Matthew 16:18 is written in the context of Matthew 16:13-19. The meaning, when considered in view of the scriptures therein, is clear but is often misinterrupted incorrectly.
Jesus begins his discussion with the disciples by asking “Who do men say that I am?” (v.13). The disciples answered by saying some thought He was John the Baptist, some Elijah, some Jeremiah, and others one of the prophets (v.14). Apparently the speculation as to who Jesus was prevalent among the multitudes.
Jesus, expecting the disciples to have more insight than the multitudes, than asked “Who do you say I am?” (v.15).
Simon Peter, the boldest of the disciples, spoke up and said “You are Christ [Messiah] the Son of the living God” (v.16).
Jesus said to Peter: “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona [son of Jonah; a man]: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Christ was saying that Peter the man was blessed because man, flesh and blood, had not revealed this to him but God. Sarx, among other meanings, is the Greek word for flesh, meaning the physical body or nature whether of man, beasts, fish or birds. Blood, Haima in Greek, means, among others “the blood of the human or animal body” or “the life force of man”, as opposed to the divine.
The word “reveal” is “Apokalupto” in Greek meaning: “to remove a veil or covering, exposing to open view what was before hidden” (see also Apokalupsis meaning revelation, one of three words in the NT referring to the second coming of Christ). Therefore Peter, a man of flesh, had spoken what was formerly concealed, exposing it to open view. He revealed what was in essence the coming of the Lord Jesus. This “revelation” did not come from man but was revealed by the Father in Heaven (from the spiritual realm).
Christ said further: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [a stone], and upon this rock [large rock, bedrock] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. (Verse 17).
The word “Peter” is in Greek “Petros”, a stone. The rock referred to in the scripture (“upon this rock”) is Petra in Greek which means a large rock or bedrock. What was this bedrock? It is the subject of this entire series of scriptures. The BEDROCK is the REVELATION from the Father to human flesh (Petros the stone). Webster’s Dictionary defines revelation as: “The act of revealing or exposing…a striking disclosure not before realized…God’s disclosure of Himself to His creatures; an instance of such exposing or disclosure…that which contains such disclosure, such as the Bible [the word of God], referring to the example of the Book of the Revelation of St. John” the last book of the Bible”.
Thus it was the revelation of Christ coming from the Father that would be the bedrock upon which Christ would build His church, not Peter the stone! Thus, the idea that Peter was the first pope of the universal (Catholic) church is false. God planned to build His church on the bedrock of divine revelation not on one man.
This revelation of Christ is the foundation upon the true church is to be built. Many other scriptures confirm this.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:6-7).
Paul said: But I certify you, brethren that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12).
And: “Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith (Romans 16:25-26).
Also: “ The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: (Revelation 1:1).
The divine revelation from God is the only road to the way, the truth and the life which is Christ. His Kingdom is not of this world. It is built upon the continued revealing of the mystery of Christ hidden from ages past, but revealed to His Sons.
And to him to whom who the revelation comes, he will be given the keys of the Kingdom (which is Christ) and whatever he binds in earth shall have already been bound in Heaven (the spiritual realm where God dwells) and whatever he loosed the same (see Matthew 6:10 – “thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven”).
Imagine the misinterpretation of some major religions that this set of scriptures meant that Peter was the first Pope. One must wonder whether it was innocent misinterpretation or misinformation in order to give the church legitimacy by using the name of the beloved disciple. At least we who respond only to what we hear from God by revelation know the true answer.