Man's Lost Dominion
The story of mankind is, in a sense, the story of two men and their families.
The first man, Adam, is the forefather of us all. Each of us carries a copy of the gigabyte genetic code programmed into Adam when God brought him into existence. All the variety and diversity we see among the peoples of our planet have been passed down to us from this one man. There is only one "human race."
It has been estimated that the total number of Adam's offspring to date may be as high as 100 billion persons. (1)
Adam/Eve (the first man) was created along with the higher animals on the very-busy Day Six of creation week:
Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind"; and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." And God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. "Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food"; and it was so.
Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. (Genesis 1:24-2:1a)
No further new creative work by God took place after sunset on that first Friday. The creation was complete and the story of our race could now unfold.
Clear from this passage is that man was placed on the earth, surrounded by a suitable eco-system and all kinds of other living creatures. (The birds and fish had been created on the previous day). Man was to have dominion, over our planet at the very least. He was to be a wise and benevolent steward, a resources manager, a caretaker. This required Adam to be tremendously well-informed about everything. In the next chapter of Genesis we see that Adam's first major assigned task was to study and then name all the animals. To get him started, God planted a cultivated, exotic garden as his home. From the garden, Adam and his wife could explore the whole planet discovering, utilizing and managing the vast resources there. The original earth outside the garden was evidently unkempt, uncultivated and wild, hence the charge to Adam to subdue it. (The Hebrew word kabash means to bring into subjection by force.)
Today, many erroneously assume that we know more than Adam did, but the contrary is the case. Adam was taught by God, He lived nearly a thousand years. Now we are lucky to live 70 or 80 years. Our copies of Adam's genome are now full of errors and garbage. (2)
Obviously something terrible has happened to our race—we no longer appear to have control over our planet, or our lives. It would appear that we are systemically destroying the environment, and ourselves. The story of mankind is one of deterioration and decay (ever increasing entropy). We have gone downhill a vast distance from where our father Adam lived before the Fall.
Although the animals are our companions on the earth, a great gulf exists between man and the animals. Men have a whole level of spiritual and intellectual life the animals do not have—enabling man to govern God's creation on the Creator's behalf. Indeed this was the main task God assigned to Adam—the exercise of dominion. (3)
The account in Genesis 1 clearly shows God's involvement in every detail of the work of creation. When the work of creation was finished, God remained involved in every detail of the daily management of the creation, working in partnership with Adam.
If Chapter Three of Genesis had been lost to us, and was not found in our Bibles, we would be at a grave loss in understanding what has gone wrong with Adam's race.
It turns out that God made man very much like Himself, and designed us for relationships. Relationships are possible when there are two or more persons free to choose to relate to one another. If relationships are about love—and God is love--each party must have capacity to refuse the offer of a relationship from another. To be worthwhile, every healthy relationship must have lots of give and take and be meaningful, invigorating, creative and unique—not dull, boring, controlling or manipulative. The ability to freely choose depends on the existence of more than one viable option or choice in the world. In fact, to this day, we are all free to reject God, or to give Him permission to be part of our lives. God has built that option to choose into the core nature of man.
Adam and Eve at first lived in close harmony with their Creator, (and of course with each other), until a fallen angel seductively wedged himself in between Eve and God (and then between Adam and God). The effect of this destructive influence was that our first parents chose to act in independence of God. Their path was the delusionary path of "self-realization." In effect, they chose to act as their own gods.
The result was that their relationships with God were severed. (The relationship between Adam and Eve was severely damaged as well). The Bible calls the path of living apart from God "the path which leads to destruction. A short verse which helped me as I was coming to know the Lord 45 years ago is Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord."
God alone has life, and cut off from the Source of all life, and love, and truth sets us on a path leading to emptiness, loss of purpose, loss of spiritual power and truth—not extinction, but a total shriveling up of what we ought to have been.
Even worse, this choice of our first parents to live in independence of the Creator made it possible for a false god to take over and occupy the vacated throne room of the human heart.
The Usurper is that fallen angel Satan. He now occupies the throne within Adam's children, the control room of the spirit, where God ought to be dwelling. The devil or Satan, is described in the New Testament as "the prince of the power of the air," and "the god of this world." In effect, Adam abdicated the original dominion God gave him, and Satan moved in.
A common question asked by many inquirers today is, "Why did God create a world with so much evil, violence, suffering and death?" Or they make the statement, "I can't believe that a loving God would allow all this suffering and injustice." The Biblical answer is that the original creation has been ruined and man has fallen from his original place of power and dominion where they lived in fellowship with God. Had our first parents not freely chosen to live apart from God, we could all still be living in Paradise. The message of the Bible is about restored dominion for us.
But even in man's estrangement from God, there is in each of us a striving to be what God designed us to be. We still try to manage our lives, exploit the resources of the planet, and struggle with our relationships with one another, even though we constantly fail in all these areas. Estranged from God, we lack the wisdom and the wisdom, to make good choices and to exercise authority effectively.
One can see what has changed since the Fall in regards to man's loss of dominion by looking at the oldest book in the Bible, the Book of Job. When the book opens, Job is seen to be a wealthy, godly patriarch residing in the Middle East. A series of horrific disasters befalls him. He is powerless to stop them. A long struggle within Job unfolds in which God finally reveals why Job's trials were permitted by a loving God.
The reader of the Book of Job is allowed behind the scenes to see what Job does not know about ensuing events which God is bringing to pass in his life.
In a conference between God and the angels (who serve God in the overall government of creation), Satan is seen to play a big role in bringing about Job's sufferings. It is actually God who is moving Satan against Job for Job's greater good, though this is not clear until the end of the book. Satan's powers (when he given permission to exercise them) are violent and destructive. However, what Satan does is always by God's permission and there are always limitations placed upon him. If not he would destroy us all.
By the way, at the beginning of the book of Job there are three main characters: God, Satan, and Job. At the end of the book, only God and Job are to be seen.
The Bible describes the present world system (kosmos)—the prevailing world-order--as a fallen system built and managed by the fallen angel Satan. Should we suffer any delusions about our present helpless, powerless condition as sinners, living in a fallen world-order, under the dominion of this fallen angel, the Bible vividly describes what happens when a son or daughter of fallen Adam chooses to move over into the family of the Second Man, Jesus of Nazareth.
"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:1-10)
How much freedom do the natural-born sons and daughters of the first Adam now possess? Not much! In our natural-born state we are all "dead in sin," unresponsive towards God, and headed by our very nature towards even further estrangement from God and real life. Millennia of research have not altered the mortality rate of Adam's children. It remains a flat 100%. All efforts to improve the core state of man, apart from God, continue to fail.
Here is where the Second Man comes in to rescue us from ourselves. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews takes note of the fact that we do not today see man exercising his role as master steward of the creation (4):
For He [God] has not put the world to come [i.e. the age to come which will follow the age we now live in], of which we speak, in subjection to angels, [implying that the age we live in now is under angelic management].
But one testified in a certain place, saying: "What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him [man] a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his [man's] feet." For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him.
But now we do not yet see all things put under him [man].
But [instead] we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies [makes whole] and those who are being sanctified [us] are all of one [new family], for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You." And again: "I will put My trust in Him." And again: "Here am I and the children whom God has given Me."
Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. [i.e., salvation is not offered to the angels].Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted." (Hebrews 2:5-18) (5)
Here is wonderfully good news! The Son of God became a man and entered our world to fix everything, and to restore our lost humanity, and our lost dominion. The Apostle Paul contrasts the two Adams in the Epistle to the Romans,
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:12-21)
A favorite passage of mine is found in Colossians. The writer sums up the role of the Son of God in the creation, and in the coming grand restoration of all things by Jesus:
He [Jesus] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (are held together and sustained). And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—" (Colossians 1:13-22)
Another similar scripture opens the letter to the Hebrews:
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."
What about the present state-of-the world? The present world population is over 6.8 billion – and climbing. What fraction of mankind has accepted God's gracious offer of a restored (brand-new) relationship with Him? Superficial profession of faith doesn't count, what matters is a real spiritual inner connection in each person—allowing the resurrection life of Jesus to permeate us and prepare us for the age which is to come. Clearly the real followers of Jesus around the world remain a minority.
However, as we see in the case of Job, God has never stopped ruling over the entire creation and managing it in every detail. We are not helpless pawns in the hands of the devil even in our rebellion, God is in sovereign control of everything that happens.
Fallen angels may now be involved in the affairs of men but these angels are still the agents of God and must do His bidding. God rules over the universe but at this time He does not REIGN on earth. That situation is soon to change. The most oft-prayed prayer in Christendom for the past 2000 years is about to be answered. (5, 6)
In C.S. Lewis' science fiction Trilogy, earth is depicted as "the dark planet" ruled over by a "bent angel." The place where evil is ultimately dealt with, dethroned and eradicated, is on our planet not somewhere else in outer space.
Another factor in God's current management of earth through angelic intermediaries is "common grace." What common grace means is that God floods our entire world moment by moment with mercy and love and aid to everyone. God greatly restrains evil making daily life for everyone viable. Even very evil dictators and criminals eat, sleep, make love and live out their lives in relative comfort and ease—because of common grace. (7)
There is One Man who is now running the whole show. One man, the head of a whole new race, is now exercising perfect dominion over everything. Further, this man Christ Jesus is already sharing the power of His dawning kingdom with those who are in His family.
The teaching of the New Testament is that now, at this very moment, there is a Man in heaven appearing in the presence of God for us. He is as certainly a man as was Adam or Moses or Paul; he is a man glorified, but his glorification did not de-humanize him. Today he is a real man, of the race of mankind, bearing our lineaments and dimensions, a visible and audible man, whom any other man would recognize instantly as one of us. But more than this, he is the heir of all things, Lord of all lords, head of the church, firstborn of the new creation. He is the way to God, the life of the believer, the hope of Israel, and the high priest of every true worshiper. He holds the keys of death and hell, and stands as advocate and surety for everyone who believes on him in truth. Salvation comes not by accepting the finished work, or deciding for Christ; it comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as his own and paid it, took our sins and died under them, and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ; nothing less will do. (from the pen of A. W. Tozer)
The majority of people in the world will continue to refuse the grace and mercy of God to the very end. That is their choice. Our fall into self-centeredness was deep and total, and many are not willing to be helped by God. No matter, God's program is on track in the midst of the growing chaos of our age.
Jesus has been elevated to the highest throne of heaven. His work of fixing things was, in effect finished at the Cross. We are all simply waiting for the Father and the Spirit to bring all things under His full dominion.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11)
We who follow Jesus as Lord are not only part of a whole new family, a whole new creation, we are inseparably joined to Christ, and we are destined to share that new creation with Him.
Our message to the world is a plea: give Jesus permission to bring you into His family and to include you in His grand plans for an everlasting future. Jesus has fully paid the entire price which makes are total restoration possible. He does not desire our self-efforts and our self-energized good deeds. He wants to reoccupy the throne of our hearts just as today He is seated on the High throne of heaven. After that, when we freely choose Jesus Christ as Lord, He does the rest.
"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no-one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:14-21)
3. Ray Stedman's commentary on Genesis One is most helpful,
"Notice also in this account that man stands as the link between God and creation. He is a mediator. The Lord Jesus Christ, when he appeared as the second Adam, the perfect man, is also said to be a mediator, but between God and man. Here the man, Adam, is created as the mediator between God and all animal life. He is made in the image of God, which links him with God. In Psalm 8, David cries, "... thou hast made him little less than God," (8:5a). That is an accurate translation. The King James Version says, "a little lower than the angels," but the word is literally Elohim, the same word that is used here in this passage for God. Man is also said to be the governor of the created world, to have dominion over the fish and birds, over the cattle, and even over the creeping things upon the earth.
At this point we must deal briefly with man's relationship to the animal world. Here we must part company entirely with the theory of evolution. Mr. Darwin said that man is the end product of animal life, that he is the highest of the animals, is linked to them and descended or evolved through interminable ages, from animal life. The impression received from his ideas is that man is not really very far removed from the animals, that there are close links which tie man to the highest of the animal life, especially the apes, who are most like us in the animal creation.
Ever since Darwin every monkey in the zoo has been asking himself, "Am I my keeper's brother?" That accounts, of course, for the discouraged look on their faces.
If you take a walk through a museum of natural history you will see dioramas that picture the descent of man. In these you will see ungainly creatures with huge slumping shoulders, a slouching gait, protruding jaws and heavy eyebrows, who are said to be the links between the apes and man. Anyone visiting such a museum is almost driven to the conclusion that this is all very well substantiated, that science has established the fact that man does come from the animal world.
But the actual truth is that there is no evidence whatsoever that links man to the animals -- none whatsoever. Actually, the gap between man and the highest of the apes (and scientists themselves admit this) is at least as great as the gap between the ape and the amoebae. There is no close connection whatsoever. Science is at a total loss to account for the sudden appearance of true man, with his amazing faculties not found in the animal creation. Through the decades since Darwin, scientists have been looking for the links that would establish a connection, but these links do not exist in fact -- only in imagination and plaster of Paris...
Jesus Christ was also an immortal being. He did not need to die, and he did not die by any effort of man. He said, "I have power to lay down my life and l have power to take it again," (John 10:17-18). He did not die because of the effects of crucifixion -- he died because, on the cross, he dismissed his spirit by an executive act of his own will. He laid down his life in that way.
The first Adam was also an immortal being. His body did not need to die. But if his soul had been placed in a mortal body, then the second Adam is not like us. According to the Scripture, the second Adam came to become man as man was made in the beginning, entirely like us. He became one with us. The writer of Hebrews says,
...he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, (Hebrews 2:17a)
Thus the Bible denies that men evolved, as some scientists would tell us, that he was created directly by the hand of God. We will say more on this as we come to other studies, but I want to point this out here: Man is now being redeemed by the grace of God, and to be redeemed means that he has fallen from what he once was.
Redemption is a process of restoring him to what he once was. We know from the Scriptures that when the redemptive act of God is complete man will stand before God, body, soul, and spirit, all made in the power of an endless life. Thus this record strongly suggests that the body of Adam did not come from the animal world.
That brings me to the final point here in Verse 26, which is the purpose for which man was made. He was given dominion over all of the created universe. He was made to govern and to master the world in which he was placed. Even though man has fallen he has never forgotten that command, and this accounts for his unending persistence in trying to master the forces of earth, to climb the highest mountain and explore the deepest sea and to utilize the animal creation for his own purposes. But also, the effect of the fall is seen in the amazing fact that the man who was placed in this world to govern it is now on the verge of destroying everything.
If evolution be true, and man is, as the evolutionists tell us, the highest achievement of evolution, then what kind of progress is it where man, who represents the zenith of evolutionary achievement, is found to be crueler than any animal could be and whose obdurate madness is threatening to bring the whole thing down in total collapse, destroying all animal life as well as himself? Yet, despite the fact that man has lost his ability to master, the desire to do so still remains as a kind of racial memory within us. And that desire in itself is a picture, on the physical level, of what redeemed man is called to be on the spiritual level. Here we come to the great purpose of this passage. It is not here to teach us what our instincts already have informed us, that we are made to govern. It is here to illustrate to us that when we become redeemed we are called to reign in life, to master life...--Born to Reign, by Ray C. Stedman, http://raystedman.org/genesis/0307.html
Highly recommended: Tim Keller, The Kingdom of God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Dutton, 2008.
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April 27, 2008