In Matthew 16, Jesus asks His disciples “Who do people say that the son of man is?” (v.13). The disciples give a thoroughly modern answer, claiming that some people say one thing, some say another. Jesus responds with “But who do you say that I am?” Peter then makes his famous statement, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Oh that we would all make this proclamation.
But we can find another gold nugget in this passage. For just after Peter’s famous proclamation, Jesus says the following to Peter: “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.” (v.19, NASB).
The New American Standard Bible is most clear here, for the verb tenses are very insightful. Jesus says “whatever you bind” which is an active voice verb. So here Jesus is saying that Peter is the one doing the binding and loosing; Peter does the action. Yet the “shall have been bound” is a passive voice verb, e.g., the action is happening to Peter, and it is past tense, so it could read “will have already been bound.” Peter’s act of binding can occur at any point in time, present or future, and when Peter binds, he will discover that God has already bound it in heaven.
Jesus is telling him, ‘Pete, at any point in time when you bind something, you will be doing the binding, but you will find that it has already been bound in heaven.’
Why is this important? It tells us a great deal about God and the free will of man. Peter is doing the act of binding; it is an act done by Peter. Yet in the future when Peter decides to freely bind something, he will discover that God has already bound it in heaven. This speaks to the timelessness of God. God can command something to occur at a point inside of time, yet God not be stuck in time as we are. Hence, God can choose and know the elect, the Holy Spirit can work to draw all men to Christ, and yet the action of the will can still be done by the individual, all without conflict. An individual can freely accept Christ, and when he does, he discovers that God has already chosen him.