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John 1:51

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Verily, verily - Amen, amen. The doubling of this word probably came from this circumstance: that it was written both in Hebrew אמן and in Greek αμην, signifying, it is true.

Heaven open - This seems to be a figurative expression:

  1. Christ may be understood by this saying to mean, that a clear and abundant revelation of God's will should be now made unto men; that heaven itself should be laid as it were open, and all the mysteries which had been shut up and hidden in it from eternity, relative to the salvation and glorification of man; should be now fully revealed.
  • That by the angels of God ascending and descending, is to be understood, that a perpetual intercourse should now be opened between heaven and earth, through the medium of Christ, who was God manifested in the flesh. Our blessed Lord is represented in his mediatorial capacity as the ambassador of God to men; and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of man, is a metaphor taken from the custom of despatching couriers or messengers from the prince to his ambassador in a foreign court, and from the ambassador back to the prince.
  • This metaphor will receive considerable light when compared with 2 Corinthians 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:20; : God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself: - We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. The whole concerns of human salvation shall be carried on, from henceforth, through the Son of man; and an incessant intercourse be established between heaven and earth. Some have illustrated this passage by the account of Jacob's vision, Genesis 28:12. But though that vision may intimate that God had established at that time a communication between heaven and earth, through the medium of angels, yet it does not appear that our Lord's saying here has any reference to it; but that it should be understood as stated above.

    What a glorious view does this give us of the Gospel dispensation! It is heaven opened to earth; and heaven opened on earth. The Church militant and the Church triumphant become one, and the whole heavenly family, in both, see and adore their common Lord. Neither the world nor the Church is left to the caprices of time or chance. The Son of man governs as he upholds all. Wherever we are praying, studying, hearing, meditating, his gracious eye is upon us. He notes our wants, our weakness, and our petitions; and his eye affects his heart. Let us be without guile, deeply, habitually sincere, serious, and upright; and then we may rest assured, that not only the eye, but the hand, of our Lord shall be ever upon us for good.

    Happy the man whose heart can rejoice in the reflection, Thou God seest me!

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    Verily, verily - In the Greek, “Amen, amen.” The word “amen” means “truly, certainly, so be it” - from the Hebrew verb to confirm, to establish, to be true. It is often used in this gospel. When repeated it expresses the speaker‘s sense of the importance of what he is saying, and the “certainty” that it is as he affirms.

    Ye shall see - Not, perhaps, with the bodily eyes, but you shall have “evidence” that it is so. The thing shall take place, and you shall be a witness of it.

    Heaven open - This is a figurative expression, denoting “the conferring of favors.” Psalm 78:23-24; “he opened the doors of heaven, and had rained down manna.” It also denotes that God was about to work a miracle in attestation of a particular thing. See Matthew 3:16. In the language, here, there is an evident allusion to the ladder that Jacob saw in a dream, and to the angels ascending and descending on it, Genesis 28:12. It is not probable that Jesus referred to any particular instance in which Nathanael should literally see the heavens opened. The baptism of Jesus had taken place, and no other instance occurred in his life in which it is said that the “heavens were” opened.

    Angels of God - Those pure and holy beings that dwell in heaven, and that are employed as ministering spirits to our world, Hebrews 1:14. Good men are represented in the Scriptures as being under their protection, Psalm 91:11-12; Genesis 28:12. They are the agents by which God often expressed his will to men, Hebrews 2:2; Galatians 3:19. They are represented as strengthening the Lord Jesus, and ministering unto him. Thus they aided him in the wilderness Mark 1:13, and in the garden Luke 22:43, and they were present when he rose from the dead, Matthew 28:2-4; John 20:12-13. By their ascending and descending upon him it is probable that he meant that Nathanael would have evidence that they came to his aid, and that he would have “the” kind of protection and assistance from God which would show “more fully that he was the Messiah.” Thus his life, his many deliverances from dangers, his wisdom to confute his skilled and cunning adversaries, the scenes of his death, and the attendance of angels at his resurrection, may all be represented by the angels descending upon him, and all would show to Nathanael and the other disciples most clearly that he was the Son of God.

    The Son of man - A term by which lie often describes himself. It shows his humility, his love for man, his willingness to be esteemed “as a man,” Philemon 2:6-7.

    From this interview with Nathanael we may learn:

    1.that Jesus searches the heart.

    2.that he was truly the Messiah.

    3.that he was under the protection of God.

    4.that if we have faith in Jesus, it will be continually strengthened the evidence will grow brighter and brighter.

    5.that if we believe his word, we shall yet see full proof that his word is true.

    6.Since Jesus was under the protection of God, so all his friends will be. God will defend and save us also if we put our trust in Him.

    7.Jesus applied terms expressive of humility to himself. He was not solicitous even to be called by titles which he might claim.

    So we should not be ambitious of titles and honors. Ministers of the gospel most resemble him when they seek for the fewest titles, and do not aim at distinctions from each other or their brethren. See the notes at Matthew 23:8.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    See the nature of true Christianity, it is following Jesus; devoting ourselves to him, and treading in his steps. Observe the objection Nathanael made. All who desire to profit by the word of God, must beware of prejudices against places, or denominations of men. They should examine for themselves, and they will sometimes find good where they looked for none. Many people are kept from the ways of religion by the unreasonable prejudices they conceive. The best way to remove false notions of religion, is to make trial of it. In Nathanael there was no guile. His profession was not hypocritical. He was not a dissembler, nor dishonest; he was a sound character, a really upright, godly man. Christ knows what men are indeed. Does He know us? Let us desire to know him. Let us seek and pray to be Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile; truly Christians, approved of Christ himself. Some things weak, imperfect, and sinful, are found in all, but hypocrisy belongs not to a believer's character. Jesus witnessed what passed when Nathanael was under the fig-tree. Probably he was then in fervent prayer, seeking direction as to the Hope and Consolation of Israel, where no human eye observed him. This showed him that our Lord knew the secrets of his heart. Through Christ we commune with, and benefit by the holy angels; and things in heaven and things on earth are reconciled and united together.
    Ellen G. White
    Patriarchs and Prophets, 568

    God's providential care had been over Samson, that he might be prepared to accomplish the work which he was called to do. At the very outset of life he was surrounded with favorable conditions for physical strength, intellectual vigor, and moral purity. But under the influence of wicked associates he let go that hold upon God which is man's only safeguard, and he was swept away by the tide of evil. Those who in the way of duty are brought into trial may be sure that God will preserve them; but if men willfully place themselves under the power of temptation, they will fall, sooner or later. PP 568.1

    The very ones whom God purposes to use as His instruments for a special work, Satan employs his utmost power to lead astray. He attacks us at our weak points, working through defects in the character to gain control of the whole man; and he knows that if these defects are cherished, he will succeed. But none need be overcome. Man is not left alone to conquer the power of evil by his own feeble efforts. Help is at hand and will be given to every soul who really desires it. Angels of God, that ascend and descend the ladder which Jacob saw in vision, will help every soul who will, to climb even to the highest heaven. PP 568.2

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    Ellen G. White
    Patriarchs and Prophets, 184

    The Lord knew the evil influences that would surround Jacob, and the perils to which he would be exposed. In mercy He opened up the future before the repentant fugitive, that he might understand the divine purpose with reference to himself, and be prepared to resist the temptations that would surely come to him when alone amid idolaters and scheming men. There would be ever before him the high standard at which he must aim; and the knowledge that through him the purpose of God was reaching its accomplishment, would constantly prompt him to faithfulness. PP 184.1

    In the vision the plan of redemption was presented to Jacob, not fully, but in such parts as were essential to him at that time. The mystic ladder revealed to him in his dream was the same to which Christ referred in His conversation with Nathanael. Said He, “Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” John 1:51. Up to the time of man's rebellion against the government of God, there had been free communion between God and man. But the sin of Adam and Eve separated earth from heaven, so that man could not have communion with his Maker. Yet the world was not left in solitary hopelessness. The ladder represents Jesus, the appointed medium of communication. Had He not with His own merits bridged the gulf that sin had made, the ministering angels could have held no communion with fallen man. Christ connects man in his weakness and helplessness with the source of infinite power. PP 184.2

    All this was revealed to Jacob in his dream. Although his mind at once grasped a part of the revelation, its great and mysterious truths were the study of his lifetime, and unfolded to his understanding more and more. PP 184.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Selected Messages Book 1, 279-80

    The Saviour of the world had no controversy with Satan, who was expelled from heaven because he was no longer worthy of a place there. He who could influence the angels of God against their Supreme Ruler, and against His Son, their loved commander, and enlist their sympathy for himself, was capable of any deception. Four thousand years he had been warring against the government of God, and had lost none of his skill or power to tempt and deceive. 1SM 279.1

    Because man fallen could not overcome Satan with his human strength, Christ came from the royal courts of heaven to help him with His human and divine strength combined. Christ knew that Adam in Eden, with his superior advantages, might have withstood the temptations of Satan, and conquered him. He also knew that it was not possible for man, out of Eden, separated from the light and love of God since the Fall, to resist the temptations of Satan in his own strength. In order to bring hope to man, and save him from complete ruin, He humbled Himself to take man's nature, that, with His divine power combined with the human, He might reach man where he is. He obtains for the fallen sons and daughters of Adam that strength which it is impossible for them to gain for themselves, that in His name they may overcome the temptations of Satan. 1SM 279.2

    The exalted Son of God in assuming humanity draws Himself nearer to man by standing as the sinner's substitute. He identifies Himself with the sufferings and afflictions of men. He was tempted in all points as man is tempted, that He might know how to succor those who should be tempted. Christ overcame on the sinner's behalf. 1SM 279.3

    Jacob, in the night vision, saw earth connected with heaven by a ladder reaching to the throne of God. He saw the angels of God, clothed with garments of heavenly brightness, passing down from heaven and up to heaven upon this shining ladder. The bottom of this ladder rested upon the earth, while the top of it reached to the highest heavens, and rested upon the throne of Jehovah. The brightness from the throne of God beamed down upon this ladder, and reflected a light of inexpressible glory upon the earth. 1SM 279.4

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    Ellen G. White
    Lift Him Up, 239

    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. John 1:51. LHU 239.1

    God has given us a perfect standard of character, which we are ever to keep before us. Through the strength that Christ can impart, we may keep the law of God. We should be obedient children, whatever difficulty we may have to encounter. We must not expect to enter heaven without conflict and trial, but we have the assurance that if we will not consult our own pleasure, but the will of God, we shall not be left to fight the battle alone. LHU 239.2

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