The Definition and Meaning of the Office of the Keys
Catholic Christian symbolism in art provides a clear graphic illustration which represents people or items of religious significance. What is the definition and the meaning of the Office of the Keys? The Office of the Keys Christian Symbol are referred to in Matthew 16:19:
And I tell you that you are Peter, (n) and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (n) 19 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(n) loosed in heaven." (NIV)
The above picture of Saint Peter shows him holding the keys. Two keys represent the dual authority with which to open heaven to repentant sinners and to lock heaven to the unrepentant - the ability to grant or withhold salvation. This power is believed to be bestowed upon every pope who leads the Roman Catholic Church.
Reference to the Keys Christian Symbol in the Bible
The Easton Bible Dictionary provides the following definition, meaning and emblem for the Keys Christian Symbol in the Bible.
The key frequently mentioned in Scripture. It is called in Hebrew _maphteah_, i.e., the opener (Judg. 3:25); and in the Greek New Testament 'kleis', from its use in shutting (Matt. 16:19; Luke 11:52; Rev. 1:18, etc.). Figures of ancient Egyptian keys are frequently found on the monuments, also of Assyrian locks and keys of wood, and of a large size (comp. Isa. 22:22).
The word is used figuratively of power or authority or office (Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7; Rev. 1:8; comp. 9:1; 20:1; comp. also Matt. 16:19; 18:18). The "key of knowledge" (Luke 11:52; comp. Matt. 23:13) is the means of attaining the knowledge regarding the kingdom of God. The "power of the keys" is a phrase in general use to denote the extent of ecclesiastical authority.