There are primarily three titles for Jesus Christ that we see used in Scripture. It is of great importance for our understanding and doctrine that we properly distinguish one from the other. Jesus is the Son of God and therefore is God. The Son of God, or simply Son, is how this is portrayed in Scripture (John 11:4; 6:40). This is who Jesus is in His Person. Therefore it is an intrinsic title rather than a relative one, and one that is acquired. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, always has been and always will be. As the Son He is also known in John’s gospel as the Word (John 1:1-2).
Jesus is God who became flesh, that is, He took on human flesh becoming a man (John 1:14). This does not mean He stopped being God by becoming a man. That would have been impossible – God could not cease being God. But for the purpose of pleasing His Father and accomplishing God’s will in His counsels concerning the redemption of fallen man, He did not consider the rights and glory of His divinity as something to be grasped (Heb. 10:1-14, Phil. 2:5-8). He humbled Himself, that is, lowered Himself, and became a man. God is transcendent in any comparison to anything in His creation. His height above the creature is immeasurable, it is infinite. In the order of God’s first creation, man is said to be a little lower than the angels (Ps. 8, Heb. 2:6). Jesus becoming a man was quite a humiliation. Yet from before the foundations of the world He was willing to do so.
Jesus now is true God and true man in His Person. How this was possible no human or angelic mind can explain. God taking on another state – becoming a man – is an unknowable, yet godly mystery (I Tim. 3:16). And Jesus will forever be this in His Person. If we ever speak of union between God and man, in Jesus Himself is the only place it will ever be found. The believer has no actual union with God – this is impossible. The body of Christ, the church, has union with Jesus its Head through the baptism of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:12-13). But this union relates to a view of Jesus as the glorified Man at the right hand of God and the church as His body – Eph. 1:18-23. This is union with Jesus as the glorified Man, not union with God.
This brings in the title of the Son of Man. This has particular reference to Adam, the first man (Ps. 8). Adam was the type and shadow of Jesus, the last Adam (Rom. 5:14). Psalm eight (8) seems to refer to Adam as placed in God’s original creation, but it really references Jesus as the last Man (Heb. 2:6-9). This title refers to Jesus as a Man, and the work He would do as representing man. When Jesus used this title, and it certainly was His favorite way of referring to Himself (used 82 times in the gospels), He often used it in association with His imminent suffering and death:
John 12:23-24 (NKJV)
“But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”
His crucifixion and death is associated with this title. Why? Because in the greatest sense His death was for the world, for men, for all mankind (John 3:13-17). This association of the title with His work of redemption is distinguished by His own words in Scripture:
“You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
“Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.”
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Luke 18:31-33 (NKJV)
“Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. 33 They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
It was not just His death associated with this title, but also His resurrection, Jesus adding, “And the third day He will rise again.” (Matt. 12:40; 17:9; Mark 8:31) Actually, everything that happens to Him after His death He connects, from His own words, with the title of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will sit at the right hand of the power of God. When He returns it is the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven. If Jesus speaks of any throne, it is that of the Son of Man sitting in power and great glory.
Surely you see that the Son of Man title is not only associated with Adam, but with God becoming flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:14). The misery and ruin associated with the disobedience of the first man needed to be corrected, but we cannot miss the requirement that the work of redemption had to be done by a man. The Son of Man title encompasses both these thoughts. Although Jesus was God, He had to become a man in order to accomplish the work of redemption (Phil. 2:5-8, Heb. 10:5-12). In order for men to now go into the glory of God, there had to be a forerunner going there first (Rom. 3:23, Heb. 6:19-20).
Messiah is not a title that refers to Adam, but rather refers to David. When Jesus asked the Jews whose son would the Christ be, they did not say Adam’s (Matt. 22:42). Messiah would be David’s son, and would be a Jew, and eventually become King of the Jews. This is what the title means, and this is its proper restriction in Scripture. Only men’s pretentious thoughts, trying to rectify and balance their systems of doctrine, give this title a greater scope than what it rightfully should have. And by this, they enter into Judaizing thoughts and teachings, often unknowingly and by good men, yet mixing and merging Judaism with Christianity. This humanistic leaven fills up the kingdom of heaven, and by the end of the age will have its complete saturation (Matt. 13:33).
The Lord has lead me to deal with this topic extensively. A goodly portion of the first book of “the Son of Man series,” The Son of Man Glorified deals with these two titles. Also many of the blog articles written for this website have this important teaching brought into the discussion. Two in particular are the articles (blog post #30) When God became a Man – the Importance in the Change of Stateand (blog post #27) The Life of Christ: The Use of His Titles in the Four Gospels. I repeat for clarity – seeing this reference to Adam is critical. In the title of the Son of Man there is no reference to David, no reference to the ‘King of the Jews,’ and therefore no parallelism to the Messiah title. But now, let us look how this important truth may be seen in the following passage:
John 13:31-32 (NKJV)
“So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.”
This specifically references how Jesus, the Son of Man, glorified God as a Man by His obedience to the cross. His perfect humanity was for the purpose of dying, bearing the sins of many and becoming an offering for sin. He glorified God by the cross. How? God condemned Jesus to death, and this glorified the holiness and righteousness of God in respect to man’s sins. God was honored by His death on the cross. Through the work of this Man God’s righteousness was maintained, established, and even glorified in the matter of man’s sins and fallen state. It becomes such an important truth to understand – it was Christ’s death and shed blood that demonstrated God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:25). In our gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, as to what it is and what it depended on (Rom. 1:16-17), because it contains the story of the cross. Therefore God glorified this Man – Jesus, the last Adam, the Son of Man. And how did God do this? He raised Him up from the dead and exalted Him to His right hand in heavenly places, far above all principality, power, might, and dominion (Eph. 1:19-23). Now Jesus is the glorified Son of Man.
And who can doubt that this was all done for us, for all believers, and that as the glorified Man He represents us. He did nothing for His own glory. Yet having glorified God by the cross, God in turn glorifies Him. How important is it to us now that there is a Man gone into the glory of God? The consequences for us, for believers, are astounding. Jesus Christ in heaven and at the right hand of God is the expression of the believer’s true position before God. But this is not my subject.
As I said previously, I have taught the distinction and difference between the two acquired titles of Jesus – Messiah and Son of Man – doing so in many different ways and different forums. Yet so many believers do not comprehend the difference and merge the two together as the same. What a mistake this is! It is like believing Judaism is similar to Christianity and therefore merging the two into one. What is the harm in that? And yet how many movements has there been in the history of Christendom to do exactly this? Romanism is simply the progression and ripening of the work of the Judaizers in the first century church. This evil and corrupting influence dominated and controlled Christendom for over 1200 years. In it the masses have become intoxicated with the wine of the harlot’s fornications (Rev. 17:1-6). Romanism represents the comprehensive Judaizing of the Christian faith. As Jezebel, her idolatry and corruptions will continue on to the end of the age and the future tribulation (Rev. 2:20-23). Today she remains the dominatrix of the professing church.
God did a great work of grace in the Reformation, and certain truths were rediscovered. But Protestantism remained weak in many areas of biblical doctrine. Protestantism’s separation from Romanism was never complete. The Judaizing of the faith, to one degree or another, continued in many groups and movements. One of the significant modern movements is called the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). Its results are the merging of Judaism with Christianity. Its influence is rapidly spreading in Protestantism. This movement’s roots are with the Judaizers.
Looking at the above quoted passage we see Jesus referring to Himself as the Son of Man, and now we should understand better how the Son of Man glorified God. Then God glorified the Son of Man, and glorified Him immediately. In looking closely at the passage it just struck me how it is impossible to legitimately substitute in it the title of Messiah for that of the Son of Man (as so many theologians are prone to do so often). If God glorified Jesus as the Messiah, and glorified Him immediately, then where is the Messiah and where is the Messianic kingdom? Where over the past two thousand years may we view a restored Israel in the Promised Land, the known prophetic outcome of Messiah, King of Israel? Jesus says that God would glorify Him immediately – there should be no doubt that this took place already, that is, His glorification by God. But it is obvious that Jesus was not glorified as the Messiah of Israel – such a glorification would have required the bringing in of the Messianic kingdom immediately. This did not take place. It has not taken place as yet today. Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah, and still does so today. Jesus was not glorified by God in the title of Messiah.
But God did glorify Him. Jesus was glorified as the obedient Son of Man – obedient unto death. And as the Son of Man He was immediately glorified – raised up from among the dead, exalted to the right hand of God, far above all powers etc. And there He sits in perpetuity, representing us – all Christians, all true believers (Heb. 10:12; 9:24). This Man is said to be higher than the heavens (Heb. 7:26). This is not an earthly Messiah. He does not represent Israel at the right hand of God – they rejected Him as their Messiah, as their King. Israel has been made desolate until they see Him again on the earth, and they gasp and groan because He is the one whom they have pierced (Matt. 23:37-39, Zech. 12:10). But now let us consider this passage:
Colossians 3:1-4 (NKJV)
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
The Son of Man was glorified, and this was done so immediately. But His being raised up and exalted to the right hand of God is hidden from the world. The world does not see this at all. The passage depicts Jesus as hidden away in God. The meaning of the passage is that now, presently, He is hidden from the world. But for the believer something entirely different is implied by the passage. The eye of faith sees the things that are not seen (Heb. 11:1, II Cor. 4:18). Although the world cannot see Him (John 14:19), the true believer sees Him very clearly – with the eye of faith. And our life is hidden with Him in God. For this reason the passage tells us to seek those things above, set our minds on things above – heavenly things, and more specifically, on Christ at the right hand of God. He is there, and He is our life now.
The title and promises of Messiah have been set aside by God. These promises, as well as all the promises God ever made to Israel have to wait. They wait for a future fulfillment. Israel has been made desolate (Matt. 23:38-39). The kingdom was taken away from them (Matt. 21:43). At this time God doesn’t acknowledge Israel as His people (Hosea 1:9). Soon after the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah and killed the Son (Matt. 21:37-39), God brought in the Romans to destroy Jerusalem and the temple (Dan. 9:26). Actually this verse from Daniel says that at the end of the sixty-ninth week, Messiah shall be cut off, and has nothing (as to a kingdom). This doesn’t sound like Jesus was glorified as the Messiah. Rather the Messiah was cut off and received nothing. If Israel is set aside by God, then the title of Messiah and the promises associated with Messiah are set aside as well.
However, it wasn’t the Messiah of Israel that was glorified by God. Rather it was Jesus as the Son of Man. And further, the Son of Man went out to sow and He planted the wheat (Matt. 13:3, 37). The Son of Man was the kernel of wheat that was to fall to the ground and die. But if it dies, it produces much grain (John 12:23-24). This is where the church comes in; she is the “much grain” so that the Son of Man would not be alone. It is easy to see which of the two titles the believer/church is associated with. We were never taught to look for a Jewish Messiah.
[Above in the article I made the statement, “Jesus Christ in heaven and at the right hand of God is the expression of the believer’s true position before God.” I also said that this was not my subject in the article. Yet I have a hard time just passing by these marvelous truths associated with the believer and his privileges in Christ. Therefore allow me to expand the above statement a little in this way… the place where Christ keeps our hearts is in the holiest of all in the heavens. He has sanctified Himself in the presence of God for us (John 17:19), and that is the place where He keeps us. It is the place the believer is hidden with Christ in God. We may forget Him, we may fail in appreciating the position in which He has set us, and we may fail to walk according to this position; but in the holiest He keeps us, in unmingled untiring enjoyment of what is there— there in perfect love and in the light, as God is in the light, sin put away, and we, as believers, made the righteousness of God in Him. I do not have to think of my own ability or competency to be there. I am there, and I did not get there except as being perfectly cleansed. All sin is blotted out, and with Him and in Him in the heavens, consequently, as cleansed, I enjoy the unclouded favor of God. The place into which I am introduced is the unrestricted favor of God that has been brought in by the death of Christ, which has cleansed me. All the believer’s privileges and associations are dependant on the place which Jesus Christ occupies now – the glorified Son of Man at the right hand of God.]