Who is "The Son of Man"? Ever wonder what that title means? Why did Jesus use it in reference to Himself so frequently? Does it mean that He was only a mere man? Does it conflict with another title Jesus used to describe Himself - "Son of God"? What is the significance behind the title?
Who was "The Messiah"? I am not looking for the quick answer "Jesus is the Messiah". I am asking what does that title signify with respect to the identity and ministry of the one who is "The Messiah"?
How are God, "The Messiah", "The Son of God", and "The Son of Man" related?
Both the Bible and Quran call Jesus "The Messiah" and His title is special in both books. Messiah means "anointed one". The Hebrew word is "Mashiach", and the Greek term is "Christ". In the Old Testament, it is usually applied to a king or high priest. It is applied to Jesus throughout the New Testament. In eleven places the Quran gives Jesus the title of "al-Masihu Isa", meaning "The Messiah Jesus" (see Surahs 4:157,171; 3:45), or "al-Masihu ibn Maryam", meaning "The Messiah, son of Mary", (see Surah 9:31).
While both the New Testament and Old Testament provide a good amount of information concerning who the Messiah is, and what that title signifies, the Quran provides a negligible amount. It gives no explanation for the Messiah. Why, then, does the Quran acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah, yet give no delineation of what the word Messiah means? Why give him a unique title and not explain it's significance?
Muhammad knew little more than to attach a title he heard from the Jews and Christians to Jesus.
Since the Quran gives us no real definition for the Messiah, we must do what the Quran encourages Muslims to do when they have any question. In Surahs 10:94 and 21:7 the Quran calls on Muslims to "ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee," or in other words, those who have the scripture, the Bible. Jews and Christians find in the Bible that the title for Messiah is reserved for the specially-chosen one of God, one man alone, who stands above all other men, prophets and apostles included.
There are many books written about the Messiah, and there are many Biblical scriptures that relate to the Messiah. There is too much data to cover in this paper. Therefore, I want to focus on one aspect of the Messiah's identity - "could the Messiah be God revealed in the flesh?"
NOTE #1: All Biblical quotes are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.
NOTE #2: I have quoted about 2 paragraphs verbatim from Joseph Smith's (the English Christian) paper on the Messiah - from May 1995. I quoted his work because I couldn't have said it any better. It can be found at this website: http://debate.org.uk/
Additional papers on the Messiah can be found at this website http://answering-islam.org/
PRESENTATION OF SCRIPTURE
1) An excellent verse to start with is Matthew 16:13-17. This passage is a dialog between Peter and Jesus.
"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you , Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven."
Similar to this, another dialog takes place between the High Priest and Jesus in Matthew 26:63-64:
But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God : Tell us if you are the Christ , the Son of God." "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the mighty one and coming on the clouds of heaven."
Note that in both dialogs Jesus identifies Himself as the "Son of Man". Peter calls Jesus the Messiah, being the Son of God. The high priest also connects the person of the Messiah as being the Son of God. Both these titles are given to the same person - Jesus. Both titles were connected by Peter and the high priest because they knew that the Messiah was the Son of God. Jesus went so far as to say to Peter that his knowledge of Jesus being the Christ - the Son of God, was revealed to him by the Father in heaven. My point about this passage is that now we have three titles for Jesus tied together - The Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of Man. What do these titles have to do with the Messiah being God revealed in the flesh?
WHO IS THE SON OF MAN?
The title "Son of Man" is found in the Old Testament and most frequently applied to Ezekiel (about 90 times). He was a normal man and a prophet. Here are some verses, 2:1, 8:5, and 7:2 to check out as references. Jesus also refers to Himself as "the Son of Man" about 40 times in the New Testament. Jesus wasn't Ezekiel. What then does this title signify as applied to Jesus?
In Daniel chapter 7 verses 13-14, 27, we find someone unique called the "Son of Man". Here are the relevant verses,
13-14 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a "son of man", coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days (God) and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."
27 "Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High (Son of Man). His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him."
What do we see? We see the "son of man" coming, and God (referred to as the Ancient of Days) giving Him authority, glory, power, and allowing the son of man to be worshipped, and receive an eternal kingdom. It is repeated again in verse 27, "his kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, all rulers will worship and obey him". This Son of Man, being in God's presence, and being worshipped, must be very special. Who are you going to worship in God's presence? The Son of Man must be God revealed.
How does Jesus fit into all of this? Back in Matthew 26:63-65 Jesus gives us a clue as to who He actually is -
"But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." "Yes it is as you say", Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy,. What do you think?"
Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of Man foretold in Daniel chapter 7. Jesus said He would be coming in the clouds of heaven, just as Daniel said (7:13) the Son of Man would come. Further, the Jewish Priests knew exactly who the "Messiah" was - He was the Son of God! That's why they asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of God?". By saying He was the Son of God, the Jews knew exactly that Jesus was saying He was God. Earlier in John 10:33, the Jews accused Jesus of making Himself out to be God because He called Himself "the Son of God" (vs.36). That is why they found Him guilty of blasphemy and judged Him "worthy of death".
Where else do we find the term, "Son of Man" at? Let's look at Acts 7:55, 56, 59. Here Stephen is being questioned by the Jewish Priests.
"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." .....While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."
Why was Jesus "standing at the right hand of God"? Because, as it says in Col 1:15, "He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God"
Finally, examine Revelations 14:14. "I looked and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand."
Here, John identifies Jesus as the Messiah foretold in Daniel 7:13,14.
ANOTHER MESSIANNIC PROPHECY
2) Another critical passage concerning the identity of the Messiah is Isaiah 9:6,7.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever."
First of all, take a look at the context of the passage. Isaiah is foretelling someone who is going to be a great, continual, ruler. Look at all of the names he's given, and the functions this person will fulfill. In context, it is clear that this verse is talking about the Messiah. Never has any Israelite leader been called all of these titles together.
Some people have claimed that this verse refers to Isaiah's son, or another great Israelite ruler. However, this cannot be the case. No Israelite ruler since Isaiah's time has established David's throne and kingdom continuously, no Israelite rules has ruled as a "Prince of Peace" meaning he has established a lengthy peaceful reign, and no Israelite has fulfilled the implications of the names given in Isaiah 9:6, 7. (See NIV notes given below).
Let's break down these verses and examine exactly who Isaiah was talking about.
IDENTITY NAMES FUNCTION
1-earthly born male 1-Wonderful 1-governs and reigns a just,
2-ruler 2-Counselor eternal, peaceful, government
5-Prince of Peace
Obviously, the person who is going to fulfill this is going to be quite a person! Who can fulfill all these requirements?
a) We know that Jesus was an earthly born male, nothing to further discuss there.
b) On to governing. Jesus did not rule an earthly kingdom, but as Daniel says, the Messiah will one day rule - "His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him." Jesus Himself said He would return one day and rule and judge - Matthew 25:31-46. Note that the Messiah will rule "from that time on and forever. Clearly then, Jesus will be the eternal ruler foretold by Isaiah. Refer to Revelations 2:26, 27 for other details concerning Christ ruling.
Examine another one of the names given to this person - "Mighty God". Who could be the "Mighty God" but God alone? The term "mighty" ("gibbor" in Hebrew) denotes, powerful, warrior, tyrant, mighty, strong. Vines' Dictionary of Old Testament Words says "The primary meaning of gibbor is "power" or strength." It is most frequently used in conjunction with the mighty men found in the Old Testament. But it is also used as an adjective for describing God's power. Here are some examples:
1) In Genesis 49:24 it reads, "... because of the hand of the "Mighty" One of Jacob".
2) And again in Deut. 10:17 "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of Lords, the great God, "mighty" and awesome."
3) And in Nehemiah, 9:32, "Now therefore, O our God, the great, "mighty" and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love..."
4) And in Psalms, 24:8 "gibbor" is used twice to describe God's power - "Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and "mighty", the Lord "mighty" in battle".
Most interestingly, this term "gibbor" is also ascribed to the Messiah in Isaiah 11:2 -
"The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of "power"...
This word "gibbor" is ascribed to God elsewhere as well.
Some people, (particularly Jehovah's Witnesses) try to differentiate between the use of "mighty" instead of "Almighty". Why use this term "mighty", instead of the term, "Almighty"? "Almighty" is another term used for God, and at times it is even used as a Title or Name for God. "Mighty" is only an adjective used to describe a facet of God's power. "Almighty" is the Hebrew word "Shadday", from the root word "shadad" meaning, "to be burly, powerful, impregnable, to ravage, utterly lay waste." [From Strong's concordance]. Clearly, they are similar, but distinct. They are two different words used to describe God's powerful attributes.
All of the names listed in Isaiah 9:6 are names that describe the Messiah's characteristics relative to His ministry.
The notes in the NIV Study Bible for Isaiah 9:6 say it best: "son. A royal son, a son of David...Wonderful Counselor. Each of the four throne names of the Messiah consists of two elements. unlike Immanuel these titles were not like normal OT personal names. "Counselor" points to the Messiah as a king (see Micah 4:9) who determines upon and carries out a program of action (see 14:27, "purposed"; Ps 20:4, "plans"). As Wonderful Counselor, the coming Son of David will carry out a royal program that will cause all the world to marvel. What that program will be is spelled out in ch. 11, and more fully in chs. 24-27. Mighty God. See 10:21. His divine power as a warrior is stressed. Everlasting Father. He will be an enduring, compassionate provider and protector. Prince of Peace. His rule will bring wholeness and well-being to individuals and to society.
COMMENTS BASED UPON JOHN'S WRITINGS
John was an eyewitness to Jesus the Messiah but Muhammad only claimed to have "revelations" given to him from a spirit he thought was the angel Gabriel. John heard God's voice say,
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Math. 17:5) and saw Jesus transfigured.
On the other hand, Muhammad heard no audible voice when receiving his "revelations". All of Muhammad's "revelations" were given to him either in a dream or trance-like state.
1 John 3:22,23 say,
"Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist - he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also."
Muhammad made Jesus out to be only a prophet. Muhammad denied the true "Messiahship" of Jesus. The Bible calls this person an "antichrist".
1 John 4: 2,3 say,
"This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God." This is the spirit of the anti-christ which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
Note again how John insists that the Messiah has "come in the flesh"? God was revealed in the flesh. John writes that it is a spirit behind the denial of the Messiah being manifest in the flesh - the spirit of the anti-christ. Some 600 years later, Muhammad believed himself to be demon possessed when he first experienced his "revelations" from a spirit he called Gabriel.
1 John 5:10-12 says,
"Any one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."
Jesus used the title "Son of Man", to designate Himself as the Messiah. As such he was the Son of God. As the Son of God, Jesus was God revealed in human form.
As the Son of Man, Jesus is the Messiah. The Messiah will return and set up His kingdom and reign as Lord and King. As it says in Revelations 22:12,
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done."
Ask the Messiah Jesus to be Lord of your life.