In my last blog post “Stairway to Heaven?” (click here to see it), I wrote about images of the path to heaven being a stairway – a unsettling vision for someone who cannot walk. I’m not the first to think that way. Below shows how someone put it in cartoon form.
In searching for Bible verses about heaven, I was reminded that Jacob had a dream in which a stairway to heaven was lined with angels who were ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:12). Interestingly, the most recent images I found were staircases that were either empty or had people on them.
I remembered a song/hymn we used to sing in church called “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder”. I did an internet search for “Jacob’s Ladder” and discovered that images created by people years ago were much different, and matched the Scripture more closely. Here are some examples.
So, what happened to the angels in the more recent pictures? It’s interesting to think about why they aren’t included. Does their absence indicate a lack of knowledge about scripture, or does it reflect a more recent culture of self-absorption? Or both?
Whatever the reason for the difference, I have a definite preference for the older pictures that show the angels. My preference is two-fold. First, the angels comfort me. The images of them assure me that God’s workers are present here in our world. We sometimes forget that our world is a battlefield between God and satan, good and evil. Acknowledging the presence of angels forces us to also acknowledge the one-third of once angels/now demons who followed satan away from God and out of heaven. They and their influence are the reason for the bad in our world – disease, corruption… every evil thing. They are why I have MS. Angels represent to me God’s love and protection in the midst of this life’s trials and any good that may come from them.
The second reason I prefer the older pictures with the presence of angels ascending and descending between heaven and earth, is because it gives personal resolution to how I will manage those stairs to heaven. One or more angels will escort and carry me home – home in heaven is where I will be free from evil, free from fear, free from pain, and free of MS.
Two preferences for the images of angels – one for now to help survive the chaos of this world, and one for entry to the next world. Angels are sometimes forgotten, never overrated and always comforting. I’ll take angels over an empty staircase any day.
Doing a different search reveals there are some more recent pictures of angels on the stairway, but there aren’t many.
I like this picture I found on my last search.
Another song comes to mind, with the lyrics “All night, all day, angels watchin’ over me my Lord. All night, all day. Angels watchin’ over me.” Now and here, then and there when it’s time, angels are present and with us when invited to be.
Mark 13:27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
Luke 16:22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. (NIV)
On page 228 of his book Angels, Billy Graham says “The Christian should never consider death a tragedy. Rather, he should see it as the angels do: They realize that joy should mark the journey from time to eternity. The way to life is by the valley of death, but the road is marked with victory all the way. Angels revel in the power of the resurrection of Jesus, which assures us of our resurrection and guarantees us a safe passage to heaven.”