The story is told of a well-to-do man who gave his son a Bible upon graduation. The young man, expecting something more glamorous, was so disgusted that he went out and joined up with the Devil. Years later, after he had made a mess of his life and his dad had passed on, he ran across that Bible which had been such a stumblingblock for him before. Inside he found a key to a new car from yesteryear, along with a fatherly note to keep his priorities straight. The key had been in that Bible the whole while, but his refusal to look inside had deprived him of the blessings of a father who had his best interest at heart.
Keys are like that: they may be small and concealed, but without them we are without access. Actually, inside the Bible there are several keys which open (or close) doors important to us now and in the judgment.
FIRST, THERE IS THE KEY OF KNOWLEDGE: -- "Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered" (Lk. 11:52). He spoke of entering the kingdom of heaven, where salvation is (Matt. 23:13).
Knowledge is the key, and the Jewish elite were not accepting the message that "the kingdom is at hand" (Mk. 1: 15; Lk. 7:30). These blind leaders of the blind hindered and sabatoged the Lord's work at every turn, including attempts on His life, and finally succeeding in a spectacular public execution of the Nazarene.
Those who discourage Bible knowledge, religous discussion, open debate, and sincere study in the twenty first century are guilty of the same injustice. How many would enter the kingdom, but cannot enter because the key of knowledge has been kept from them? Religious teachers have a great responsibility, and listeners have a responsibility to check them out against the Scripture (Acts 17:11; 1 Jno. 4:1,6).
SECOND, THERE ARE THE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM: -- "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19 NASB). These keys are similar to those just mentioned, but more specific.
Peter and the other apostles used the keys to bind and loose on Pentecost, wehnt he church first began. Their preaching gave the multitude of listeners the information of God's salvation through Christ, and three thousand of them were moved to ask what specifically they could do to be saved from the wrath of God. They were told, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). These three thousand responded and he preached more to them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation!" And "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine..." (Acts 2:40-42).
What exactly causes a generation to be crooked? The specific sins of which it is guilty. What exactly saves a person from those sins? The specific acts of obedience which are commanded by the Lord. "Repent and be baptized...for remission of sins..."
These keys to the kingdom are still with us today, right there in the Bible, telling us how to become Christians -- how to be saved from our past sins, and how to continue to walk acceptably before God in the light of His Word.
THIRD, IN HIS REVELATION, JOHN WRITES OF A KEY TO THE BOTTOMLESS PIT: -- This key binds Satan adn limits his destructive power over our lives: "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season" (Rev. 20:1-3).
The knowledge God gives us enables us to stay out of the devil's grasp (2 Cor. 2:11), and the key spoken of in Revelation is God's providence and care in limiting the devil's power. God's power and protection are provided by Him for the faithful.
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13).
The Devil makes fools of us all, as he did Peter when the apostle even denied the Lord (Lk. 22:54-61). Christ had said, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (vss. 31,32). Do you see how we should not despair in our struggle against sin, and how we should draw near to God for protection from the tempter?
"...Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you..." (Jas. 4:7,8). That is the key, knowing that the God of Heaven is on our side (Rom. 8:31).
THE FOURTH SET OF KEYS IN THE BIBLE ARE THE KEYS OF HELL AND OF DEATH: -- "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" (Rev. 1:18). Of course, these keys are not physical keys, but they are just as real as the other keys mentioned; the key of knowledge, the binding and loosing keys to the kingdom, and the key of the bottomless pit which limits the powers of the Dragon.
So, Hell is a real place -- just as real as Heaven, and we do not want to go there, the place described as a "lake of fire". Christ has the keys to that place. He will judge us in the last day, deciding if we enter into life eternal or into "the second death," which is just as eternal as heaven.
One of the comedy staples of the Andy Griffith Show was the jail key, which hung on a nail just outside the cell for anyone to grab, including Otis, the town drunk. Of course, the power to lock someone away is a very serious thing, especially if that someone will be put away eternally. We can rest assured that Jesus keeps the keys to Hell close and guarded.
Judges must take their job seriously, realizing that the power of deciding a person's destiny demands the utmost consideration. Jesus first shed His blood to atone for the sins of each man and woman, so we can know that He is not eager to use the keys of Hell against any soul. However, those who take His blood lightly -- who do not use the keys of knowledge and to the kingdom, or who do not care if the devil has power over them -- disclose to Christ the Judge just how aligned with evil they are. The Lord will be vindicated of His decisions by the knowledge that everything has been done to save the wicked before the last great day of judgment (Psa. 51:4).
"Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:28).
So, look in your Bible, my friend. There you will find, not the keys to a new car, but the keys to the kingdom, to know ing how to please God, to put the Devil in his place, and the keys to escape Hell.
By George Hutto in Tidings, Vol. 22, No. 8, August 2007.
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