Summary: This article was written and published June ’15. My intention is to write about a number of different subjects involved in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, and how the teaching of the Holy Spirit in these subjects brings out the different and various glories of God given to Him. We should know from Scripture that there is coming a new age and dispensation, different from the present one. It is the dispensation of the fullness of times, and it will follow after the judgments of God that bring an end to this present evil age (Eph. 1:9-10, Matt. 13:40-42, 13:49-50, 24:3, Gal. 1:4). The coming dispensation will have all the glory of God centered on Christ. God will gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. It is basically saying that the whole universe, things visible and invisible, will be placed under His headship. The end game, if we may be permitted to use such a phrase, of all God’s counsels is the glory of God. All that God does as His own work glorifies Himself. This headship of Christ over all things simply glorifies God.
The four gospels tell of the life of Jesus in the flesh. In them we find the Holy Spirit’s use of three titles in reference to Jesus, each one of significance as to its importance in relation to the counsels of God, and to the manifestation of the glory of God through the accomplishment of those counsels. These titles are separate and distinct from each other, and point to different revelations or work. They are the Son of God, the Messiah – King of Israel, and the Son of Man.
The gospel of John reveals the personal glory of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It starts in the first five verses of chapter one – He is the Word who was with God and was God before time began. The beginning was creation and He was with God in the beginning. All things in creation were made by Him, for He was God and only God can cause things to exist. He was the Light because God is light.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:18 (NKJV)
“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
John’s gospel not only declares Jesus to be the Son of God, but here we have His mission – as the Son of God He was sent to declare and reveal God as the Father. Abraham and the patriarchs knew God as Almighty – El Shaddai. Israel would know Him as Jehovah, the covenant Keeper (Ex. 6:3-4). To this nation He is the One who never began and will never end, the self-existing God, who will always be faithful to keep His promises. But the Son was sent to reveal the Father – God through grace in relationship with His sons. And this we find in detail in John’s writings. This is not found in Judaism but is unique to Christianity.
Matthew 11:27 (NKJV)
“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
The Son was sent to reveal the Father, and this revelation is sovereignly given to Christians (Matt. 11:25-26). No one can know the Son as the Father does, and no one can know the Father as the Son. It is just not possible. Man has no ability as a finite creature to enter into this knowledge. Only divinity can truly know divinity, and this is the sense of what He is saying. And it shows that the Son was God come in human flesh, for He alone in this world possessed this knowledge, and He alone would sovereignly dispense the revelation as He pleased (similar thoughts are found in John 3:10-13, even the truth that natural man with his finite mind cannot recieve the revelation of God – “We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness” ). It all speaks of the relationship of the Son with the Father, and, in consequence of His work of redemption, many others being brought as sons into this same relationship with God as their Father (John 20:17).
The pairing of the Son with the name and revelation of the Father is deliberately done by the Holy Spirit in the gospels, and realizing this helps the believer’s understanding of many things. When Jesus is viewed as the Son we should automatically think of the revelation of God as the Father, of the relationship of the Father and the Son from eternity past, and the Christian relationship now as sons with the Father by faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26). The promise of the Father was to send the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of adoption in sonship (John 14:16, Luke 24:39, Acts 1:4, 2:33). The seal of the Spirit is the Father’s seal of authenticity on all His sons (Eph. 1:13, Gal. 4:5-6, Rom. 8:14-15). By it the Spirit dwells in us individually, we crying out in our hearts “Abba, Father.” This relationship as sons of the Father leads directly to the privileges involved – heirship and inheritance (Rom. 8:17, Gal. 4:7, Eph. 1:14).
We may speak of Jesus as the Son, or the Son of God, but this title was never given to Him. He always was the Son from eternity past, from before the beginning. It is who He is in His essential nature and infinite being. This is not a title that was taken up in time, nor is it one that can be set aside. Accordingly, whenever Jesus was asked whether He was the Son of God, He always directly acknowledged this title (Luke 22:70).
When Jesus wasn’t referring to Himself as the Son in connection with the Father, He always spoke of Himself as the Son of Man. This title connects itself as the true substance of the type and shadow that is the first Adam, the first man. This is clearly shown in Rom. 5:14 – “…Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” There was the first Adam; Jesus is the last Adam, the Son of Man. The connection of this title to Adam is originally made in Psalm eight:
Psalm 8:3-6 (NKJV)
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.”
The psalm refers to Adam and the dominion that God gave him over the works of his hand. But Adam is only the type. So we observe the Holy Spirit through Paul apply the words of this particular psalm to Jesus in three different epistles (Eph. 1:22, I Cor. 15:27, Heb. 2). In Hebrews he quotes verses four through six above (Heb. 2:6-8). But he goes on to say these words:
Hebrews 2:8-11 (NKJV)
“For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
Psalm eight identifies the title of the Son of Man. Jesus always refers to Himself as the Son of Man. Here the Spirit says, “But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus…crowned with glory and honor…” The first Adam may have been referred to in type, but it is obvious the Spirit’s intension is a full application of the psalm and its fulfilment to Jesus Christ – we see Jesus as the Son of Man, made a little lower than the angels in human form, for the purpose of suffering and death, now raised up and crowned with glory and honor. By the eye of faith we see the Son of Man glorified, that is, this Man in the glory of God. As the Son of God in eternity past, He enjoyed the glory with the Father (John 17:5). He was already in it. But here is the difference now – Jesus re-enters the glory as a Man. Raised from the dead and ascended up on high, He sits at the right hand of God as the glorified Son of Man. And what are the results of this? That He will bring many men, as His brethren, to glory. He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are one and the same. For this reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren (please also see Heb. 10:14).
But the Spirit indicates in the passage above that these things are not complete as yet – “but now we do not yet see all things put under him.” The Son of Man has gone into the glory of God, He is now crowned with glory and honor, He has sat down at God’s right hand, and by His redemptive work He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. All these things are only seen by the eye of faith. This is why Jesus is viewed as hidden from the world at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1-3). When the time comes for Him to appear to the world it will be a completely different thing – every eye will see Him (Col. 3:4, Matt. 24:30, 25:31, Rev. 1:7). Yet He sat down “from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.” (Heb. 10:12-14)
All these things were done in the context and confines of the title “the Son of Man.” The Son of God took on human form and became a man – a body was prepared for Him (Phil. 2:6-7, Heb. 10:5). The Son of Man in heaven came down into this world by taking on human flesh and becoming a man (John 3:13, 1:14). The title refers to His humanity, and ultimately to what He accomplishes as a man before God. God’s purpose in this was the Son of Man’s obedience to death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8). As holy and righteous, God needed a sacrifice through which He could deal with man’s sin and sins (Heb. 10:1-14). This problem was the result of the first Adam (Rom. 5:12). Its solution is the last Adam – Jesus, the Son of Man.
It is eye-opening how, in His own words, Jesus uses this title in reference to Himself. When He is walking about in this world but wants to show His separation from it, He is the Son of Man who has nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58). When He speaks of His work of redemption the Son of Man is a grain of wheat that must fall into the ground and die in order to bring forth much fruit (John 12:23-24). The sign to that wicked generation is the Son of Man three days and nights down under death (Luke 11:30, Matt. 12:38-40, Mark 9:31). It is this Man who is raised from the dead by the power of God (Mark 9:9, Luke 18:31-34, Eph. 1:19-20). When Jesus speaks of going away it is particularly the Son of Man going back to the place where He was before (John 6:62). It is the Son of Man who sits as a man glorified at the right hand of God (Luke 22:69, Heb.10:12). When He returns and the whole world sees Him and mourns, it will be the Son of Man coming with clouds and great glory (Matt. 24:30, 26:64, Rev. 1:7). Both Daniel and John report seeing in their visions “One like the Son of Man.” (Dan. 7:13, Rev. 1:13)
There are eighty (80) references by Jesus in the gospels where He refers to Himself as the Son of Man. In contrast to this there is only one time when He referred to Himself as Messiah – this was with the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4:25-26). It wasn’t even in Judea or Jerusalem! This difference in the frequency of use is startling! And it is very wrong to think and teach that the Son of Man title is the same as that of Messiah, the Christ. Messiah refers strictly to Israel. Messiah is a Jewish promise found in bible prophecy, which as a bible subject always relates to Israel. Messiah is the son of David after the flesh (Ps. 132:17, Matt. 22:42). Jehovah promised David that one of his sons would sit on his throne eternally (I Sam. 7:12-17, Ps. 132:10-11, Jer. 33:14-21). David ruled over the nation of Israel before it was divided into two kingdoms. God allowed Solomon, the son of David, to rule for a time over the nation before his failure caused its division. Solomon’s reign is a type of the coming millennial reign of Jesus Christ, sitting as the son of David on the throne of David. The Messiah will reign over the twelve tribes of Israel just as David did. Messiah is known as the King of Israel as David and Solomon were known.
But the Son of Man title doesn’t connect to any of this. All the above description of Messiah is very Jewish. The idea of Messiah, as it is properly found in Israel’s promises and prophecies, is ingrained and embedded into the thinking and culture of the nation of Israel. Messiah is Jehovah’s Servant and Anointed One towards Israel, the Deliverer who comes out of Zion to eventually turn ungodliness away from Jacob (Rom. 11:26). The Lord’s final entry into Jerusalem was in the glory of Messiah:
Matthew 21:5 (NKJV)
“Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
Matthew 21:9 (NKJV)
“Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!”
The promise of Messiah comes after the law was given to Israel and when there was already proven failure in it by the nation. This prophetic promise is the central reason of hope for God’s remnant, which He always kept, in the midst of an increasingly wicked, evil, idolatrous, and apostate nation. Israel’s failures under the law are profound and conclusive – God removed His presence and glory from behind the veil in the temple, from Jerusalem, from the earth, and back to heaven. In the time of Jeremiah the throne of God was lost. The ark of the covenant has never returned to Israel. God brings judgment in and the temple and city of Jerusalem are destroyed by the Babylonians. We can pretend that the remnant’s return from captivity restored their ability to practice the law and Judaism, but there wasn’t anything behind the veil. As they did, we fail to understand the meaning and implications of these events.
The promise of Messiah is first with David. There was the prophecy from Moses of God sending another prophet like himself to Israel, and that the people should listen to Him (Deut. 18:15). But this does not speak directly of Messiah unless we force things a bit. Going back to Abraham we see Melchizedek, the royal priest of the Most High God, but this was not any direct promise giving hope on which faith could rest – it was obscured in shadows and types. Going back farther there is another passage of Scripture we should deal with, one which is greatly mistaken in its use and application to Messiah.
Gen. 3:14-15 (NKJV)
So the Lord God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
The Seed of the woman is not the promise of Messiah. I will also add that this is not the promise or revelation of the kingdom of God as is taught in biblical theology schemes, being so intricate to this system. The Seed of the woman is related in reference to Adam. The judgment by God, brought in by the disobedience of Adam and his fall, is the cursing of man, the woman, and the serpent. The promise in the passage is a simple prophetic statement made by God in the cursing of the serpent. It predicts through whom and how God would destroy Satan’s power. Yet the statement itself is short on details and remains fairly obscure.
Here is the important understanding – the hope given is not in or through Adam. The hope God gives entirely bypasses the first Adam. The Seed of the woman is the last Adam – Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. Satan would bruise His heel – this was His crucifixion and death. But Jesus, through death, would destroy all the power of the enemy (Heb. 2:14-15). This is the very chapter in Hebrews where the Holy Spirit applies Psalm eight (8) to Jesus Christ as a Man in glory. The chapter heavily emphasizes Jesus taking on human flesh and becoming a man. The chapter relies on the contrast between angels and man. It all relates to Jesus as the Son of Man, for a time made a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7). “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection of angels.” Also,“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same…For indeed He does not give aid to angels…” Then again, “But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand…” (Heb. 1:13, 2:5, 14, 16) This is Jesus, the glorified Son of Man. So for us to say that the passage in Genesis was God promising a Messiah, a King for Israel who would sit on the throne of David, is a huge leap in any sound interpretation. It is unwarranted and should be discarded. It is the Son of Man.
John 12:23-24 (NKJV)
“But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 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.”
John 12:32-34 (NKJV)
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
The people answered Him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”
The Jews had the proper understanding of Messiah. When He came to Israel He would remove the bonds of the Gentile rulers and establish a Messianic kingdom that would be everlasting. When the Messiah came He would remain forever with Israel. This was what they knew from prophecy, this was what they understood, and this was the hope of the nation. But Israel never considered their spiritual condition. They were looking for deliverance from the Gentiles, not from their ungodliness. They did not understand anything about His going away (John 7:35). It was not Jewish or the Messiah, therefore they did not understand anything about this “Son of Man.”
But the Son of Man going away was key for any proper understanding of the change to a new dispensation – the kingdom of heaven in mystery (Matt. 13:11, 25:1, 14, Luke 19:12, John 6:61-62, 7:33-39, 8:19-24, 16:7). The Son of Man planted the wheat in the field and went away (Matt. 13:37-39). The dispensation is the kingdom in mystery because the King is not present and entrance in is by profession of faith. The spoiled crop in the field is Christendom in the world (Matt. 13:26-29). The kingdom of heaven has no view of the nation of Israel in the promised land. The Jewish dispensation ended and the new one took its place. Consequently, there is no association of the title of Messiah with this present form of the kingdom of God which serves the new Christian dispensation.
In the title and role of Messiah, Jesus was always a specific prophetic promise to the nation of Israel (Rom. 9:4-5). Associated with Messiah was the promised possession of the land, twelve tribes forming a united Israel, restoration in the land with physical blessings, and the throne of David with the son of David according to the flesh sitting on it forever. As such, Messiah was never a promise to the Gentile nations, and they were never instructed to look for Him. How could they? They were not the caretakers of the oracles of God in which these promises were contained (Rom. 3:2). When the Jewish dispensation ended, the Jews were set aside as the people of God. The kingdom of God was taken from them (Matt. 21:43). There would be no Messianic kingdom at this time. The title of Messiah was set aside by God, along with all Jewish promises connected with it.
God has not forsaken Israel forever. Setting the Jews aside at this time simply means He refuses to acknowledge them as His people and will not deal with their calling. He remains a little sanctuary to them while they are scattered in the nations (Ez. 11:16). God preserves the linage of descent in the twelve tribes so He will have a remnant at the end of the age, to whom He will be faithful to fulfill all Jewish promises He has ever made (Rev. 7:1-8). These few verses from Ezekiel tell the story of what is now, and what will be then:
Ezekiel 11:16-20 (NKJV)
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.”’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”
All of bible prophecy agrees with this simple understanding of events – Israel, as a people are presently set aside by God. He doesn’t recognize them as His people (Hosea 1:9). God scattered them among the nations. Israel was God’s vineyard and He expected to receive good fruit (Is. 5:1-4). But in human responsibility they never produced any (Matt. 21:19, 33-44). What did God say He would do to His privileged vineyard? He says He would utterly destroy it (Is. 5:5-7). Again, we can easily say, if Israel is set aside, then the title of Messiah and all associated Jewish promises are set aside with them.
With the judgment and destruction of God’s original vineyard, the Jewish dispensation was ended and a new dispensation begun. God would have a new planting, and so, the Sower, the Son of Man, went out to sow (Matt. 13:3). The new dispensation is called “the kingdom of heaven” – at least that is what Jesus calls it (although men have come up with their own dispensations with their own understandings). And when He tells the parable of the wheat and tares we are given the story of the entire history of the dispensation (Matt. 13:24-30). Even better than this, a few verses later Jesus gives us the meaning of the parable so we don’t have to struggle with finding an accurate interpretation (Matt. 13:36-43). If we count the number of parables depicting the kingdom of heaven in the chapter we get seven. If we are familiar with prophetic language we know seven together represents a complete or perfect whole – the chapter contains the complete prophetic picture of the kingdom of heaven in mystery (Matt. 13:11, 51, 52).
In the parable of the wheat and tares there is a crop that comes up in the field (Matt. 13:26). Now I ask you, is this the nation of Israel? Is this God’s original vineyard? No, it is not. Israel has been set aside in judgment as a desolate house (Matt. 23:36-39). The Jews rejected their Messiah. They would not have Him as their King. Jesus said they would not see Him again until the end, that is, they will not have their Messiah until this future time. Their nation remains desolate until then (Luke 19:41-44, 21:20-24). The crop in the field, involving the new planting of God in the new dispensation, is Christendom in the world. And what is the title associated with God’s new work? “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.” It is not the nation of Israel, nor is it Jesus in the title of Messiah for Israel (Matt. 13:37).
Can the Gentiles simply claim as theirs what God offered to Israel? Is Jesus now Messiah to the Gentiles? Or better yet, is Jesus the Messiah of the church or Christendom? If you apply the title of Messiah to the church, then you must apply every promise associated with the Messiah title as well. This becomes extremely difficult because biblical principles simple do not allow it. All the Messianic promises are found in prophecy, while the church is the mystery of God hidden from prophecy. You cannot apply what is associated with Messiah to the church. Will we take the Promised Land as well? If you hold Israel as separate and distinct from the corporate entity known as the church, then you must keep separate the title of Messiah. It has been set aside with all its associated promises, just as Israel has been set aside by God. It is all the same package deal, so to speak.
But you say He is our King! I readily admit Messiah means King of Israel or King of the Jews, but I have proven in numerous other articles on this website that Jesus is never taught in Scripture as King over the church. He is King of the Jews as Messiah. As the Son of Man He will be the King of kings, the Lord of lords over the Gentile nations, over the earth and world. But the church is His body and bride, and individually we are His brethren, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. We have the same position and relationship that Jesus has with His God and Father:
John 20:17 (NKJV)
“Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”
Allow me to share another example. Because of Solomon’s failure, the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms – the northern kingdom was known as Israel, the southern kingdom as Judah. This is a truth concerning this nation that continues before God to this very day, yet it is easily overlooked and is never given its proper importance in any discussions. Israel is a divided nation. They are a divided people. The nation became divided after Solomon, and they have never been brought back together again. Yet we never give this truth a second thought. We make the mistake of looking at Israel only in one way today – as a nation. Yet this isn’t right. This is not how God sees the situation. The two sticks have never been made one (Ez. 37:15-22). And until God does this it is not possible to have a throne of David – this was never a throne over a divided nation, and it will never be (Ez. 37:22-28). Again, this truth seems never to be considered. The throne of David demands a united Israel, and in God’s eyes they are not. This shows how man sees things different than God.
The range and scope of the title of the Son of Man extends well beyond that of Messiah. As the Son of God He created all things that were created, visible and invisible. They were made by Him and for Him (Col. 1:15-17). As the Creator He has the right to them, as the Son He was appointed heir of all things (Heb. 1:2). But man’s sin brought defilement on it all. It is as a Man, the Son of Man, the second Adam, that Jesus reconciled all things to God by His death (Col. 1:19-20). The foundational work that is the basis of all the counsels of God is the work of redemption done by Jesus as the Son of Man (Matt. 12:40, 20:18-19, 28, 26:2, John 3:14, 6:27, 53-58, 12:23-24). Besides this, what God is presently doing is gathering the church by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. The church is the mystical body of this Man exalted in glory – not a Messiah in the flesh for Israel, but Jesus, the Son of Man, Head of the body, sitting at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20-23, 5:23, 29-32, Col. 1:18, 24).
Still it remains true, even though the Jews rejected Him as their King, His death on the cross secured all the previous promises for Israel (Acts 13:30-34, Rom. 15:8). They will see their Messiah again when they say “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Israel will not be set aside forever. The Messiah title will be taken back off the shelf and be in play again. Israel will have their Messiah. Just not until the church is out of the way and God turns back to them and acknowledges them as His people again.
Just one final point to clear up. Both titles involve a kingdom. The Scriptures speak of a Messianic kingdom over a united Israel in their land, with a throne of David and the son of David eternally ruling over the Jews. But the Scriptures also speak of the kingdom of the Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14, Matt. 25:31-32). This is Jesus as King of kings, Lord of lords. This is over all kings that there are; it is over all lords that exist. Better, it is a rule over all creation, all things visible and invisible, all principalities, powers, might, and dominion, and every name that is named (Eph. 1:21, Phil. 1:9-11, Col. 1:15-17, 2:15). There is only two exceptions to the rule and dominion of the Son of Man in His kingdom – it is that of God Himself (I Cor. 15:24-28) and the church as His bride and helpmeet. So then, the Messianic kingdom should be viewed as a subset of the broader and more inclusive title and kingdom of the Son of Man. These thoughts and teachings are developed in greater detail in the first book, The Son of Man Glorified. I believe all believers should see and comprehend these distinctions.