The Son of Man

by Lois Tverberg

His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. – Daniel 7:14

One phrase Jesus often uses to describe Himself is “The Son of Man.” Many have assumed that when Jesus uses the phrase to describe himself, he is emphasizing his humanity. That appears to be true in some places. But people are often unaware that the phrase “Son of Man” was one of the most powerful messianic claims! It is from a passage in Daniel 7:13 – 14:

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 peoples, nations and men 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.

This passage is about the messianic king. God had promised David that one of his own offspring would have a kingdom without end (2 Samuel 7:13), and this is who is being described here. Daniel has visions of many kingdoms rising to power, but the final kingdom that conquers them all is this kingdom of the Messiah. And this is the scene of the the great King coming to take his seat of honor and receive authority over all creation.

When we now look closer at how Jesus uses the phrase “Son of Man” to refer to himself, we can see that he is often referring to himself in terms of this passage!

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (Matt. 24:30)

Art of Transfiguration

We can see these in scenes the Son of Man coming in the clouds and the picture of Jesus having great glory, just as in Daniel. Here Jesus is hinting to his great glory as the Messiah by alluding to these passages, as he does many places. So, the passage in Daniel predicting the Son of Man coming in glory is central to what Jesus says about his own future, and is a prominent image in the New Testament to describe the glorified Christ on the throne in heaven. This explains Jesus’ usage of the term as prophetic toward his return as judge at the end of time, and also shows that he didn’t regard himself only as a humble human being, but as the predicted Messiah who would have a kingdom without end.

See Ch. 22, Jesus the Jewish Theologian, by Brad Young, Hendrickson 1995, p.243-52.