We’ve been learning that God’s staff meetings include some delightful characters. There are cherubim, seraphim, and of course, God’s beloved angels! Let’s look at one of Jacob’s encounters with angels. He was camping at the time it happened.
Camping can be fun, or it can be a nightmare if it rains! When Jacob went camping, it didn’t rain—but he did have a dream of a stairway “set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the LORD stood above it” (Gen 28:12-13). Apparently, stair climbing keeps the angels in tip top shape! Is there a staircase behind the scenes that we don’t know about?!
Well, there is a little controversy over the word “it” in this story (“the angels of God were ascending and descending on it … the Lord stood above it”). The Hebrew pronoun here can mean “him” (“the angels of God were ascending and descending on him … the Lord stood above him”). “It” makes the staircase the focus, while “him” makes Jacob the focus. If it’s “him,” then all the going back-and-forth, from heaven to earth, again and again, is to attend to Jacob.
Either way, Jacob may have thought he was all alone, but he wasn’t alone at all. The Lord was always with him—and he is always with us.
So, when Jesus alludes to Jacob’s dream, he tells Nathanael, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). Does Jesus mean angels will ascend and descend on him, making himself the staircase? Or does Jesus mean that the angels will ascend and descend upon him, making himself the recipient of their care (e.g., Matt 4:11 and 26:53)? Likely both!
King Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He not only “upholds the universe by the word of his power”; he’s in charge of sending the angels out to serve those who are to inherit salvation (Heb 1:3, 14). Jesus, “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Pet 3:22). Jesus calls them “his angels” (Matt 13:41; 24:31-32). So, it’s Jesus’ directives that are being carried out by the angels. He’s calling the shots. When angels ascend back to Jesus, they’re ready to receive another assignment.
We do not look upon that stairway as if in a dream. Jesus is the connection point between heaven and earth. It is through Jesus that we learn God’s plans. It is through Jesus, and not through dreams, that we know that God is with us to protect and care for us wherever we go. He alone is the way we ascend to our Father in heaven (John 14:6). And it is in Jesus that we will one day descend to a glorious, renewed earth accompanied by his angels.