I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Peter was to be given “the keys of the Kingdom of heaven” a sign of great authority (cf. Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7, 9:1. 10:1) yet nothing about this tells us that Peter will determine who enters and who does not. Thus, when you “die and go to heaven” you won’t find old Peter sitting at the gate with a clipboard. The term “kingdom” refers always to God who reigns actively over His people, and the term “church” refers to the people over whom God reigns. At no time, does Peter, or anyone else reign over the Kingdom.
With that said, there is still authority being given to Peter in this verse, and it is made very clear by Jesus’ reference to “binding” and “loosing”: what is this authority?
For us to understand these terms, we much first recognize that they have a technical background in rabbinical Judaism. They refer to pronouncements given to the people that reflected rabbinic interpretations of the Law and what was allowed and what was prohibited by the Law concerning matters of conduct. Thus, we should not understand these terms to suggest that Peter, or anyone else, would be able to allow or prohibit an individual from participation in the Christian community, for “whatever” does not refer to a person, but to a thing. Clearly, then, Peter, and later the other disciples as well (18:17-18) were given the authority to determine which practices would be, and would not be permissible in light of God’s reign over the church. This did not give Peter or anyone else the authority to make arbitrary and capricious decrees, instead they would bring instruction concerning God’s will to the people, in much the same way as a preacher will teach his congregation about what is or isn’t permissible personal conduct in our time, based upon the instruction of the Scriptures; remember, the early church did not yet have the teaching of the New Testament.
In the early church, the people recognized the authority of the apostles as they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). In this way, we can state authoritatively that “God’s household (was) built on the foundation of the apostles…” (Eph. 2:19-20). In this, Peter played the critical leadership role in the early church, as we see in Acts 1-12.