Monday, August 2, 2010
Son of Man
I mentioned to you in a previous post that I've been reading RC Sproul's new commentary on John taken from his sermons at St. Andrew's Chapel. RC mentions that Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man more than any other title. I found that interesting and filed it in the back of my mind.
This past week my 90 day Bible reading had me in the book of Ezekiel, probably the most challenging book of the Bible for me- to make sense of, that is. One of the things I noticed is that the Lord refers to Ezekiel over and over again as the son of man. Interesting. I believe the main arguments for why Christ refers to Himself as the Son of Man have to do with His affirmation of His humanity (while in no way denying His deity) and perhaps significance related to the Hebrew teaching of kinsman redeemer (like Boaz was for Ruth and Naomi). But, as I read through the book of Ezekiel I began to wonder if maybe Christ wasn't also referring in some way to this book when He called Himself the Son of Man. I haven't noticed the title used previously, though perhaps it is, but certainly it's unusual for a prophet to be referred to almost exclusively as the son of man, as is Ezekiel.
I read through the red letters of John and Mathew making note of each time Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man. I wish I could tell you I found a definite pattern, but I didn't. I did find something interesting, though, and I think I might know what Ezekiel's visions were about now. Check out some of these words of Christ that sound more than a little like Ezekiel, the first son of man's visions.
"You will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth." John 1:51
"Do you believe in the Son of Man?... You have seen Him and He is speaking to you... I entered this world to render judgement- to give sight to the blind and show those who think they see that they are blind." John 9:35-39
"The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into His glory, and God will be glorified because of Him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, He will soon give glory to the Son." John 13:31-32
"The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world and the harvesters are the angels. Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will remove from His Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father's Kingdom." Mathew 13:37-43
"And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send out His angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather His chosen ones from all over the world- from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven." Mathew 24:30-31
"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left." Mathew 25:31-33
"Jesus replied, 'You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God's right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven." Mathew 26:64
You might not notice the similarities unless you've just been reading Ezekiel, but wow does this ever sound like Ezekiel's vision that opens the book. It's too long to quote in its entirety (see Ezekiel chapter 1), but let me summarize Ezekiel's vision for you. Basically Ezekiel sees a vision of four living beings whose description closely matches that of Cherubim (high ranking angels) in other parts of the Bible like Isaiah and Revelation 4. He sees spheres moving in conjunction with the four living creatures and "spread out above them was a surface like the sky, glittering like crystal.... Above this surface was something that looked like a throne made of blue lapus lazuli. And on this throne high above was a figure whose appearance resembled a man. From what appeared to be his waist up, he looked like gleaming amber, flickering like a fire. And from his waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day. This is what the glory of the Lord looked like to me. When I saw it, I fell face down on the ground and I heard someone's voice speaking to me." (Ezekiel 1:22 and 26-28)
Ezekiel's vision certainly sounds like the scene that will unfold when Christ returns upon His throne to judge the world and set up His Kingdom on earth. You have angels (Cherubim) "darting back and forth like lightening" controlled by spheres with eyes (perhaps to see to separate the wheat from the tares/ sheep from the goats). Jesus did say the angels would be His "harvesters". I presume that the "figure whose appearance resembled a man" in Ezekiel's vision is Christ since God is never described as having the form of a man, but when the second person of the Trinity makes an appearance in the OT, He does so in the form of a man (like when he appears as a traveler to Abraham and as a soldier to Joshua). He is described in Ezekiel's vision as sitting on a throne of lapus lazuli.
I believe that the vision God gave Ezekiel was none other than a vision of the second coming of Christ. Why would He do that? I mean, Christ hadn't even come for the first time when Ezekiel had his vision. I think the common theme is that of judgement. God was telling Ezekiel to warn Judah of her impending judgement, but at the same time He gave Ezekiel a vision of the final judgement of all nations that was to come. In fact, this makes the whole book of Ezekiel make more sense to me since God tells Ezekiel to hand out judgement to some nations that I can't even identify like Gog.
It is said of prophecy that it's much like a mountain range. From a distance the peaks in a mountain range appear to be one on top of the other. When you get up close the peaks become distinct and the valleys between them seem large. No doubt many of the judgements contained in the book of Ezekiel were carried out already- on Judah and other nations by Babylon. But, final judgement is still to come.
There's much I still don't understand about the book of Ezekiel and so so much that I don't understand about end times. But I'm comforted by the words of Christ that just as when the fig tree blossoms and its leaves begin to sprout as a sign of summer, "in the same way, when you see all these things, you can know His return is very near, right at the door." (Mttw 24:33)
To God be the glory!
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.