Jacob's Ladder, Bath Abbey

On the west frontage of Bath Abbey, a grand cathedral-like church in England’s smartest town, are two ladders. Upon them are carved angels, ascending and descending. For the latter operation, they are shown coming down backwards, head first, which seems a little awkward, even for beings capable of flight.

This famous carving is an allusion to the account of Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:11-13, 15:

So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants… 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 spoken to you.” New King James Version

Jacob the Patriarch was given a picture of just how the great God would invite so many multitudes to His presence, and not just the physical nation whom he would sire. To all peoples will the God of Abraham send the invitation of salvation; Christ is the way to heaven, the path to God, the escalator out of Sheol. I fear that the many tourists who come to Bath and ogle at this quirky sculpture will admire the descending angels more than the Saviour whose depiction the ladder was intended to be. They who would enter heaven some other way will never gain admittance, for:

…Though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down; Amos 9:2

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." John 10:1 (both NKJV)