A gracEmail subscriber from New Hampshire asks the meaning of Jesus’ frequent description of himself as the Son of Man.
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Daniel described God’s messianic figure as “Son of Man” 500 years before Jesus was born. As Son of Man, Jesus would eventually receive dominion, power, glory and an eternal kingdom — for himself and for all God’s people. What no one but God knew in advance, whether prophet, king, sage or heavenly angel, is that the Son of Man would first suffer and die, then rise again. The Messiah, this “man of God’s own choosing” as the hymn puts it, scandalized even his inner circle when he began to tell them that (Matt. 16:13-28).
Pious prophetic speculation abounded among the Jews during the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew, resulting in a vast body of apocalyptic literature contained in the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls. But none of that literature pictures a Messiah who suffers and rises back from the dead ones. The Old Testament prophets had spoken cryptically of these matters, but it remained for Jesus himself to reveal it plainly, just days or weeks before the actual events.
As the prophetic Son of Man, Jesus would ascend to heaven (John 3:13; 6:62) — in the clouds, as Daniel foretold (Acts 1:9). But the Son of Man, the risen and glorified Jesus, will come again one day, also in the clouds of heaven (Acts 1:10-13). Heaven has now received him “until the period of the restoration of all things,” and then he will return (Acts 3:18-21). That will be a coming for judgment — on behalf of his people and against all God’s enemies (Dan. 7; Matt. 13:40-43; 25:31-46; Lk. 21:36; 2 Thess. 1:6-10).
By grace, we who trust God through Jesus Christ may know that we will be among that victorious number. Then, just as Daniel foretold some 2,500 years ago, the Son of Man will confess us before his Father — and God will give us the kingdom forever (Lk. 12:8, 32).