The scriptural terms ‘binding and loosening’ are not to be confused with acts involving ropes and leather, except in an allegorical sense. In traditional Jewish understanding the terms are used in a legal sense, indicating being restrained by law or free. In Matthew 16:16-19 Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah, which then dictates that Jesus would hold the Keys of David (Isaiah 22:22-24), thus having the authority over all of the House of David (Israelites). Jesus then gives those keys to Peter, who goes on to open the doors to the Gentiles, giving access to all the blessings of the Father. We see Peter open the way to the outpouring of the Spirit on ALL flesh at Pentecost, then opening the doors to the Gentiles with Cornelius. The lawfulness is enacted by the edict of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. Thus the requirements for Gentiles to be Followers of the Way became restricted to the advice of that Council, and yet at the same time frees Gentiles from the restrictions of the Mosaic Law. This legal aspect of binding and loosening is what Jesus told His disciples about how to handle issues of conflict in Matthew 18:18, this has since then been extended to all legal aspects of church discipline.
Other verses relating to binding include Matthew 12:29, Mark 3:24-27 and Luke 11:21-22 where Jesus discusses the binding of the strongman. This refers to Jesus taking authority and control over Satan and then relieving him of all that he held, including humanity. Jesus came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18); to destroy his works (1 John 3:8). This is the purpose of the Cross, which as Jesus said, “It is finished”. Is it therefore our role to bind agents of Satan (demons)? The examples given in the scriptures would indicate that this was not necessary, as when in Acts 16:16-18 Paul casts out the spirit of divination. He only calls upon his authority in the ‘name of Jesus’, and commands the spirit to leave. There is no reference recommending us to bind Satan or any of his cohorts, or those that may follow them. The only things we are to bind and take captive are our own false thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The Matthew 18:18 verse appears in the middle of a chapter primarily discussing forgiveness, and though as stated above it details how to deal with unresolved issues within the church, another interpretation is suggested. An aspect of this discourse is to consider the terms ‘earth’ and ‘heaven’. In Genesis 1:28 God commands humanity to ‘subdue your earth’. The earth in this sense is the physical realm that humanity would find itself in having come from the spiritual existence in the Father (heaven). We know that in Genesis chapter 3 humanity let the earth subdue it and lost its grasp on the reality of its divine nature. So then, in Matthew 18:18 when Jesus talks of earth and heaven, it can be considered as Him referring to your physical and spiritual states. The verse could be translated as: Whatever you do not forgive in your physical mind will keep you limited in your spiritual reality, and whatever you do forgive in your physical mind will expand the boundaries of your spiritual reality.