Rev. 14:14 – Then I looked, and there was a white cloud, and One like the Son of Man was seated on the cloud, with a gold crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. (HCSB)
One like the Son of Man
Seated on the cloud is “One like the Son of Man.” He wears a gold crown on His head and wields a sharp sickle in His hand. There is little doubt that this is Jesus, who calls Himself the Son of Man more than 80 times in the Gospels. The name is not exclusive to Jesus in scripture. For example, the Lord calls Ezekiel “son of man” more than 90 times, and the angel Gabriel once refers to Daniel by the same moniker. But there is no doubt that in specific contexts “Son of Man” refers to the second person of the Godhead.
The Son of Man clearly is a divine being in Dan. 7:13, and Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man who will come on the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64) is sufficient testimony to convict Him of blasphemy and condemn Him to death in the eyes of Caiaphas. It’s important for us to understand that in preferring to call Himself “Son of Man” rather than “Son of God,” Jesus is communicating His incarnation. He is neither denying His deity nor exalting His humanity; rather, He is demonstrating that He is one person with two natures: divine and human.
As Ron Rhodes writes, “First of all, even if the phrase ‘Son of Man’ is a reference to Jesus’ humanity, it is not a denial of His deity. By becoming a man, Jesus did not cease being God. The incarnation of Christ did not involve the subtraction of deity, but the addition of humanity. Jesus clearly claimed to be God on many occasions (Matthew 16:16, 17; John 8:58; 10:30). But in addition to being divine, He was also human (see Philippians 2:6-8). He had two natures (divine and human) conjoined in one person” (found at http://christiananswers.net/q-eden/son-of-man.html).
The name “Son of Man” is found almost exclusively in the mouth of Christ in the New Testament. The apostles and other writers avoid the term, with a couple of exceptions. In Acts 7:55 Stephen exclaims, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” And, of course, in Rev. 14:14 John sees “One like the Son of Man” seated on a white cloud.
The early church fathers are of the opinion that Jesus uses the expression “Son of Man” out of humility and to demonstrate His humanity. Others think He adopts the title so as not to offend His enemies until His hour is at hand. Then, associating this lowly title with Dan. 7:13 and tying it to His deity forces the hands of both His accusers and followers to acknowledge Him as Messiah or reject Him as a pretender. At last, this title is “capable of being applied so as to cover His Messianic claims – to include everything that had been foretold of the representative man, the second Adam, the suffering servant of Jehovah, the Messianic king” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Son of Man”).
A crown and a sickle
Now, John sees the exalted Son of Man seated in holiness and prepared to bring judgment. He wears a gold crown on his head. This is a stephanos, or victor’s crown, rather than a diadema, or royal crown. No doubt He is entitled to wear both as the One who has gained victory over sin and death, and as King of kings. But the stephanos is significant here. It is the crown usually granted victors in athletic events, conquerors in military battles, brides and grooms, and honored guests at feasts.
In the New Testament, it also is used to depict the rewards believers may receive for faithful service. We also may note that each of the 24 elders around the throne wears a stephanos (Rev. 4:4, 10), as does the rider on the white horse (Rev. 6:2). The “locusts” in Rev. 9:7 wear “something like gold crowns” on their heads. A stephanos is woven of oak, ivy, parsley, myrtle, olive, or gold leaves that imitate these plants, and of flowers such as violets or roses.
So while there are many ways in which a stephanos signifies honor and authority, it appears the Son of Man in this passage wears the victor’s crown because He has defeated the evil one. He has conquered sin and death, opened the portals of heaven to all who receive Him by faith, and as Sower of the good seed is ready to reap a bountiful harvest of faithful believers.
Along with the crown, the Son of Man wields a sharp sickle. John uses the word “sickle” seven times in Revelation 14, and it is found nowhere else in the New Testament except Mark 4:29, where Jesus uses the word to signify final judgment in the parable of the growing seed. A sharp, curved implement with a wooden handle, the sickle of biblical times is primitive, effective, and not too different from a sickle used today. Its crescent-shaped blade is made for both cutting and gathering, an apt picture of judgment we see throughout scripture. More on this judgment later.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that some commentators believe the one wearing the victor’s crown is an angel or another heavenly being, not Jesus. The phrase “One like the Son of Man” may also be translated “one like a son of man.” Further, it is argued, the Lord Jesus would hardly need an angel to instruct Him to begin the earthly harvest.
Certainly, it’s possible that this is a powerful being through whom the Lord of the harvest works. However, it’s equally sensible to see the angel coming out of the temple in heaven as a messenger from the Father confirming that the time of harvest is now here. Remember that Jesus tells His disciples He does not know the day or the hour of His coming. Just as the bridegroom’s father sends word to his son that he should retrieve his bride, the Father in Rev. 14:14 may be sending an angel to inform His Son that the day for the marriage supper of the Lamb is finally here.
Whether the “One like the Son of Man” is Jesus or an angel, it’s important to keep in mind that angels are associated with Jesus in judgment. For example, when Jesus explains to His followers the parable of the wheat and the weeds, He says, “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:61-61).
Next: The earth was harvested – Revelation 14:15-16