51.You shall see heaven opened. They are greatly mistaken, in my opinion, who anxiously inquire into the place where, and the time when, Nathanael and others saw heaven opened; for he rather points out something perpetual which was always to exist in his kingdom. I acknowledge indeed, that the disciples sometimes saw angels, who are not seen in the present day; and I acknowledge also that the manifestation of the heavenly glory, when Christ ascended to heaven, was different from what we now behold. But if we duly consider what took place at that time, it is of perpetual duration; for the kingdom of God, which was formerly closed against us, is actually opened in Christ. A visible instance of this was shown to Stephen, (Act_7:55,) to the three disciples on the mountain, (Mat_17:5,) and to the other disciples at Christ’ ascension, (Luk_24:51; Act_1:9.) But all the signs by which God shows himself present with us depend on this opening of heaven, more especially when God communicates himself to us to be our life.
Ascending and descending on the Son of man. This second clause refers to angels. They are said to ascend and descend, so as to be ministers of God’ kindness towards us; and therefore this mode of expression points out the mutual intercourse which exists between God and men. Now we must acknowledge that this benefit was received through Christ, because without him the angels have rather a deadly enmity against us than a friendly care to help us. They are said to ascend and descend on the son of man, not because they minister to him, but because — in reference to him, and for his honor — they include the whole body of the Church in their kindly regard. Nor have I any doubt that he alludes to the ladder which was exhibited to the patriarch Jacob in a dream, (Gen_28:12;) for what was prefigured by that vision is actually fulfilled in Christ. In short, this passage teaches us, that though the whole human race was banished from the kingdom of God, the gate of heaven is now opened to us, so that we are fellow-citizens of the saints, and companions of the angels, (Eph_2:19;) and that they, having been appointed to be guardians of our salvation, descend from the blessed rest of the heavenly glory (43) to relieve our distresses.