From: All God’s Angels
Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the Earth, the top of it reaching to Heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you live I will give to you and to your offspring; and 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 all the families of the Earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that 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 woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place? This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.”(Genesis 28:10-17)
Jacob calls the place where he slept the “house of God” (Bethel) and “gate of Heaven” because of the vision he beheld there in the dark of the night. Remember, he was leaving his father’s house for the first time, fleeing from his brother Esau, and probably hoped for a peaceful night’s rest. Instead, while his eyes are closed in sleep, his soul is opened to the revelation of God, and what he sees astonishes him – a direct passage between Heaven and Earth.
In some Jewish writings, the place where Jacob lay down his head is identified as the same place from which God made the Earth and where God “stood” when he formed the body of Adam. Generations after Jacob, that ground would serve as the foundation for the Holy of Holies in the temple. It is associated with Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac and that, today, is the floor of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. On the night Jacob stopped to rest, his vision of the coming and going of angels revealed to him that he was camping on holy ground. Here, the foundation stone of all creation and the stepping stone to the Creator were one and the same.
Ascending and descending. This is an image of the never-ceasing mission of God’s angels. On the one hand, the gate of paradise barred to humans appears open to the angels, who ascend the ladder freely to present themselves before God. Like us, the angels were created to live in God’s presence, and they return there whenever their Earthly work is completed. On the other hand, the angels descending the ladder represent for Jacob God’s unhindered access to Earth. It is as if Jacob’s vision is expanded for a moment and he is allowed to see something usually invisible, but which is taking place all the time – Heaven’s messengers are always coming to Earth’s aid. Their access to us is as immediate and unrestricted as their access to God. Gregory the Great says it is as if angels can be in two places at the same time – they always behold the Father’s face, and they are always coming to us. At one and the same time they are sent from God, yet they remain with God.
The angels tell us that Heaven and Earth are not completely separated after all. There is a particular “route” that connects them, and on that mysterious night Jacob found himself at its entrance. We know the Way as well. Early in his ministry, before his followers began to perceive who he really was, Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:51) In the Son of God there is a permanent ladder “set up on the Earth, and the top of it reaches to Heaven.”