What Do Keys Symbolize In The Bible?

When reading both the Old and New Testament, the mention of the word of keys is inescapable. Book after book and chapter after chapter, the Bible emphasizes the connection between the physical realm and the spiritual realm. Those in the physical require special power and authority to access the spiritual and in most cases the authority and power is symbolized by keys. In some instances, in the Book of Revelation, the Bible speaks of the keys of death and hades.

In the sections that follow, we shall look at what the Bible means when it references keys, and the different types of keys mentioned.

A Symbol of Eternal Punishment

A Symbol of Eternal Punishment

In the Book of Revelation, the Bible gives lots of prophecies concerning the last days and the things that were bound to happen. Some of the signs and prophecies have already happened according to Biblical scholars, but some are yet to happen including the second coming of the Messiah.

In the Revelation 9:1, the Bible speaks of the star that falls from heaven and this is what it says,

“then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.”

From the verse of scripture, it is clear that the star being referred to is not an object but rather a person. Reading through the Book of Isaiah, the prophet mentioned about the Day Star.

The events that surround the falling of the star refer to the rebellion of Satan and him being thrown down to earth. The angels who had accompanied lucifer were locked up in the bottomless pit waiting for their time of release. The key therefore gives the devil the authority to release the fallen angels as part of the end time torment.

It is also important to note that though the event refers to the eternal punishment, the key doesn’t belong to Satan rather he was given.

A Symbol of Power and Authority

When he walked on earth, Jesus had the intention of making himself known both as a friend and as the face of God. Then, at one point in the region of Caesarea, Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples who he was. After many responses, Simon Peter answered him, that he is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Jesus responded and told him that he is blessed and that it is his father in heaven who has revealed to him what he said. In Matthew 16:19, the Bible says,

“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.”

The keys of the kingdom that Simon Peter was given refers to the authority and power that will enable Peter to open the door to the kingdom for those who respond to the Gospel of Jesus.

At the same time, the key would be used to close the door to those who do not welcome the gospel. The action of binding and loosing represent the verdict of heaven.

In Matthew 18:18, the entire church is given the same authority of binding and loosing in the context of unrepentant sinners. The power that resides in the keys of the kingdom is not only for Peter as a person, but also for the church as an institution.

A Symbol of Access to Davidic Covenant

A Symbol of Access to Davidic Covenant

In Isaiah and Revelation, the Bibel talks of the key of David. A key gives a person access and control over a certain domain. In this context, the key of David would give the holder access and control to the domain of David, which is the kingdom of Israel and Jerusalem, the City of David.

In Revelation 3:7, the Bible says,

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” 

This passage of scripture shows the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant through Jesus Christ who is not only the ruler of the New Jerusalem, but also Lord over the Kingdom of Heaven.

In Isaiah 22:22, the prophet tells Shebna, the palace secretary that he will be replaced by Eliakim. God himself would place on his shoulder the key to the house of David. Because Jesus was prophesied by Isaiah that he shall come forth from the stem of Jesse, who was the father of David.

The Symbol of Judgement

In the Book of Revelation, John sees the vision of Christ while in the Island of Patmos. In verse 12 of the first chapter of Revelation, John hears a voice of someone speaking to him and upon turning, he sees someone like a son of man. John falls at his feet and Jesus places his hand on him to confirm that it is indeed the Messiah speaking to him.

In Revelation 1:18, the Bible says,

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” 

The keys in this context refers to the right of judgement that Jesus will exercise upon the people of the earth.

Based on the conduct and how well they have kept the covenants of God, people will be judged and assigned to either heaven or eternal condemnation in the hades.


The symbol of keys is very strong in the Bible and a few people are assigned the key. At one point, we see assigned to the fallen star to open the abyss. In another instance we see Jesus holding the keys of death and hades.

Still in another context, we see the keys assigned to an angel. What we gather from all this, is that the key (s) are the property of God which he hands over for a specific assignment.

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