I step out of the rain into an odd antique shop in my town. “Shop” isn’t accurate, though. It is a conglomeration of sellers of old objects – over 500 booths laid out in a confusing labyrinth.
It is a jumbled mess. I generally find it slightly sad, full of discarded bits of our culture. But one of the descriptions Jesus has for himself involves keys and I have a hunch they'll be here.
I'm not disappointed.
Here’s the verse:
I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hell. Rev. 1:18
Doing some research on keys in the Bible, I find that they often were entrusted to the steward of a house. Keys represent both trust and responsibility – as any parent who has handed over the keys to the family car to a teenage child can attest.
Keys also designate power and authority. One who can unlock a treasure room has power over what resides there. Conversely, not having a key to a locked door equals powerlessness.
I am currently listening to a book which illustrates this. The hero visits a castle where he is told he can freely go into any unlocked room. Soon, upon realizing that nearly all the doors (including the way out) are bolted, he realizes he is nothing more than a helpless prisoner.
Last week, my beloved aunt died. So it is significant to me, as I grieve her passing, that the keys Jesus holds are to Death and Hell (literally Hades, the place of the departed spirits). From our perspective, these seem like locked boxes. Impenetrable. Inevitable.
But Jesus says that he holds the keys to them. Because he submitted to the cross and passed through Death, he has been entrusted with responsibility of access into them. He also has authority over them. “Christ has the power to send men to death and hell or to take men away from them.” (Morris)
Looking at this lock again, I realize that it is vaguely heart shaped. It reminds me that this truth should do more than entertain the mind, it should awaken the heart. Charles Spurgeon, the renown 19th century British preacher, makes this point powerfully:
The sight of Jesus, as He thrusts in the key and opens that gate of Death, shall make you forget the supposed terrors of the grave, for they are but suppositions and you shall find it sweet to die! Since Jesus has the sepulcher's key, never fear it again, never fear it again! Depend upon it, your dying hour will be the best hour you have ever known! Your last will be your richest moment—better than the day of your birth will be the day of your death. It shall be the beginning of Heaven, the rising of a sun that shall go down no more forever! Let the fear of death be banished from you by faith in a living Savior!
Jesus, you alone have earned the right to be the keeper of the keys to Death and Hell. You can unlock even the most formidable doors. Help us to, by faith, to anticipate the moment we meet you!
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