A Closer Look at
Binding and Loosing

by
Jack M. Lane


 
What is this mysterious power of “binding and loosing” that clergymen have used over the centuries to keep their followers in line?  Is it possible for a pastor, or a corporate church headquarters, to make a decision about a doctrine, or about someone’s life, and God has no choice but to back up what the human leaders have decided?  What did Messiah mean when He gave the disciples the power to bind and to loose?


In Matthew chapter 16, we find Yeshua the Messiah teaching His disciples about their own future and the future of God’s ekklesia.   Beginning in verse 13, we find Him describing Himself, and what the Body will be built on; He also speaks about binding and loosing, and that He must go to Jerusalem to be crucified.

In verse 18, Messiah tells Peter, “And I also say to you that you are Peter [Greek petros, a rock], and on this rock [Greek petra, a large, massive rock] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades [the grave] shall not prevail against it” (NKJV).

Many articles have been written and many sermons have been delivered on this verse.  Not as much attention has been given to the following verse:  “And I will give you [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (verse 19).

What does that mean?  What is “binding and loosing”?  And how does binding and loosing on earth relate to binding and loosing in heaven?

Jesus repeats this phrase to the rest of the disciples two chapters later, in Matthew 18:18:  “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Most Bible versions routinely translate these two passages the same way:  “Whatever you [whether “you” is thought to refer to Peter, the apostles, or the church] bind or loose on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven.”  Many religious leaders have taken it to mean something other than what Jesus intended, and have, either knowingly or unknowingly, caused great hurt to many of God’s people.

Not understanding these two verses, some religious leaders took to themselves a power and authority that approached the authority of God.  They would say, “Why, if the man in charge says something, God is going to back him up!  Christ said He would!”  Most people had no way of knowing if this was true or not, but since the idea appeared to be biblically based, they tended to go along with what the man in charge said.

In many congregations, the leadership style of the local pastor set the tone for what took place in the congregation.  Any decisions, any rules, any personal preferences of the pastor, tended to take on the force of law, and the pastor fully expected God to fall in line behind him.

“Whatever you bind” became a license.  And somehow it appeared to give human leaders the power to tell God what to do.

OTHER  TRANSLATIONS

One translation, which has been around since 1862, and which has been all but forgotten in the avalanche of 20th century translations, is Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, by the same Robert Young who brought us Young’s Exhaustive Concordance.  His translation attempts to be faithful to the exact Greek, even if the sentence flow in English suffers somewhat.

Young translates Matthew 16:19 this way:  “and I will give to thee the keys of the reign of the heavens, and whatever thou mayest bind upon the earth shall be having been bound in the heavens, and whatever thou mayest loose upon the earth shall be having been loosed in the heavens.”

Now, admittedly, that’s not an easy phrase to understand.  It seems to blend the past and the future:  “shall be” (the future tense), and “having been bound” (the perfect tense, in reference to the past).

Then we look at Young’s translation of Matthew 18:18:  “Verily I say to you, Whatever things ye may bind upon the earth shall be having been bound in the heaven [sic], and whatever things ye may loose on the earth shall be having been loosed in the heavens.”

There it is again!  For this phrase to appear four times, two times in the one verse and two times in the other, it must be very significant.  Messiah must have meant exactly what He said.  Now we must try to understand what it was!

J. B. Phillips, in his The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, translates the two verses in the customary manner, but then in footnotes he refers the reader to a note in the back of the book, where he explains the Greek construction, and admits his own uncertainty about the usual translation.

Phillips wrote, “There is a very curious Greek construction here, viz., a simple future [tense] followed by a perfect participle passive.  If Jesus had meant to say quite simply, ‘Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in Heaven’, can anyone explain why the simple future passive is not used?  It seems to me that if the words of Jesus are accurately reported here, and I have no reason to doubt it, then the force of these sayings is that Jesus’ true disciples will be so led by the Spirit that they will be following the heavenly pattern.  In other words what they ‘forbid’ or ‘permit’ on earth will be consonant with the Divine rules.

“If a simple future passive had been used it would mean an automatic heavenly endorsement of the Church’s actions, which to me, at least, is a very different thing.

“...There is again no ground for supposing that celestial endorsement automatically follows human action, however exalted.”

Does “binding and loosing” mean that men can tell God what to do?  Young and Phillips don’t seem to think so.
What, then, does “binding and loosing” mean?

FORGIVING  SIN?

It appears that most of the religious authors share the idea that binding and loosing refer to the ability of the church (specifically the ministry) to forgive sins or not forgive sins.  In an attempt to validate this idea, another scripture is introduced:    “And when He [Messiah] had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:22-23, NKJV).

But is this scripture really referring to the same thing that the two verses in Matthew are discussing?  In this verse in John 20, we read about forgiving and retaining sin.  In the KJV, it’s translated as “remitting and retaining sin.”  But in Matthew the subject is binding and loosing.  Are they the same thing?

The Greek words for “binding” and “loosing” are translated correctly; they mean to tie and untie something.  However, in John 20:23, instead of translating the Greek word as “forgive,” or “remit,” the translators might just as correctly have rendered it as, “Whoever’s sins you send away, put away, or give up as a debt is forgiven;” and the second word, translated “retain,” might just as correctly be translated “Whoever’s sins you lay hold on, or take.”   There is a similarity here to the concept of binding something and loosing something, and the religious authors can’t really be blamed for thinking this is the same idea.  But do any other scriptures indicate that men can intervene between God and man, or forgive sin, and that God would be helpless to disagree or disapprove?

Paul wrote, “There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 2:5), not any other man, or group of men.  Also, it is God who forgives sin, through Christ’s name (Psalm 103:2-3; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 2:13-14; 1 John 1:9), not the decision of any human religious figure.  It’s not up to a priest or minister to forgive or retain sin, or the penalty of sin, or the guilt of committing sin.  It’s between each individual and God Himself.
 Biblical references to one person forgiving another are also in agreement:  Everyone is encouraged to forgive one another (Matthew 6:12-15; Luke 17:3-4; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8)!

Adam Clarke wrote, in reference to John 20:23, “It is certain God alone can forgive sins; and it would be not only blasphemous but grossly absurd to say that any creature could remit the guilt of a transgression which had been committed against the Creator.”

The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary says,  “The power to intrude upon the relationship between men and God cannot have been given by Christ to His ministers.”

Indeed, Messiah was not granting the disciples authority to forgive sin carte blanche.  Rather he is saying that the Father, when He forgives repentant sinners, gives the disciples authority in the Spirit to pronounce the forgiveness of sins to the forgiven individuals.  The verse is not talking about specifically having some kind of power to “bind and loose” the guilt of sin, and does not convey the same thought as in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18.

If that’s the case, then, how can we think that the phrase “binding and loosing” really mean forgiving or not forgiving sins?  From what we’ve seen, Young and Phillips suggest that there is something that is already bound or loosed in heaven, ahead of time, in advance of whatever proclamation the church might make.  How, then, would that relate to the forgiveness of sins?  The commentators quoted above realized that this was not the case!

Messiah and the apostles taught that forgiveness of sin is automatic, upon (1) repentance, (2) asking God for forgiveness, and (3) making a concerted effort to correct the problem and live a godly life, with the help of Christ, who strengthens us, and the Holy Spirit, which is the spirit of power.

The idea of approaching another person (such as a priest), and asking that person to either forgive the sin or intercede with God on behalf of the sinner, is non-biblical.  Of course, if one person sins against another, it would be up to the two parties to forgive any sin committed between the two of them upon the repentance of the sinner.  But this is something other than the concept of binding and loosing.

FIRST  CENTURY  UNDERSTANDING

What, then, is bound and loosed?  What would the church bind or loose which is already bound or loosed in heaven?

Part of the confusion arises because the phrase doesn’t really mean very much to us today.  Other than its use in the Bible, we might never have heard the expression.  But would Jesus and the disciples have known this phrase, since they were first century Jews living in Judea?  Was it an expression with which they were familiar?

As it turns out, the Jewish Encyclopedia does contain an article on this topic.  Under the title, “Binding and Loosing,” it says, “Rabbinical term for ‘forbidding and permitting.’ ...  The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. ... [They] became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind..., and they could bind any day by declaring it a fast day.”

The phrase relates to the administration of government.  Messiah spent a great deal of time preparing His disciples to administer the New Covenant ekklesia.  When He was teaching them about binding and loosing, He was teaching them an important lesson in church government, but not the lesson many people have thought He was teaching!

And because the lesson was one that later Catholic and Protestant church leaders would not want to hear, later Bible translators actually concealed the meaning of these verses by not following the precise verb tense in their various translations.  The result was two verses that say the opposite in English of what they say in Greek!

THE  REAL  MEANING

To help understand the true nature of these verses, remember how Jesus said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors’”  (Luke 22:25).  It’s generally conceded that Yeshua was being somewhat sarcastic here, due to the harsh nature of civil government in those days.

He continued, “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves” (verse 26).

Let’s apply this lesson to the concept of binding and loosing.

What Yeshua was saying is, “I am giving you the keys to the kingdom of heaven [or, the rulership from heaven -- the Greek word basileia means reign, or rulership].  However, unlike those who rule over you today, you are not to ‘lord it over’ My heritage.  Whatever you bind and loose must be those things which are already bound and loosed in heaven, at God’s throne, according to God’s law.”  If the disciples were to proclaim something to be bound or loosed, they would be doing the same thing Moses did with Israel in the wilderness:  making known to the people “the statutes of God and His laws” (Exodus 18:16)!  Unfortunately, many church leaders, even to this day, have mistaught and misapplied these verses to mean that they can tell their followers, with all the authority of God, anything they wish to tell them!

Adam Clarke, in his commentary on Matthew 16:19, wrote, “‘Binding’ and ‘loosing’ were terms in frequent use among the Jews, and they meant bidding and forbidding, granting and refusing, declaring lawful or unlawful.”  Of course, the apostles would not be declaring things to be lawful or unlawful according to the customary Jewish law of the day, but according to the scriptures.

The perfect example of this is the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15.  A group of men from the ekklesia in Judea, thinking the early church was just another sect of the Jews, went about teaching the Gentile converts that circumcision was still required.  Of course, the Gentile converts were a little reluctant to embrace this particular doctrine!

At the Jerusalem conference, the apostles and elders, despite a lifetime of experience to the contrary, had to come to the realization that the New Covenant was not the Abrahamic covenant, and physical circumcision of the flesh was not required to come into the Body.  The New Covenant, spiritual application became “circumcision of the heart” (Romans 2:25-29; 1 Corinthians 7:19; Colossians 2:11-14.  See also Deuter-onomy 10:16 and 30:6).

But the apostles and elders meeting in Jerusalem didn’t just come to an agreement, knowing that it would be a popular decision, and then expect God to change His plans around to agree with what the apostles and elders had decided.  No, it was the responsibility of the leaders of the ekklesia to determine, through careful study, deliberate discussions, and a great deal of prayer, what the truth of the matter really was.  They had the responsibility of determining what God had already loosed in heaven, so they could declare it to be loosed on earth.

And because the Holy Spirit was a strong and influential part of the ekklesia in those early days, they were able to arrive at the truth of the matter, and issue a proclamation loosing people from the fleshly circumcision of Abraham’s covenant, while at the same time binding them from performing certain other practices (Acts 15:23-29).

As the Jerusalem conference demonstrated, one of the purposes of the ekklesia was, and has always been, to make God’s laws known to the new disciples the Father brings to Messiah!  The ekklesia is to teach what God allows and forbids!  It’s part of having the keys to the kingdom!

MORE  TRANSLATIONS

Let’s look at these two verses in other translations.

The Amplified Bible translates Matthew 16:19 this way:  “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven.”  A footnote refers to “Charles B. Williams, [author of] The New Testament:  A Translation [who said]:  ‘The perfect passive participle, here referring to a state of having been already forbidden [or permitted].’”  Matthew 18:18 is worded the same way as 16:19, and refers back to the same footnote.

The Interlinear New Testament, edited by Jay P. Green Sr., quotes Matthew 16:19 in the English as:  “And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.  And whatever you bind on earth shall occur, having already been bound in Heaven.  And whatever you may loose on the earth shall be, having been already loosed in Heaven.”  In the interlinear column it states:  “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you bind on the earth shall be, having been bound in the heavens, and whatever you loose on the earth shall be, having been loosed in the heavens.”

When we understand the sense of the verse, and see what the context is, it becomes plain that Messiah is telling His disciples to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24), know God’s law and how to administer it, and to conduct the ekklesia with overflowing love of God and love of the brethren, rather than a bunch of legal do’s and don’ts or carnal ordinances.

Messiah was not telling His disciples that they could make any decisions, forgive any sin (or keep any sin from being forgiven) at the slightest whim, or that they could make an assignment to recite several “Hail Marys” and “Our Fathers,” or pay off the clergyman, or do something else so that someone could earn their way back into grace, and that God in heaven was somehow duty-bound to back up their decision, no matter how poor the decision might be, or no matter how sinful the church leaders might be!

Instead, Yeshua was telling His disciples that what God had already bound or loosed in heaven, as seen in the scriptures, as explained in the law, as practiced in their daily lives, as understood by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was the pattern of how they should administer the ekklesia.

So by coming to understand one part of Matthew 16:19, we come to understand the other part, as well:  Knowing, understanding, and acting on the truth of God, the law of God, and the love of God, and teaching the assembly to do likewise -- these are part of the keys to the kingdom!  Rather than being ruled over by men, this emphasized the Reign of God!

IN CONTEXT

If we read the entire passage, we can better understand the context of the verses we’re examining.  For example, in Matthew 16, Messiah was warning His disciples to “Take heed and beware of the leaven [margin:  yeast] of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (verse 6).  They finally came to understand that He was warning them “to beware of ... the doctrine [margin:  teaching] of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (verse 12).  Shortly after that, He taught them about binding and loosing, and how their binding and loosing would be different from that of the Pharisees and Sadducees (verse 19).

He then began to tell His disciples in earnest about what would happen shortly in Jerusalem.  Peter would not hear of it!  “Far be it from You, Lord,” he voiced, hopefully.  “This shall not happen to You!” (verse 22)  Yeshua responded with a surprisingly curt, “Get behind Me, Satan!  You are an offense [margin:  a stumbling block] to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (verse 23)!

This seemingly hurtful and waspish come-back has been a point of confusion for some people.  Many have wondered, “Did Jesus need to lash out at Peter inappropriately like that?  Maybe Jesus was under a great deal of stress, knowing He was going to His death.”  What was the real reason?

Messiah had just spent a great deal of time teaching that the disciples were to place the highest emphasis on what God wanted.  Peter responded to the news of Jesus’ imminent death with a typical human reaction:  “Oh, no, that’s not going to happen,” meaning that Peter didn’t want it to happen.  But God did!  Yeshua reminded Peter, “You are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (verse 23).  He didn’t want Peter to continue thinking the way he had been thinking.  He wanted Peter to begin thinking the thoughts of God!  The remainder of the chapter continues the thought; it is a lesson in denying ourselves, taking up our own personal cross, and following our Lord.

Messiah’s message was always the same.  He was very consistent in His teaching.  Right up to the very end of His time with the disciples, He continued to teach them that what God wants is the only important thing.  Even after His resurrection, the last thing He said before ascending in the cloud was, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.  But you shall receive power ... and you shall be witnesses ...” (Acts 1:7-8, NKJV).  And they would go forth and do the Father’s will, preaching the Gospel “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (verse 8, KJV).

Did Yeshua’s teaching have an effect on the disciples?  Let’s return to the story, this time in Matthew 17.  Yeshua reminded His disciples that He would be arrested and killed in Jerusalem.  This time, they were not so quick to disregard what they were told.  In fact, this time they believed it, and “they were exceedingly sorrowful” (Matthew 17:22-23).

Matthew chapter 18 is a series of lessons that build one on another.  While many have taken each lesson as a stand-alone teaching, and have gotten much good out of each lesson by itself, to stack the lessons one atop another the way Messiah did packs a wallop that can be felt clear down to the 20th century!

1.  “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  The answer:  Whoever becomes converted, and like a little child, humble, open, teachable, loving, trusting Christ and the Father to be good Teachers (Matthew 18:1-5).

2.  “But whoever causes one of these little ones ... to sin, ... woe to that man by whom the offense comes” (verses 6-9).

3.  “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones. ... For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost” (verses 10-11).

4.  A man with 100 sheep will leave 99 to go look for the one who went astray.  And he will return with the lost one, rejoicing over it.  “Even so, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (verses 12-14).

5.  Now, to help prevent any from perishing, the Savior gives us the three-step grievance process in the assembly, added onto the previous lessons (“Moreover, ...”) (verses 15-17).  The steps to take if a brother sins against a brother are:  (a) the two of them discuss it privately (like sheep, like converted children, like Christ’s little ones); (b) failing in that, the two need to discuss the situation again, this time with two others along who can witness the discussion and later testify (if needed) as to what took place during the discussion; and (c) if the first two steps fail to solve the problem, the assembly is to hear the matter and come to a decision, with the case being presented by the two participants and the two witnesses.

OUR  RESPONSIBILITY

How do we in the ekklesia today put this information to use?

When we read in the book of Acts about the early days of the New Covenant assembly, we see the apostles being virtually overwhelmed with new converts.  On two occasions at least, there were thousands of new converts baptized in one day.  Fortunately, they were all from among the Jews, and most of the new converts would already be familiar with the law.  They would at least have a concept of what the law was about, even if some of them didn’t actually have a working knowledge of it.

As the ekklesia spread out, and moved into Gentile areas, it became necessary to teach the Law of God, and the Way of God, from the scriptures to people who had never before learned it.  Behavior modification was the order of the day in Gentile areas.

Why were so many people eager and anxious to become followers of Christ, to mend their lives, to completely change the direction their lives had been going?  Because they understood the message!

“The simplicity that is in Christ,” and the knowledge about what we came to call “The Wonderful World Tomorrow,” were clearly portrayed both in scripture and in the first-hand accounts of those who had been with Christ.  The story being spread by these Nazarenes amounted to a very attractive message:  There is a God in heaven who rules, and He will forgive your sins and accept you into His eternal family as His sons, and give each of you eternal life in the Kingdom of God.  Many responded to the message.

There is every reason to believe, both from the way the New Testament reads, and from the accounts of how synagogue worship was set up, that local congregations were organized in such a way that the congregation as a whole (the ekklesia) dealt with its local issues as a body.  It was so commonplace that when they failed to do so it became noteworthy, as we see in 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6.

Members of the church body were not then, nor are they now, intended to be just a passive audience who gathers on Sabbath day to hear sermons.  When a church body, either a local congregation or a large corporate body, seriously considers its mission, and understands why God set up His ekklesia in the first place, they understand that the members of Christ’s body are not merely a captive audience, but are actually kings and priests (2 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6)!

One purpose of the assembly, then, is to teach teachers and train trainers!  An edifying message or Bible study, or a Bible reading presented during services, will not only instruct the listeners or help them live a better life, but will help prepare these sons of God in training to govern more effectively during the Millennium!

And conscientious brethren, knowing that they are meeting in order to better prepare to serve as kings and priests, will be taking care to learn as much as they can, make it a part of their daily life, and actively participate in their assembly in discussions and fellowship, and in interactive Bible studies and question and answer sessions, so they may be better prepared to become the teacher, the educator, the leader in every way, to help the people they will be teaching and training during the Millennium.

HOW  THE  ASSEMBLY  DECIDES

Why should the ekklesia be interested in binding and loosing?  Is it so the men in charge can exert authority in a cavalier manner, sometimes without even intending to, and then brag about how God is going to “back them up”?  Is it so clergymen who are not trained in social sciences can give absolutely wrong advice to confused and desperate people who have nowhere else to turn, and expect God to somehow make it all work out?

No, the assembly, whatever we picture the ekklesia to be, should understand that its job is to teach its members what is already bound and loosed by God.  And it is the job of teachers and ministers (servants, not overlords) to know what God’s teachings are!

Why should members of the Body of Christ be interested in learning what is bound and loosed by God?  Because they themselves will someday be binding and loosing on earth what has already been bound and loosed by God, as they rule their five cities, or ten cities (Luke 19:11-27), or a tribe of Israel (Matthew 19:27-30; Luke 22:29-30), or whatever assignment God gives them!

The ekklesia (the spiritual organism, the body of believers) is in training to be righteous judges.  “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Corinthians 6:2)  Paul was upset that the Corinthians were not able to judge among themselves and settle their disputes fairly and equitably “at home,” but rather felt the need to go to outside judges:  “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers” (verse 6)!

Paul chides them, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?” (verse 1).  Paul was no doubt aware of the three-step grievance process instituted in the ekklesia by Yeshua Himself in Matthew 18, and it was very likely that he had trained the congregation in Corinth in that doctrine along with all the others.  It was a surprise to Paul (and a disappointment) that the saints, the members of the assembly, were not the body before whom the people in question chose to “go to law.”

It was expected that the local congregations would be able to function as a unit and solve their own problems, as Christ and the apostles taught, through the application of God’s law.  If they were not able to learn among themselves what was bound and loosed, how could they ever administer the government of God in the resurrection?
The same applies to us today.  What better way to exercise the practical application of God’s teaching than by actually hearing and passing judgment on problems that arise in the congregation, as commanded by the Savior in Matthew 18:17?

Did Yeshua have confidence that His assembly would be able to rightly decide these matters?  The very next verse says, “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth ...” (verse 18).  Messiah was expressing the confidence that, when His ekklesia would meet to judge an internal matter, they would apply the principles of God’s law, and the congregation’s findings would truly bind or loose only those things which God had already bound or loosed in heaven!

Messiah continued by assuring His disciples, “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask [according to God’s law and His will, not according to human whim], it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (verse 19).  That’s when God will back up a decision made on earth -- when the decision is made according to His law and His will!

Then Yeshua made the statement that tells how all of this is possible:  “For where two or three [truly converted children of God] are gathered together in My name [by His authority, at the proper time for the proper reason], I am there in the midst of them” (verse 20).

However, if a large corporate congregation were meeting, but they had not been trained in the practical application of God’s law, then it would be best not to turn any matters over to that group to decide.  There would be endless wrangling according to human reason and faulty logic, with selfish human nature and ambition getting in the way at every turn.  Under these circumstances, it would be pointless to try to follow the pattern Messiah taught, because the local pastor did not do his job of teaching the people how to be righteous judges!

But if a small group of people, even two or three people, are truly called and converted, truly yielded to God, childlike, humble, repentant, and honestly seeking God’s will; if these people have studied God’s Word and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can administer it; then these people would be able to thoughtfully, prayerfully hear a matter, weigh both sides, consider the evidence, place the matter in God’s hands, yield themselves to God’s will, and come to a righteous decision regarding the final outcome of the matter.

And there would be a greater likelihood that the conclusion the group reaches will match the will of God in heaven.  Under these circumstances, the group would be deciding what God has already decided, because if two or three agree together under these circumstances, “it will be done for them by My Father in heaven … [because] I am there in the midst of them” (verses 19-20)!

Today, we should stand in awe of God’s laws.  But we shouldn’t stop there.  We should learn them, internalize them, put them to work in our daily lives, use them (with love and gentleness, not as weapons against each other) to admonish one another, to settle disputes and misunderstandings, whenever we find ourselves in a fact-finding or decision-making capacity.  And in order to do that effectively, we should already know, with all certainty, what is bound and loosed in heaven!

Looking to the future, we await a time when the sons of God will rise from their graves -- loosed from the bands of death.  It will be those who took their calling seriously, and remained zealous for biblical truth, eager to learn more if God was willing to teach them more, who will be bound together with the Father and Christ, in the Kingdom of God, which is the Reign of God, forever!
 

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