The Son of Man
Part 1 of 2

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

A thoughtful reading of the gospels makes us aware of the fact that Jesus called Himself the Son of Man whenever He talked about His ministry, the redemption He was about to accomplish, and His coming again. This name occurs 83 times in the gospels, once in Acts, once in Hebrews, and twice in Revelation. Since this is such a frequent occurrence, it is very important that we understand what Jesus meant by this designation.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man (Humanity or Mankind) when the scriptures say that He was born of a woman? How does this fit together? We may be just as puzzled as our four-year old daughter was when a girl by the name of Violet Brown visited us. With a troubled look on her face she asked, "How can she be both violet and brown?" In regard to the scriptures, we too are often puzzled when two statements seemingly don't fit together, but as we grow in spiritual knowledge we marvel at the wisdom of God, the unity of the scriptures, and the unity that is ours in the Spirit!

Our first image of God is in the earthy, natural sense. We can only get a true image of God in Christ. In the gospel of John we find many instances where Jesus described His spiritual being by using the personal pronoun "I". He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life…I am the door of the sheep…I am the good shepherd…I am the bread of life…I am the resurrection and the life…I am the true vine…I am the light of the world. I am from above." (Jn. 14:6; 10: 7; 10:11,14; 6:35; 11:25; 15;1; 8:12; 8:23) By saying, "I am," He introduced and emphasized the true essence of His being. He was not in the process of becoming - this is who He always has been and is and will be. These characteristics also describe the very essence of the being of God. Since God does not change, all these facets of His being are in perfection in Him. There cannot be any increase or decrease; there is no corruption in Him; His life always is, and it never changes. Since Christ's life was a perfect representation of God's invisible life, He is also called the Son of God.

Although Jesus sometimes used the personal pronoun "I", at other times He called Himself the Son of Man. Why did Jesus NOT say, "I am going to be rejected, I am going to be crucified, I will rise again, I will come again?" The questions Jesus asked and the answers He gave, provide an insight into the spiritual realm and give us the answers to many of our questions.

In John 9 Jesus asked the man who had been healed of his blindness, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" The man replied with a question, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" Jesus answered, "You have both seen Him, and He is the One who is talking with you." Here Jesus clearly identifies Himself as being the Son of Man, yet we still wonder why He spoke of Himself in this way. There must be an important spiritual truth in this statement that needs to be revealed to us!

In determining who the Son of Man is, we have to take into consideration that in God's eyes there are only two men, namely, Adam and Christ. Adam is the old humanity; Christ is the new humanity. Everyone who has ever lived, and everyone who is presently living, and everyone who will live in the future, is either in Adam (the old humanity) or in Christ (the new humanity). Therefore we see that Adam is a corporate man, and that Christ is also a corporate man. Since Christ referred to Himself as the Son of Man, we realize that the Son of Man must be one with the corporate Christ. In Adam we only have an earthy image of God. Christ's human birth was necessary to produce a spiritual image of God in man. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man because He was manifested physically in a human body (born of a woman), and spiritually as the new humanity (the second man - and this man was born from above).

Whenever Jesus spoke of Himself as the Son of Man, He did not use the Greek word ANER - that simply denotes an individual male; instead, He used the Greek ANTHROPOS, from which our English word anthropology is derived. It means humanity, and includes men, women and children. The Literal Concordant Translation uses the term, Son of Mankind. This helps us to understand that Jesus is talking about a corporate man whenever He refers to the Son of Mankind. This adds depth and meaning to everything He says in regard to His redemption and His coming again.

In the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus, Jesus said, "No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: even the Son of Man." (John 3:13) We know that Jesus did not come down from heaven as a physical man. In this statement Jesus made a distinction between Himself and Adam, the first man. Adam was formed of dust; he did not come down from heaven. God blew His breath into Adam's nostrils, and he became a living soul - he was not a life-giving spirit. As we have already explained, he was a mixture of the earthy and the divine; he was an earthy image of God, for in a spiritual image of God there can be no dust. Man is not a physical image of God, for God is Spirit, and therefore an image of God has to be a spiritual image. Adam differed from the animals God had created in that he could think logically, he was creative, and he could worship God! Animals are unable to do these things. Adam's identification was NOT with his Creator, for he rebelled against God. In Adam all die (literally, all are dying). Therefore a new humanity was needed: a humanity that would be in agreement with God instead of in opposition to Him; a humanity that did not have any earthiness in it.

Christ's declaration that the Son of Man is a man from heaven, tells us that this man's identify is not rooted in natural, earthy thinking. His thinking always agreed with God's thinking! The Son of Man always agreed with God and never rebelled against God's will - in sharp contrast to the first man who disobeyed God's command and therefore first died spiritually and later physically. So we see that the Son of Man was the beginning of a new humanity - a spiritual humanity that had no earthiness in it. He descended from the higher heavenly realm to the lower earthy realm. He is the Word that became flesh; His testimony came out of heaven and He brought it down to the earth realm.

Christ (the Anointed One or Messiah) is the head of His many-membered body. We notice that Paul never spoke of Jesus being the head of a spiritual body - it is always Christ who is the head of a spiritual body. Only those who have been born of the Spirit can be members of His body. We cannot become members by self-effort and good works, for we have to be baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Since Christ's body is a spiritual body, it has to feed on spiritual food. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves." (Jn. 6:53) His flesh is a body of truth, and His blood, symbolizing His soul, is His sense of being. This is the spiritual life-giving food on which we are to feed. As we feast on truth and receive Christ's spiritual understanding, we will be a manifestation of Christ in this world. As we drink in His sense of being we will recognize that our true being is spiritual and one with His life.

It may be difficult at first to realize that the Son of Man is a corporate man, and that all the members of Christ's body are included in this designation. Since the Son of Man is the corporate manifestation of God in this world, the verse in Matthew 8:20, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head," takes on new meaning. At the time Jesus spoke these words, the work of redemption had not yet been completed, so Christ did not yet have a corporate body. Therefore He had nowhere to lay His head. After His death, resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit, He became the head of a many-membered spiritual body of believers.

Let's look at some of the things Jesus said about the Son of Man in regard to His death and resurrection. "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day…Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead…Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death…You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion…Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners…The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again…For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 17:22-23: 17:9; 20:18; 26:2; 26:45; Mark 8:31; Matthew 12:40)

These verses have great significance for us! They tell us that Jesus did not die as a single entity, but as a corporate body. He did NOT die as a vicarious substitute for humanity on the cross. He took the old humanity with Him on the cross, and there it was put to death. This is called His death to sin. (Rom. 6:10) Actually His whole life was a death to sin, and this death was finalized on the cross. It was the Son of Man who died on the cross, and for this reason Paul could say, "I have been crucified with Christ." (Gal. 2:20) Not only have we been crucified with Him, we have also been raised with Him! (Eph.2:6) We have been raised out of our death in Adam into the life of Christ; we have been raised out of the old humanity that is dead in its sins and transgression into a new humanity that has no sin!

It is hard for us to believe that our new humanity has no sin, and therefore is not put to death. Yet this is what the scriptures declare. In 1 Peter 1:23 we read, "For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God." Imperishable seed cannot receive anything perishable. John confirms this in 1 John 3:9: ""No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Whenever we lapse into fleshly thinking and activity, sin is right there. This sin does not emanate from our new humanity, for Christ has become our righteousness, and there is no sin in Him.

What did Jesus mean when He said that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword? (Matt. 10:34) It means that He came to bring a separation or division. What needed to be separated? A separation had to take place between the things that are regarded as truth but are not truth, and the actual truth. People believe that there is life in their religious forms, rituals and traditions; they are ignorant of the life that is in Christ. Christ came to bring a division between the old humanity with all its religious forms and zealousness, and the new humanity that we become in Christ by faith. He came to establish a new covenant, and to bring a division between the old covenant of law and works and the new covenant of faith.

An understanding of the Son of Man has to come to us by revelation. In Matthew 16 Jesus asked the disciples an important question, namely, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" After that He asked the disciples this very question, and Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Notice that in these verses the designations, the Son of Man, Christ, and the Son of God, all refer to one and the same person. This informs us of the different aspects of Christ's being and His work. For example, just as a man can be a son, husband, father, grandfather, doctor, Christian and evangelist, so Jesus Christ is the Son of Man (the head of the corporate new humanity), Christ (the anointed One), and the only begotten Son of God. Our sonship is in the corporate Christ. Each of these titles refers to a different aspect of the work He was to accomplish, and now is accomplishing.

Now listen to Christ's reference to the source of that understanding. He said, "Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." This understanding did not come from Peter's mind; it came by revelation! Even so, the understanding of who the Son of Man is, has to come to us by revelation!

"The Son of Man will send forth His angels (messengers), and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness.. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life (PSUCHE=soul) a ransom for many…" (Matthew 13:41; 20:28) This is the work of the Son of Man, the corporate new humanity. Therefore we need to identify with the Son of Man, and do the same work He is doing. The Son of Man gave His soul as a ransom for us. It is the soul or the sense of being of the Son of Man that frees us from error, for He functions in truth. As we receive Christ's sense of being, we too will only do the will of the Father. In our submission to the Father's will, all our lawlessness is removed. Our natural thinking is a stumbling block to spiritual development. We have the mind Christ, but we have to learn to live out of His mind. Receiving Christ's understanding frees us from our carnal thinking, and this removes the stumbling blocks created by our wrong thinking. In this way lawlessness and stumbling blocks are removed from God's kingdom.

Matthew 24 is often quoted in regard to Christ's coming again. Notice how often Jesus said that the Son of Man is coming again! If we do not understand that the Son of Man is the corporate second man, we will interpret this as Jesus coming back as a single entity, and we will miss the spiritual meaning that Christ is conveying. Let's not substitute the physical Jesus for the corporate Son of Man. With this in mind, let's look at some of the things Jesus taught.

"For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly, I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom" (Matthew 16:27-28) Since the Son of Man is the corporate man, He does not come alone; He comes together with His holy messengers (angels). These messengers come in spiritual or human form. A messenger brings a message. Whenever we receive a spiritual message from God and pass it on, we are one of His messengers.

It is so difficult for us to believe that we truly are one with Christ and that He has given us His glory! In John 17:22 Jesus said, "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one." What did the glory of the Father consist of? Wasn't His glory His oneness with Christ? Now Christ gives us this oneness with Himself! This oneness is pictured in the many-membered body of Christ that functions in unity. The purpose of this glory is not for self-glorification but for unification. The glory of the Father is His goodness, and His goodness brings us into unity with Himself! He resurrects us out of our death in Adam, and brings us into the life of Christ. He takes us out of our self-centered life of individuality, and brings us into unity with Himself. He takes us out of the restless sea of humanity that is so involved with its mudslinging, and He refines and molds us into a sea of glass that reflects the nature of God! This is the glory of the Father! The glory of unity Christ now gives to us! It is the corporate Christ who brings glory to the Father! The Son of Man, the corporate Christ (not an individual Jesus) is coming in the glory of the Father!

Christ's kingdom is a spiritual kingdom consisting of all that have come under God's government. It is impossible for natural humanity to obey God, so it can never become part of His kingdom. When the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost the believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit, and a new humanity came into being. This new humanity is called the church or the ecclesia (the called out ones) or the body of Christ. So when it came into being, the Son of Man came into His kingdom.

"For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming (PAROUSIA = presence) of the Son of Man be…" (Matt. 24:27) The Greek ASTRAPE, translated as "lightning", should really be translated as "bright shining or shining brightness". (Vines) The lightning we see during a thunderstorm flashes from every direction, so this is not a reference to that lightning. Instead, this is the light, revelation or understanding that come to us from heaven, and it comes to us very suddenly. The presence of the Son of Man brings us into a relationship, and His light floods our understanding.

We see this concept symbolized by the entrance into the tabernacle of Moses. There was only one entrance, and it was situated on the east side of the enclosure. In order to enter the outer court of the tabernacle, people had to travel west. The holy place was farther west, and only the priesthood was permitted to function there. The holy of holies, west of the holy place, could only be accessed by the high priest once a year. The names of the tribes of Israel were inscribed on his breastplate, so the nation of Israel could only enter the presence of God in the high priest. It is in the presence and light of the Son of Man that we can enjoy the presence of God.

"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." (Matthew 24: 30) The sign of the Son of Man consists of the Father working in His sons and forming them into the image of Christ. This work is in the spiritual realm (the sky) - a realm that is higher than the earth.

"For the coming ((PAROUSIA = presence) of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah." (Matthew 24:37) In Noah's time the wicked were taken, and the righteous were left to inhabit the earth. So this does not refer to a mass evacuation of the righteous into the physical sky. We can rejoice because the presence of the Son of Man is our ark of refuge and our victory!

"For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." (Matthew 24:44) We must always be ready to receive the light that the Son of Man is sending forth. We can be so engrossed and content in our good deeds, traditions, legalism, etc., that we are not ready to receive the light the Son of Man has for us.

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne." (Matt. 25:31) The Son of Man comes with spiritual messengers. These are not the winged creatures depicted by the natural mind. The word translated as angels actually means messengers. A messenger carries a message, so these messengers share with others the spiritual messages they have received from God. So the Son of Man comes together with His messengers. The glory of the Son of Man consists of His unity with all who proclaim a spiritual message. It's interesting to note that the Son of Man comes sitting on His glorious throne. He is not feverishly working to attain authority, for He is resting in the finished work of Christ! The Son of Man, the corporate new humanity, has complete authority in the spiritual realm.

"…Hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matt. 26:64) The Son of Man, the corporate spiritual man, does not come as an individual entity. The clouds of heaven symbolize all the overcomers of all ages. (Heb. 12:1) Again, it says that He comes sitting; He is sitting at the right hand of power - the power to do His will and to change people. He comes in His witnesses. His work as the Jesus of Nazareth is done; now He comes in His people and empowers them to do His will.

"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels (messengers)." (Mark 8:38) To be ashamed of someone means that you do not recognize him: you ignore his presence. When the Son of Man is revealed as the new humanity, those who did not have ears to hear the Spirit will be ashamed that they ignored Christ's presence and authority. They will be ashamed, for they will see that they desired the lusts of the flesh more than the spiritual dimension that could have been theirs in Christ. However, they were not willing to pay the cost of discipleship! Since they failed to recognize Christ as Lord, they are not worthy of being a member of the body of Christ - the Son of Man! Christ does not recognize them because they are not worthy of that recognition.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses…" At this time Jesus was together with His disciples, giving them some last-minute instructions before His ascension. He told them that they would be His witnesses after the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. We are to be witnesses of Him - not of ourselves! We don't draw attention to ourselves; therefore we do not call ourselves pastor, prophet, bishop, Christ, etc. In order to be a witness of Christ we have to receive His sense of being and think His thoughts, so that we exhibit the nature of Christ in everything we do and say!

Let's get an understanding of how the Son of Man is coming again. After Jesus had instructed His disciples, "…He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, `Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:9-11)

The disciples saw Jesus going up in the form of a physical man, and after that He was hidden from their view by a cloud, and this cloud is referred to as a cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1. A cloud symbolizes an obstruction, for it hides something from our view. Since Christ is coming again in the same way as He ascended, He comes again in the form of a physical man - in the form of His witnesses. Even as the flesh of Jesus hid the Christ within Him, so the flesh of His witnesses now hides the Christ within them. Christ is within the believers! (Col. 1:27) Christ, the Son of Man, has come again in every generation of believers, but the world and the worldly-minded Christians are ignorant of this event because the cloud is hiding Him from their view! The men of God in the Old Testament could not be witnesses of Christ in the same way because the Holy Spirit had not been poured out on them.

The many-membered body of Christ is the Son of Man. Each individual is a witness of the new humanity that is his in Christ, and corporately we are God's witness in the earth. Being witnesses of Christ involves speaking of something that we have seen or experienced. Many years ago Ernie witnessed a plane crash. When the police questioned him in regard to what he had seen, and he added, "…and I think," the police said, "I don't care what you think; I only want to know what you saw." Ideas and opinions that have their source in human mental gymnastics are of no value; only the testimony of Christ counts!

Being a witness of Christ includes more than proclaiming things about Him. A witness of Christ has to have His nature. When Jesus was on earth He was the exact representation of the invisible God. He was a witness of God's invisible being and nature in word and actions. In like manner we are to be the exact representation of the invisible being and nature of Christ in word and actions.

Jesus said that the disciples would have the power to be His witnesses after they had received the Holy Spirit. This is so difficult for us to grasp. Our natural thinking tells us that we can never be like Christ. However, we underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit! It is the Holy Spirit within us that gives us the power to have victory over our fleshly, natural thinking so that we can function in the nature of Christ. This is now possible because our earthly physical tabernacle has been redeemed from ignorance, death, lust and evil. Even as Christ's words and actions were a witness of the Father's nature, so our words and actions are to be a witness of Christ's nature. Just as Jesus did nothing on His own initiative, so His witnesses only do and say what the Father tells them.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. (John 1:51) The heavens are opened to us when we begin to see spiritually. After the heavens are opened, we see the angels or messengers of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. The messengers of God are those who have been put into the new humanity. The old humanity cannot comprehend spiritual realities. God's messengers first have to ascend in their new humanity (the Son of Man) and receive a message from God before they can bring it to the ones for whom it is intended.

It's exciting to see that the anointing unites us with Christ, the Son of Man, and we participate in His rejection, death and resurrection! We also participate in His coming again! May the resurrected Christ be imaged in us so that the world will see Him and glorify God, our Redeemer!

Son of Man: Part 2

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