a reply to: DpatC
This question has been asked, from time to time, because people have been looking in the gospels and not finding a direct statement on the subject.
The other writers in the New Testament are clearly expecting him to return, and they must have got that idea from somewhere.
But the questioners would like to see something in his own words.
An explicit promise in his own words can be found in John’s gospel;
“When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself…”- John ch14 v3
There’s also the incidental reference to this promise in the words “If it is my will that he remain until I come…”- John ch21 v22
But if the questioner isn’t willing to accept the the speeches of John’s gospel as the words of Jesus, the question must be asked again with
reference to the teaching in the Synoptic gospels.
There’s a passage of dialogue in the Mikado which points the way towards a possible answer.
It comes near the end, when Ko-Ko and Katisha announce the joyful news of their marriage.
The Mikado observes “You’ve been very quick about it”.
Ko-Ko explains “We were married in front of the Registrar”.
The Lord Pooh-Bah, who is quivering with fear and located in a grovelling position at the time, adds helpfully “I am the Registrar”.
The obvious conclusion is that “the couple were married in front of Pooh-Bah”.
And the interesting point is that everybody who hears the opera comes to that conclusion even though nobody has actually said so
They’ve not heard a direct statement to that effect, but they’ve just heard the two statements from Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah which add up to the same
Bearing that in mind, I’m now going to offer two sets of statements which can be found in the gospels.
You must expect to see the Son of Man
So the disciples are warned, when Jesus speaks to them outside the Temple;
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from
the four winds…”- Mark ch13 vv26-7.
This warning is repeated when he is being interrogated;
“You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven”- Mark ch14 v62.
Other statements talk about what will happen ”when”
the Son of Man arrives.
He comes acting as a judge;
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the
nations and he shall separate them one from another…” – Matthew ch25 vv31-2.
This judgement scene is clearly based upon the vision in Daniel, when “the Ancient of Days” takes his seat on his throne, to begin judgement,
“and behold, with the clouds of heaven, there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.”-
Daniel ch7 vv9-13
Jesus speaks of this time as “the day when the Son of Man is revealed”- Luke ch17 v30
And he also tells us that we must be ready, because “the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour”- Luke ch12 v40.
The event will be sudden, “as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west”- Matthew ch24 v27
In this time of judgement, one of the decisive factors will be the believer’s response to his own mission;
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God”- Luke ch12 v8
“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also will the Son of Man be ashamed, when he comes in the
glory of his Father with the holy angels.”- Mark ch8 v38
I am the Son of Man
The first appearance of this phrase, “the Son of Man”, comes when the Pharisees are privately questioning the right of Jesus to declare that a
man’s sins have been forgiven.
Therefore he tells the paralytic man to take up his pallet and walk home, in order to show them that “the Son of Man has authority in earth to
forgive sins”- Mark ch2 vv6-11
Shortly afterwards, he is declaring that “the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” –v28
In other words, it’s an indirect way of referring to himself, alluding to his own special position.
In both cases the occasional commentator has suggested that the original Aramaic would have meant “men” in general, but that explanation does not
In the first instance, the statement of forgiveness is associated with the act of healing, which is meant to be a sign of delegated authority.
While in the second reference, a statement about “men in general” (“the Sabbath was made for man”) has already been made in the previous
verse, using the ordinary word for “man”, so the “Son of Man” which follows should have a different meaning.
The line of argument is that even the ordinary man is the beneficiary rather than the servant of the Sabbath, so the “Son of Man” himself must
have an even stronger claim.
Anyway, the next example is less ambiguous.
A man offers to follow Jesus wherever he might go.
The response is to warn him that “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”- Luke ch9 v58
This is clearly an indirect way of speaking about himself.
The same is true when he is contrasting himself with John the Baptist;
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say ‘He has a demon’;
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say ‘Behold a glutton and a drunkard’”- Matthew ch11 vv18-19.
And he was certainly speaking about himself when he said “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for
many”- Mark ch10 v45
Following on from that, a number of statements about the betrayal of the Son of Man;
“For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!”- Mark ch14 v21
The thought is repeated in “The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew ch26 v45) or alternatively in “Would you betray the
Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke ch22 v48)
You must expect to see me
This follows naturally from combining the other two sets of statements.
The same conclusion is already drawn at a number of points in the gospels.
In Matthew’s version of one of the statements about the coming Son of Man, his identity is taken for granted;
“Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will
also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven”- Matthew ch10 v32
When Jesus warned the chief priests about the coming of the Son of Man, that was his response to a question about himself.
The most remarkable example is the request made by the sons of Zebedee, to be allowed to sit next to him in his glory.
They are clearly taking it for granted that he himself will be the “sitting on a throne” Son Of Man.
What is most revealing is that Jesus does not challenge their assumption.
He only denies having the power to choose his future associates, and warns them that the place of glory is less desirable than they might think.
In fact this was the occasion for his description of the role of the Son of Man, as coming to serve and give his life as a ransom.
So this episode brings into close proximity the two kinds of statement which Jesus was making about the Son of Man.
On the one hand, the phrase means the future judge of the world.
On the other hand, at one and the same time, it means himself.
The early church, in the New Testament, was expecting Jesus to return to judge the world.
The source of that expectatio