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by Dr. John Thomas
The mysteries of the kingdom were placed on record in the sacred writings; but their signification was hidden from the prophets themselves, until "the keys" thereof were vouchsafed to the apostles.
Hence, says Peter, "Of the salvation of souls (yucw`n) the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
Unto them it was revealed that not unto themselves, but unto us did they minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into".
The mystery of the kingdom, then, has been made known, and we find that it had relation to the sufferings of the Christ; and repentance, remission of sins, and eternal life in his name, to the Jews first and afterwards to the Gentiles.
The prophets, who foretold these things, were not able to penetrate the mystery of them; and the angels themselves, who brought the word to them, desired to understand them.
But this was not permitted; and it was preserved as a secret until after the sufferings of Christ, which were to be the foundation of the manifestation.
When the "point of time" drew nigh for "the finishing of the transgression, the making an end of sin-offerings, the making reconciliation for iniquity, and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness," Jesus who had been anointed the Most Holy, the sealed prophet of the Father, and fully confirmed as Messiah the Prince, selected one man of the twelve (who had the least reason to exalt himself above his brethren as "the prince of the apostles"), as the depository of the keys of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
This highly-honoured individual was Simon Peter, son of Jonas, who denied his master with oaths and curses.
But, being converted, and restored to favour by his gracious Lord, he was prepared to be the unaspiring "servant of the least"; and to strengthen his brethren in all the trials and afflictions they were called upon to endure for the truth's sake.
"I will give unto thee, Simon Barjona," said the king, "the keys of the kingdom of God; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven".
Here was an appointment of Peter in a special sense to the particular function of binding and loosing men on earth.
But we would ask any reasonable man, unspoiled by human folly and absurdity, If a power be conferred on A, nineteen hundred years ago, is it therefore bestowed on B, living nineteen centuries after?
The keys were promised to Peter, and not to successors of Peter, if it were possible for him to have them in such an office; which none but the most stupidly ignorant of the scriptures would venture to affirm.
The custody of the keys by a successor of Peter is the most farcical assumption that ever poor crazy mortals were guilty of.
When we come to see what the keys of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven are, we shall see at once that the very use of them for the first time operates upon Peter's own possession of them, as the telling of a secret to all the world does upon his power over it afterwards by whom it was told.
Had Peter, instead of using the keys, hid them till his death-hour, and then imparted them to a single person, this individual might truly be said to have "succeeded to the keys".
But this he did not, dared not, do.
He communicated them to such multitudes of Jews and Gentiles that they became the common property of the world; and none but men "earthly, sensual, and devilish" as the priests, "seducing spirits, speaking lies in hypocrisy," whose trade it is to "make gain of godliness"; -- none but such as these would have conceived of the possibility of a transfer of the keys of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven to a successor; especially to such a succession of impious impostors as the prophets of the Roman See.
A key is used in scripture as a symbol of the power of revealing, or interpreting, secret things: also for power in general.
As a key is to a lock, so is power to things intellectual, moral, and political.
The scriptures say of Messiah, "The keys shall be upon his shoulder" -- ie., "The government shall be possessed by him".
And again, "I have," says Jesus, "the key (clei`") of Hades (a}dou) and of death"; which is to say, that Jesus hath the power to open the abode, or chamber, of the dead, and to restore them to life.
In these instances, a key is the symbol of political, and physical power; but it also represents scientific or knowledge-imparting power.