Summary: For All Saints/All Souls: the Lord has the keys to the church, so we need not fear its future despite our locking up its resources; and He has the keys to our lives, so we need not lock ourselves in privacy; and He has the keys of eternal life.
Keys. I have keys. Lots and lots of keys. Thanks to keys, we can keep safe the things we consider valuable. But we are also kept from access to those things. Keys; we all have them, we all need them, we all appreciate them, but we all resent them at times.
If you don’t have the right keys, your feelings may range from irritation to embarrassment to downright fear. On Mondays I generally work at maintaining my house, my yard, and my cars. That means I have quite a bit to do outside. So I go out, start to do some work, find that I need a tool, and go to the basement door, only to find it locked. Hey, didn’t I just come out this way? But she who is the queen of the castle is very security conscious and has closed it. And I don’t have the key. I have to ring for entrance to my own house. An irritation, because I don’t have the keys.
Every now and again, because I keep my personal keys and my church keys on two separate rings, I arrive at the church and find that I have forgotten to bring the keys to this place. So here I am, for nearly eighteen years the senior pastor, but I am standing on the step, in the rain, pushing the doorbell, and answering the question, “Who is it, please?” If I say, “Smith”, the answer comes back, “Who?” If I say, “Pastor”, the answer comes back with a giggle, “Do we know you?” Embarrassing, not to have my keys.
If you don’t have the keys you need, you can be irritated; or you can be embarrassed; or you can become fearful, because suddenly the situation is life-threatening. Do you remember that on 9-11, some people died in stairwells in the World Trade Center because they came to locked doors and did not have the keys? Oh, it can be terribly important to have the keys.
When John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and began to hear a message for the ages, he heard something about keys. He heard a word from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. An awesome thing! And the core of what John heard had something to do with keys. Listen:
“Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hell.”
Keys. I have keys. Lots and lots of keys. Thanks to keys, we can keep safe the things we consider valuable. But we are also kept from access to those things. It can be terribly important to have the keys. Maybe we’d better take an inventory of those keys.
Notice that the Book of Revelation was written primarily to the church. John in the Spirit on the Isle of Patmos was instructed to write to the seven churches. If you know anything about the symbolism of numbers in the Bible, you know that seven is the number of wholeness. It means completeness. Just as there are seven days in a week, so also when the Bible speaks of the seven churches, it means the whole church.
So let’s see – do I have the keys to the church? (Display ring full of church building keys). I do; but then I may lose them or misplace them. So do I need to be anxious about the keys to the church? When the Lord Jesus says that He has the keys, He has the keys to the church. He is the Lord of the church. And the message that He speaks, “Do not be afraid ... I have the keys”, is a message about the church. For without His keys, you see, the church is an irritation, a frustration, and a disappointment.
I don’t know about you, but much of the time when I pick up the newspaper and read about some church, it is an embarrassment. If it is not a report about a treasurer gambling with his church’s money, it is a story about a pastor accused of sexual misbehavior. If it is not an account of police being called to supervise a sanctuary, it is a clipping about millions of offering plate dollars being paid to victims of abuse. It’s often irritating and embarrassing to read about the church.
And yet John is able to report to us that the one who loved us and freed us by His blood is making us into a kingdom. He is appointing us as priests serving God. He says that one day every eye will see Him and every tribe will acknowledge Him. This is a word about the church; we are going to be kings and priests. We are going to live in the presence of God continually. Christ loves the church and has appointed the church to be His kingdom. With all of its spots and stains, with all of its sins and shortcomings, still the word is, “Do not be afraid ... I have the keys.” He has the keys of the church. Do we need to be afraid of the future of the church? Can He keep is secure?