Everyone who believes in God has a ladder theology. Christianity utilitzes various ladders that have been developed over the centuries. These emerged (either consciously or unconsciously) from a narrative in Genesis 28:
10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He [e]came to [f]a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it [g]under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood [h]above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your [i]descendants. 14 Your [j]descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will [k]spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your [l]descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, 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 [m]promised you.” (emphasis mine)
The idea that we can climb up to heaven to see God in all His glory is very attractive. It has so enveloped some people that they actually gave up their “normal lives” to live in communes of one sort or another. This was so they could pursue direct, unencumbered communion with the Almighty. Adherents to this purpose developed what was called the “monk’s ladder” (From Guigo II, Scala Claustralium in Latin). It included four rungs: 1. reading Scripture, 2. Meditating on the Scripture to find the hidden meaning (seeing all scripture as analogy; an error), 3. Prayer as response, and 4. Quiet contemplative living.
Others have developed ladders based not in a personal encounter with the Almighty, but on the personal effort of satisfying God’s moral demands. Their ladder is a morality that was derived from Scripture and other sources, including socio-cultural norms. Scripture is useful for becoming more like God.
Finally, the last group has developed a ladder that satisfies the mind and fills in the gaps of understanding that Scripture presents. These people have developed a ladder based on speculation. Disatisfied with the tensions of Scripture, they attempt to resolve these tensions through logical reasoning. For the most part, they, like the other mentioned earlier are recipients of Platonic thought. Their error is that they don’t take God at His word, but need to justify God’s words. They climb the ladder of an intellectual form of Christianity that doesn’t need to wrestle with the self. Instead of facing the crucifixion, they narrowly avoid it by rationalism.
All of these have inherited the disease of the tower builders in Genesis 11. We all believe that we can reach God(hood) if we have the right method. Only one problem: it’s idolatry of the self.
Into Babel, God brought the judgment of dividing people based on language. Into our idolatry, he brings the curse of death. And , in fact, these ladders are a proof that we are dead. We need someone to descend into our burial hole to rescue us from the death we are in.
That person has already come. His name is Jesus, and He has come to crucify our idolatry and utterly demolish our ladders. In fact, He has come to replace these ladders with the original one promise from Genesis 28. A very small reference in John chapter 1 will make this clear. It is so brief that you have probably read over it:
51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, youwill see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” Jesus, alone, is the Ladder who has come out of heaven and brought heaven down to earth.