Let us consider one of the most striking parallels between Jesus Christ and the good King Hezekiah. We read in 2 Kings 20 that the King is mortally ill and that he prays to the Lord. Then the Lord speaks through his holy prophet Isaiah that the king is to go up to the temple on the third day and his life will be saved and the city will be saved as well. Thus, Christ’s own resurrection on the third day was foreshadowed and how He brought His own Body back to Life and saved the city, the New Jerusalem, the Church.
A very important thing happened in the life of King Hezekiah that Jesus Christ later alludes to.
“I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family”
Compare Isaiah 22 with Matthew 16:18-19 which states:
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
This title, or position was also known in non-Jewish governments and we can see that the power that the holder of the keys actually has can be determined by reading Gen 41:39-40 “So Pharaoh said to Joseph: ‘…You shall be in charge of my palace,…Only in respect to the throne shall I outrank you.’” Gen 41 seems to suggest that he ruled not by exercising his own private judgment, but rather was in charge of executing the will of the king.
We see this confirmed in Isaiah 22:22 when we read that the Master of the palace will rule such that when “he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.” This passage presupposes that he will just be executing a judgment in keeping with the will of the king, or else it would have said, “what he opens, no one shall shut, except for the king.” The Master of the palace is, so to speak, the agent or mouthpiece for the king.
One important point in Isaiah 22 is that it is the transfer of the keys that designates Eliakim as the new master of the palace, “I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder…” King David had been dead many years when this took place. Therefore, this verse shows that the office of key holder/master of the palace, was an office with successors just as the office of king was. It was the transferring of the keys that denoted the transfer of power to the new successor of this office as the king’s representative, his regent, the master of the palace.
It was God the Father who had picked Peter to be the one to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. And it was upon hearing this that Jesus alludes to that passage in Isaiah 22 above and gives the keys to Saint Peter. Matthew 16:13, 19 “‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God... , you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’”
The keys represent absolute power to rule. They are owned by the King of Israel who entrusts them to his representative the "master of the palace." Christ is the true King of Israel. Just as in Isaiah 22 above where the keys are handed down to the successors of the king’s prime minister we see Christ giving His keys to his designated "master of the palace," his chief minister, his vicar, St. Peter.
That the "gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it" also implies succession for Peter’s office just as the holders of the keys of David had successors. Peter died. Yet, Christ’s promise is true. Peter who became the Bishop of Rome has a successor. The future tense used in Matthew 16, "will build" and "will give you the keys," refers to what Christ will give to St. Peter after the Resurrection.
We find many instances Jesus comparing the kingdom of heaven to a field, a mustard seed, leaven, and a net (Matt 13:24-52). This demonstrate that the kingdom Jesus is talking about the universal Church on earth, not the eternal state of glory. Jesus comparing the kingdom of heaven to ten maidens, five of whom were foolish (Matt 25:1-2), further shows that the kingdom is the Church on earth. This kingdom cannot refer to the heavenly kingdom because there are no fools in heaven! Again, the “kingdom of God” is like the seed which grows and develops (Mark 4:26-32). The heavenly kingdom is eternal, so the kingdom to which Peter holds the keys of authority is the earthly Church. The one Jesus Himself founded.
Let’s put it all together with what we’ve learned today. God promises to establish the Davidic kingdom forever on earth (2 Sam 7:16; Psalm 89:3-4; 1 Chron 17:12,14) and Matthew clearly establishes this tie from David to Jesus in the first lines of his Gospel when he describes the genealogy from David to Jesus Himself. Jesus is the new King of the new House of David, and the King will assign a chief steward to rule over the house while the King is in heaven. We see that the keys of the kingdom pass from Shebna to Eliakim (Isa 22:22). Thus, the keys are used not only as a symbol of authority, but also to facilitate succession. We see in the early Church that successors are immediately chosen for the apostle’s offices (Acts 1:20). Just as the Church replaced Judas, it also replaced Peter with a successor after Peter’s death. The keys of Christ’s kingdom have passed from Peter to Linus all the way to our current Pope with an unbroken lineage for almost 2,000 years.