When we read the four gospels, we find that Jesus seldom referred to Himself as the Messiah. The phrase He used most often to describe Himself was “The Son of Man.”
The phrase “son of man” by itself, just means “a human being.” But Jesus did not say “I am a son of man”, He said “I am The Son of Man.”
Jesus was pointing His listeners back to a figure found in the book of Daniel.
Daniel was an Israelite prophet who was carried away captive to Babylon. Babylon was more than just a pagan empire. In the Bible, Babylon represents mankind’s rebellion against God. Daniel was made to serve in the king of Babylon’s court.
One night Daniel had a prophetic dream. He saw four beasts crawling out of a dark sea. They were grotesque hybrids of different animals. The fourth beast was so terrible, there was no one beast to compare it to. Daniel is told that these four beasts represent four empires.
The images of these empires as beasts are telling us something important about us.
God created animals and humans from the dust of the ground. But He gave humans a special purpose. Adam and Eve and their offspring were to have dominion over the earth and represent God on earth as God’s image bearers. Adam and Eve were tempted by a beast and fell into sin.
They were expelled from the Garden paradise that God had formed for them, and they forfeited their place of ruling as God’s representatives on earth.
As mankind fell further and further away from God, and organized themselves into empires, they became more and more like the beasts of the field. When we rebel against God, we start to act like beasts towards one another. One Babylonian king—Nebuchadnezzar—was lifted up in pride and God humbled him by making him like the beasts of the field.
In Daniel’s dream, he sees God’s throne room, and he sees more than one divine throne. There is one throne that was vacated by the human race—the throne Adam and Eve were to occupy.
Then Daniel sees “One like a Son of Man” riding on the clouds of God’s glory and ascending to God the Father’s presence to take His place on that throne, and rule the world as God’s perfect image bearer.
The beast is then judged and destroyed.
Jesus is the One who has overcome the beast of the garden. He is the One who has succeeded where Adam and Eve failed. He is the One who has overcome evil empires. And how Jesus overcame is the story of the gospel! When we understand how Jesus overcame, we will also understand His calling upon our lives; how we can overcome the beast, and how we are saved!
Lets look at three related topics:
- Why Jesus used the phrase “the Son of Man” to describe Himself.
- What the Bible has to say about dominion and domains.
- What salvation actually is, and what it isn’t.
Topic #1 Why did Jesus us the phrase “Son of Man” to describe Himself?
The Ancient of Days Reigns Daniel 7:9-12
“I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like
white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were
a burning fire. “A river of fire was flowingAnd coming out from before Him;Thousands upon
thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat,
And the books were opened. “Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.
- The Ancient of Days is God the Father
- This is a judgment scene: rivers of the water of life are not coming from the throne (Rev. 22:1) it is a river of fire/judgment.
- God’s throne has wheels; it is called the “chariot throne” of God–God’s throne appears with wheels in Ezekiel also.
13 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and ba kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.” Dan. 7:13-14 This figure is coming “with the clouds of heaven” This is very important symbolism!
God’s presence in the Bible is often accompanied by this “cloud of glory.”
At Sinai, “The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.”
Ex. 24:16 “The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord.” Ex. 34:5
At the Mount of transfiguration: “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” Matt. 17:5
- The Son of Man being carried up with the cloud of God’s glory is telling us something about Him; it speaks of His divinity! The cloud of God’s glory is always associated with God Himself! He is more than a man.
- This vision in Daniel is a vision of Jesus’ ascension into heaven; when He returns He will be riding on the cloud of God’s glory as well:
“For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matt. 24:27
“And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His celect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Matt. 24:30-31
- When Jesus answered Caiaphas the High Priest’s demand, Caiaphas understood exactly who Jesus was claiming to be:
“And the high priest said to Him, “I cadjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.”Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matt. 26:63-64
Topic #2 What does the Bible say about dominion and domains?
In our passage in Daniel, we see that the Son of Man is given a domain—dominion over the earth and over everyone and everything in it.
This concept of domains goes all the way back to Genesis; it is built into the fabric of creation.
- God formed His creation be creating domains and then filling them—the heavens, the sky, the sea, and the land: filled withstars, birds, sea creatures, animals and mankind on the land.
- Domains are everywhere! Our houses are domains; if someone crosses the threshold, they are entering into our domain. Streets are domains; it you cross over the line to oncoming traffic, you have entered the domain of the traffic going the other way and bad things can happen!
- Land boundaries, city boundaries, counties, states, and countries are all domains.
- The garden in Eden was a domain. Adam and Eve had freedom within that domain.
- There was a domain within the garden, that belonged exclusively to God—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
- To transgress (sin) is to violate God’s boundaries; God’s domains. It is to cross over a line.
- Adam and Eve took something from God’s domain and were expelled from the safety of their own domain in the garden, living under the rule of God. They were cast out to the place of the wild beasts, outside the garden. They were exiled from the land.
- The Son of Man left His own domain—heaven—to come to where we are and bring us back into the domain of God—paradise—His kingdom.
Topic #3 What is salvation? What is not salvation?
How does Jesus, the Son Of Man bring us back into His domain? Into paradise?
- The Apostle Paul uses a mysterious new phrase in His letters: He refers to followers of Jesus as being “in Christ.”As we were all in a sense “in Adam” when he sinned, so are we who have been born of the Spirit of God “in Christ” in His death and resurrection!
- Just as Jesus overcame the beast through death and resurrection, so we overcome the beast through our death—to sin and to self—and our resurrection with Him. His death becomes our death; His resurrection becomes our resurrection!
- Salvation is not about being “good enough” to go to heaven. It is being united with Jesus in His death and resurrection! (Phil. 3:7-14)
- We don’t have to fully understand all of this to experience it!
- We are united with Him in His death and resurrection through repentance, self-denial, and surrender to do His will! When we realize that we cannot save ourselves, and call upon Him!
- Repentance is not reforming; it is not, “I made a mistake, I promise I will do better.”
- Repentance is realizing that we have sinned, and that we are fully responsible for the sin
- It is realizing that we cannot “make up” for our sin; sin is a stain that we cannot remove.
- Salvation is what happens when we put our trust in Jesus; that He has done something for us on the cross that we could not do for ourselves.
How do we apply these truths to our lives?
- Just as this vision gave hope to Daniel and God’s people in captivity—the beasts will be overcome and destroyed, so this vision gives us hope for the future! We know that when we see nations act like beasts, we also know that they will come to an end, and Jesus’ kingdom will outlast and replace them forever!
- When mankind turns its back on God, we start to become like the beasts of the field. One of the characteristics of beasts, is that they never “look up” to heaven. They only have one perspective—live life to satisfy their immediate need—no eternal perspective. Are you living life from an eternal perspective? Or are you only living for the moment, or are you living life with the Age to Come in view?
- The first step towards living life from an eternal perspective is repentance. If the Lord has brought to your mind sin in your own life; make the decision to confess it to Him and turn from it.
- Make the word of God the “lens” through which you see the world. This means intentionally making time to read the Bible and pray every day.
- Make the decision to surrender to the will of God as He reveals it to you through the word of God.
- We, like Daniel, are living in a state of exile; we are absent from the paradise we were made for. We are living among the “beasts.” We need the word of God and the Holy Spirit to navigate life in this world until we are brought back into the land that God intended for us–Paradise!
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His
judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His
counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and
through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Rom. 11:33-36