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Stairway To Heaven
by Wayne Blank
One of the most well-known stories of the Bible is Jacob's "stairway to heaven" dream (also known as "Jacob's ladder"). It occurred while Jacob was fleeing the wrath of Esau, his brother. Esau was the older, and therefore would have been foremost in line for their father Isaac's inheritance. Esau however did not place great value upon his right, at least until it was too late. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for that famous bowl of stew, and after having done so, he actually despised it (Genesis 25:27-34). Later, Jacob deceived his father into giving him the blessing as well. (Genesis 27:1-40)
Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau, had taken part in Jacob's misleading scheme to obtain the blessing (Genesis 27:5-10), and after the deed was done, it was she who sent Jacob away to live with her brother Laban (where he married his cousins Rachel and Leah, and had the 12 sons from whom came the 12 tribes of Israel) to keep Esau from killing him. That's why he was traveling near Bethel (just north of Jerusalem in what is today the "West Bank" area - see map) where the stairway dream took place.
But what did the dream mean?
The first part was a direct statement by God that Jacob's receiving the blessing and birthright was God's will. It had been part of the plan all along - it was not something that Jacob and Rebekah, of themselves, brought about. God's covenant with Abraham (Genesis 22:15-18), that carried on through his son Isaac, would now continue through Jacob - who God renamed Israel (Genesis 35:10).
God then promised that the land of Israel was to be rightfully occupied by Jacob's seed - fulfilled today by the descendants of Jacob's son Judah, who are now commonly called Jews. God also revealed that the entire world would benefit from the descendants of Jacob, which they indeed have through the other tribes - the so-called "Lost Ten Tribes" of Israel.
The dream had an ultimate messianic application - the very reason for it. Jesus Christ was humanly descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is our stairway to heaven that will provide us with the way to get from down here to up there. He directly referred to Himself as the true object of Jacob's dream -
"He then added, "I tell you the truth, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (John 1:51)
Fact Finder: Is Jesus Christ the only way to salvation?