[Jacob] had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28:12)
Yeshua told Nathaniel, “You will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). What did these cryptic words mean? As far as we know from the gospel record, Nathaniel never did receive an apocalyptic vision in which he saw angels ascending and descending upon the Master. In what sense did he see the angels ascend and descend upon the Master?
Nathaniel and the disciples saw Yeshua working in the power and authority of heaven (which in apocalyptic literature is always betokened by angels). That is to say that the angels of God ascended and descended upon Him at His behest and command.
And behold, the LORD stood above it. (Genesis 28:13)
The ladder image illustrates the Master’s words, “No one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). The ancient idolater instinctively understood that a great separation exists between man and God (or “the gods,” as the case may have been in his mind). His mighty ziggurat towers, like the tower of Babel, and his lofty high places and tall altars all represented attempts to span that distance. Even the highest high place does not reach high enough. Even the tower of Babel did not reach to heaven, for Scripture says, “The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built” (Genesis 11:5).
The same might be said of all our religious impulses. The stars are always beyond our reach. God is far distant. Man’s best attempts to bridge the gap fail. The tall towers and tottering ladders we ascend are as naught. If we are to ascend to God, we must ascend upon a ladder that He Himself has extended to us from above.
God has extended the Messiah to us from above, as Yeshua says, “For I have come down from heaven” (John 6:38). The Messiah is the way of ascent, as He says, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17). He is a son of Jacob—an Israelite—and yet angels ascend and descend upon Him, and God is above Him:
But when He says, “All things are put in subjection [under Messiah],” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things [under] Him. When all things are [under] Him, then the Son Himself also will be [under] the One who [put] all things [under Messiah], so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:27−28)
Yeshua had bridged the space between heaven and earth. He is the ladder to heaven upon which angelic forces descend and ascend.