When Jacob reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Genesis 28:11-12
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:16-17
[Jesus said] “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51
What an awesome dream filled the mind of Jacob that night. Here was this fugitive from the wrath of a defrauded brother, a con-artist and deceiver, yet filled with a genuine faith that would lead him to glory. Exhausted from his travels, he lay on the cold ground with a stone for his pillow. Soon after he fell asleep, his mind was filled with an unearthly light. He saw a stairway that began on earth but which reached to the heavens. Higher and higher it rose until it pierced the clouds. And on that stairway were angels ascending and descending in service to God. Angels are usually depicted in radiant glory, often with wings by which they move with amazing speed to serve God’s purposes. “He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.” But here, they employed a more ordinary, even human means of reaching from heaven to earth and going back again. Undoubtedly the purpose of the image was for the benefit of all who would inherit salvation, including Jacob.
"Whether by technology, or philosophy, or religion, man seeks to rise. But all such efforts must fail."
We sinners often try to build our own stairways to heaven. I think of the Tower of Babel, constructed by human ingenuity and labor, seeking to reach to the heavens in such a manner as to boast forever at the accomplishment. The one enthroned above the heavens laughs at the puny efforts, for God had to descend to see what they were doing… they weren’t even close! But the efforts of sinners to soar from the cursed earth by good works has continued unabated in every generation, right up to this present day. Whether by technology, or philosophy, or religion, man seeks to rise. But all such efforts must fail.
For there is only one true stairway to heaven, and his name is Jesus Christ. It was for this reason that Christ came from heaven to earth, to lift the sons of the earth from their wicked squalor, deceiving nature, and hard-hearted rebellion to the true “house of God” by the only “gate to heaven.” Jesus clearly linked himself to Jacob’s dream by his stunning proclamation to Nathanael in John 1. Someday all of us who believe in Jesus will see heaven opened, and Jesus returning to earth with an army of angels. At that time, he will send out his angels to gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Then we will rise from the earth through his power. So, we will be with the Lord forever.
It was to establish this true stairway to heaven that Jesus came to earth two thousand years ago. This is what we celebrate at Christmas!