The ladder (or more properly, stairway) may signify the ages
of time between Jacob's day and Christ's day. During these ages, the angels
(God's messengers and ministers: Heb 1:14; Psa 34:7) have been working with the
saints and the world to achieve the Kingdom. This stairway joins heaven and
earth. In the Kingdom Age, Jacob and saints will have "climbed" the stairway
(or, to put it another way, Christ will have descended: Act 1:11), and Christ
and his saints will have been united in Jerusalem.
The stairway also symbolizes Jacob's seed, in generations to
come, extending from Jacob himself all the way to the Messiah.
"Now the interval of time between the giving of the promise and the fulfilment
of it was represented to Jacob by a ladder of extraordinary length, one end of
which stood at Bethel, and the other end against the vault of heaven. Here were
two points of contact, the land of Judah and heaven; and the connecting medium,
the ladder, between them. This was a most expressive symbol, as will be
perceived by considering the uses to which a ladder is applied. It is a
contrivance to connect distant points, by which one at the lower end may reach a
desired altitude. It is, then, a connecting medium between points of distance.
Now if, instead of distant localities, distant epochs be substituted, the ages
and generations which connect them will sustain a similar relation to the epochs
as a ladder to the ground on which it rests, and the point of elevation against
which it leans. The ladder, then, in Jacob's vision was representative of his
seed in their generations and appointed times. One end of it was in his loins;
the other, in the Lord Jesus when he should sit upon his throne, reigning over
the land upon which Jacob was asleep" (Elp
John 1:51: "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open,
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." That is,
"UPON the son of man"; ie, Christ IS the stairway, linking man to God, and vice
"Alas, we make
a ladder of our thoughts,
where angels step --
but sleep ourselves at the foot.
Our high resolves
look down upon our slumbering acts" (CAL, Xd
Also, compare John 1:46: " 'Nazareth! Can anything good come
from there?' Nathanael asked. 'Come and see,' said Philip. When Jesus saw
Nathanael approaching, he said of him, 'Here is a true Israelite, in whom there
is nothing false (or "no guile").' "
Nathanael -- like Jacob before him -- unburdened his heart to
God, threw off his guile, and repented of his past sins. Coming face to face
with his Savior, and seeing heaven opened, he became a man drawn to God.
Angels ascending and descending on the "ladder": Possibly the
phrase "ascending and descending" is used in that order to show Jacob that the
angels had been with him all along, even though their care and guidance at times
was unperceived. They, of course, had ready access to God and their going and
coming pointed out that fact.