This week I want to depart somewhat from my typical comments on the section of the Bible under consideration. In this section, Jacob encountered the Lord at a site just north of Jerusalem along the ridge of mountains in central Israel. His revelation about this site is very important relative to the significance of this area in God’s redemptive plan. This area is the “crossover” point or intersection between heaven and earth. This, we believe, is the reason for the struggle for control of this area.
Jacob at Bethel
Jacob fled Beersheba running from his brother Esau who had vowed to kill him. Jacob had traded his brother out of his birthright and deceived his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that was reserved for the firstborn. Jacob was fleeing to his relative’s home in Mesopotamia. Along the way at nightfall he found himself at a location called Luz. As he slept he dreamed of a ladder extending from heaven to earth with God at the top and angels traversing the ladder.
“And he came to 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 under his head, and lay down in that place. And 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.” (Genesis 28:11-12)
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:16-17)
The Hebrew term (שער השמים) is used here. Jacob recognized that this location possessed a unique quality as being the earthly opening into heaven. This is the cross-over point between heaven and earth. The tendency is to consider this term to be applicable to a very small area centered in Bethel. With all the incidents recorded in the Bible of movements between heaven and earth, we will see that the area we are speaking about is perhaps 90 miles long and 30 to 40 miles wide.
Later at this same site, the Bible declares that
“Then God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him.” (Genesis 35:13)
God ascended, presumably into heaven.
Just south of this site at Mt. Moriah, Abraham encountered an angel of the Lord when he prepared to made Isaac an offering to the Lord. As a result of his experience there, Abraham gave the site a name.
“And Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14)
The word that is translated “provide” is (ראה). This is a commonly used verb meaning “see”. The simple meaning is that in this place “God will see”. We believe this indicates the proximity of heaven to this site which would become the Temple Mount.
An Angel visits the Parents of Samson
During the period of the Judges, an angel of the Lord appeared to a man and his wife who were to become the parents of Samson. This occurred at a site called Zorah in the territory of Dan between Jerusalem and Joppa. Initially, the wife believed that an angel of the Lord had appeared to her. However, at a later appearance, they did not know that he was an angel. He must have appeared as an ordinary human. At any rate, they offered to prepare a meal for the stranger but he, instead, requested that they prepare a burnt offering to the Lord. When they did so, the angel ascended in a unique manner.
“So Manoah took the kid with the grain offering and offered it on the rock to the Lord, and He performed wonders while Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came about when the flame went up from the altar toward heaven, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on the faces to the ground.” (Judges 13:19-20)
Elijah is Taken into Heaven
One of the most awesome events described in the Bible occurred to the prophet Elijah just east of this area across the Jordan River opposite of Jericho. Elijah’s time was drawing near and Elisha, sensing that something monumental was about to happen, clung to him. Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan and continued walking eastward. Elisha knew that Elijah would be taken away because several prophets had declared this to him earlier that day. However, he evidently didn’t know how or when it would happen. As they walked along Elijah was taken into heaven.
“Then it came about as they were going along and talking, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.” (II Kings 2:11)
We need to consider what Elisha witnessed on this occasion. The horse drawn war chariot was the fastest means of transport that Elisha knew in his day. Thus he used this description for the conveyance that took Elijah. In addition they were being propelled by fire which most likely described the means of propulsion for the conveyance. Finally, Elijah was taken up into heaven in a “whirlwind” (סערה). This expression is used also by the prophet Ezekiel.
“As I looked, behold, a storm wind (whirlwind) was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.” (Ezekiel 1:4)
Usually when we think of a “whirlwind”, we envision a rather small revolving wind column blowing up dust. I suspect that Elisha saw something much more profound, perhaps something like that seen by Ezekiel.
We should guard against thinking in terms of modern science fiction that an ET in a spaceship swooped down and picked up Elijah and carried him off to some other location in the space-time continuum. Elijah was taken into heaven. Later in the New Testament, Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus on the so-called “Mount of Transfiguration” (Luke 9:30). Moses had died roughly 600 years earlier than when Elijah was taken into heaven. We have the testimony that both Moses and Elijah appeared together, so we can conclude that they both were taken to the same place, i.e., heaven.
Elisha and the Army of the Lord
The King of Aram was warring against Israel and became frustrated because Elisha the prophet was revealing his position to the King of Israel. The King of Aram decided to capture Elisha. He sent a detachment of war chariots to Dothan and encircled the city. The Bible reveals what happened.
“Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O, Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:15-17)
Dothan is just a few miles north of Shechem. Here, Elisha saw the “Army of the Lord” deployed on the mountain in the heart of Israel. Obviously this army had crossed over from Heaven and was being deployed on earth.
Messiah Jesus Ascended into Heaven
Our final example comes from the New Testament. After the resurrection of Jesus, he met with and taught His disciples. When the time came for Him to depart, they went to the Mount of Olives. After conveying His final direct instructions to His disciples, He ascended into heaven.
“And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
We conclude that there are many examples of God, Angels and humans crossing over from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven. The small area of central Israel is the locale where these crossover events occurred. This area is approximately 90 miles from north to south and 30 miles from east to west. Two sites within this area is of utmost significance; Bethel and Jerusalem. At Bethel, Jacob received the vision that this was the location of the “gate to Heaven”. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was named by Abraham as the place where “God sees”. Later, God declared that He would establish His Name in this place forever.
Finally we maintain that because this area is crucial to God’s redemptive plan, there is a ferocious struggle to control this area. The forces of darkness demand to exercise dominion here. Today, in our generation, God has called back the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to this area. The people of Israel are God’s designated “gate-keepers”. Israel will prevail in this struggle. If necessary, the “Army of the Lord” will be deployed to insure the victory. (Please see my book “Israel, God’s Interdimensional Portal” available at Amazon)