10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and 32
will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
18 So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” — Genesis 28:10–22 (ESV)
51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” — John 1:51 (ESV)
As we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in his glorified body, it’s interesting to look back on the beginnings of his ministry.
As he gathered his chosen disciples, he told Nathanael, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). Nathanael wasn’t unhitched from the Old Testament, so he would have understood that Jesus was identifying himself as Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28:10-22).
"Through his sacrificial death, the barrier between heaven and earth has been broken."
In his dream, Jacob saw a ladder set up on the earth and the top of it reached to heaven. The angels of God were ascending and descending on it. A previous effort to connect to heaven autonomously failed because we can’t reach heaven or open heaven’s gate (Genesis 11:1-9). Heaven and earth have been separated by sin, but this ladder re-established the contact. It’s by the ladder, which is Jesus, that help comes to us and by which we enter heaven. Through his sacrificial death, the barrier between heaven and earth has been broken. This was what Jesus had promised Nathanael he would see — and not only see, but experience. Listen to Jacob’s declaration after his dream: “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it. ... How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17). Yes, Jesus is the gate to heaven and it doesn’t matter whether we know it or not; it is always true and he is always there. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5, et al.). And because he is the gate to heaven, those who believe will dwell with him for eternity.
Jacob didn’t see multiple ladders connecting heaven and earth. There was and is only one (1 Timothy 2:5). Despite Jacob’s ignorance of the presence of Jesus prior to his dream, there is nowhere we can run or hide where Jesus isn’t present (Psalm 139:7-12). Neither Jacob, nor we, have to go looking for God. He is never far from us and he comes for us (Acts 17:27; James 4:8).
The ladder that Jacob saw in his dream still connects heaven and earth and is still the gate to heaven (John 10:9). We may not sense his presence. We may not see Jesus in the trials, turbulence, and troubles that we inevitably experience, but he is there (Psalm 23:4). He is not only there but he is working on our behalf even during the most difficult of times (Romans 8:34). After Jacob’s dream, he worshiped God. This Easter, let us rejoice and be thankful as we worship Jesus, who is the ladder and gate to heaven.
Our Holy Redeemer on the throne of thrones, how we cherish your name and tremble at your feet. Our most honorable acts are filthy rags before a Holy God, a costly righteousness our only defense.
Oh, how foolishly we have mocked our King by pretending we can save ourselves, work ourselves, or believe ourselves, into your presence.
Praise the Lord on high that our salvation depends not on our own merit! Left to our own devices, even the best among us would still be wandering blindly in the blackest depths of our foulness. Our debt could only be paid by a transaction we could never afford.
Though we deserved to live separated by our sin forever, a way has been forged for us. A way back into your presence, a way into eternal glory. The very hand that created all things, outstretched to us. The voice that spoke the world into existence, calling us by name.The mercy tree, giving way to the righteous branch, our ladder.
Jacob’s dream was fulfilled in a divine reckoning, bridging forever our broken world to a world made new. A gateway to paradise was paid for by the spilling of blood from one innocent and blameless Lamb.
Death, defeated: a life poured out on our behalf. Heaven opened, a covenant restored —not because we are lovely, but because we are loved.