Prophets of Old
When prophets of old were given glimpses of the far future, the apostle Peter wrote that they longed to understand what they were seeing.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace intended for you made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the time and circumstances that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings intended for Christ and the subsequent glory.
It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look!1 Peter 1:10-12 (NRSV)
One such prophet was Daniel, whose visions contain uncannily accurate detail concerning future events, and whose timing of the birth of Messiah has proven correct to the day.
One Like a Human Being
Daniel was sixty-seven years old in 553 BCE, when Nabonidus appointed his son Belshazzar as his co-regent over the Babylonian empire. It is during this time Daniel began to experience visions of his own, rather than simply interpret the dreams of kings. Among his earliest oracles was of the Judgment of God.
As I watched,
thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne;
his clothing was white as snow
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and flowed out from his presence.
A thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
The court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human beingDaniel 7:9-14 (NRSV)
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.
Son of Man
Several translations retain the older phrase “Son of Man,” as it is rendered in Hebrew כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ | bar ‘ēneš. In the Gospels, Jesus applied this phrase to Himself, and the apostles continued with Jesus’s example.
The traditional way to translate this phrase from the Greek “huion tou anthropou” is also “Son of Man.” This is because “Man” connoted “humankind” for a few centuries in the English language.
Interestingly, in Middle English, the female version of “man” was “wifman” or “wimman,” our modern-day “woman.” The male version of “man” was “werman.” This left the word “man” as truly neutral, referring to male and female alike as humans.
However, at some point the prefix “wer” fell away, so that “man” came to mean both male humans and humans in general.
Today, being more sensitive to the implications of using the male version of human as standing in for all humans, more and more people are making the intentional effort to use more accurate language when translating. In this case, “anthropos” in Greek is the neutral term denoting humankind (like “anthropology,” the study of people). If a male term is desired, the Greek uses “aner/andros.”
Daniel’s Vision Fulfilled
It is no accident that Daniel’s vision and John’s vision share commonalities. When both visions are laid side by side we see:
- The Ancient of Days exactly similar to Jesus’s portrayal of Himself to John.
- A scene set in the heavenly realms.
- The imagery of fire and light surrounding the throne and suffusing the One seated upon the throne.
- A vast host of angelic beings in attendance.
- The center of attention focused on a book or scroll.
- The representation of Jesus being presented to the One upon the throne—named by the elder in John’s vision as the Lion of Judah and the Root of David, seen by John as the slain Lamb, and seen by Daniel as One like the Son of Humanity.
- A kingdom and dominion being given to Christ.
- This kingdom encompasses “all peoples, nations, and languages.”
Jesus’s Word Fulfilled
When Jesus stood before the ad hoc gathering of the Sanhedrin’s ruling elders on the night He was betrayed, He made a direct reference to Daniel’s oracle.
Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”Jesus to the Sanhedrin, Mark 14:61-62 (NRSV)
Compare what Jesus said of Himself with Daniel’s prophetic vision and John’s revelation:
Authority to Judge
For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice.John 5:26-28 (NRSV)
Power to Judge by Forgiveness
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”Luke 5:24 (NRSV)
Power to Judge With Rewards
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.Matthew 16:27 (NRSV)
Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness.Matthew 13:40-41 (NRSV)
Enthroned in Glory
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.”Matthew 25:31-32 (NRSV)
Surrounded by Elders
So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”Matthew 19:28 (NRSV)
Gathering of the Redeemed
“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.Matthew 18:10-11 (NRSV)
“They will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels and gather the elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”Mark 13:26-27 (NRSV)
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”Matthew 20:28 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.John 13:31-32 (NRSV)