Superman or Son of Man?
Please read Revelation 1:4-20 in your favorite Bible. I used the NIV (1984) to prepare these remarks.
The comic book character Superman turned 80 on April 18th last year. Did anybody celebrate? Imagine the effect if he used his “super breath” to blow out the candles!
Twelve years ago the movie “Superman Returns” had a line in it that got me thinking about the subject of Superman and Jesus. From the first time I heard it, it sounded like a paraphrase from the Bible and it offended me to hear it used that way.
The line is spoken by Sir Anthony Hopkins, voicing Superman’s father, Jor-El. As Superman orbited the earth, we hear Jor-El say, “They are a good people, Kal-el, or they want to be. But they need someone to lead them, to show them the way. That is why I have sent you to them, my only son.”
The director of this picture, Bryan Singer, is quoted as saying, “Superman is the Jesus Christ of superheroes.” This is evidence of many intentional parallels between Superman and Jesus as a means of making the comic character more popular.
Ironically, the character of Superman was created by two Jewish boys, Jerry Siegel and Joel Schuster. A compelling argument can be made that Superman was created as a counter-point to the growing threat of Nazi Germany in 1938. I’ve read that Superman was modeled after Moses and seems designed to counter the Nazi ideal of an ubermensch, a member of the Master Race.
Superman may have started out being modeled on Moses, but there’s no doubt his handlers have turned a New Testament corner since then. I have compiled a list of parallels between Jesus and Superman. There’s too much evidence there to explain it in any way other than a deliberate attempt by those who’ve handled the character for EIGHTY YEARS to wrap Jesus in blue tights and a red cape. It may be shrewd marketing, but I don’t like it and between the two - Superman and the Savior - there’s no question who’s real and who’s more powerful.
In order to deepen our understanding of Jesus, we’re going to use this occasion to take a look at Him in a slightly different light - the supernatural portrayal of Jesus in Revelation.
Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.
1. The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a powerful being.
Verses four and eight = HIM WHO IS, AND WHO WAS, AND WHO IS TO COME. This expression of praise is offered by the FOUR LIVING CREATURES to God the Father, seated on His throne in Revelation 4:8. It refers to the present, past, and future - all three tenses of time - as a way of saying God is eternal. As God, the Son of God existed before His birth in this world, He lived in a particular era of human history, and He will come again to this world to complete His victory.
Verse four = He is enthroned. He is KING OF KINGS in 1 Timothy 6:15. That same title is used in Revelation 17:14 and 19:16. This title is a way of saying Jesus has the right to rule over all creation and that His authority and power have no limits.
Verse five = THE FAITHFUL WITNESS. Palm 89:37 refers to the moon as a FAITHFUL WITNESS God set in the sky. It is a dependable predictor of tides and is regular in its phases. Revelation 2:13 refers to Antipas as a FAITHFUL WITNESS. In John 14:6, Jesus referred to Himself as THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.
Taken together, this is a way of saying as the moon is dependable and predictable in its appearance and effects, Jesus can be trusted to tell the truth about God the Father. In fact, theologians refer to Jesus as the “Personal Revelation” of God. In His words and deeds Jesus taught and demonstrated God’s begin and His character.
Verse five = FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD. Throughout the Bible, the FIRSTBORN always gets special treatment and the “first fruits” are the most special part of the harvest, offered to God in gratitude. Paul applied this to Jesus’ resurrection in Colossians 1:18; AND HE IS THE HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH; HE IS THE BEGINNING AND THE FIRSTBORN FROM AMONG THE DEAD, SO THAT IN EVERYTHING HE MIGHT HAVE THE SUPREMACY. In 1 Corinthians 15:20 Paul similarly described Jesus as the FIRSTFRUITS of the dead. All this reminds us that Jesus has led the way into eternal life. Our resurrection will be like His; if we want to know more about our life after death, we need to study His.
Verse five = RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH. THE KINGS OF THE EARTH is an expression is found four more times in the Revelation (6:15; 17:2; 17:18; 18:3), each time denoting the rulers of worldly kingdoms that have allied themselves to resist God. The fact that Jesus is RULER over them is not meant to imply that He is responsible for their bad behavior, only that His rule is complete. Though THE KINGS OF THE EARTH oppose Jesus, it is a futile gesture; His power is irresistible.
To His disciples enduring persecution, this is welcome news. Though the KINGS of this world seem to hold power, God is in charge; He will sustain His people.
Verse six = He has MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS TO SERVE HIS GOD AND FATHER. KINGDOM = Because Jesus Christ is RULER over all, He is able to make us part of His KINGDOM. We are called out of earthly “kingdoms” to be obedient to Jesus’ will first and foremost.
PRIESTS = Way back in Exodus 19:6, Moses told the people that God’s will was to make them a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS. This promise is mentioned again in Revelation 5:10, virtually word-for-word. This promise is unusual because only rarely in the history of God’s people have priests also been kings. But that’s part of the point - when Jesus comes again, the world will be set back in the order God intended. The New Testament makes it plain that all believers are PRIESTS and no longer need another human being to intercede between us and God
The purpose of all this is plainly spelled out: TO SERVE our GOD AND FATHER. We do not rule on our own authority or serve as priests on our own will. Instead, God delegates this power to us so that we can serve Him.
Verse six = TO HIM BE GLORY AND POWER FOR EVER AND EVER! This verse reads like a hymn of praise. It is repeated as such in Revelation 19:1. It is here to remind us that the focus of true service is never on self, but is always, only on God. He deserves the GLORY and alone possesses the POWER.
Verse seven = HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS. In Mark 13:26 and Luke 21:27 Jesus predicted that at the end of this age, the world would see Him appear in the CLOUDS with great glory and power. Psalm 68:4 locates God in the clouds, a symbol of His rule over the Earth; SING TO GOD, SING IN PRAISE OF HIS NAME, EXTOL HIM WHO RIDES ON THE CLOUDS; REJOICE BEFORE HIM - HIS NAME IS THE LORD. (see also Psalm 104:3). In Ezekiel 30:3, the prophet linked the appearance of CLOUDS with THE DAY OF THE LORD, which is the Old Testament’s way of referring to the events related to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In the book of Exodus, God directed His people on their travels with a PILLAR OF CLOUD during the daylight hours and by means of a pillar of fire at night (13:21-22). In the DNL 7 vision the Son of Man came from the CLOUDS and is clearly God; this also predicts how Jesus will appear to us. At the end of the Gospel of Luke and the beginning of the book of Acts, we are told that Jesus left His disciples and returned to heaven, disappearing among the clouds. Angels standing nearby promised that He would return the way He’s left: among the CLOUDS (Acts 1:9-11).
This expression looks ahead to the day when this promise is kept: Jesus’ Second Coming. It is reassuring to know this will happen; it can happen any time.
Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.
We’re so entrenched in the “Gentle Shepherd” version of Jesus that we’re troubled by John’s depiction of Jesus. It’s as if we expect the Second Coming to arrive as a gentle tap on the shoulder, followed by an apology for disturbing us. It’s ludicrous that we should expect the sudden appearance of Jesus as conquering king to be meek and mild, accompanied by a gentle swell of violin music.
The end of the universe as we know it will be with a bang, not a whimper. John’s vision of the ultimate triumph of Christ should mobilize us to action, not bore us into a little nap!
This is important because Jesus’ Second Advent will occur without any warning other than what we’ve been given, so preparedness is the issue here. Are you ready? Are you helping others become ready?
Readiness comes after accepting God’s gracious offer of salvation. It is doing the daily work of prayer, study of Scripture, and loving one another. We demonstrate our eagerness for heaven by making earth as much like heaven as we can.
Superman or Son of Man?
Zondervan Bible Commentary, F.F. Bruce