Summary: Heaven in both its present form and the future that God has in store for it and all of its inhabitents
A Few More Things.
Pastor Eric J. Hanson
May 10, 2015
Last week’s message about Heaven (by Dallas E. Henry) got a lot of people excited and thinking about our eternal home. As I have ruminated on it, there are a few things I wish to add to pastor Dallas’ uplifting message.
What about St. Peter?
There were two Heaven jokes or stories told, and as is “normal” with such tales, “St. Peter” was “at the Gate” of Heaven in the one case, and was showing newbies around in the other case, and answering all their questions. I do wish to bring a little clarification about this today, because there is actually some pretty serious error behind the common image of “Peter at the Gate” holding the “Keys”.
The Roman Catholic Church, long ago elevated Peter to the position of “First Pope”. There are several reasons for this unfortunate position. Today I am not going into most of them, but there is one passage of scripture I am going to, for the purpose of debunking the Peter myths that have grown up around it. Please consider with me, the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 16 & verses 13-20. (Read this now.)
Now, let’s hear again, verses 17-18 (read them again now.) The Roman Catholic position on this passage is that Jesus made Simon/Peter into the very foundation of the Church here; the rock on which the Church is built. This conclusion comes about by not digging into the text properly. Let’s do that now.
Consider these things. Peter (Simon) correctly identified Jesus as the “Christ” (anointed one) of God, the very Son of the Living God. Jesus responded to this in the following manner. He declared “Blessed are you Simon BarJonah” (You have received a blessing from God Simon, son of Jonah.) “because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you” (You didn’t figure this out in your own cleverness.) “but My Father who is in Heaven” (revealed this to you.)
Stop for a moment. Let it sink in that Jesus has just addressed Peter as having received a blessing in the form a divine revelation concerning Jesus’ ultimate identity.
Jesus continued: I also say to you that you are “Peter”. Peter is the Greek word “Petros”. It means “a stone”, such as you or I might pick up the toss off from our lawn, or skip across some water. Those standing there would have understood that Jesus just called Peter a small rock.
Next, Jesus made a contrasting statement in declaring, “and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the Gates of Hell (Hades) will not overpower it. This time, he used a different word. This time, for “rock” Jesus said “Petra”. Petra means “a large mass of rock”. What large mass of rock did he mean? Did he mean Peter? Most certainly he did not! He had just declared Peter to be a stone. No, Jesus was referring to the Revelation which had taken place just a minute of two earlier. Upon this “large massive rock”: the divine revelation from God my Father, that I, Jesus, am the Christ, that I am the Son of the Living God; upon this I shall build my Church! You see, nobody can having saving faith until it dawns on them who Jesus really is! Only then can they look to Him as Savior and Lord.
To those standing there, including Simon Peter, it was clear that Jesus was admonishing him to not become puffed up about his correct answer as to who Jesus is, because that answer had been given to him by God, as a free gift, unearned.
The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven were not something that Jesus handed exclusively to Peter that day either The disciples were not yet ready to receive the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus gave these to . them over time, but they were not ready yet. They would all forsake him ands run away during His great hour of trial. Then after his resurrection; after ministering to them for 40 days before ascending to Heaven, they were ready. Then the Day of Pentecost came and they were filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, and His Power.
The keys to the Kingdom are these: 1. The Gospel of salvation through living faith in Jesus Christ understood well and presented well, and 2. the Power the Holy Spirit gives to live a Christ like life in both character and giftings. These are the Keys to the Kingdom! These unlock the Kingdom of Heaven so that people may come in!
So Peter is enjoying Heaven today the same way as anyone else who has followed Jesus Christ in saving faith. We all get in through Jesus, not through Peter, and nobody has to unlock a gate to let us in. If the Lord Jesus lives in us through genuine Faith in Him as our Savior, we are already citizens of Heaven and we will suddenly be there when the time comes.