God created trees. He made them for us: for home building, decoration, shade, construction of fences, tables, chairs, sheds, and so much more.

We can easily visualize a tree as a ladder to heaven, with the bottom as the beginning of the ladder, the trunk as the ladder proper, and the leafy crown on top as the glory-cloud of heaven. Is this a Biblical image, however, or is it just one that we have dreamed up? Clearly it is Biblical. The place to begin is with the most famous counterfeit tree-ladder, found in Daniel 4. There Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of himself as a Tree of Life.

The tree grew large and became strong, and its height reached to the sky, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beast of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, and all living creatures fed themselves from it (Daniel 4:11-12).

God ordered that this presumptuous Tower of Babel Tree be cut down, with only a stump remaining (Daniel 4:14-15). This meant that Nebuchadnezzar would be bestially insane for seven years, to teach him not to play god (Daniel 4:16, 20-33).

Just as the Tower of Babel was a counterfeit ladder to heaven, so Jacob’s visionary ladder was the true one (Genesis 28:12-17). Babylon means “gate of heaven,” and at the foot of Jacob’s ladder was the true gate of heaven (v. 17). Just so, if Nebuchadnezzar’s ladder tree was a counterfeit, there must also be a true ladder tree. That true Ladder is the Messiah. Jesus said to Nathaniel, “You shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man,” referring to Jacob’s vision (John 1:51). But also, in context, Jesus stresses that Nathaniel has been sitting under a fig tree (John 1:48, 50). The fig tree, a symbol of Israel as God’s priestly nation, is correlated with the ladder of heaven, with the True Israel, Jesus Christ.

Of course, there were plenty of counterfeit ladder trees, and the Bible condemns false worship when conducted under leafy trees (Deuteronomy 12:2; Isaiah 57:5-7; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6; 17:2). But these are only counterfeits of the truth.

In this connection it remains only to note that since both altars and trees are ladders to heaven, a tree can be an altar. The illustration of this is the cross of Christ, whose four extremities correlate to the four horns of the altar. As blood was put on the four horns of the altar (the four corners of the earth), so the blood of Christ was on the four ends of the cross (head, hands, feet). The cross is our altar, and our ladder to heaven.

Through New Eyes

Through New Eyes

James B Jordan provides a provocative introduction to Christian worldview using Biblical world models and symbols, making the claim that this was the way God has chosen to set forth how we are to think about His world and about human history.

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God created trees. He made them for us: for home building, decoration, shade, construction of fences, tables, chairs, sheds, and so much more. Just because pagans might have carved up a tree to make an image of a false god to be worshipped does not mean that we can’t use them to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s “indescribable gift” to us (2 Cor. 9:15).

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