What did Jesus mean by “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” Matthew 18:18

What does it mean to bind and to loose?

I think it means that if I get together with other Christian leaders then I can choose which scientific papers to bind (and keep shut) or loose (and let other Christians read them).


Good question. My initial reaction is that “heaven” may refer to the spiritual realm that coexists with what we see as the physical here. I think Wright has written about that heaven is all around us.
If that is true, then it may mean that what we do here materially has immediate consequences spiritually also. If you lie, cheat or steal, there is not just a physical result but a spiritual harm done.
But I may be wrong, just musing.

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I thought it had to do with church discipline in the context. Like if two or three people agree that someone is unrepentant about their sin, they can be let go from fellowship with the group and, since the agreement of two or three carries spiritual authority, it’s a big deal.


@Christy (@Skoshland )

I like Christy’s interpretation. Put in its most compassionate form (rather than the same possible meanings for negative purposes) - - if “the Church” (or 2 or 3 people in agreement) “binds someone as righteous” - - the angels will obey and mark his/her status accordlingly.

Matt 16:18 And I tell you are Peter and that on this rock I will build my church… I will give you the keys to heaven. whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

2 Corinthians 6:14.
Do not be bound together with unbelievers for what partnerships have righteousness and lawlessness.

This is a similar context having to do with spiritual authority over who is in fellowship.

This is a totally different context about marriage.

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Other translations have “forbid/prohibit/don’t allow and allow/permit” instead of bind/loose. So again, I think it speaks about spiritual authority and deciding boundaries.

Obviously To bound is a relational term not a physical term. I see this in a good number of the Hebrew texts (and other) denoting connection. I take this to imply that they believed that faith, belief, love all bind people together and to God. Like the covenant between our God and his people. This information is binding. Likewise, those that reject him or rebel are loosed basically not in heaven.

This implies that information that is assembled and bound and ordered here in our world can be similarly assembled, ordered and bound in heaven. In this instance, I believe that quantum mechanics requires the conservation of information. Even between heaven and earth.

Ok, I have bound and loose backwards. To bind or be bound is a punishment or a curse for some sin that is not forgiven. To loose is to be forgiven or free from punishment. Jesus is building his church on His Rock, Peter by giving him the keys to the entrance to heaven. Those that are not forgiven and bound on earth and not part of the church will likewise be bound in heaven and not part of the Kingdom in heaven while those that are loosed or forgiven on earth will be loosed is heaven and part of the Kingdom.

Are you sure it is something that is done to people? I thought it was more a pronouncement on what was sin and not sin or doctrine or not doctrine. Wikipedia has an entry on it. Who knew?

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Well I am not a Hebrew scholar, but it does seem bound has many connotations. So forbid and allow is probably applicable in some cases but in this case I think it may be related to punishment.

John 20:21 . As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins then they are forgiven and if you don’t forgive them they are not forgiven.

What if the promise given to the church was more about human will and God accepting it?

If a human practice was morally unacceptable to God, God would have to accept the fact. Peter was even nudged into that direction by God telling him what was unclean to eat as food already was accepted by God in the vision of the unclean animals. Anything by extension, that is sin and condemned in the Law of Moses was open to change by the will of the new found church and body of Christ.

It could even be said that if the church embraced evolution then evolution would have been the means of God’s creation of all biological life. Is it just a means though of getting God to follow the whim of human’s demand for being the means of their own rightness? Or was it more a way of saying that God was placing trust back into humanity, after the failure of Adam and the defaulted Law of Moses?

Personally I think it was God saying I will give you thoughts, and when you carry them out in obedience then humsns will be in accord with God as one. I do not think that humans are capable of original thought. I think that their actions based on the thoughts they have in their mind determine an outcome. Even if this outcome is morally accepted by humanity, it may still be wrong in God’s will. Humans are capable of totally going against God and the thoughts given to us. That is free will. They can even believe that such disobedience to God’s will is inspired by God, to the point there is no dissonance of mind.

Thanks for contributing, and welcome to the forum. It appears you have resurrected an old post, so perhaps it has a little life left in it yet.

I would have to think about that, relating it to what Jesus said about lusting in our hearts being equivalent to adultery and hate to murder.

Maybe you are referring to forum posts. If you look back, they are are a little repetitious.:wink: Seriously, while I fully admit original ideas are rare and few and far between, I do believe in free will which incorporates freedom of thought. And that, perhaps is where we begin to sin, in line with your statement.

Matthew introduces the idea of “loosing” in Matthew 5:19, though the same Greek word is here usually translated “breaks”:

Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)

Here the improper loosing of a commandment makes one least in the kingdom… but still in the kingdom. When we get to the more familiar passages (Matthew 16:19; 18:18-20), it seems as though binding/loosing continues to apply to commandments rather than people. Rabbis in surrounding centuries also connect this language with deciding what Torah forbids and permits. It has implications for people, but what is actually bound or loosed is not people but rules.

More support for this reading comes from details of the Greek. According to David Garland,

The object of the binding and loosing is neuter (“whatever,” not “whoever”). They are not to bind or loose persons. The community is to do whatever is necessary to see that a little one does not perish, but it can make pronouncements on what is or is not sin with confidence. The final judgment of the individual, however, is still left to God. (Garland, Reading Matthew, 192–93)

In Matthew, Jesus gives the disciples the profound responsibility to interpret the First Testament in light of his own teaching and ministry. Like Jesus, they may tighten some portions while they set aside others, but only if they do so like Jesus. The early church appears to have taken this responsibility seriously. The Jerusalem council did not base their decision on any particular prooftext, but rather on what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28, especially in light of 10:28). Their decision would be a good example of “loosing” something by which people had previously been bound.


I apologize for being late to the thread, but i am sure this has been in my thoughts for over a year. Perhaps longer, but a year ago, I read about the interpretation a Jesuit author had taken in reference to the office of the pope. The responsibility was not given to a single church function but the church as a whole. I would qualify that as the church in step with the Spirit. Although the work of the Spirit seems as lost on the church as the office of the pope has dominated. But saying that the office of the pope may have been a substitute for the Spirit may be too much of a closed case. That is why the responsibility is broad, but what the church is may be more narrow than what has been accepted. I think that even the concept of religion and what the church is needs to be re-examined.

At what point does human religion end, and the reality of God and human interaction begin? It seems to me when God is forced out, then religion takes over. So what does this have to do with binding heaven to earth. Everything, because the kingdom of heaven could have been realized, but the point where the church stopped acting as God, may be hard to place in a historical context, because unlike the Law which had an end in Christ. The church had no timetable, because even Jesus did not know the future timetable. Nor was the church just one ethnic group or culture. It was an actuality for God to be shown in every culture in all the earth.

Religion is viewing existence through the eyes of ancient near east. I do not think that that view was supposed to be passed on to the church. Even the infusion of Greek philosophy and reasoning did not hold back the subtle substitute of religion for the Holy Spirit. As a side note for another topic, we want to turn the Word of God into a man made religion. I think that is the wrong interpretation of what the Two Covenants were supposed to accomplish.

My point on thoughts was to eliminate the ability for men to come up with their own original thoughts. It comes strictly from the point that what we think and know is a reaction to what knowledge we are given. It is the point that states there is no free will, because everything is pre-determined. That does not restrict us from coming up with new and innovative ideas, because we are still reacting to the seemingly endless reality that we have barely figured out life 20 feet from us. It does not completely negate free will either. I apologize for the length of post. Perhaps there could be a more concise way to put it. I think there is a way to view God and what we are given in the Word as literal. Even the beginning of existence which has an age even if we have evidence to the contrary. I think we have the responsibility to figure out God’s reasoning for the revelation given, and our ability to rule it out.

In response to the title question:

When I look at the context, the parable immediately afterwards suggests that what you can expect in the afterlife and from God mirrors your own choices in the treatment of others on earth. The story of the brother who sins against you told just before this is similar in that if the brother will listen to nobody, then just as he has effectively made everyone nothing to him, so then he makes himself like a Gentile nothing to all of them. Thus the choices you make on earth become binding upon you in heaven or afterlife also.

We must not have many charismatics on the site yet. This topic would be like bees to honey. I say that as a former charismatic myself.

@jpm came closest I think to articulating something like it when referencing Wright’s “heaven is all around us”. In my former days we looked at this text as relating to the believer’s authority to “bind and loose” demonic and angelic powers and principalities in heavenly places. And while certainly believers have a certain authority positionally “in Christ”, the verse relates rather to Church authority and the binding and loosing of human souls from sin.

From a reformational perspective, the proclamation of the Law proves us guilty and fallen short of God’s glory. So we confess that sinful state before God and agree with his judgment of us. Then we hear the Church proclaim the Gospel that we are forgiven. In our churches literally the pastor says, “upon this your confession, I by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of Christ and by His authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit”. We are loosed.

Should we remain unrepentant and reject the payment of Christ for our sins, and fail to receive the Gospel, we remain “bound” in our sin by default. As a very last resort after all attempts at restoration have failed one might be excommunicated from corporate fellowship until such time as contrition works repentance.

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“Binding and loosing” is supposed to be rabbinic interpretive terminology, correlating pretty closely with “forbidding” and “permitting.”

So…pretty good answers on this thread.


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