What is the meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” and how is it different from “Son of God”?
When the phrases “Son of man” and “Son of God” are used for Jesus Christ, they refer to the fact that Jesus was both man and God while He lived on this earth. Now He sits at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.
Son of Man. The meaning of the phrase “son of man” can be found by looking at the 195 times it occurs in the Bible – both in the Old and New Testaments. We will not look at all of them – only a few. Our first clue as to the meaning of “son of man” comes in Numbers 23:19.
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Numbers 23:19
Here it refers to human beings – men or women. The verse simply says that God is not like us since He is not a man. Men and women lie and God does not lie. “Son of man” also refers to the offspring or descendants of mankind (Jer 49:18; Jer 51:43; Ezek. 2:1, 3, 6, 8). The phrase usually just refers to a human being.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!” Ezekiel 2:1
In the book of Daniel the phrase is used for Jesus Christ when it talks about the second coming or the return of Jesus Christ in the future.
I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. Daniel 7:14
Even though Jesus will look like a man, even He will not look exactly like a man when He comes according to Rev. 1:7-15. When we come to the New Testament, the phrase is always used for Jesus Christ. Here is one example from the gospel of Luke.
But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . (NASB) Luke 5:24
Son of God. The phrase “son of God” only occurs (88 times) in the New Testament and it always refers to Jesus. It means that Jesus is God and that He was born from God. A previous question and answer has answered the question. “What is the meaning of the phrase “Son of God”? The answer is found in John 10:31-35. For years I used to wonder what the phrase really meant. Only later did I discover the Bible had the answer for me. It is wonderful to know that the Bible has already answered some of the major questions like this one.
In summary, “son of man” emphasizes the fact that a person is human and “son of God” emphasizes the fact that the person is God. Only for Jesus Christ are both phrases used. Romans 1:2-4 is a unique passage in the Bible since it tells us that Jesus Christ is both a man and God.
He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord . . . Romans 2:1-4
“Son of man” reminds us that Jesus became a man so that He could die. “Son of God” reminds us that Jesus is God so that He could live a sinless life or be the perfect Lamb of God. Only as the God-man could He die a sinless, holy sacrifice for our sins. All that is left for us to do is to believe that He is the only way. He is the only Savior of our sins, if we will believe that.
. . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . . (NASB) 1 Cor. 15:3-4