Son of Man

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By Ligonier Ministries Staff About Jesus Christ
Part of the series Tabletalk

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man… . And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (vv. 13–14a).
- Daniel 7:9–14

Many of our studies this month have examined our need for a mediator between God and us, and the truth that Jesus is the Mediator and Redeemer promised under the old covenant (Ps. 110; 1 Tim. 2:5). Of course, the title “Mediator” does not reveal everything there is to know about our Savior. For the next few days, we will consider some of the other titles for Jesus in Scripture and what they tell us about Him. Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series The Names of Jesus will guide our study.

A good place to begin our study is with the title that Jesus used of Himself more frequently than any other. When speaking of Himself during His earthly ministry, our Savior did not use the titles “Christ” and “Lord” the most. This honor belongs to the title “Son of Man.” Many people believe that Jesus used this title to emphasize His true humanity. Others say it means that Jesus saw Himself as a prophet, for the prophet Ezekiel was also called a “son of man” (Ezek. 2:1). It is possible that Jesus used “Son of Man” to reveal His true humanity and His prophetic office, but these uses do not exhaust what Jesus conveyed about Himself with the title.

Daniel 7:9–14 is the primary background for our Lord’s use of the title “Son of Man.” After all, He quotes Daniel’s words in Mark 13:24–27 when He describes the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 and His enthronement as King of kings and Lord of lords. Essentially, Jesus’ citation of the Daniel text shows us that He is worthy to receive an everlasting dominion from God Almighty. Daniel 7:9–14 describes our Creator — the “Ancient of Days” — and His judgment of the kingdoms of this world, which are represented by several beasts (vv. 1–8). These pretenders to the throne lose their dominion, and God delivers their kingdoms to “one like a son of man” (vv. 9–14).

This “son of man” in Daniel 7 is a heavenly figure, and the title reveals the origin, majesty, and dignity of the ruler who will rule over all things forevermore. This “son of man” comes from heaven, is worthy of everlasting majesty and dignity, and has a kingdom that knows no ethnic boundaries. In calling Himself the “Son of Man,” Jesus was telling His contemporaries that His existence did not begin in Bethlehem but that He is from all eternity. As such, He received a glorious kingdom when He finished His work, and He will rule in righteousness forever.

Coram Deo

Given the original context of Daniel 7, the title “Son of Man” is indeed fitting for the Son of God who became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. He is already sitting at the right hand of His Father, having come into His kingdom at His ascension and session (seated on the throne) in heaven. Even now He is extending His reign as people believe and submit to His rule. Let us bow to Him as King of kings and Lord of lords so that others may see His reign.

Passages for Further Study

Ezekiel 2:1–3
Matthew 8:20
Acts 7:55–56
Revelation 1:12–20

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