This issue looks at the message behind “Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” in Genesis 28.
SINCE YOU ASKED
As a kid, I looked forward to summer camp every year. Among the church camp’s activities were the campfires with the obligatory singing of “Kumbaya” and “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” I didn’t have the slightest idea what Jacob’s ladder was really all about, and I seriously doubt that anyone else did either (including the adults). The song comes from Genesis 28 which finds Jacob heading for the hills as fast as possible to escape the wrath of his brother Esau.
When Jacob arrives at a city called Luz, God gives him a dream in which God’s angels are climbing up and down a ladder that stretches from earth to heaven. This episode provides us with a vivid picture of the encounter through which Jacob was to be born again. Through the dream, God showed him how he could bridge the gap between earth and heaven receiving new life, even while still on earth. Considering the changes this event immediately brought to Jacob’s life, we can assume that some sort of powerful spiritual transformation took place that night.
The “story” of this event was not included in the Bible so we could smile at something wonderful that happened to Jacob. His story was a picture of how every person on earth could “reach heaven,” coming to God on His terms, becoming part of His family, and receiving eternal life. As you might expect, there is much disagreement as to exactly what the ladder represents. The Roman Catholic Church claims that the ladder represents Catholicism, while liberal theologians claim it represents the various ways man has chosen to reach God-ways that differ greatly, but ultimately reach the same destination, so they claim.
Fortunately for us, the Word of God contains the answer. Our Lord Himself gives us a commentary as He did when he authenticated the account of Jonah and the great fish in Matthew 12:40. In John 1:47-51, Jesus refers to Jacob”s dream as He tells Nathanael of the ultimate role He would play in Nathanael’s life. In verse 51, Jesus says,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Jesus removes all doubt. He and He alone is the ladder. All other claims are false. (“Son of Man” is one of the most common terms for the Christ, highlighting His interrelationship with us.)
AS I SEE IT
Once again, if we look to Scripture, it will give us the answers we’re looking for. There’s no need to guess or speculate. This passage reinforces Jesus’ claim to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6). In case you think I’m reading more into this passage than is really there, consider that Jacob renamed the city Bethel (see v. 19). Luz, the original name, means “separation.” Bethel means “House of God.” What a picture of the before and after of salvation. Where we were once separated from God (by our sins), through Christ, we can gain entrance directly into the House of God in heaven. How cool is that?
This book is absolutely amazing. Its basic truths can be understood by the simplest of men, while the deep thinkers can be challenged forever with the depth of its wisdom. Wherever category we’re in, the answers are there, but are we willing to devote the necessary time to digging them out?
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
Why do people believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?