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To understand what "keys to the kingdom" mean, we must read Isaiah 22:20-22. In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. The keys are symbol of authority, the office of a palace administrator, Hebrew Al Bayt, the person second-in-command to the King.
The keys of the kingdom unlock the door to the kingdom of heaven. Christ himself is the door (John 10:7). Symbolically, he is represented as the first veil of the Holy Place of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The second veil inside then represents his second coming. The two-to-one ratio of the two rooms represent the three days of Christ (Luke 13:32); two days (two thousand years) for the Christian religion and one day (one thousand years) for ruling the Kingdom of God. Two kingdom keys may be water baptism (Mark 16:16) and communion (John 6:53-4). These are the two mentioned in the Bible. Catholics may also believe their other sacraments are keys, but only two are shown on the papal flag. Christ also possesses the key of David. This pertains to the governing offices within the Kingdom. Opening the door implies a person is accepted for a particular office, and vice versa. These offices are not a matter of popular vote by the citizens. The house of David represents the entire civil government of the Kingdom (Zech 12:12). Also in this verse, the house of Nathan represents the prophets, and the house of Levi the priests, pastors and ministers.
Keys of kingdom of God are the knowledge and grace of knowing God, accepting him and loving him. This does not come from one's talent, wealth, intelligence or effort but by the total submission of ourselves to God accepting our limitations, weaknesses and acknowledging the Supreme God as the ultimate and only answer for our wellbeing and salvation. We see this in the confession of Peter " Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner", when he saw the great catch of fish on putting the nets on the other side of his boat trusting Jesus words. Lk 5: 1-11. Look here, Peter was not a very educated man but a mere fisherman. But he had the sense of accepting himself a sinner though he might not have committed sins like murder, theft etc. Wasn't it good enough for Jesus to choose him as his apostle? We require humility and surrender to win God, not our wisdom and talent. So the keys of heaven mainly faith, hope, love, repentance and forgiveness are given to those who understand it, accept it and profess it in their lives. What we practice, value and live in our mortal, contingent life here on Earth are going to be the keys and norm for existing in the immortal life. These keys are not bought by money or by one's holiness. They are gained by the suffering, sickness, weakness, helplessness, ignorance, insults, abuses, homelessness, hunger, thirst, non safety etc. That is why Jesus says " How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Mt 19:24 NASB. To another rich young man Jesus says " You lack only one thing. Go and sell all your possession and give to the poor and you come and follow me", Mk 10:17-31 ESV. We see it also in the story of the Rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus at his gate. The poor beggar Lazarus in the arms of Abraham and the rich man in the fire of hell. Lk 16:19-31 NIV. The reason here is the keys of heaven were obtained by the poor man Lazarus by his suffering, poverty and hunger and he experienced and lived by those keys of hope, faith, love, gratefulness, repentance and forgiveness to those who did not care for him! So, dear friends, keys of kingdom are not in the theological jargon as many argue and debate but it is in the simplicity, humility, gratefulness, poverty, suffering and acceptance and professing of our faith and trust in God as our only and ultimate deliverer and happiness here on earth and for eternity.
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