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Jesus… the son of man (4)

All truth is moral. That is, all truth has implications for living. We speak of abstract truth but there really is no such thing if we take this to mean some truth is divorced from real life. Every ‘truth’ is a part of reality that impacts to a greater or lesser extent on the rest of reality. Every ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ demands that other realities adjust to it and take account of it. Truth is what IS, and in our universe, an IS creates an OUGHT. I ought to treat my father with respect because he is my father. I ought to love my wife and cherish her because she is my wife. What is, shapes and informs what ought to be. What is fact shapes what is fitting, that is, what is right and proper.

This is why ‘truth systems’ (what we believe to be true) are so important for at a rudimentary level at least we are all shaped by what we think to be true. And it is why some so-called ‘truths’ are very dangerous. For instance, if we believe that evolution is the true cosmogony then we will champion a ruthless ethic of the survival of the fittest and assume that what now is, by definition, is superior to what came before. This is the logical imperative of atheistic evolution.

Many step back from these conclusions but in so doing they are being inconsistent with ‘truth’ as they perceive it. Unfortunately, many are only too willing to think and act consistent with this ‘truth’ and the results are frightening: ruthless unbridled capitalism, assumed modern western cultural superiority to other cultures past and present, the celebration of a dog-eat-dog ethos, the demise and dismissal  of traditional Christian values that stress submission to and self-giving for the other (the Nietzschean belief that such values vice and are weak and to be despised), are just a few misguided beliefs and practices that have roots in an atheistic evolutionary world view.

Incidentally, the moral imperative of evolution is one reason why I am less than comfortable with theistic evolution. Theistic evolution assumes the mechanism of the survival of the fittest is God’s original design and intention. It assumes death and extinction, nature red in tooth and claw, to be right and good, the way, in fact, God meant things to be. Of such a world, evolving by his express creatorial fiat, presumably God declared his pleasure in the words, ‘good… good… good… very good’ (Gen 1). Violence, destruction and death in this version of ‘truth’ are not an anomaly, an intrusion, a hideous deformity in creation resulting from a space-time fall but are intrinsic to it; evolution is how it is and therefore how it ought to be. Such thinking seems to me far from Genesis One and the God of the Bible.

But, I digress.

To return: truth shapes obligation. Design has an intrinsic impulse or intention. An IS creates an OUGHT. This is why theology is never irrelevant. It is never, merely abstract. Our beliefs (what we think to be true) mould, and ought to mould, our behaviour. In the last few posts we have explored what it means for Jesus to be ‘the Son of Man’. How should this ‘truth’ shape our lives? How will It impact on other aspects of reality? What demands will it make? If it is a huge truth, as it clearly is, what seismic effects will it have on the rest of reality? What will be its implications for humanity?

We need not guess about the implications. Scripture itself draws the implications. We are left in no doubt

to reject the son of man has horrendous consequences

Seems a no-brainier really.  If God is good and the Son of Man brings in God’s kingdom of good there can be no good for any who reject it; there is no good outside of God.  By definition all who reject the Son of Man side with evil and identify themselves as evil (Jn 3:20); for such there can be no happy future.  They are weeds destined for burning (Matt 13:38-41).  For those who betray him, it had been better that they were never born (Mk 14:21).  When he judges men, separating the sheep from the goats, it is only those who have demonstrated love to him (and so the good that belongs to the kingdom. Cf. Lk 6:45) who will enter his kingdom; all others will be cast into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:34-44).  Those who have done good in the day of resurrection and judgement (both executed by the Son of Man) will rise to life and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned (Jn 5:29,30.). Those who have no love of him and no submission to him will face wrath at his coming (Matt 24:34-37; Ps 2).

only those who prove themselves to be truly followers of the son of man will enter his kingdom

True followers will be identified by a number of criteria.  They will be marked by: faith in the strange glory of the Son of Man lifted up on a cross as an object for faith (Jn 3:14,15; 8:28); feeding spiritually on him as the source of their life  (Jn 6:53); unashamed open devotion to him (Lk 9:26, 12:8); continual alert expectation of his return (Matt 24:44); obedient service that goes beyond lip service  (Matt 21:28); fruit-bearing lives that bring pleasure to God (Matt 13:23); and love expressed to him in acts of unconscious kindness to his people  (Matt 25:34-40).

For these, the faithful, the reward will be the blessings of God’s kingdom, the Son of Man’s kingdom (for they are one and the same) to which they receive entry (Matt 25:34).

True followers are not simply those who have heard the Son of Man but those who have obeyed (Matt 7:21,24,27).  It is not the claim to faith that marks one out as a child of the kingdom, not even religious activity performed in the name of Christ but the life of faith, a life that resembles Jesus.  Likeness to Christ is the ‘good fruit’ that identifies the true child of the Kingdom (Matt 7:15-20).  Such people the Son of Man will not be ashamed to own as his brothers and welcome into his kingdom (Hebs 2:11; Mk 8:38).  Those who have lived not for the present but for a kingdom to come, a better country in the future, God will not be ashamed to be called their God (Hebs 11:16).


The ramifications of Jesus as the Son of Man are immense.  God’s rights as God are at stake.  He has given to the Son of Man, to Jesus, all his authority.  If Jesus does not reign then God does not reign.  God’s sovereignty (his will) is executed through Jesus (Jn 5:16-28). The reign of the Son of Man is nothing less than the reign of God (Ps 2, 8; Hebs 2:5-9).

Of course, if we do not believe this we will live as most of the world does but if we do believe this, genuinely believe, well, it changes everything.





corinth… a distant mirror (1)

The Corinthian church lived in a culture not unlike ours. Corinth was a city renowned for its excess and promiscuity. Even today ‘a Corinthian’ denotes someone given to luxury and dissolute living. Like the church in any culture, the Corinthian church was not immune to the influence of its surrounding culture. In fact, many of the problems Paul perceives in this church are a direct consequence of the surrounding culture invading the church. Given the similarities in cultural values between Corinth and the modern Western World the Corinthian church serves well as a distant mirror revealing some of the big problems that plague the modern church. Paul’s letter provides the inspired critique and counter to these problems.


Firstly, we should note how thoroughly at least a some in Corinth had bought into a root philosophical assumption of their society. The gospel had taught the Corinthians that life in Christ was life in the Spirit. They had enthusiastically embraced this. However, when it came to defining what it meant to be ‘spiritual’ their understanding was framed by their culture rather than Christ. The Greco-Roman culture believed that the spiritual world was superior to the created material world. In fact they believed that what was material and physical was not only inferior but was in some sense intrinsically evil. True maturity and completeness lay in shedding the physical altogether. Until then spirituality lay in pursuing the non-physical pursuits of mind and spirit (the mystical). Paul reveals that much upon which they celebrated as ‘spiritual, as mature and exalted, was in fact symptomatic of unspirituality, was immature, and ‘fleshly’ (3:1).  Paul’s choice of the word ‘fleshly’ was particularly damning for people who believed that the physical was abhorrent. Paul’s definition of ‘fleshly’, however, was somewhat different from that of the Corinthians. This is clearly the case since he considers non-physical activities, which they deemed highly spiritual, reveal their unspirituality immaturity.


Of course, it’s easy in retrospect and from the vantage point of those outside a culture to criticise the Corinthians. We wonder at how easily they confused cultural assumptions with Christ. We are bemused by the way they carry Greco-Roman cultural baggage uncritically, even enthusiastically, into the gospel. But before we get too smug we should consider how the church through the ages has smuggled cultural values into the gospel, baptising what was merely cultural as Christian truth. And the bigger and deeper the cultural value the less obvious to the church was their compromise and culpability. For example, it’s interesting to note how forms of church government change as forms of civil government change. Episcopacy echoes the monarchical governments in which it was conceived while forms of Congregationalism flourish as democracy gains ascendancy.

And, of course, our own era is no more immune. Time will tell how far the church has compromised by buying into the unquestioned macro-cultural trends of the day. Even identifying what these are is difficult from within. In the West, these may include individualism, hedonism, relativism, scientism (the belief that empirical science is the most authoritative source of truth), feminism, egalitarianism, capitalism, materialism, postmodernism etc. Many of these are obvious and already arouse suspicion. The really dangerous ones are those so endemic to our culture (such as scientism?), so apparently clearly right and self-evident, that even Christians scarcely question them. This was the error of the Corinthians. They accepted uncritically their culture’s understanding of spirituality (philosophy was viewed in the first century as science is in the 21st –  beyond question) rather than subjecting it to the critique of the gospel. Paul counters their error by showing how it is refuted by (and inconsistent with) the gospel, and particularly the gospel of the cross (2:2).

This Greco-Roman (Platonic) view of spirituality lies at the root of many of the problems in Corinth. Paul reminds us that ‘Bad company (or wrong views) corrupt good manners’ (15:33).  Certainly in Corinth this was the case. Their misguided notions about spirituality led to them placing undue value on wisdom, especially wisdom as defined by their culture, the power of reasoning and rhetoric; these were considered activities of the mind not the body and so intrinsically superior (1,2). Personalities were also lionised, at least by some for their oratorical gifts (3). By contrast the activities of the body were either dismissed as irrelevant to spirituality (5,6) or a hindrance to spirituality (7). The abuse of ‘knowledge’is the focus of (8-10,12). Female emancipation also flowed from their wrong views of life in the age of the Spirit (7,11,14). Spiritual gifts were also stood on their heads through a view of spirituality that dissociated it from the material world; tongues, a lesser gift, is treated as the most important because of its emphasis on the mystical and esoteric (12-14). Finally, the logic of the inferiority of the material and physical leads to them denying the bodily resurrection of believers from the dead (15). Bodily resurrection would be retrogressive if your view of spirituality is based on Plato rather than Paul, philosophy rather than apostolic preaching.

In future posts I hope to expand the issues of this last paragraph and show how the Corinthian mistakes find themselves occurring in the C21 church.  I hope we will see too the apostolic way to combat them.


the watchmaker argument for a creator

Is the watchmaker argument for the existence of God childish?  Should Christians abandon it?  Or is it biblical?

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 

Hebs 3:4


The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  
Romans 3:18-20


jesus… the son of man (3)

We have been reflecting on the important role Daniel 7’s vision of someone ‘like a son of man’ has in explicating the messianic mission of Jesus.  It is the designation most used by Jesus to define himself and we have observed how he clearly uses the designation as a messianic title.  At first glance it is a title connoting humility.  It identifies Jesus as ‘human’, or more accurately as ‘the human’ (since he is always ‘the son of man’).  Psalm 8 expresses the essential humility of the designation… ‘what is man that you regard him?’  It is therefore fitting for a messiah who is ‘meek and lowly of heart’, who has come ‘not to be served but serve’.

Yet we have noticed too that For this ‘son of man’ Jesus makes astonishing claims.  For while, on the face of it, this title was a claim to be human, for those willing to see it declared much more.  It was a tacit claim to a key and exalted role in the history of salvation.  As a title it fitted well with Jesus constantly subtle way (particularly to those of Israel) of declaring his messianic credentials.  Only when on trial for his life before Jewish authorities will Jesus leave them without excuse by stating unambiguously that  his claim to be ‘the Son of Man’ is nothing less than a claim to be ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’ whom they will yet see coming ‘in the clouds of heaven’ (Lk 22:69). The Son of Man will suffer and die (at their hands) but resurrection and unrivalled glory will be his ultimate destiny.  Further, elsewhere he affirmed, this destiny he will share with his messianic people, those who through faith are united to him in a union of life and destiny.  All of this, we saw, is implied in Dan 7 ( though other strands of messianic revelation feed into this composite picture too).

I want to unpack now a further implication of Daniel 7.  Daniel 7’s ‘son of man’ vision gives weight to Jesus’ claim to be ‘the Christ, the son of the living God’, son, that is, in the fullest and most profound sense; he the Son of Man, he signals, is a divine person. We noted this claim by Jesus in our first post.  His first use of the title in Mark’s gospel involves the astonishing authority to forgive sins; if he has authority over all sickness he must also have authority over its source, sin (Mk 2:10).  This claim those who hear him rightly recognise is God’s prerogative, an observation Jesus makes no attempt to deny (Mk 2:7).

On another occasion when challenged by the Pharisees that his disciples were law-breaking by pulling ears of corn and eating them on the Sabbath ( though, in fact,  they were merely breaking traditional interpretations of the law and not the law itself) Jesus gives a two-pronged defence.  Firstly he argues from royal rights.  He points out that David and his followers did something similar when David was a rejected King whose life was threatened.  He is drawing an implicit parallel that effectively accuses the Pharisees; Jesus like David is a rejected King whose life and those of his followers is under threat by the current establishment.  Secondly, and even more startling, he argues from divine rights; ‘the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath’.  Only God was Lord of the Sabbath for the Sabbath (of creation and that given to Israel) belonged to God (Mk 2: 23-27. Cf. Exod 20:10; Isa 58:13).

We saw too, in a previous post, other claims made by Jesus for the Son of Man that put him in a category way beyond the merely human.  He insists came from God and was soon to return to God… hardly normal claims for someone merely human; they indicate someone who really belongs to heaven and not earth (Jn 3:13; 6:62).   Indeed,  he claimed for himself divine prerogatives.  He claimed: to have life in himself and the authority to give life; the authority to judge all men; the authority to rule over everything; the right to honour that the Father received (Jn 5).

This divine identity of the son of man is tacit in Dan 7.  Firstly, we notice that he is not simply identified as a ‘son of man’ rather he is ‘like a son of man’.  Room for an identity beyond the merely human is implied.  This figure approaches God (the Ancient of Days) on ‘the clouds of heaven’.  In Scripture, it is God who rides in the clouds (Ps 68:4; 104:3,4; Isa 19:1; Nah 1:3).  Further, he enters directly into the divine presence, an audacious act in itself.  Jesus develops  (from Psalm 2) what the Son of Man in the presence of God implies and involves; it means to be seated at his right hand.  No ordinary creature is seated in God’s presence.  Further, such a seat makes the recipient the rightful heir to God’s throne, God’s dominion.  In Dan 7, the Son of Man is given universal dominion, the rule that only God possesses.  The Jewish authorities who heard Jesus’ sonship claims in Jn 5 had no doubts about what he was implicitly claiming… he was blasphemously claiming equality with God (Jn 5:18).

Thus, when Dan 7 says that the Son of Man is universally worshipped (Dan 7:14) we should give this reference to worship its fullest meaning.  Jesus insists that all must honour the Son as they do the Father (Jn 5:23).  The God who will not share his glory with another (Isa 42:8; 48:11) shares it with Jesus (Jn 17:5).  All will bow to Christ and declare that he is Lord (Yahweh Cf. Isa 45 whole chapter ) to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2).  Father and Son find their glory in the other.  The glory of the Father is revealed in the Son and the glory of the Son is in revealing the Father.  Further, the glory that the Son had with the Father before the world was, before he ‘came from God, from heaven… into the world’, and  before he was , properly speaking, ‘the Son of Man’ (human) he now has as ‘the Son of Man’ who has now ‘left the world… and returned to God, to the Father’ (Jn 17:24).  The Son of Man who ascended to the Father in the clouds of heaven (Dan 7; Acts 1) was returning  to where he had previously been though now as a human being (Jn 3:13, 6:62).  That intrinsic glory that he had eternally as one equal with God (Phil 2) he has retaken and indeed has added to it all the glory that redemption secured for God, both Father and Son.  Thus the honour Jesus receives is the honour due not merely to a divine representative but to a divine person.  John makes this point well in the climactic confession of  worship by Thomas to a resurrected Christ: my Lord and my God.

The Son of Man is, in the fullest sense of the expression, the Son of God.  Daniel’s Ancient of Days and John’s Patmos vision of someone ‘like a son of man’ share the same characteristic (Dan 7:9; Rev 1:14) .  Indeed many of the characteristics, titles, and roles ascribed to this ‘son of man’ in Revelation are, in the OT, ascribed to God (Rev 1: 12-18; Ezek 1:24; 43:2; Isa 60:19; Isa 41:4; Dan 4:34).

The Son of Man motif, especially as found in Dan 7, while not directly and explicitly  affirming the messianic divine identity, like many other OT motifs points inexorably to it.  The full definite revelation must await the arrival of this ‘son’ himself.  He will reveal that the incarnate  son is the eternal son, the adopted son is the natural son, and the functional son is the actual or essential (ontological) son.

And so, in Revelation, the cry of the whole of creation is one of worship and praise to God and Christ.

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!”  

 Rev 5:13

Who is this Son of Man?  He is a divine person, the word become flesh. He reveals the Father and has God the Father’s seal of approval (Jn 6:27).

I had hoped to comment on the implications of all this in this post but I think I will leave this for a further post.



The treasurer stood up and spoke on behalf of the church elders, ‘I have good news and bad news.  The good news is we have enough money to build the extension. The bad news is, it is in your pockets’.


jesus… the son of man (2)

We noted that the title ‘the Son of Man’ was Jesus’ favourite self-designation.  The expression ‘son of man’ was not unfamiliar it would seem in C1 Palestine.  It simply meant ‘human’ with the stress being on the weakness and humility of such a position.  In the words of Psalm 8, addressing God the psalmist asks, ‘ what is man that you have regard for him?‘  Perhaps the humble connotations of this title is why Jesus adopted it.  This, and other associations it carried which were not so up front but were nevertheless present in its OT use.

We saw last time that Jesus clearly meant more by the expression than merely a general idiom for ‘human’. He used it in a more prescribed way.  He was not merely  ‘a son of man’ he was ‘the Son of Man’.  The definite article implied uniqueness.  In fact, he used it as a messianic title.  When Jesus asks his disciples who they think he, the Son of Man, is, and Peter unambiguously replies that he is ‘Messiah, Son of the living God,’ Jesus approves his confession (Matt 16:13-20) and proceeds to teach that ‘the Son of Man’ must suffer many things… be rejected… be killed and after three days rise again‘ (Mk 8:31).  ‘The Son of Man’ is clearly code for Messiah.

Immediately after Peter identifies Jesus as Messiah, Jesus makes clear the career of this messianic ‘Son of Man’, contrary to the expectations of all, the disciples included, is first suffering then glory, humiliation precedes exaltation (cf. Mk 9:31; 10:34).  The Son of Man must be ‘lifted up‘ (Jn 3:14) where ‘lifted up’ refers to crucifixion (exaltation in an unexpected way).  The ‘must’ of suffering as a prelude to glory seems to be at least in part an imperative derived from the OT (Matt 26:24), no doubt largely from Isaiah’s suffering servant motif (Isa 53) but also from other threads of revelation such as the rejected stone (Ps 118:22).  Indeed, one of the most significant texts in the OT concerning the ‘son of man’ motif hints at such an order.

Daniel 7, in visions that reveal the conflict between the kingdoms of the world and the heavenly kingdom, records,

As I looked,

“thrones were set in place,

and the Ancient of Days took his seat.

His clothing was as white as snow;

the hair of his head was white like wool.

His throne was flaming with fire,

and its wheels were all ablaze.

A river of fire was flowing,

coming out from before him.

Thousands upon thousands attended him;

ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was seated,

and the books were opened.

“Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

“I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

“Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

“He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.

“‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

“This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

This is a rather lengthy quotation but I have cited it in full for so much that Jesus invests in the messianic Son of Man motif is sourced here.

the son of man as a messianic title

It seems to be principally from this text that Jesus derives ‘the Son of Man’ as a messianic title.  This mysterious and august figure is given by God a kingdom that will last forever and never be destroyed; these are messianic announcements.

the son of man and his people are organically one

While the vision focuses on an individual, a son of man, the interpretation speaks of the kingdom being given to ‘the holy people‘.  It is tempting to identify the ‘son of man’ as merely the ‘holy people’ but this is unlikely for a number of reasons.  Firstly, the ‘son of man’ has divine characteristics and receives divine honours that no ordinary human beings possess (7:13,14).  More of this later.  Secondly, Jesus clearly sees this figure as messianic applying as he does his career to himself (cf Matt 24:30; Mk 13:26).  Thirdly, anyone familiar with the old and new Testaments recognises this dynamic between the individual and collective in messianic prophecy, the solidarity between messiah and his people (for example, OT sonship and servant motifs, NT body and building motifs).  Indeed, solidarity is not limited to the messianic, the various ‘beasts’ mentioned in Dan 7 were both actual kings and a nation.  Solidarity, organic unity, between a ruler and his subjects is a norm although it is taken to a higher level in the union between messiah and his people.  The reality and intimacy of this union is clear in the gospels.

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

John 6:53-58

A more vivid sense of corporate identity and relationship is hard to imagine.

the son of man must first suffer before entering his glory

While the suffering motif is developed elsewhere more fully as we observed, nevertheless it is implicit in Dan 7.  It is clear that before the ‘holy people’ triumph they must suffer (Dan 7:19, 21, 23, 25).  Given the organic connection between the Son of Man and the holy people it is not unreasonable to see a hint too of messianic suffering, a hint amply developed in other OT images and texts.   The suffering Servant of Isaiah is a clear example of messianic suffering.  Jesus clearly links both strands of revelation (son of man and Isaianic servant) when he says, ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt 20:28).

Indeed, as ‘lifted up’ (cited earlier)suggests, the cross is not simply the prelude to glory but is in its own way the beginning of glory for in it ‘the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him’ (Jn 13:31).  The supreme self-disclosure of Messiah and God takes place at the cross (Jn 8:28).  That Messiah should die, and die the shameful death of a state execution as a criminal was unthinkable to the Jewish mind.  A messianic ‘son of Man’ such as Jesus depicts they cannot envisage… ‘who is the Son of man’ (Jn 12:34).  They did not grasp their need as sinners and that only through his death could a messianic community be born, a people organically one with ‘the Son of Man’ sharing in the identity of his new humanity.  He must be ‘lifted up’ that who he truly is be revealed (Jn 8:28), that ‘whoever believes in him may have life’ (Jn 3:14), and  that he might draw all to him (Jn 12:32).  The Son of Man had expressly come to seek and save the lost (Matt 19:10) and it is his death (as a corn of wheat) that accomplishes this (Jn 12:23,24).

the son of man will triumph and reign

While as a title ‘the Son of Man’ is self -effacing nevertheless Jesus invests it with unambiguous authority.  It is here Dan 7 comes into its own.  It speaks of a son of man coming into the immediate presence of God clothed in the clouds of heaven and receiving an everlasting kingdom, the kingdom of ‘the Most High’ himself.  Undoubtedly it is to this text that Jesus alludes when he says to the High Priest when questioned about his messianic entitlement,

Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”   “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’

Notice jesus does here what he often does, he conflates two texts.  The Son of man ‘coming on the clouds of heaven’ references Dan 7 while ‘sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One’ is drawn from Psalm 110, a psalm celebrating the triumph of messiah. Despite his rejection he affirms a day of vindication drawn from and confirmed by these OT texts. Indeed, there is a warning of judgement to those hostile to him to whom he speaks… ‘you will see‘.  This is one with other son of man statements he makes such as , ‘Whoever is ashamed of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels, (Mk 8:38).  The Son of Man among many other things has been given authority to judge (John 5:27).

It was always God’s plan to delegate to man ruling authority in creation (Gen 1:26-28; Ps 8:5-8).  The fall stalled but did not finally stymie this purpose.  Rather faith sees in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus that this purpose realised ( Hebs 2:5-8).  Christ is the first of a new humanity that will reign in ‘the world to come‘ (Hebs 2:5); Hebrews treats Ps 8 as messianic.  Christ was made a little lower than the angels that he may taste death (that which destroys all human flourishing) and through death, deliver his people.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 

 Hebrews 2:14-16

Hebrews expresses this corporate unity between Christ (messiah) and his people that we have seen implied in Dan 7.  He destroys Satan and all evil, delivers his people, the new humanity, the new ‘holy people’ of Dan 7, the true offspring of Abraham and shares with them his victory.  Thus we read

 ‘Jesus said to them (his disciples), “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.’

Matt 19:28-30

If those who deny the Son of Man are banished from his everlasting kingdom and destroyed (Matt 12:8; 13:41; 24:30, 37-39; 25:31-40)  then those who acknowledge him, who receive his word, will receive eternal reward (Matt12:8;  13:37,38; 16:27; 25:31-40).  All this will be realised when the Son of Man returns.

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.  

Matt 16:27 (cf. Matt 24:27-31, 37-39).

There is an important application of all of this to our hearts but this must wait for the final post on this subject as I have already said more than enough in this one.  Note, however, how well suited the son of man motif is to bring together so many subtle strands of revelation.  We would expect nothing less than such wisdom from One who claims as the Son of Man to speak only those words which his Father had taught him (Jn 8:28).



jesus… the son of man (1)

When we think of the titles ‘son of man’ and ‘son of God’ ascribed to Jesus we normally assume the former stresses his humanity and the latter his deity.  And this is true.  However, as with many generalisations, and particularly those that refer to Jesus qualification and nuance is often required.  For instance, while ‘son of God’ clearly does carry in Jesus the full weight of deity, yet not until Jesus did the expression carry such freight.  Adam was a ‘son of God’, as was Israel and each of her Davidic Kings.  Clearly none of these is divine.  Each was a titular son, a nominal son, an adopted son.  Each was no more than a human son of God.  Only in Jesus is divine sonship required to take on a deeper and essential meaning. All he says and does demands a unique kind of sonship, one that must carry the full status of deity.   He displays such divine qualities that those who observed could only conclude that he was the ‘one and only’ Son of the Father, the Word who was with God and was God, become flesh, become human (Jn 1).  Thus a title that formerly pointed to merely human persons in a special relationship with God enjoying a resemblance to God and called to be a representative of God is fulfilled in Jesus in the most ultimate and incredible way compelling the conclusion that in him the title ‘the son of God’ means nothing less than he is God the Son.

We should not be surprised by this for it is often the case that Jesus fulfils an office in ways that surprise and invest it with fresh insight and significance.   Tied into this is his intention both to reveal and conceal his identity; to those of faith the unexpected ways Jesus fulfils OT roles both enlighten and confirm his identity while to those blinded by self-serving prejudice they further hide who he is and confirm them in their blindness (this is always the effect of the gospel).

Like ‘son of God’, ‘son of man’ as a title of Jesus carries hidden depths.  In the first instance it simply stresses the humanity of Jesus.  It is a modest and humble appellation.  In Psalm 8, the ‘son of man’ stands in contrast to the greatness of God.

Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory

in the heavens….

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,

the son of man that you care for him?

Man, in comparison to God (and Angels) is insignificant. Indeed, ‘son of man’ is a diminutive of ‘man’ further underlining his lowly status. It is used extensively in Ezekiel by God where it means ‘human’ (a creature) in stark contrast to God (the Creator). Cf. Ezek 2:1-3; Numbs 23:19.  It is used as a name for the needy nation of Israel (Ps 80:17). The humble station of man, including his weakness and frailty, is stressed by the designation.  It is therefore, perhaps unsurprising, that it is the favourite self-designation of Jesus who said of himself that he was ‘meek and humble of heart’.

And so ‘son of man’ was an unpretentious, unassuming title. At one level it simply meant ‘man’ or ‘human’.  Indeed, at a colloquial level, it may at times be hardly a title at all and simply mean ‘I’.  Yet, even in these OT references cited, there are more than hints that this man, humble though he is, by God’s providence, is destined for great things.  In Psalm 8, he is ‘crowned them with glory and honour,’ and God makes him (them), ‘rulers over the works of your hands’ and has put ‘everything under his feet’ (Ps8).  In Psalm 80, he is the son God has raised for himself to sit at his right hand’ (Ps 80:15,17).

It is not surprising therefore when Jesus uses it of himself both elements are present, lowliness and exaltation, elements we shall explore in future posts.  Yet, as with the title ‘son of God’ when used by Jesus he injects it with further meaning that significantly raises its capital.  To be sure it indicates suffering and subsequent glory but it also it carries with it prerogatives that belong only to God.  For example, the first time it is used by Jesus in Mark’s gospel it announces his authority to forgive sins, a prerogative that in Jesus’ time none doubted belonged to God alone (Mk 2:10).

In a word, in reference to Jesus ‘son of man’ is a title that fully grasped identifies him as a divine person. In fact, Jesus’ injection of distinction even deity into this essentially humble title is not aberrant.  He is only claiming for ‘son of man’ what the OT previously implicitly taught (cf. Dan 7).  But more of this later.

Meantime it is sufficient to observe that while the designation ‘son of God’ was applied in the first place to mere men, the complementary title ‘son of man’ points to a man who is God.   Of course, only in Jesus do the human and divine unite.  He is unique.  This is whe when speaking of himself as ‘son of man’ he never describes himself as ‘son of man’ but always ‘the son of man’.  The definite article is always present for while as ‘the Son of man’ he represents a new humanity that will flow from him (again, to be explored later) nevertheless there is about him that which is unique.  No other ‘son of man’ could say of himself:

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man


Or ask,

Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!  

Jn 6:62

Son of Man may rightly stress his humanity but in his case this humanity belongs to a divine person.  He did not come into existence at conception; he was a pre-existent divine person who came from God and returned to God; he does not really belong to earth, he belongs to heaven.  The Son of Man is really the Son of God who will return to heaven and the glory that he shared with his Father before the world existed (Jn 17:5).

the cavekeeper

The Cave promotes the Christian Gospel by interacting with Christian faith and practice from a conservative evangelical perspective.


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