Please Explain the Angels, Ascending and Descending Upon the Son of Man.


Here is a Scripture I would like you to explain: “And he saith unto him, verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”


These words were spoken by Jesus very early in His career, when He had first gone out to preach and was calling His disciples. Jesus had already called James, John, Andrew, and Philip, when Philip spread the news to Nathaniel. Nathaniel, upon seeing Jesus, said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel” (John 1:49). Jesus replied that Nathaniel believed because he had seen Him and that he would see far greater things in the future; then follows the passage cited: “hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51).

Scripture does not give any specific explanation of these words, but they seem to allude to Jacob’s experience at Bethel, where he had a miraculous vision. In the vision Jacob saw heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon a ladder which reached from heaven to earth (Gen. 28:10-22). If Jesus had a like experience, we are not told. But we know angels did visit Jesus and it is entirely possible He saw something similar which He shared with His immediate followers.

Above all, Jesus may have been foretelling His second advent, when He would return, attended by myriads of angels (Heb. 12:22; Matt. 16:27; Dan. 7:10). “Hereafter” does not indicate how long after. Jesus’ long-range thinking may have taken Him fifty years into the future, or more than two thousand. We have no way of knowing.