

(Mat 16:20)Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

It was not yet time and Jesus bound the disciples to secrecy. The time came when Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly. The time came when it was publically proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah. Now is the time that Jesus is manifest to the world. Because of that, we should be salt and light in the world.

  1. Walvoord, John F. (1998-11-20). Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come: A Commentary on the First Gospel (p. 124). Kregel Academic & Professional.
This entry was posted in Bible Studies, Topical Studies. Bookmark the permalink.