And He said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, from now on you will see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51
On – Jesus knew Jacob. He also knew that the preposition “on” in Hebrew can mean “because of.” That’s something we must know if we are going to understand what Jesus tells Nathaniel. When we translate only the Greek text, we don’t see what Jesus really says. But once we realize what Jesus is saying in Hebrew, everything makes sense. Suddenly Jacob’s ladder isn’t about Jacob anymore.
Jacob’s ladder is a well-known story. But there are elements of the story that we don’t normally see. The first of these is the idea that the ladder stretches from heaven to earth. This isn’t Man’s attempt to reach up to God. That would be like the tower of Babel. This is God’s extension of a bridge from heaven to earth. And who goes up and down on this bridge? God’s angels, carrying out His purposes. Only those who originate in heaven can travel up and down this ladder. Why are they able to do this? Because first they are citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom.
Jesus uses this understanding when He tells His followers that no one can ascend to heaven who has not first descended from heaven. There is no way for men to reach up to God. God must reach down to men. And the paradigm example of the One Who descends to the realm of men is the Son of Man, a true citizen of heaven, who comes to those who are unable to ascend without His help.
How will Nathaniel see angels ascending and descending because of the Son of Man? He will see the invisible angels in the works that the Son of Man commands them to do. In other words, Jesus tells Nathaniel that if he sticks around, he is going to see God’s angels carry out assignments that will reveal the intrusion of the divine in the normal course of life. He will see miracles. He will see signs. Then he will know who commands the army of angels – Yeshua, the Messiah.
Jesus’ commentary on the story of Jacob’s remarkable vision teaches us something that even Jacob did not understand. Jacob’s ladder is not about angels coming down from heaven to bless Jacob. The ladder is an ancient picture of the way that God will rescue mankind – through the One Who descends. The ladder is about the Messiah, not Jacob. Jesus’ commentary confirms this. This is one more example of the need to see the New Testament as an authorized commentary on the Old Testament. One without the other just isn’t clear to us.
What are the implications of Jesus’ commentary? They are fairly severe. Only one has descended to rescue those who cannot ascend. In other words, there is no other pathway back to heaven. There is only one means of salvation, and it must come through the One Who has descended. Without Him, you are just building a tower of Babel. Long before the Messiah arrived, God was giving glimpses of His plan. Jacob’s dream was just one of the Messianic images in the stories of the Torah. God shows us that there is one way, and only one way. God’s Son must come down to rescue us or we are lost. You can thank God for Jacob’s ladder. It’s your ladder too.
Topical Index: Salvation