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“He (Jacob) dreamed and saw a ladder set up on the earth with the top of it reaching to heaven. The angels of God were ascending and descending on it. The Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac (Genesis 24:12-13).”
There’s a popular song about a stairway to heaven.
But the lyrics to that song, though they borrow the imagery from the Bible have —to say the least!— nothing to do with the Bible’s stairway:
“There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.”
Songwriters: Robert Plant, James Patrick (jimmy) Page
Hebrew Translation of Stairway is Ladder
The Hebrew word translated “stairway” in the Bible passage at the top is also rendered with similar words. The King James version of the Bible translates the same word as Jacob’s “ladder.” The image Jacob saw in his dream may also have been a slope, an incline.
Jacob awoke out of his sleep, and he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place (Genesis 24:16)!”
Jacob recognized God was in this location, so he named it Bethel. Bethel means “house of God.” This name endured and it became an established city when, several hundred years after Jacob lived, Israel became a nation. God gave Jacob this dream to assure Jacob that He would be with him to fulfill the promises God had made to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham, and father, Isaac.
This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven (Genesis 24:17).”
Jesus Claims to be the Gate or Door to Heaven
(Note: Jesus claims to be the “gate” or “door” (John 10:7)).
Jacob saw angels bringing messages from God in heaven to people on earth, and then returning to God with our messages back to him. Jacob isn’t the only Bible person who saw angels bringing messages from God to people.
The prophet Daniel prayed and then personally encountered an angelic messenger who directly answered Daniel’s prayer. (God also sent the angel Gabriel with God’s message to Daniel in Daniel chapters 8 and 9). The angel explained that God answered Daniel’s prayer immediately and God sent the angel directly, but another angel delayed him from delivering God’s message:
“Do not be afraid, Daniel. For from the first day that you set your heart to understand this and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words (Daniel 10:12).
God’s messenger angel calls the evil angel “the prince of Persia” and he delayed God’s messenger:
“But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia (Daniel 10:13).”
Of course, we don’t pray to angels. Angels are just messengers who serve God—and us—in many ways. Prayer is just one way they served:
“Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to minister to those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14)?”
The Bible’s examples of angels delivering messages between God and people are all in the Old Testament (before Jesus’ resurrection). The Bible is silent on whether the angels still perform this function after Jesus’ rose. Jesus is now the High Priest and believers now have direct access to Him:
“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).”
The author of the Bible book of Hebrews adds a similar thought:
“Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…Let us then come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).”
Jesus Has Become the Stairway to Heaven
The Old Testament “stairway to heaven” was only a type; a picture of what was to come. Jesus has replaced that stairway. He is, in His person, THE “ladder” to heaven:
“And He (Jesus) said to him (Jesus’ disciple Nathaniel), “Truly, truly I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man (John 1:51).”
Jesus is, in His person, THE ONLY WAY to access heaven:
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).
The only one with the authority to “buy” the stairway to heaven was Jesus. He paid for it by His blood, which symbolizes His death on the cross. The “lady” in the song lyrics can’t buy a stairway to heaven with any amount of gold or even in any other way. And neither can we. Jesus is the only way, the only access to God.