What Does "Clave" Mean in the Bible?
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What Does “Clave” Mean in the Bible?


The word “clave” is not found in most English translations of the Bible. However, it does appear in Spanish versions such as the Reina Valera translation. So what does “clave” mean in the context of the Bible?

In Spanish, “clave” can have several meanings including “key,” “code,” ” Password ,” or “clue.” When it appears in Spanish Bibles, it is usually referring to keys, such as the keys to the kingdom of heaven or keys of knowledge/wisdom. The related word “llave” (literally “key”) is also used.

Key Takeaways:

  • “Clave” appears in Spanish Bibles and means “key,” “code,” “password,” or “clue.”
  • It refers to metaphorical keys, like the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
  • “Clave” is related to the Spanish word “llave” meaning a literal key.
  • Understanding “clave” requires looking at the context and its symbolic meaning.
  • Jesus used keys as a metaphor for spiritual authority, access, and power.

The Keys of the Kingdom

One prominent use of “clave” in the Spanish Bible is in Matthew 16:19 (RVR):

Y a ti te daré las llaves del reino de los cielos; y todo lo que atares en la tierra será atado en los cielos; y todo lo que desatares en la tierra será desatado en los cielos.

The English NKJV translates this verse as:

And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19 NKJV)

In this important verse, Jesus is speaking to Peter and promising to give him the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” This refers to the authority to allow people into God’s kingdom – the church. Peter and the other disciples would have this authority through their teaching and ministry.

The keys here symbolize the spiritual authority, access, and power that Peter would be given in leading the early church. They represent Peter’s role in “unlocking” the kingdom of heaven for others.

Some key points about this use of “clave”:

  • It is symbolic language – the keys are metaphorical, not literal.
  • The keys represent authority, access, and power in the spiritual realm.
  • Peter is given stewardship of the keys but does not hold exclusive rights to them.
  • The keys are used to bind and loose spiritual forces and open God’s kingdom to others.
  • This authority to bind and loose was later given to all disciples (Matt 18:18).

The Key of Knowledge

Another place we find “clave” in the Spanish Bible is Luke 11:52 (RVR):

¡Ay de vosotros, intérpretes de la ley! porque habéis quitado la llave de la ciencia; vosotros mismos no entrasteis, y a los que entraban se lo impedisteis.

The NKJV translates this as:

Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered. (Luke 11:52 NKJV)

Here Jesus is chastising the Pharisees and teachers of religious law for hindering people’s spiritual knowledge and access to God’s kingdom. By imposing extra burdens and failing to teach properly, they had “taken away the key of knowledge.”

In this context, the “key” refers to:

  • The proper knowledge and teaching that unlocks access to God.
  • The Pharisees’ teaching was obscuring the true way.
  • They had authority from God to teach but were abusing it.
  • As teachers they were accountable for unlocking Scripture for others.
  • True knowledge comes from God and leads people to Him and the kingdom.

Keys in Revelation

The book of Revelation also contains some symbolic uses of keys that are translated as “clave” in Spanish. For example:

Revelation 1:18 (RVR):

y el que vivo, y estuve muerto; mas he aquí que vivo por los siglos de los siglos, amén. Y tengo las llaves de la muerte y del Hades.


I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. (Revelation 1:18 NKJV)

Here the risen Christ declares that He possesses the keys of “Hades” (the realm of the dead) and “Death.” As with His promises to Peter, this signifies Christ’s supreme authority and power – in this case, over death itself.

The keys here represent:

  • Christ’s lordship over life and death.
  • His power to allow entry into the afterlife.
  • Authority over the spirit realm and afterlife.
  • Victory over death through His resurrection.
  • Power to resurrect believers and give eternal life.

Revelation 3:7 (RVR):

Escribe al ángel de la iglesia en Filadelfia: Esto dice el Santo, el Veraz, el que tiene la llave de David, el que abre y ninguno cierra, y cierra y ninguno abre:


“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” ‘ (Revelation 3:7 NKJV)

Here Christ declares Himself to hold “the key of David.” This connects back to Old Testament prophecies about a future messianic king from David’s line who would reign forever (Isaiah 22:22).

As the promised Messiah and heir to David’s throne, Jesus holds the key of David – signifying:

  • He is the prophesied descendant of David.
  • He has authority and kingship like David.
  • He is the royal Messiah who can open doors that no one else can.
  • The key represents Jesus’ authority to open or close spiritual doors.

Keys of Death and Hades

In Revelation 20:1, we again see the idea of keys used in reference to the realm of the dead:

Revelation 20:1 (RVR):

Vi a un ángel que descendía del cielo, con la llave del abismo, y una gran cadena en la mano.


Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. (Revelation 20:1 NKJV)

Here an angel has a key to the “abyss” or bottomless pit. This abyss is the realm of the dead, particularly the place of imprisonment for demonic powers. The key and chain demonstrate the angel’s authority to bind these evil forces and lock them away.

This offers more symbolic meaning for the theme of “keys”:

  • Keys can confine as well as release.
  • The key locks demonic forces in the abyss, preventing harm.
  • Holy angels have some delegated power and authority over thespirit realm.
  • God uses angels to enact His will in the unseen realms.
  • The abyss is under God’s absolute control and restrained by His authority.

Keys of the House of David

Isaiah 22 contains a Messianic prophecy that uses the imagery of a key:

Isaiah 22:22 (RVR):

Y pondré la llave de la casa de David sobre su hombro; y abrirá, y nadie cerrará; cerrará, y nadie abrirá.


The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; So he shall open, and no one shall shut; And he shall shut, and no one shall open (Isaiah 22:22 NKJV)

As mentioned earlier, this prophecy points to the Messiah – Jesus – as the one who will hold authority like a key over God’s people.

The key of the house of David represents:

  • Authority over God’s people (house of David = kingdom)
  • Ability to allow or deny access, similar to keys over kingdom of heaven.
  • Messianic prophecies – Jesus as descendant and heir of David’s dynasty.
  • Supreme power and lordship of Jesus the Messiah.


In summary, while the specific word “clave” is not used in English Bibles, it represents a rich symbolic concept in Spanish translations. The keys mentioned represent authority, access, power, and control – specifically divine authority as exercised by Jesus the Messiah.

The theme of Jesus holding metaphorical keys is a powerful picture of His lordship and ability to unlock spiritual blessings for believers. He possesses the keys to the kingdom of heaven, to spiritual knowledge, and even over death itself.

Understanding this symbolism provides insight into Jesus’ role as the supreme, royal Messiah who has been given all power and authority over both physical and spiritual realms. The keys illustrate His ability to open and close spiritual doors in people’s lives and usher them into God’s kingdom.

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.