One of the most common evangelistic tools is a simple drawing of two cliffs with a chasm between. On one cliff is a figure representing the sinner, and on the other a figure representing God. What can span the chasm of our sin? A cross, dropped neatly in place to serve as a bridge between the sinner and God.
No doubt, this simple illustration has been used to great benefit, but allow me for a moment to make a mountain out of a molehill. Instead of a bridge between two level planes, the gospel is better understood as a matter of ascension, descension, and condescension.
Remember when Jacob dreamed about a ladder with angels ascending and descending? That ladder offers a better picture for how we think about salvation. A closer translation for the word “ladder” in Genesis 28:12 (ESV) is “stairway” (NIV). Jacob sees a series of steps—a stairway to Heaven, so to speak—with angelic mediators passing back and forth between God and man.
Scholars believe Scripture describes a commonly recognizable image for the original audience of Genesis: a ziggurat, or pyramid-shaped tower of steps that the ancients erected as a means to ascend to a deity.
The Bible even mentions one such tower “that reaches to the heavens” in Genesis 11, the famous Tower of Babel. Its builders intended to climb up to God on their own terms, but God frustrated their efforts.
In Jacob’s dream only a few chapters later, the same image is repurposed to tell a heavenly truth. We need not wonder what it is, for, conveniently, Jesus interprets it for us in John 1:51: “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
The span between ...1
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