Difference between “Son of Man” and “Son of God”

Conflating the Son of Man with the Son of God creates the debilitating cause of Christian Confusions. Misunderstanding Jesus, leading to His crucifixion, resulted in failure to perceive the difference between “Son of Man” and “Son of God terms.” The truly converted are guided to move away from this maze of confusion and embrace the Son of the living God.

“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. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’

“Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ” (Matthew 16:13-20).

Three questions, needing clearance can be deduced, before proceeding. 1) What prompted Jesus to ask that question, only to His disciples? 2) Why was Jesus’s question not phrased as; “who do people say the Son of the living God is?” 3) Why did Jesus warn His disciples against telling anyone that He was the Christ?

Firstly, Jesus sought to reveal the mystery to His disciples. The entire world had not been aware of humans being sons of the living God, although prophecies had clearly pointed to Christ’s appearance. Jesus’s virgin birth miracle and the subsequent pronouncement by the Wise Men from the East were extraordinary.

But, even the influential scholars of that time, could not take such developments as unveiling truthful information. The second question unveils the reason for identifying Jesus as the Son of Man. Ordinary men do not address themselves as sons of men. Jesus was probably the only one ever to address Himself as Son of Man.

Jesus was the Son of the living God. Although ordinary people accused Him, specifically, for claiming to be God’s Son. Even to His disciples, Jesus insisted on calling Himself the Son of Man, rather than the Son of God.

He said the Son of Man would come at an unexpected hour (Matthew 23:44). The disciples saw the same Son of Man ascending up to heaven (Acts 1:11). Jesus is clearly recorded as would descend from the skies, as the Son of Man.

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30 NIV).

Notice carefully, the “Son of Man,” as opposed to the “Son of God,” who cannot appear in the sky. The Son of the Living God is the one who Jesus said the world could not see, except His disciples. Without appearing in the sky, the Son of the living God was later seen by the disciples, as He said.

“Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (Matthew 14:19-21 NIV).

The death and resurrection of Jesus concerned the Son of Man, rather than the Son of God. The identity of Jesus, as Son of Man, is according to prophecies, including the mystification of Jesus’s identity as God’s Son. All humans are God’s children. But all humans have been degraded, as to no longer identify with God.

“When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:1-3 NIV).

God’s Spirit could not contend with mortal men, due to intermarriages between sons of God and daughters of men. These Scriptures reveal separation between daughters of men and sons of God. What God could not contend with was the mixture between sons of men and God’s Sons.

The most dangerous thing is to access God’s sonship when still connected with being a son of man. That is tantamount to taking the name of the Lord in vain (Exodus 20:7 & Matt 12:31). The answer to the third question carries the magnitude of the risk involved with blasphemy. Ordinary people are protected from accessing God’s truth, before conversion.

This constitutes the reason for Jesus’s teaching in Parables, rather than giving the unconverted people, God’s undiluted truths (Mark 4:10). The term “Son of Man,” describing Jesus in his appearance on earth, is most convenient:

“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 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. I Daniel was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me.” (Daniel 7:13-15 NIV).

Such prophesies are designed for ordinary people. Hence the Son of Man will literally govern, according to humanity’s understanding. Viewed as different from God’s Son, Jesus would be identified as Son of Man. Ordinary people get fascinated by miracles and are prone to confer greatness to physical objects, rather than God.

Human beings hold the propensity to worship idols. Paul and Barnabas had to rent their clothes, displaying disapproval of such stupidity (Acts 14:8-14). The confusion emanates from failure to understand the meaning of death, as pronounced in Genesis 2:17.

Did Adam die, or not die, immediately after eating the forbidden fruit? The mockers would suggest that Adam did not die, even though God said he would die. They use the 930 years of Adam’s longevity, as justifying the assumption that God was not truthful.

Nevertheless, Adam died at the point of eating the wrong fruit. From Adam to Jesus the entire humanity, though created in God’s image, had remained in that death condition. Humanity ceased to be God’s children, but with the conjecture of redemption, as narrated in prophecies.

“And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’ So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

“After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22-24 NIV).

The tree of life symbolized eternal life, from which Adam was banished. If allowed to access the tree of life, Adam would have perpetually lived in sinful conditions.  Nevertheless, the provision of Jesus succeeded in redeeming Adam and the rest of humanity.

This justifies the reasons for Jesus’s parabolic teachings, to the unconverted people—arising from the Garden of Eden incident. All humans had to be protected from accessing the tree of life (the Holy Spirit) before conversion.

God loves humanity, even in their sinful conditions. In His enduring love, God sent His only begotten Son to redeem humanity from that state of confusion. Jesus was not entangled in sinful conditions. In simple terms, Jesus was not of this world.

Jesus, as Son of the living God, was alienated from this world. Similarly, His true followers, who have become God’s children, get alienated from this world. This is a phenomenon, manifesting in the physical universe. It takes some time before a newly acquired steer becomes accepted by the rest of the cattle in the pen.

Instead of welcoming the alien steer, it seems the other beasts feel threatened by an alien steer. The phenomenon of treating strangers with scorn, in animals, carries no logic. In their animalistic behaviour, humans behave similarly.

The fact that Jesus was murdered, but without reason, indicates, specifically, that Jesus was not of this world. The authenticity of a Christian carries the phenomenon of being treated with scorn. This is why Jesus said one should rejoice and be glad when persecuted (Matthew 5:10-12).

When one’s activities are readily approved by those of this world, one might not be authentic, as a Christian. Scriptures are replete with Jesus’s disciples being persecuted. The persecution signifies authenticity in one’s Christian endeavors.

“They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (1 John 4:5-6 NIV).

Quite often, a person through whom God reveals mysteries, get discouraged when his friends become sceptical. Ordinary people cannot scripturally confront what is not commonly understood. The tendency is to separate themselves from the person through whom God reveals the understanding of God’s mysteries.

Belonging to a group gives comfort, and creates a sense of security. This reveals the nature of deadly minefields in Christianity. Deceptions come when Christians prefer avoiding taking extremes, and yet purporting to avoid sin. They represent what is written about in (Revelation 3:15-19). This behaviour is similar to Baal worshipers who were confronted by Elijah:

How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.” (1 Samuel 18:21 NIV). Most Christians are, actually, fond of ridiculing uncommon believers, without realizing that they would be ridiculing Jesus.

This contradicts idealism in spirituality. The physical nature is sustained by the sense of belonging. Racial or tribal identities are given significance, without good reason for such importance, except pride. This includes social class identies and any other occupational or religious identity.

Ordinary people feel insecure, as long as not belonging to some grouping. But, even within familial groupings, humans contend with failure to address the discordant elements. They do not know what to do with the dissenters.

They get glued by culture, so that in their vast numbers, they become incapacitated, as unable to think independently. The trend-setters are given the mandate, by default, as to define the dictates of cultural norms. They do so without any other reason, except for purposes of identity.

The fundamental truth about humanity is that each person is different from the other. Even those born as twins are not identical, as irreconcilably different. Each person was created with peculiar qualities, without any need to necessarily be viewed as better as or worse than others.

This is similar to how the body structure functions. Each body part is peculiar, specializing in serving the entire structure. None of those body parts can be viewed as more important or less important than other parts. Considering other body parts as less important than others should be regarded as abnormal.

The consideration of other people, appearing as less important, is sustained in the physical universe. This is why Jesus comes as Son of Man, to take the position of superiority, being the language that is understood by physical humans. The Sons of the living God are not different from God Himself.

Jesus’s statement that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father, actually, buttressed this reality. Being created in God’s image simply means being like God Himself. Humans hold the potential to be Creators, just as God, in whose image they were created, is a Creator.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

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