13 “I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
14 “Then 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 the one
Which shall not be destroyed.”
What does it mean to call Jesus the “Son of Man”? The term is used to refer to Jesus eighty times in the four Gospels, whereas the phrase “Son of God” is used just twenty-seven times. So, it is important to understand what it means, why it is so significant. In the Old Testament, we see the phrase used many times by the Lord when He is speaking to His prophets, but God always uses it to refer to the mortal men to whom He speaks. Just once in the Old Testament do we see the phrase “Son of Man” used differently, and that is where we shall go today.
Throughout most of the Hebrew Bible, the phrase “son of man” is translated from the Hebrew “bar-adam”–literally “son of Adam.” The word “adam” means “man” in Hebrew, and so calling someone a “son of Adam” is a simple declaration of who we all are: sons and daughters of the first man, Adam.
But in today’s verses from Daniel we see something different. The phrase used here is “bar-enâsh.” Much of the book of Daniel is written in Chaldee, an offshoot of Hebrew, but the root words are the same, and the phrase we have here is not “son of Adam” but “Son of a mortal.” The word “enâsh” comes from “ânash,” which means “frail” or “feeble.” Let us look at what this might mean.
Daniel is in the midst of his vision of the Four Beasts. Daniel watches the overthrow of the fourth beast by the Ancient of Days, and then Daniel sees “One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!” You and I, coming as we do from at least a passing familiarity with the eighty times Jesus is referred to as “Son of Man,” reading this in English, we immediately make the connection, and so we are not surprised to read about Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven. But let’s forget for a moment that we know that Jesus is called “Son of Man” and focus on what Daniel is really saying.
Daniel sees “one like the son of mortal man” coming on clouds of God’s glory, and being given everlasting dominion over all people and nations. A mortal man being given God’s sovereignty over the earth?!? A frail human being being handed the reigns of power and majesty by the Ancient of Days Himself?!? That is a tough idea to understand, and it has continued to be a stumbling block for Jews even today. Why? Because Jesus’ dominion is over GOD’s kingdom, and in the end of days, over “all peoples, nations and languages.” Jesus WILL one day come on clouds from heaven, but His first appearance is “like a Son of Man”–i.e. a frail, mortal, fragile Man.
So we have here a marvelous justaposition of the mortal man Jesus and the coming King of kings, the Son of Man who came among us as the fragile child and the Son of God who sits even now at the right hand of the Lord Almighty. Jesus is no simple “son of Adam,” He is the Son of our mortality and our frailty, the Son of our struggle to break the curse of Adam. Jesus is both mortal Man and immortal God, and His kingdom is from everlasting to everlasting.
So, the next time we read “Son of Man” as we read the Gospels, let’s not just gloss over it, filling in the blanks, as it were, with the name “Jesus.” Let us read that phrase for what it means: the Son of God came among us as a frail and mortal Son of Man to die for our sins, and He was raised again on the third day to everlasting glory and dominion. You and I are the sons and daughters of Adam, yes, but also the children of our mortal parents. Jesus came among us to raise us up along with Him, to bring us everlasting life so that, like Jesus, we are no longer merely children of mortal men but immortal sons and daughters of the Lord our God.
Precious Lord Jesus, thank You that You became the Son of Man, so that we may become sons and daughters of the Most High God. Amen.