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
Gospel Centric Title
The Son of man is a title designated to Jesus, it is self proclaimed in many respects and almost entirely contained in the four gospels. Aside from that, the Son of man is only referenced once in Acts, once in Hebrews, and twice in Revelation. It is never used by the apostles Paul or Peter in their writings, both of which constitute a very large portion of the New Testament. In the Old Testament, there are also numerous references to the Son of man but primarily in the ancient prophetic writings of Ezekiel and Daniel. The question for this Bible study comes down to a comment once asked by the people of biblical days as they spoke with Jesus, “The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?” [John 12:34]
One true Son of man
To be very clear from the onset, the Son of man is the Lord Jesus Christ. Take careful note of the following passage of scripture where Jesus acknowledged that he is the Son of man and the disciples subsequently declared him as the Christ, the Son of God, “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [Matt. 16:13-16] It is therefore very important not to diminish the title Son of man in any way shape or form as it relates to Jesus since he is also the Christ, the Son of the living God. But why the different title for him, why not just call him the Son of God, what did Son of man signify?
Since Jesus was declared and described by the apostle Paul as God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16), there are two aspects to Jesus. The first is his deity in that he is God himself which is noted early on by the apostle John through another title known as the Word, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” [John 1:1]. The second aspect is related to the humanity or human nature of Jesus given that, “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” [Phil 2:6-8]
On the surface, a quick and seemingly logical assumption by many would be to associate the Son of man title with the humanity of Jesus and the Son of God with the deity of Jesus. But, readers need to be careful in making such assumptions as further reading and research will show that the Son of man designation by Jesus was also associated with many aspects of his deity. Take for example, the prophetic reference made by Daniel in the Old Testament that outlines the return of Jesus Christ from heaven, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.” [Dan. 7:13] This would have everything to do with the deity of Jesus in that he is the eternal God of all that is in existence.
Let us now look at several scripture references as contained in the gospel accounts to further corroborate this premise. Jesus declared that he had power to forgive sins and yet the Bible states that only God alone can forgive sins (Luke 5:21). In this verse therefore from Matthew’s account, the Son of man, or Jesus Christ, indeed has the power to forgive sins, “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.” [Matt. 9:6] In a similar manner, Jesus declared himself as having power over the sabbath day which was revered as the Lord’s day, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” [Matt. 12:8]
Divinity & Humanity
Jesus also associated the Son of man designation with his persecution, betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection from the grave. A brief synopsis of these events is provided in this passage of scripture, “And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.” [Matt. 17:22-23] Interestingly and despite the events that were about to transpire upon him, Jesus described this time for him as something that would glorify him, “And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” [John 12:23] This was all of God’s plan and doing to send forth his Son as the redeemer of humanity, “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” [Matt. 18:11]
In summary therefore, the Son of man is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has existed from eternity to eternity and his dwelling place is heaven, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” [John 6:62] He is the one who will judge (John 5:27) the living and the dead upon his second coming back to earth, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;” [Matt. 13:41] We are also to be watchful for no one knows the hour of his return, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” [Matt. 24:44] It will be at that time, when believers in him and non-believers will realize that Jesus is both Lord and Saviour for all to behold his glory and presence, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:” [Matt. 25:31]
Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory dwelling in the heavens, the one who offers eternal life to everyone who believes in his name, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” [John 3:13-15] One of the first believers in Jesus Christ and also one of the first martyrs of the early church was the disciple named Stephen. It was him who declared the heavenly vision of the Son of man shortly before his death by his persecutors, “And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” [Acts 7:56]
In closing off this Bible study, will you take this opportunity to believe in the Son of man, the Lord Jesus Christ. The one who came to this earth as God manifested in human flesh (1 Tim. 3:16), the one who paid the penalty for your sins (1 Cor. 15:3), the one who rose from the grave and is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:32-34). Jesus did it all for you, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” [Eph. 2:8-9] To think that the one true God, came to this earth to redeem mankind by paying the penalty for their sins. The one who knew no sin in himself (1 Cor. 5:21), but took our sin upon himself while on the cross. All he asks from us is that we believe (John 6:29) and a new spiritual birth can be yours today by believing in his name (John 3:16). Why not make this decision now for eternity with him?
Bible Study Questions
- Why do you think the Son of man designation was primarily used in the four gospel accounts?
- True or false, both titles of the Son of man and the Son of God are ascribed to Jesus Christ in the scriptures?
- Fill in the blanks from this verse, “But that ye may know that the ________ of man hath power on earth to forgive _________” [Matt. 9:6]
- Why do you think Jesus described his death and resurrection as something that would glorify him in John 12:23?
- In Matt. 18:11, what does it mean that Jesus came to save those who are lost?
- Can you recall the name of the apostle who proclaimed that he saw the Son of man sitting on the right hand of God? Hint Acts 7:56.
- Why is it important to believe in what he did for us on the cross to atone for our sins? Hint John 3:16-17.