So, what’s the key of David?

Earthen Only
5 min readMar 10, 2019

I vividly remember my first time handing out gospel flyers. I asked an older brother with me, “What was the most interesting question you’ve ever gotten on the gospel?” He thought about it for a moment. “Once, I was handing out Bibles in front of a university. A young man came up to me, looked at the Bible, and asked what the footnotes were good for. I answered about how they helped me to find the way to enjoy and experience God. Then he asked, out of the blue, ‘What’s the key of David?’ Then I knew, this brother is seeking truth. It had me scrambling, because I never expected to be asked what the key of David was out on the street.” I asked the brother, “So, what is the key of David?” I don’t remember his answer.

Fast-forward 12 years. I read a life-study a few weeks ago about the key of David: the Life Study of Revelation, message 15. Then I did a brief but tasty concordance prowl for this phrase. I’ll try to present my organized gleanings here.

To understand the concept of the key of David, one must be grounded in the overall purpose of the Bible. Crash course! From the very creation of man in Genesis 1:26, God’s purpose is shown: man was created to be the instrument through which God’s image would be expressed and authority would be represented on earth. The ultimate fulfillment of such a purpose is symbolically shown in the last scene of the Bible, Revelation 21 and 22: God and man are united on earth, living together. Man lives in God as his temple (Rev 21:22). God lives in man as His tabernacle (Rev 21:3). God dwells in man and shines out through man (expression), and this light rules all the nations of the earth (representation) (Rev 21:11; 24).

So, somewhere between the beginning of the Bible and the end of the Bible, God goes through the process of gaining a dwelling place. In the Old Testament, He does this symbolically twice: once in getting the children of Israel to build the tabernacle, and once in getting King David to build Him His temple.

It started with David saying to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the Ark of God dwells within curtains.” AKA, why do I have a home when God is homeless?

God replies, “Is it you who will build Me a house for Me to dwell in? In all My going about among all the children of Israel, did I ever speak a word to any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, Why have you not built Me a house of cedar? Your house and your kingdom will be made sure forever before you; your throne will be established forever.”

God never asked David to build Him a physical house. But He saw that David’s heart matched His own, to a degree. David saw that God yearned for a house. And for that, God promised David to give him everything that He wanted for Himself: a house, a kingdom, and a throne. David could only receive a physical house, a physical kingdom, and a physical throne. God’s goal is to gain for Himself in eternity a spiritual house (1 Pet 2:5), a spiritual kingdom (Rev 1:6), and a spiritual throne established forever (Rev 22:1, 3).

David did end up gathering all the materials for building the temple of God. His son, Solomon, ended up building the temple itself. And for that, as a king, a builder of the house of God, and the ammasser of treasure for the building, David was an Old Testament symbol of Christ.

So, we got God’s desire, we know who David is. What’s the key of David? I’ll give you two verses, a story, and an itemized breakdown.

The key of David is mentioned in just two verses in the Bible:

  1. Isaiah 22:22 And I will set the key of the house of David upon his shoulder — / When he opens, no one will shut; / When he shuts, no one will open.
  2. Revelation 3:7 And to the messenger of the church in Philadelphia write: These things says the Holy One, the true One, the One who has the key of David, the One who opens and no one will shut, and shuts and no one opens:

The story behind the Isaiah verse is this. During the reign of Hezekiah, a scribe named Shebna guarded the gates of the king’s huge treasury in the temple (the house of God). God prophesied through Isaiah that God would dispossess Shebna, who had kept the riches of the treasury away from the children of Israel, and replace him with Eliakim (another pre-figure of Christ), who would irrevocably open the doors of God’s treasury with the key of David, to release the riches of the treasury to the people.

This picture in the Old Testament is meant to be a picture of spiritual realities in the New Testament. So the Revelation mention of the key of David must not refer to a physical key to the long-destroyed temple in Jerusalem—it must refer to something more real, less tangible.

Who does David signify? He signifies Christ, as the King (Matt 27:11; Rev 19:6).

What does the key of David open?

  1. It opens the house of David, the temple (2 Sam 7:16), which in the New Testament age is the church as the house of God (1 Tim 3:15).
  2. It opens the kingdom of David, which in the New Testament age is the church as the kingdom of God (Matt 16:18–19; Rom 14:17).
  3. It opens the treasury of the house of God, which are the riches of God (Col 2:9), which is God Himself (man, if you have the time, check out the connection between Josh 6:19 and Rom 9:23!). These riches include (just a sampler) the riches of God’s grace (Eph 2:7), the people of God (Eph 1:18), Christ as the gospel of God (Eph 3:8), and Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). And that’s just scratching the surface of all the riches.

Fast-backward 12 years. I’m on the gospel. I’m in 8th grade. I ask, “So, what is the key of David?”

I’d say, “The Bible says that Christ has the key of David. This means that Christ is the person who opened up the church to us to be our home, who made us citizens in God’s kingdom, and who made accessible to us all the riches God has to offer us through Himself and the church. Not only do we have access to all these things, but we get a guarantee—now that these things have been opened to us, not a thing exists in the universe that can take them away from us.” Has there been any better news than this?

Rom 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and untraceable His ways!



Earthen Only

False dichotomies, errant wordsmanship, slapdash musings.