- First, “Son of Man” means that the Lord Jesus Christ shared glory with His Father as the eternal Son of God and as the eternally chosen and appointed Son of Man from eternity. The Pharisees and many professing disciples were offended when Jesus told them they must live by faith on His flesh and blood (John 6:52-53). Jesus asked them, “Does this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before” (John 6:62)? When Jesus spoke those words He was on earth. He asked them, “If this offends you, what will you think if I ascend up where I was before.” He spoke of His soon-coming ascension to reign as King in heaven. If He would ascend up where He was before, then He must have reigned before in heaven, even from eternity -- not only as Son of God -- but as Son of Man! God set up Christ from eternity as Son of Man (Prov. 8:22-31). He chose Him and predestinated Him to be the Son of Man, the image of the invisible God, one person in two natures: His divine nature joined to His human nature (Isa. 42:1; Col. 1:15; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:47; Ps. 40:6-8; Heb. 2:5-10; 1 Pet. 1:18-20). Scripture reveals God’s everlasting oath to Him. “(19) Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. (27) I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven” (Ps. 89:19, 27-29, 35)
- Second, “Son of Man” refers to Christ in the days of His humiliation. He humbled Himself. He came from His Father, from heaven’s throne, to do the will of God. He came to suffer humiliation to save His people from their sins by His sin-atoning death. He had glory with the Father before the world was (John 17:5). “He who is from above is above all” (John 3:31). Yet He was sent from the Father to this world (John 16:28). He came to do the will of God as a man: “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:5-7). While He was in the world, He was in a state of humiliation. “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death” (Heb. 2:9). The Son of Man was made a little lower than the angels that He might suffer death for every chosen son of God.
- Third, “Son of Man means that upon suffering death, Christ was crowned with glory and honor. “The Son of Man” came from heaven’s throne to Bethlehem’s manger to be crucified on Calvary’s cross outside of Jerusalem. He was buried in a rich man’s tomb. He rose from the dead to ascend to heaven’s throne in power and great glory as Son of God and Son of Man: “We see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9). Daniel said, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13-14). When Christ rose from the dead and ascended in the clouds of heaven, He came to His God and Father, the “Ancient of Days.” He was enthroned at His Father’s right hand, on His Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21; Heb. 1:3). This was according to God’s eternal covenant, as God promised David, “For thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anointed. The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne” (Ps. 132:10-11). That this throne was not a throne on earth, but a throne in heaven, is clear from Psalm 110:1, Acts 2:23-36; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22; Luke 24:26; 1 Pet. 1:11; Mark 16:19, etc.
- Fourth, Jesus said that “the Son of Man” will come again in the clouds of glory. He will gather His sheep. He will give them the kingdom prepared by His Father from the foundation of the world. And He will separate from His sheep, the goats, all who do not obey the Gospel. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matt. 25:31). In this great division, Christ tells His sheep what they have done to Him when He was hungry, thirsty and naked. But they are unable to remember any such thing. What believers do by God-given faith, in love to the least of Christ’s people, we do to Christ Himself (Matt. 25:40; Gal. 5:6). Jesus also tells the unbelievers what they did not do to Him when He was hungry, thirsty and naked. But the "goats" claim they never saw Him in such a condition, and so they say they never had an opportunity to do the work necessary to enter heaven. As someone said, “The righteous all believe they are wicked (Rom. 7:24). The wicked are all believe they are righteous (Luke 18:9-12).” The righteous, as Abel, believing they are wicked, must have a Savior. They therefore look to Christ only. They need God to choose them unconditionally, for they would never choose Him of themselves. They need Christ’s blood to justify them apart from anything from them, because they are helpless to do one thing of all that God requires. They therefore look only to Christ as all of their righteousness. But the wicked see no need for salvation by Christ alone. They think they have the potential to respond appropriately when the opportunity arises.
Now, by this overview of what “the Son of Man” means, we can better understand how we are saved, and what Jesus told Nicodemus when He said: “no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). To “ascend” means more than to go up to heaven. Enoch and Elijah did that. But Nicodemus believed Messiah would be merely the son of David, only a man. Jesus corrected that. “No man hath ascended up to heaven.” Not Adam, not David, not even one of David’s son after the flesh only, but David’s son and Lord! “For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:34-36). Christ the Lord, the Son of God, was crucified as Son of Man. He rose. He now reigns on heaven’s throne, in triumph over sin and death and every enemy. And He is coming again to judge the world. This is the great theme of every sermon in the book of Acts. He descended from heaven’s throne. He was born of a woman. He was made under the law. He was made sin. He was crucified by men. He was cursed by God. And having fulfilled all that was written of Him, He rose from the dead and ascended in glorious triumph to sit on heaven’s throne (Gal. 4:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:21; John 3:14; Luke 24:26, 44; 1 Pet. 1:11)!
Rom. 10:6-7 also mentions Christ descending from glory to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and ascending again in glorious triumph. The Jews tried to make themselves righteous (Rom. 10:3). They refused to submit to the righteousness of God. Moses and Paul rebuke them. Paul proved that the only righteousness God accepts is Christ’s obedience. His obedience unto death is the “end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). Every natural man asks, “Who shall ascend into heaven,” as if a mere man could find favor with God, could come to God without a Mediator, and could rule as King in God’s kingdom. But we are never to think or say any such thing. Only Christ, the Son of Man, who is the Son of God, could do that. Only the Lamb of God is worthy to open the book of God’s eternal redemption plan to fulfill it and reveal it (Rev. 5). Only He was exalted as the one Mediator, to sit in power and great glory as the Son of Man on heaven’s throne, because He first descended to do the will of God (Heb. 10:5-7; Eph. 4:8-9). He humbled Himself. He suffered and died in humiliation to do the will of God (Heb. 5:7-8). He loved His Master (John 14:31). He loved His wife (Eph. 5:25). He loved His children (Heb. 2:10-17). He would not go out free (Ex. 21:2-6). He stooped to the place of the lowest Servant to perform the greatest service of time and eternity, to give Himself in sacrifice to God as a ransom for many (Isa. 42:1-8; 52:13; 53:1-12; Php. 2:6-8; Matt. 20:28)! And Paul adds, do not say, “Who shall descend into the deep?” We should never think or ask that, because that is tantamount to bringing Christ down from above. He came down from above to make atonement. He is the only Redeemer. Therefore, don't think that a mere man “can redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him” (Ps. 49:7)?! Only Christ, the one Mediator between God and men, the Lamb of God, can do that (Gal. 2:21; 3:21)! What then are we to believe and say? We are to bow to Christ the Lord and believe our salvation is in Him alone: the Son of Man and Son of God (Acts 4:10-12; John 20:31)! We are not to presume, but bow to Him in submission to His justifying righteousness, by whose will and in whose hand alone our salvation rests! We are to say only what God says of Christ, “that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Rom. 10:9-13).
If you find in yourself that you have no righteousness before God, that you are a great sinner and nothing at all, then the Gospel of the Son of Man will be good news to you! Look to Christ! “When he had by himself purged our sins, [He] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). He who is God over all, became Servant to His God and Father, and to His people, when He descended from His throne of glory and gave Himself for our sins. He now sits in regal majesty, ruling over all to give repentance and faith to God’s elect, the Israel of God (Acts 5:31; 13:48). If He conquered sin and death, and overcame the devil and this world, then He can save the sinfulest to the uttermost. Go to Him (Heb. 7:25)!
We do not, as modern religion does, make salvation a three or four-step plan. We call on Him who sits on heaven’s throne, who made satisfaction to God in His death, who fulfilled all righteousness, who glorified His God and Father (John 17:1-4).
The question comes down to this: Do you believe you can do what God requires of you to “get” saved, or are you utterly without strength, and entirely dependent on the sovereign work of an accomplishing, risen, reigning, interceding Savior to do all for you, by His grace alone (Rom. 8:34)?!
Do we, as Thomas, come to Christ as, “The Lord of me, the God of me” (John 20:28)!? Do I therefore abandon all that may be called mine and submit to His righteousness alone? Do I see Him as the end of the law for righteousness?! May the risen Son of Man, the only Mediator-King of glory, be gracious to you and me that we may look only to Him, to the glory of God alone (1 Cor. 1:30-31)!