Do you ever think of dreams as gates of Heaven? Some dreams are messages from God. Some dreams come from our souls; they are dreams we cause ourselves to dream (Jeremiah 23:16). Some dreams come from the enemy. But some dreams are actually doors into heavenly encounters where, as we sleep, our spirits access gates God has established. That is what happened to Jacob . . . quite by accident on his part.
And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! . . . 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 28:12,16–17 (ESV)
Jacob journeyed to a specific place. Verse 11, one verse before this passage, says that he went to a “certain” place, and the Hebrew suggests it was an appointed location. In other words, it was a special place. When we glance at history, we discover it is the same place where Jacob’s grandfather Abraham (Abram) had built an altar to the Lord:
And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord. — Genesis 13:3–4
Jacob found himself in a place of rich spiritual history. It had been dedicated to the Lord, and it was a place of encounter. Abraham had built his altar out of stone, and when Jacob showed up, he took a stone—likely a stone from the altar itself—and used it as a pillow, of all things. And as he slept he dreamt. His spirit awoke to the spiritual reality of his location, and he saw Heaven opened, encountered angels and spoke with God.
When he woke up, he realized what had happened. Abraham had called the place Bethel for a reason. Beth means “house,” while el means “god.” Jacob had spent the night at the house of God—it was a gate of Heaven.
This story in Genesis contains three elements that help us understand how God can use dreams: the stone, the sacrifice (the altar) and the gate. If we seek encounters with God, we don’t have to search the wilderness of Judea for altar stones used in previous seasons. We can have encounters wherever we are—because of these three elements.
The Significance of the Stone
As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.” — 1 Peter 2:4–6
Jesus is the stone we lay our heads upon. Each night as you go to sleep, focus your attention on God’s presence. Remind yourself that you are in Jesus and He is in you (John 14:20). Lay your head, your thoughts, completely on Him and what He has done for you. Ask God to make you more aware of a single fact: that your entire life and faith stand upon the foundation stone. They stand upon Jesus.
The Significance of the Sacrifice
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. — Hebrews 10:19–22
Just as Jesus is the stone, He is also the sacrifice. We have access to heavenly places through the blood of Jesus poured out. The veil that separated us from the Most Holy Place of Heaven was ripped open with His flesh when He died on the cross (Matthew 27:50–51). We can now confidently draw near to God’s presence. We don’t have to be afraid, and shame doesn’t have to hold us back. We can confess our sins and come into His presence confidently, knowing that the Father accepts us because of the work of His Son.
The Significance of the Gate
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” — John 10:9
Jesus is the gate. He is the door. He is our access to Heaven. It doesn’t depend upon your gift or ability or even your spirituality or maturity—it depends on Jesus. He is the only means to real heavenly encounters. Imagination may open our minds to see what we know, but only Jesus can draw us into the reality of a heavenly encounter. Ask Jesus to speak to you and to draw you into the encounters He wants you to have.
When God Shows Up
At this point, the theme of this article is probably obvious: Encounters with God are all about Jesus. He is the stone, the sacrifice, the gate. If we make our lives about Jesus, we will find ourselves practically falling into encounters when we need them the most.
Jacob recognized what was going on only after the encounter. I don’t believe he understood why he was doing what he did until that moment. Maybe he didn’t realize the history or anointing on the place, but God did. Maybe it wasn’t normal for him to use a stone as a pillow, yet even there, God was leading him. Jacob was in the middle of running from his brother; there was a threat on his life, and as he wondered about his future, God set up an ambush. God made sure Jacob went to the right place at the right time to enter a gate of Heaven and hear the promise that would define his destiny.
Having left everything familiar to go somewhere new, Jacob was in transition and likely had many questions. Maybe he was even questioning whether or not he was included in the extravagant promises made to his family. But when Jacob needed it the most, God showed up. He will do the same for you.
There is no formula to finding gates of Heaven. In fact, it’s best to leave formulas far behind, because they can mean climbing over the fence instead of coming in through the door. You don’t have to be the most spiritual person in the world to have a stunning, incredible encounter with God. Just keep your mind and heart focused on Jesus and trust in the blood that was poured out on your behalf. It speaks a better word over you than your past or reputation (see Hebrews 12:24). Know that He is with you and when you need it, He will speak destiny. And somewhere along the way, you may just find that a dream is more than a dream—it is a gate into a heavenly encounter.