Keys are mentioned in The Bible based on the translation of the Hebrew word of The Old Testament, pronounced maf-tay-akh, meaning the opener, and the Greek word of The New Testament, pronounced klees, meaning shutting - an interesting coincidence, since The Bible opens with the Hebrew Scriptures and closes with the Greek Scriptures.
Keys are used figuratively, in a sense of authority or power, as well as literally.
A Door Lock
Although often made of wood, ancient keys worked very much the same as they do now:
"And they waited till they were utterly at a loss; but when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them." (Judges 3:25 RSV)
A Symbol Of Power
"And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open." (Isaiah 22:22 RSV)
"Keys Of The Kingdom"
One of the most endlessly debated subjects involves Jesus Christ's "keys of the kingdom" statement to Peter:
"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:19 RSV)
Was Jesus talking to Peter alone, or was He answering a question, that Peter asked, to all of the others who were standing there with Peter? The answer is found in the very next verse:
"Then He strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ." (Matthew 16:20 RSV)
Peter was a great Christian, a man to be highly respected, but he never claimed, or had any right to claim, authority over all of the church (Peter would have some very blunt advice for those who contend that he was the "first pope," or that Roman Catholic popes have been his "successors"), or over any of the other apostles (see Did Peter Have The Primacy?), nor was he ever beyond correction from any of the others:
"When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man." (Acts 10:25-26 RSV)
In the words of the apostle Paul, who God used to write a very large part of the New Testament:
"And from those who were reputed to be something, what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality - those, I say, who were of repute added nothing to me; but on the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the Gospel to the uncircumcised [i.e. the gentiles], just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised [i.e. Peter to the Jews, while the other apostles were to the other tribes of Israel i.e. Luke 22:28-30], for He who worked through Peter for the mission to the circumcised worked through me also for the Gentiles, and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised." (Galatians 2:6-9 RSV)
The matter is made more clear, in the Book of Revelation, when Jesus Christ is plainly stated as the holder of the keys to everything:
"'The words of The Holy One, The True One, Who has the key of David, Who opens and no one shall shut, Who shuts and no one opens." (Revelation 3:7 RSV)
"Fear not, I am the first and the last, and The Living One; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades." (Revelation 1:17-18 RSV)
The End-Time Power Of Angels
Angels will be very active in end-time events:
"And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key of the shaft of the bottomless pit" (Revelation 9:1 RSV)
"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended" (Revelation 20:1-3 RSV)
Fact Finder: Did those who opposed Jesus Christ "take away the key to knowledge"?
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