the Gate of heaven
“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!” Genesis 28:12
Two thousand years after Jacob’s vision of the stairway, or ladder, reaching to earth from heaven, a Jew named Nathanael was told by his friend Philip that he had found “him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Nathanael was skeptical. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he demanded.
Philip answered by bringing him to Jesus. For a short while Jesus and Nathanael talked, and after that Nathanael declared his belief that Jesus was indeed “the Son of God” and the “King of Israel.” It is in Jesus’s reply to Nathanael’s confession that we have the reference to Genesis. Jesus replied, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these. . . . 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 1:45–51).
In this saying Jesus clearly applies to himself the image of the heavenly stairway. That is, when Jesus spoke of the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man, he was saying that he is the ladder. He is the bridge that came from heaven to earth, the only bridge by which it is possible for men and women to pass from earth to heaven.
As we read the account of Jacob’s vision at Bethel, we should think of Jesus, just as we should with all the great Old Testament events. And the concluding question is this: Have you seen Jesus? Have you come to know that One who alone has bridged the gap between a holy heaven and a sinful world and who has promised to be all things to those who trust and love him? You may be lonely, as Jacob was. You may be impoverished and unemployed. You may be disgraced and dishonored. You may be fearful. Whatever you may be, I direct you to Jesus. He is the ever-present companion of the lonely. He is the wealth of the destitute, the glory of the base, the rock and fortress of the one who is afraid. He is God.
Look! I think I see heaven opening and the stairway descending. I see angels coming and going. I see Jesus himself. He is here to be your Savior. He is here to serve you. Won’t you look up and see him? You will be awed by the sight and you will go away saying, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. . . . This is none other than the house of God” (Gen. 28:16–17). This very spot will be your Bethel.
Excerpt taken from page 30 of Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment by James Montgomery Boice.