The Divine Son of Man in the New Testament

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Note: This is an excerpt from a book on Daniel 7 coming in January 2019 called The Son of Man: Recovering the Apostolic Gospel.

Daniel used the phrase “Most High” to identify the Son of Man as YHWH. Gabriel’s appearance to announce Jesus’ birth immediately connected Jesus to Daniel’s prophecies because Gabriel only appeared in Scripture to give Daniel insight and for the birth announcements of Jesus and John the Baptist.

Gabriel’s arrival indicated Daniel’s prophecy is unfolding:

32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David…35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. (Luke 1:33, 35 ESV)

Gabriel’s announcement to Mary made an immediate connection to Daniel 7. This Son would be the “Son of the Most High.” Furthermore, it was not just the Holy Spirit who would come upon Mary—the “power of the Most High” would overshadow her. The “Son of Man” is the son of the Most High. If He comes from the Most High, He shares a divine identity with the Most High. However, He will be born of a woman and be human. The puzzle of Daniel 7 is beginning to become more clear. The Son of Man will be a real human, the Son of the Most High. He will have both identities,just as Daniel saw.

Transfiguration

We examined the transfiguration in a previous chapter. It follows Matthew 16 as a demonstration of Jesus’ exalted identity as the Son of Man. However, there is more to the transfiguration.

1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light…5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:1-2, 5 ESV)

When Jesus was transfigured before the disciples,they saw His face shine like the sun and His clothes became as white as light. This description of Jesus is stunning in light of Daniel’s description of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:

9 “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool…10 A stream of fire issued and came out from before him… (Daniel 7:9–10 ESV)

In Daniel 7, the Ancient of Days appears in brilliant white garments with a stream of fire flowing from Him. In the transfiguration, Jesus appears in brilliant white garments with His face shining like the sun. Something happened in the transfiguration that happens whenever Jesus reveals His glory: the glory of the Son of Man is described using terms that refer to the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7.Daniel 7 gave both the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man a divine identity and the New Testament blurs those lines even further. The Son of Man is not just divine;He can appear in the likeness of the Ancient of Days.

The gospels tell us Elijah and Moses also appeared in glory—so much so Peter was tempted to build a tabernacle for them as well—but we are only told they appeared “in glory.” Though they give us a fascinating glimpse of the future glory of the saints, Jesus alone is described in terms that belong to the Ancient of Days. He both shares His glory with His people[1]and is distinct.[2]

The Coming Son of Man

The book of Revelation contains numerous descriptions of the Son of Man which reveal His exalted, divine identity. John was likely the disciple closest to Jesus. For example, during the last supper,Peter wanted John to ask Jesus a difficult question for him.[3]John seemingly knew Jesus better than any other human being,and this makes his encounter in Revelation 1 all the more incredible.

John set the context for the book of Revelation 1:7:

7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds… (ESV)

The book of Revelation is primarily about one thing:The Son of Man is coming with the clouds.

After he set the context, John described a staggering encounter. Given John’s acquaintance with Jesus,we would expect him to introduce Jesus as a friend using familiar descriptions. Instead, we get something radically different—John responds to his friend by falling at His feet like a dead man:

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. (Revelation 1:17 ESV)

John saw Jesus, but he clearly saw more than he was accustomed to. So,what did he see when he saw Jesus? John introduced his vision of Jesus using a familiar phrase:

13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man. (v.13 ESV)

John did not simply see his friend Jesus. He saw one like a son of man.John saw Jesus in glory the same way Daniel saw Him.John’s encounter in Revelation 1 is an exposition on Daniel 7. John saw the One Daniel saw, but John recorded more detail:

13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:13–16 ESV)

John already told us in verse 7 and verse 13 this was the Son of Man from Daniel 7, but the description of the Son of Man’s appearance is especially astonishing. In John’s vision the Son of Man is described in terms that belong to the Ancient of Days:

9 “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and came out from before him. (Daniel 7:9–10 ESV)

Daniel saw the Ancient of Days with clothing white as the snow, hair like pure wool, on a fiery throne, with a stream of fire before Him. John saw the Son of Man with hair white as snow like white wool, eyes like a flame of fire, and a face like the sun shining in full strength. There are enough differences for the Father and Son to retain distinction,but the message is clear:The Son of Man shares the glory and divine identity of the Ancient of Days.

For over three years,John walked closely with the Son of Man. He knew Him as well. He was as familiar with Jesus as any other human being. He heard Jesus repeatedly explain His identity as the Son of Man. However, none of that prepared John for an encounter with His friend as the Son of Man.

The Throne Room

We will look in more detail at Revelation 4 and 5 in a future chapter, but we have to briefly note what these chapters say about the exalted nature of the Son of Man.

The scene begins in heaven as a prophecy of what must come:

1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” (Revelation 4:1 ESV)

As soon as John is caught up in the heavenly scene,he sees a throne and One seated on the throne:

2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. (Revelation 4:2 ESV)

John expected us to connect this scene to Daniel 7. A throne is in place and the Ancient of Days is seated on it.[4]Burning torches of fire are before the throne.[5]As the scene unfolds, a heavenly host ministers before the throne just as in Daniel 7.[6]Most importantly, the most significant revelation in both encounters is the one who approaches the throne.

Daniel saw the Son of Man come to the Ancient of Days to receive a kingdom:

13 …one like a son of man…came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV)

As we saw in the last chapter, this kingdom is both the kingdom of the Ancient of Days and the kingdom of the Son of Man:

27 And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’ (Daniel 7:27 ESV)

In Revelation 5, John suddenly saw the Lamb in the midst of the throne. The Son of Man is also the Lamb—which is why Jesus always connected His identity as the Son of Man to His suffering and crucifixion. Jesus’identitiesas the Son of Man and the Lamb are interchangeable.

As in Daniel 7, He approaches the throne of the Ancient of Days to receive the authority to execute judgment:

6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. (Revelation 5:6-7 ESV)

We are so familiar with the passage we lose the shock of Jesus’ approach to the throne. No man can approach the throne,and yet He boldly approaches the throne on His own initiative. The result is the heavenly host break out in worship—singing of the glory of the Son of Man.

9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:9–13 ESV)

The Lamb’s approach has the same result as it did in Daniel 7: He is given a kingdom consisting of a people from all the nations. Revelation 5 reveals more about the Daniel 7 kingdom. The Son of Man not only receives the saints, butHe purchasesthem with His own blood.

The chapter ends the way Daniel 7 ends: It establishes the divine identity of the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days. In the closing verses of Daniel 7,both are referred to as the “Most High.” Revelation 5 closes with a song of worship directed to both. No one receives worship except God,but the songs of Revelation 5 are directed to both the One on the throne and the Lamb. The encounter in Revelation 5 is an exposition of the Daniel 7 throne room scene,and it further affirms the divine identity of the revealed Son of Man.

[1]            Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2.

[2]            John 3:16.

[3]            John 13:23-25.

[4]            Revelation 4:2.

[5]            Revelation 4:5.

[6]            Revelation 4:6, 10; 5:8, 11.

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