Posted by: blackfootsmj1 | June 30, 2011

Answering another tough question…Understanding Matthew 16:18


I’ve been asked questions about Matt:16:18 more times than I can probably count. The Catholics interpret it one way. And all the protestants interpret it a different. Each to satisfy their own doctrine. But what did the Savior really mean when made this statement to Peter? “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The Sermon on the Mount

Christ teaching the Sermon on the Mount

The Catholic church, interprets “this rock” to literally refer to Peter. And have actually based their claims to apostolic succession on the unbroken succession of bishops of Rome back to Peter.

Other Protestant churches have to hold on to a completely different meaning, because they have no right apostolic succession in this way. Churches who think that the Church of Rome is somehow flawed or in apostasy from the truth Christ taught must adopt an entirely different interpretation.Most people who ask this question, have generally interpreted “the rock” to refer to the original Christian Church. Under this reading, Jesus is promising that the church will never be entirely overcome by death and/or the forces of Satan. Therefor, they assume no need for a “Restoration” because there was never an apostasy.

With a deeper understanding of the context of  this verse we can understand the meaning behind what Jesus is referring to. The only true, unmovable rock that exists–revelation from God. It is upon the rock of Revelation  which any Church must be built, and it is evidenced by the verses just before this one.

In Matthew 16:13-17,

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

 14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

 15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

 16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

The entire subject of these verses is revelation given to Peter about the divinity of Christ. This knowledge came by revelation from God (Matthew 16:17), and Christ taught Peter that this revelation is the rock upon which He would build His Church. Jesus Christ was clearly teaching that we are blessed by revelation from God, not from man. Also, consider, the words of Christ here:

We must also put into perspective other Biblical authors who taught an inevitable apostasy  (click for a list of verses about the Apostasy) would occur. It would seem strange for such Biblical authors, including Peter, to teach something which Jesus here denies.

Additionally, there is some sort of play on words here with the Greek Text. The word “Peter” (The Greek word Petros means small rock) and “rock” (The Greek word Petra means bedrock, ie. foundational rock). Consider the references to Christ as the Stone of Israel. (John 1:42; 1 Cor. 3:11 (9–11); 10:4) This is indicative that Peter would later be the “head of the Church” through which Christ would use guide the Church by revelation. See Acts 1:1-2, “…after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen…”

In conclusion, we can see that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church or the Apostles as long as they heeded the revelation given them through the gift of the Holy Ghost. But as the Apostles were all killed off, one by one, the revelation ceased. There were no more authorized servants of God through whom the revelation could come. Until…the Restoration of the Gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Then once again, the communication from Heaven to men to guide the Church was once again on the Earth.

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