FROM THE DESK OF THE ARCHBISHOP AND APOSTOLIC HEAD
Rt. Hon. Sir Dr. Godfrey Gregg
THE SOVEREIGN GRACE OF GOD
And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. (13) And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed.” — Genesis 28:12-13
The ladder Jacob saw in his dream was our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that this is the true and proper interpretation of this text, because our Lord himself gave this interpretation of it (John 1:51). When the Lord God revealed his Son to Jacob, he revealed him as a ladder. What an instructive and helpful representation that is of our Savior. The Lord Jesus Christ is made of God unto us a ladder!
We all know what a ladder is and how it is used. When you need to get from a low place to a high place, or you need to move something from a high place to a low place, you need a ladder to do it. Nothing will serve your purpose as well as a ladder. Everyone knows how to use a ladder. In spiritual things, Christ is a ladder. Blessed are those who learn to use him as a ladder. Take careful notice of what the Book of God says about Christ our Ladder in Genesis 28.
1. This ladder stood upon the earth, but the top reached into heaven. So Christ, the Son of God, though he stood upon the earth in human flesh, is yet the most high God. Though he stood upon the earth as a man, he never ceased to be God. He never left the bosom of the Father (John 1:18; 3:13).
2. The angels of God went up and down on the ladder which Jacob saw. Even so, we are able to ascend to God in heaven only by the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6); and it is by and through Christ that God comes down to us. God almighty meets with, deals with, and blesses sinners only in Christ.
3. The Lord God stood above the ladder and made all his promises of grace to Jacob. This shows us that all the promises of God’s grace come to sinners through Christ. All spiritual blessings, all the promises of eternal life, all the glory of heaven is in Christ. All things come to chosen sinners through Christ, the Mediator, our Ladder (Eph. 1:3-14).
WHAT KIND OF LADDER IS THE LORD JESUS CHRIST?
There are many kinds of ladders for many different uses: step ladders, long ladders, extension ladders, strong ladders, and shaky ladders; but Christ is in all respects an extra ordinary Ladder. Here is my description of Him. The following six fold description of Christ as a ladder.
1. Christ is a living Ladder. As he is called “a new and living way” (Heb. 10:20), in the same sense, he is a new and living Ladder. Other ladders are dead things; but this Ladder lives. It is true, he once died, but he is alive again and lives for evermore (Rev. 1:18). Because he lives, all who are in him live also?
2. Christ is a long Ladder. Here is a Ladder that reaches from earth to heaven. Jacob saw the foot of it upon the earth, “and the top of it reached to heaven!” This represents the two natures of our Redeemer. He is both God and man in one glorious Person, as fully God as though he were not man and as fully man as though he were not God.
As a man, he was set up on the earth (Gal. 4:4-5). As God, he was always in heaven. He was always in heaven, the eternally begotten Son of God, infinite, eternal, incomprehensible, and unchangeable (John 1:14; 3:13; 1:18). The union of these two natures, God and man, in one Person is the mystery of all mysteries (1 Tim. 3:16). Mystical Family please note. That the glory of Christ’s Godhead did not destroy the weakness of his manhood, nor the weakness of his manhood destroyed the glory of his Godhead is incomprehensibly mysterious. The incarnation of Christ is like the bush Moses saw, burning with the glory of God, but not consumed with the fire.
Why was the foot of the Ladder upon the earth? Why was it necessary for the Son of God, our Redeemer to become a man? If Christ would redeem us, he had to have a body in which to bear our sins, to suffer and die as our Substitute. He had to have a body and nature like ours. A man he must be who would redeem man, because it was man who sinned. Because man sinned, man must suffer for sin. For this reason, God the Holy Spirit prepared a body for God the Son in the womb of the virgin (Heb. 10:5). God purpose and plan was accomplished and for the redemption of man. Did He have to do it?
Why was it necessary that the top of the ladder reach into heaven? Why must our Saviour be God as well as man? It was our Saviour’s Godhood which gave infinite merit, virtue, and efficacy to the sufferings of his manhood. Archbishop Simon said, “Christ is both God and man, because God could not suffer and man could not satisfy; but the God-man both suffered the wrath of God and satisfied the justice of God when he bled and died as the sinners’ Substitute upon the cursed tree.” Moreover, it was Christ’s Godhood which supported and sustained his manhood in all his sufferings. Manhood could never have borne the agony of Gethsemane and the torments of Calvary had it not been that the man who suffered is also the eternal God. You see my brothers and sisters everything worked in the plan of God for us to be in the perfect will of the Father.
In addition to these things, it was necessary that our Mediator be both God and man so that He might bring God and man together. He must be God that he might deal with God, which man, as man, is not fit to do. He must be man that he might deal with man, which God in his holiness could not do without consuming the sinful creature. “Thanks are unto God for his unspeakable gift!” This is the meaning of our Saviour’s incarnation. Immanuel is God with us, God in our nature. Were He not both God and man, he could not be Jesus our Saviour (Matt. 1:21-23).
3. Christ is a lasting Ladder. Other ladders wear out with use; but here is a Ladder which lasts forever. Christ himself is immutable (Heb. 13:8), the immutable God (Mal 3:6). The righteousness he brought in, by his obedience to God as our Representative and covenant Surety, is everlasting righteousness (Dan. 9:24). The redemption he accomplished, by his sin-atoning death at Calvary as our Substitute, is eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12). Sinners, from the beginning of time, have made use of this Ladder. It has never failed one who used it, and never shall. “He is able to save to the uttermost them that come to God by him” (Heb. 7:25); and the salvation he gives is eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9).
4. Christ is a free Ladder. That is to say, he is open to all who come to him; and whosoever will may come to this Ladder and make use of it. Some people are set in their ways to hinder others from climbing the ladder. They know that they are not ever going to get to the foot and so they will do all they can to keep others away. All who come are welcome. The promise of the gospel is proclaimed in broad, general terms (Isa. 55:1; Matt. 11:28; John 7:37; Rev. 22:17). Christ is the Fountain opened, not the Fountain shut (Zech. 13:1). He the Door is open, not the Door closed (Rev. 4:1). If you do not exclude yourself by unbelief, God has not excluded you. Predestination does not shut sinners out of heaven. Predestination threw open the door for sinners and built a Ladder for sinners, by which men and women who could never come to God may now come to him. The Door is Christ. The Ladder is Christ. I love to write about The Mystical Order and its components, because I was very instrumental in forming and organizing it. Let me state here my brothers and sisters, this was a gateway for many to come and find the comfort that they wanted and couldn’t afford or find. It is a free and opened door which you’ve entered and find the solace in a group and ministry. It is for you to cherish what you have and keep it close to your heart.
5. Christ is a firm Ladder. Steady and strong, Jacob’s ladder was seen standing upon the earth, unshaken, unmoved, and immovable. That is a good picture of our great Saviour. Christ Jesus is God Almighty to save. He is that God who saves his people from their sins. He saves all his people from all their sins, completely. He saves from the guilt of sin, the dominion of sin, the penalty of sin, the consequence of sin, and ultimately the very being of sin. I will admonish you not to fall back into the pit that you once were in and be not entangled with the yoke of bondage.
6. Christ is a fitted Ladder. He is a Saviour suited to every purpose for which he is intended and for every need his people have. Christ is the only Ladder there is which reaches from earth to heaven. There is no other way to God. People without a vision imagine that there are many ladders, (a ladder for themselves) many mediators, and many ways to God. Many people who forgot where they came from have become, “holier than thou” convincing themselves that they need no ladder. Work mongers, like old Nimrod, foolishly imagine that they can build a ladder for themselves. God declares, “Christ is the Ladder!” (2 Tim. 2:5).
HOW ARE WE TO USE CHRIST AS A LADDER?
Christ is a Ladder suited to every purpose for which he is intended. Let us ever use him as such. All the blessings of God descend from heaven to poor, needy sinners upon Christ the Ladder (Eph. 1:3-7; 2 Tim. 1:9). It is written, “God shall supply all your needs, according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). All grace comes (John 1:16), all pardon (1 John 1:7), all providence (John 17:2), and all the answers to our prayer come down this Ladder (John 16:23).
It is by Christ the Ladder, only by Christ the Ladder, that believing sinners ascend to heaven and find acceptance with the holy Lord God (John 14:6). The distance between earth and heaven is infinite; and it is an uphill climb. How can we possibly get there? “Behold, a Ladder!” How am I to climb such a Ladder? Faith is the hand by which we take hold of the Ladder and the foot by which we climb. “Reach hither thy hand” and climb (Heb. 11:6). The only way we can come to God is Christ. “No man cometh to the Father” but by him. We cannot come to God’s kingdom, God’s presence, God’s glory, but by Christ. His blood purchased salvation for his elect, and obtained it (Eph. 1:11; Heb. 9:12). His Spirit makes chosen, redeemed sinners fit for glory in sanctification. And his intercession brings us there at last (1 John 2:1-2). The only way any of our performances can ascend to God is upon Christ the Ladder (1 Pet. 2:5; Matt. 17:5). God bathes our prayers, our praises and our works in the blood of Christ, and accepts both us and what we do for him for Christ’s sake.
WHY DID JACOB SEE THE ANGELS OF GOD ASCENDING AND DESCENDING UPON HIM?
The angels of God are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation” (Heb. 1:14). The purpose of this vision was to comfort Jacob and all God’s elect, (the sons of Jacob), in the face of danger. The angels of God ascend up to heaven by Christ to get fresh orders from him (Zech. 1:10-17), to give account of what they have done (Job 1:6), and to carry the departed souls of God’s saints into Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22). Those angels descend upon Christ the Ladder, too, to surround and protect, to provide for and preserve, and watch over God’s Jacobs and bring them safely home. There is a reason for everything that God purpose for us. While we hinder the path to the ladder, the angels encamped around us to get to that place where God wants us to use us.
WHAT ARE THE RUNGS OF THE LADDER?
There are two ways to count the treaders of a ladder, from the top down, or from the bottom up. First, we must count the treaders of the Ladder from the top down, as we think of Christ coming down to us. The treaders of the Ladder are our Lord’s covenant engagements from eternity, the prophecies and promises, types and pictures of the Old Testament, his incarnation, his obedience in life, and his sin-atoning death. Then, we must count the treaders of the Ladder from the bottom up as we find them in experience. First we are given faith in Christ. Believing on Christ, we know that we are born of God and have been effectually called by his Spirit. We make our calling and election sure by believing on the Son of God. All who are born again and have faith in Christ have been called. All who have been called have been redeemed and justified by the blood of Christ. And these shall be glorified by his grace, according to the purpose of God (Rom. 8:28-30). It is no fanaticism to carry the type a little further. Every ladder has two side pieces to which the rounds are connected, giving it strength and stability. So does this one. On one side there is God’s eternal purpose of grace. On the other side there is God’s immutable, preserving grace.
WHY IS THE WORD “BEHOLD” USED IN CONNECTION WITH THIS LADDER?
It is common, in both the Old Testament and the New, when Christ is spoken of, to use the word “behold” (Isa. 7:14; 42:1; John 1:29). This word, “behold,” suggests that which we are responsible to do. We are to admire and wonder as we think of him whose very name is Wonderful (Isa. 9:6). Behold the Ladder and bless God for it (2 Cor. 9:15). To behold Christ is to believe him (Isa. 65:1; 45:22). That is what we must do. We must believe on the Son of God. As the Israelites bitten by the fiery serpents were bidden to look to the serpent of brass upheld upon the pole, so we are bidden to look to Christ crucified. Life begins with looking to Christ (John 12:32). We persevere in life looking to him (Heb. 12:2). And our spiritual, eternal life shall consummate in looking upon the Son of God (1 John 3:2). Blessed, blessed day that shall be when we see him face to face! Many people have failed to see Jesus Christ for the plan of their life, and so they have sought help from men who need help themselves. They are so bent in their own ways that they cannot see the angel standing in front with the drawn sword.
Here are four special times when we are to behold Christ our Ladder: (1.) When we attempt to do anything for God, behold the Ladder. Christ is our strength, our guide, and our acceptance. (2.) When we have done anything against our God, let us still behold the Ladder (1 John 2:1-2). When guilt stares us in the face, when we need pardon, cleansing, and reviving, let us ever look to Christ – “Behold, a Ladder!” (3.) When distress, trouble and danger are before us, behold the Ladder. When the Esau’s of the world surround us and we have no earthly comfort, when we need peace for our hearts and a pillow for our aching heads, lay down upon God’s promises, look up to heaven, and “Behold, a Ladder,” and see the angels ascending and descending. (4.) When death is near, when the cold sweat of death is on our brows and the rattle is in our throats, “Behold, a Ladder!” (Acts 7:56)