Tag Archives: Ancient of Days

Why Jesus is the “Son of Man”

“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear,” (Matthew 13:41-43, ESV). May he or she hear indeed. In these few short verses, multiple descriptions are given: the kingdom of the Father, righteous ones shining like the sun, judgment and hell (weeping, gnashing of teeth, along with the fiery furnace), angels gathering the law-breakers, aka sinners, and of course, the Son of Man. In these few short verses, one finds all the evidence he needs in order to confirm that Jesus’s description of Himself as the “Son of Man” points back to Daniel’s description in the seventh chapter of his book. All the other texts are confirmations that this text’s proof.

In Daniel 7, one will read,

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 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, (vv. 13-14, ESV).

The fact that one who is “like a son of man,” stands before the Ancient of Days would indicate that he was even able to stand before Him, thus is holy as He is holy and righteous as He is righteous.

Within the context of the “night visions,” Daniel has visions of bestial kings. The first was like a lion, the second like a bear, the third was like a leopard, and the fourth was a horrendous monster. Subsequently “In the vision in Daniel 7:9-14 the Ancient of Days judges the earthly powers that have become subhuman, bestial, in their arrogant, self-centered exercise of sovereignty.”[1] “I looked then,” Daniel wrote, “because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire,” (Daniel 7:11, ESV). But it was not only judgment upon the last beast, but all of them, for one sees, “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time,” (v. 12, ESV). While the beasts no longer ruled, their influence and legacy lived on. The Ancient of Days proved himself to be the who “rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will,” (Daniel 4:25, ESV). No longer would a bestial ruler have the kingdom of earth, but instead He calls to Himself “one like a son of man.”

In other words, the kingdoms of the world would be handed to this who was able to stand face to face with the Ancient of Days. Therefore, the kingdom that was the Ancient of Days to give, was given to the Son of Man. With such kingdom came the authority of the Giver.

“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:6-9, ESV)

Often called the “Coronation Psalm,” Psalm 2 identifies the king of Israel as the son of God, but as one finds in Hebrews 1, its fullest application and intent was Jesus who was given authority over heaven and earth (cf. Matthew 28:18). Therefore, like the Ancient of Days who is seen judging the beasts of Daniel 7, so Jesus is judging the earth those who are sinners and law-breakers, the very ones who have been influenced by the legacy of the beasts (though not simply limited to these alone). Like the Ancient of Days, the Son of Man, throws these law-breakers into the fire, giving them over to it. The imagery that Jesus used ought not be lost on the reader as he spoke of the fiery furnace, where not only weeds would be thrown, but rather also resurrecting the story of Azariah, Hananiah, and Mishael being thrown into the fiery furnace where one as the son of the gods (cf. Daniel 3:25) is seen to be with them. Yet this time it is not the tyrant throwing the faithful into a fiery furnace, but the Son of Man, throwing the unfaithful in with no hope or help from the Son of God.

The result would be the rule and reign of the Son of Man with the saints. Those who “shine like the sun,” (Matthew 13:31, ESV), “the people of the saints of the Most High,” (Daniel 7:27, ESV), or as one would read later, “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever,” (Daniel 12:3, ESV).

Certainly, Jesus intended His hearers to pick up on the many points that he was making. The imagery from Daniel is undeniable. That being said, one also finds Jesus using the term “Son of Man” throughout His ministry on various occasions. He used it to explain his authority regarding the law (cf. Matthew 12:8), His authority to forgive sins (cf. Matthew 12:32), His authority to rise from the dead (cf. Matthew 12:40), His authority to come and judge the world (cf. Matthew 16:27), and many more times. Nearly every time Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man” it is with the explanation of authority, the authority that is depicted in Daniel 7. As Lucas rightly wrote that Jesus’ reference to himself, “links his claim to bring in the kingdom of God with the completing of God’s purpose in creating the world.”[2]

That being said, Ezekiel used the term “son of man” much more than Daniel ever did. One may thank Tiemeyer for doing the hard work of counting how often. “In the OT this appellation is attested primarily in the book of Ezekiel, where God calls the prophet ‘son of man’ more than ninety times, and where it either emphasizes his humanity or is used instead of a personal pronoun.”[3] Tiemeyer also stated that Jesus’s designation of “the Son of Man” was most likely due to Daniel 7:13 and not to any of Ezekiel’s callings,[4] but at the same time, he made an interesting comment about Ezekiel that does correlate, at least in part, with Christ. In reference to Ezekiel’s being mute, Tiemeyer noted, “It appears as if Ezekiel was actually able to speak, but he could utter only God’s words and only when God chose to open his mouth.”[5] If that is true, and it seems likely, one can see Jesus’s words, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me,” (John 8:28, ESV). While commentators rightly focus on the ego eimi (I am) of the verse, it is interesting to note that the Son of Man did and spoke only as the Father did and taught (cf. John 5:19). Even with this as circumstantial (at best?) evidence of Jesus’ Ezekelian “son of man,” it is virtually undisputed that Jesus received his title from Daniel. Again, Lucas concurs that “There is general agreement that Daniel 7:13 lies behind Jesus’ reference to himself as the Son of Man.”[6]

[1] E. C. Lucas “Daniel, the Book of,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 121.

[2] Ibid., 122.

[3] L. -S. Tiemeyer, “Ezekiel, the Book of,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 224.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 221.

[6] E. C. Lucas, “Daniel, the Book of,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: prophets, 122.