Genesis 28:12 – And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
Jacob’s ladder is perhaps one of the most well known but also most misunderstood stories in the Bible. To truly understand what Jacob’s ladder means, we must rightly divide the word of truth, as the Bible commands. The Holy Spirit guides us into truth through God’s word, we do not have to galvanize, manufacture, and force any understanding of scripture. We go to the Bible to interpret the Bible. The Bible interprets itself. Interpretation belongs to God – Genesis 40:8. The word of God is not subject to man. No prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation – 2 Peter. John 1:51 – And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
Although the concept of a ladder first invokes the thought that we must climb a set of rungs to get to heaven, the Biblical meaning of Jacob’s ladder teaches quite the opposite. The message of Jacob’s ladder is not one of working towards achieving salvation by climbing the rungs and hoping to gain entry, but one of realizing and accepting that the way of salvation has already been provided for and revealed to us. The work has already been done. Jacob’s ladder is the end of our works, not the beginning. It does not show that we need to work to get to heaven. It does not show stages of enlightenment which progress us toward the heavenlies. It is not about self improvement. It is not about self effort. Jacob’s ladder shows us that there is only one way to heaven. It shows us that God has provided a way to heaven for us. Do we want God’s way to heaven, or our own way? Behold a ladder set up on earth. We have to come to God by God’s appointed way. Our own way will end like at the tower of Babel, lost and in confusion. The Bible says that he that believes on Jesus shall not be confounded – 1 Peter 2:6. The Lord Jesus Christ is Jacob’s ladder – John 1:51. Jesus is our ladder to heaven. He is the entire ladder, rungs and all. Jesus encapsulates the ladder. Everything required to go to heaven is wrapped up in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. John 14:6 – Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. Jesus did the work. All we have to do is believe it. All we need is the belief that receives what Jesus has done for us. John 6:29 – Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. We could never do what Jesus did. Jesus did the will of the Father. He was perfect, he was sinless, he made a way to heaven for us. He is from above, we are from beneath. John 4:34 – Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. John 5:17 – But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. The work is finished. Jesus said, It is finished – John 19:30. Jacob’s ladder is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our ladder to heaven.
When we each see Jacob’s ladder, we will either see something we must do, or something that has already been done. This is God’s Word revealing the thoughts and intents of our hearts. When you see Jacob’s ladder, do you see work that you must do and worthiness that you must generate? Or do you see the work that Jesus Christ has done? This is where true Christianity parts ways with all other religions and belief systems. This is the difference between freedom and bondage. This is the difference between life and death. We can only go to heaven based on what Jesus Christ has done for us. Our salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus has salvation. Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Ephesians 2:8,9 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. We are saved by God’s grace through faith. We live by faith. After we are saved, our life remains based on faith in Jesus Christ, who now dwells in our hearts by faith. All other religions consist of doing something, both to be saved, and after we are saved. The devil is very subtle, he keeps unbelievers in blindness and makes every effort to derail and shipwreck true believers. His work is to destroy faith. Even those that preach the grace of God can be brought into works based bondage. The Bible is very clear that works are a result of faith. They follow faith. Any works a true believer does is out of love for God. God first loved us – 1 John 4. We have to receive God’s love first to have true love in us. When we receive God’s love, the love of God abides in us, and flows out from us – 1 John 4. We are not the source of love, we are a conduit of God’s love. Works are a physical outworking of the inner spiritual truth when we are born again. It is God in the believer producing works. Our works are based on faith and love, not a fleshly performance. We have nothing to boast about both before and after.
Galatians 3:2 – This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? We see an example of works based bondage in the Penetecostal/Charismatic system, which worships the creature more than the Creator in the fact that tongues are worshipped instead of God. This is idolatry. Pentecostals are in works based bondage. They have been bewitched. They practice witchcraft. It is rebellion against God. Pentecostals believe that if you do not speak in tongues you are not saved or have not received all of the Holy Spirit. This is blasphemy. We receive the Holy Spirit at conversion. It is a free gift. It is for all of us. We are complete in him – Colossians 2:10. We do not bring the Holy Spirit in ourselves, we do not conjure up God. God is not subject to us. God is not summoned like a devil. Romans 10:6 – But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above). Penetecostals fail to understand the doctrine of tongues in the Bible, which is not about tower of Babel gibberish or divine prayer language, but God’s gift and enabling to fulfill his command of going into all the world and preaching the gospel to all nations. This is what happened in Acts 2, people from every nation under heaven heard the gospel. They understand. They heard. They believed. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. The Bible teaches that God’s gifts are given for edification, they are for building faith. By definition, a spiritual gift excludes anything we can do apart from receiving it by faith, as Jesus gives us gifts freely, we do not have to work for them. It you want something from God, ask him by faith. Ask and ye shall receive. But is what you are asking for motivated by selfish, worldly lust and ambition or is it for the glory of God, according to his will? Maybe this is why your prayers are not being answered. 1 Corinthians 12:31 – And yet I show unto you a more excellent way. Do you want the more excellent way?
It is significant that Jacob saw this ladder in a dream. He lay helpless in sleep. Job 33:14-17 says For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. Jacob seeing the ladder in a dream shows us that salvation truly is of God, and God alone. We do not help or assist God in our salvation. Jesus’ blood alone paid the price for our sins. God provided himself a lamb. Salvation is a work of God. The Bible says Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world – Revelation 13:8. Before we were even made aware of our sin, God already had the solution. God does not need our help. He does not dwell in temples made with hands. He does not need anything from us. He is not subject to us. We do not counsel God. We do not help him make decisions. Job 40:4 – Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. None of us can help ourselves. As the axehead lay helpless at the bottom of the Jordan river, we lay helpless in need of a Saviour. The Bible says Jacob knew it not. In our carnal, fleshly, unbelieving minds we cannot even begin to comprehend God. As Nabal said, Who is David? Our flesh says Who is God? Our flesh laughs at the very notion of God. We need God to reach down to us first. We can only love him because he first loved us – 1 John 4. In Genesis 1, it was the Spirit of God that moved upon the face of the deep. This is why salvation is not something to be messed around with. Get saved while God is dealing with you. The Bible says now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation – 2 Corinthians 6:2. In Jacob dreaming, man is eliminated from the picture. Abraham fell into a deep sleep when God made a covenant with him. We are completely and utterly helpless. We have nothing to bring to God. All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. We have nothing. We are nothing. So what can we do? Psalm 116:12 – What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.
Jacob’s ladder is also important because it is the first mention of ascending and descending in the Bible. John 3:13 – And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. Christ’s death was vital, but that is not the end of the story. His resurrection and ascension are equally as vital. We can only go to heaven because he is in heaven – John 14:3. We only live because he lives. We are only accepted in heaven based on the merits of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. God accepted his sacrifice. God’s wrath was satisfied by Jesus Christ. The work is finished. Hebrews 9:26 says that now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. It is finished. Jesus died once for us. This is why the mass is blasphemous and wicked. Jesus said, It is finished. Jesus died once for all. The Lord’s supper is a memorial, it is remembrance, it is giving thanks for what has been done for us. Jesus is in heaven right now. He is seated at the right hand of the Father – Mark 16:19. He is not brought down from heaven by man. He is coming back, but he is coming back when the will of the Father is so – Acts 1. Jesus has promised to receive us unto himself – John 14:3. The disciples were sorry when Jesus told them he must go away. But Jesus had to return to the Father, it was necessary for us – John 16. By returning to the Father, he could send us his Spirit to abide in us. Jesus is our High Priest in heaven – Hebrews. Jesus is our mediator, the only mediator between us and God. 1 Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Your local priest, your consellor, your psychiatrist, your whatever is not a mediator between you and God. If you have a problem and want a real solution, go to God. It is good to get help from other people, from true friends, but unless that help points you to God and builds faith in God, and not man, that help will not be true help at all. As a believer, you have direct access to the Father through Jesus Christ. The Bible is very clear that as believers we are all priests to God, because we can all go to the Father and offer up spiritual sacrifices such as prayer and worship – 1 Peter 2:9. We can sacrifice our will, our dreams, our ambitions to do the Father’s will. We have power with God, just as Jacob did when he was changed, when he was saved at Peniel.
We see in Jacob’s ladder a great truth about the angels of God. They ascend and descend upon the ladder, who is Jesus. Angels of God bear witness of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:14 – Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Their messages and their activity is based upon the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. They minister the truth of the Son of God. They obey Jesus. They are accountable to Jesus. They confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. Galatians 1:8 – But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Colossians 2:18 – Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. Man has a propensity to worship the creature more than the Creator. Do not worship angels over God. Do not worship angels. Any spirit that does not confess the Lord Jesus Christ is not of God – 1 John 4. Any spirit that denies the Lord Jesus Christ is not of God. Angels of God minister truth, they can help and protect us, but God angels are not sent for us to have a sensual relationship with, they are not for fuzzy mystic experiences, enlightenments and revelations.
Finally, the Bible says the Lord stood above the ladder. Noone slips into heaven. Noone comes to heaven by any other way. Noone will gain entry without coming by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal – Matthew 6:20. Man in his unsaved, unregenerated state wants every other way apart from the way of Jesus, apart from the truth. Man is temporal, our life is short, how well do you see into eternity? There is a narrow way and there is a broad way. The world did not receive Jesus – John 1. The world hated Jesus. The world hates Jesus. In Genesis 11, the people of the earth joined together to build a tower that would reach unto heaven. Let us make a name for ourselves. The tower of Babel is the opposite of Jacobs ladder. It is man trying to make his own way to heaven. It is about man, it is man centered, it is not about God. It encapsulates world religion, ideas and philosophies which are self oriented, which consist of self help, which say that self has the answers, which thinks self is sufficient, which wants to be like God, which wants to be God. It is the “I will” mentality, which Lucifer had. It is not the “thy will” mentality, which Jesus had. In his dream, Jacob’s ladder was set up on the earth by God. There is God’s way and there is man’s way. The tower set up by man will not reach to heaven. It is futile and hopeless. But the good news, which is the gospel, which is the glad tidings of peace, is that there is a ladder set up by God on the earth that reaches to heaven. God has not left us without hope. God has not left us without witness. We are without excuse. God is not willing that any should perish. Anyone can be saved. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is invited. Revelation 22:17 – And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Will you come? Jesus is the ladder.