In Jacob’s dream of the ladder going from heaven to earth with the angels descending and ascending, the poor theologian will take this and turn it into a works righteousness theology—that we have to climb the ladder to get to God. In other words, we need to take the first step and make our way up to God. Notice, however, that Jacob never climbs the ladder.
And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder 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 and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep…Genesis 28:12-16a
Not once does Jacob even merely place a foot on the ladder. He merely looks up, sees the angels coming to and fro doing the Lord’s will, and then sees the Lord at the very top who reveals Himself and commits Himself to His promise. There is no need for us to climb some imagined, ethereal ladder because the Lord reveals Himself to us in His Word. Ultimately, He has made Himself known in His Son, the Word made flesh, “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven” (Nicene Creed). There is no climbing needed, for the Lord Himself descended the ladder and then “ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father” (Nicene Creed; see also Romans 10:6 and Ephesians 4:10).
Theology Terms Used
- Works Righteousness: the false doctrine that you need to do good works in order to be saved; or a mix of faith plus good works.