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Christ And Jacob’s Ladder

Scripture: Genesis 28:10-15; Text: "And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it" (Genesis 18:12).

Today I shall endeavor to teach about something I have known about from my childhood - Jacob's ladder. I recall the song we sang "I Am Climbing Jacob's Ladder." I feel sure that many of you are familiar with this most interesting passage; however, today I want to take a deeper look into the vision or dream that Jacob experienced and endeavor to present Jesus Christ.

In this lesson Jacob had left Beersheba and was headed toward a place called Haran. As nightfall came he took a stone of that place to use as a pillow and lay down to sleep. During the night he had the wonderful dream of a ladder that stood upon the earth and reached upward all the way into heaven. Upon that ladder he witnessed angels of God going up into heaven and returning to earth again. Perhaps the only significance of the dream to Jacob was that God was present in that place, but we can see greater lessons which tell about the Son of God. There are many important and significant dreams recorded throughout the Bible, but perhaps this one is more easily understood because the New Testament connects it to Christ. Jesus said, "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" (John 1:51). In His usual simplicity Jesus declared that the ladder represented Himself, therefore we are not left to conjecture and speculate.

Personally, I am thankful for the light of clarification which Jesus gave. Were it not for His statement, some might assume that the ladder was to represent the plan of salvation with each rung or step representing a good work which must be performed in order to reach heaven. Not only does the words of Jesus refute such an interpretation, but a variety of other scripture also deny such a system which secures heaven by men's works. Paul said, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us ..." (Titus 3:5). He also wrote the words of 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." Our only hope of getting to heaven is in the Saviour of sinners - Jesus Christ. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). He is represented by Jacob’s ladder and only by Jesus shall the elect gain glory. There is no other way, no other “ladder” besides Jesus; therefore all the redeemed are saved by Him through His grace.

Please notice that our text declares the ladder stood on the earth and reached up to heaven. This may be confusing to some inasmuch as Jesus said, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38). While it is true that Jesus dwelt eternally in glory and came down to this earth by a virgin's birth; it is equally true that it was what He did while on the earth that saved us from our sins. It was not His sinless state in glory, but His sacrificial death that removed our sin debt. While on the earth, He shed His atoning blood and died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3) and that reached from the earth up to heaven and forever settled our debt with God. Therefore the "ladder" is said to reach from earth to heaven.

It should also be noted that it reached all the way to heaven, not part way. Some have the idea that though Jesus died for sins, the sinner must also do his part if the salvation is to be enjoyed. The lesson ascribes all the work of salvation to Jesus and therefore to Him belongs all the glory. By virtue of the fact that this ladder spanned the entire gap between God and sinner; Paul described Jesus as our Mediator in 1 Timothy 2:5. So when Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6); He meant that He was the only way and that all who shall be in glory with the Father, shall be there because of Him. Salvation from sin and its awful penalty does not come to us by Jesus plus something else. Jesus came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and all who were chosen in the covenant of grace and given to Him, He shall save (Matthew 1:21).

Having established that the ladder depicts Christ, let us now move on to make some more specific applications in the comparison. An example of what I have under consideration is the fact that a ladder consists of two side rails joined together by many steps or rungs. The significance of the two sides is that it refers to the dual natures of our Saviour. In other words Jesus Christ is both God and man, mysteriously united together in His Divine being. Paul said, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the-Spirit ..." (1 Timothy 3:16). In some scriptures we see clearly that He is God and in others we are reminded of His humanity. As man He walked and talked, ate and slept; as God He performed miracles and rose from the dead. This "Holy Thing" (Luke 1:35) of which the angel spoke was the God-man; made of a woman, and yet born or begotten of God. By the ladder we see the two sides of the being of the Son of God.

As we move further into this comparison and elaborate more, I want us to understand the significance of the steps or rungs. For convenience I shall limit our study to seven rungs even though there are many more that could be considered. I want you to recognize that all the rungs of a ladder join together the two sides. Even so, there are some facts which are essential if we are to understand the total significance of the ladder and Christ.

Step one of the ladder is the deity of Jesus. This is a basic principle of truth concerning Christ. He was not merely a man who lived in the long ago past, but lives forever as God. Having already dealt with this in the sides of the ladder, I shall not now give a lengthy declaration of this truth. One scripture which must be considered with regard to His deity is Matthew 1:23. The angel said, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." If He is not God, He cannot be our Saviour.

Step two of the ladder is the virgin birth of Jesus. If He had been born through the process of nature, He would have been a sinner as we all are. This necessary fact about His holy birth is also substantiated by the scripture used in the preceeding section. Only by the virgin birth could He have been holy (Luke 1:35) and able to be the Saviour of sinners. If He was no more than a good moral man and a highly influential character, then He would not have been the Son of God. Remember that the two thieves who died on either side of Jesus were mortals who could neither save themselves nor anyone else. By the virgin birth, Jesus escaped the depravity of our fallen nature and being without sin was a suitable sacrifice for sinners.

The third step of the ladder is the sinless life of Jesus. Not only was He born without sin, but He also lived without sin. It was necessary for Jesus to be free from sin both in His birth and in His life. Even though He was born without sin, if He had later given in to the temptations of satan (Matthew 4:1-11), He would have become a sinner and disqualified Himself from being the Saviour. Paul said, "For he (God) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us (the elect), who knew no sin (Jesus); that we (elect) might be made the righteousness of God in him (Jesus)" (2 Corinthians 5:21). He knew no sin, absolutely none; for He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22). The sinless condition of Christ is an essential to the Christian's hope.

Step four in this ladder has to do with the sufferings of Christ. Keep in mind that it was not the cross but the Christ who suffered on the cross that saved us. From ancient times it was prophesied that He must suffer for sins. Isaiah wrote, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6). It was necessary for Jesus to suffer inasmuch as it was prophesied that He would. In order for Him to meet the qualifications of the Saviour, He had to suffer for sins; yet it was not for His sins but ours. The just suffered for the unjust that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

Step five of the ladder involves the shedding of His precious blood as an atonement for the sins of His people. Paul said of Jesus, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7). Peter also declared that we are redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19). Under the righteous laws of God there was no remitting of sin apart from the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). The ancient sacrifices whose blood was shed, were all to prefigure Christ. By His blood as a crimson, cleansing tide; He washed all our sins away (Revelation 1:5).

Step six of the ladder is His death. The law could not be fully satisfied by blood alone, but the death of the sacrifice was also required. Therefore Jesus must do more than suffer and be injured enough to bleed, He had to die for sins. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and either He must die for our sins or we must be forever separated from God (die). Paul declared, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). He felt this fact to be of tremendous importance and thus put it first in his preaching. He said, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3). The importance of the death of Jesus is reflected in the frequency of scriptures which confirm to us that He died for us.

The seventh and final step of the ladder is His resurrection from the dead. He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification (Romans 4:25). If Jesus had died for sinners and then remained trapped in the grave, we could have no hope. The Christian's hope of life beyond death is Biblically founded upon the reality of the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:17-20). If He could not have laid down life and then taken it again, it would have proven that He was not the Son of God. Being God He possesses power over death and by His resurrection affected our justification.

All the above points are of vital importance to the nature and being of Christ. Each one is necessary if we are to hope in Jesus. Without even one of these declarations, the man we call Jesus would not have been the Christ (Messiah). The sum of all our hopes for salvation and a place in the eternal abode of God, rests upon this "ladder" - Jesus Christ.

Not only did Jacob see the ladder, but angels ascending and descending upon it. Angels are ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14), but they convey to us the idea that in Christ we have an access to God. Paul said, "For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Ephesians 2:18). The ascending angels are our prayers going to God through the intercessory work of Jesus. The descending angels represent the blessing coming down from God's throne of grace. Without Jesus, we have no hope of salvation nor access to God at His throne of grace.

Oh, how lovingly devoted we ought to be to Jesus. Without Him, how awful life would be. The joyful declaration of the passage is that Jesus is our hope in time and eternity. Because He has so graciously saved us, let us genuinely serve Him. May we yield to Him our life, our all; that He may be glorified by our lives. His importance to us cannot be now fully understood, but this we can know; that the Christ of the Bible is worthy of worship. If you believe He is your “ladder” to Heaven, won't you strive to more perfectly manifest your love for Him? God bless us all in His service.

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This page last updated on June 7, 2014