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Stairways to Heaven

Words by Ashley Kelly | Illustrations by Marie Warner Preston

In Genesis 28, Jacob encounters God through a dream and the trajectory of his life is forever changed by being in the presence of the Living God. Are ours?

One of the most terrifying moments in my parenting life involved a very tall ladder, my husband, and our four-year-old son. My husband had the shock of a lifetime when he heard two simple, sweet words: “Hi, Daddy!” These words, normally welcomed and cherished by any parent, are the last thing you want to hear when you are on the roof of a two-storey building, knowing the only way up is the appropriately-sized ladder behind you.

How my child successfully climbed up there—while holding a ball, mind you—I have no idea. How it could have ended in tragedy, I am completely aware (and utterly thankful it did not). How I now view ladders has been forever changed, influenced by this one event.

I don’t know if I can compare my experience with a ladder to Jacob’s, but I am confident his experience left him forever changed, too. This is where the Lord meets him, reassures him of the promise that was first given to Abraham, and further promises to be with him wherever he goes (Genesis 28:13-15). Setting the stone as a pillar is a tangible way for him to acknowledge this change and to mark the place as special, as a place to be remembered and never thought of the same again. This is a sacred space where glimpses of Heaven and glimmers of deity have been revealed. More than a simple ladder, Jacob has been granted a revelation of the stairway to Heaven.

This idea is not unique to Jacob. In ancient mythology, gateways to the gods were common and often depicted as stairways. Towers were built with the purpose of housing these stairways, which provided access points for the gods to come down among the people to receive offerings and worship. One helpful picture of this ancient idea is that of Heaven being upstairs and the earth being downstairs, connected by these mythical stairways.

While my own ladder incident is limited in effectiveness to the three of us involved, Jacob’s encounter is limitless in effectiveness because it points to something—someone—far greater: Jesus.

In John 1:51, Jesus reveals Himself to be the One upon whom the angels ascend and descend. He is the stairway to Heaven, our access point to God. Just as Romans 5:1-2 says: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

Jacob’s awe and wonder of finding himself in the presence of God should be rivaled by our own awe and wonder of discovering that the presence of God now dwells within us through the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:17; Romans 8:8-9). No longer must a gateway to Heaven be marked by a pillar, a tower, or a temple—for Christ, the stairway to Heaven Himself, lives within us through His Spirit. Now, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, our lives set up as pillars marking the presence of God, each of us a stairway on which the lost can encounter Jesus.

That should make us wonder: Are people changed after their encounters with us, just as Jacob was after his encounter in that sacred place? Our neighbours, coworkers, and family members should see glimmers of Heaven as they watch our lives and listen to our words because we live as its representatives. They should see Jesus in us; His presence should be evident in our lives. May we live in such a way that points to the wonder of who He is and what He has done for us.

Spend some time meditating on the incredible truth that you are now God’s temple. How does this impact your daily life? Ask God to fill you afresh with awe and wonder for the privilege of housing His Spirit.

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