“Jesus called them over and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. It must not be like that among you.’” (Matthew 20:25-26b)
People were never supposed to subdue and rule other people.
All the ungodly nastiness we’ve seen throughout human history up to the present day was never supposed to be. On a micro-to-macro scale (from a person vs. person fight to international wars), people dominating other people was never God’s intent.
Let’s briefly summarize what we’ve covered.
We were created and commissioned by our Divine King to be His viceregents to bring His newly-created earth under control and manage it on His behalf precisely as He would do it. That’s the functional part of being made in God’s image. As we carried out our commission, we were to exercise our “bring under control and manage” duties in line with His will.
As our King’s representatives, we were to be His ideal representations in nature and character. As to His nature, we all share most of our Creator’s traits, but with limitations. We were also to accurately reflect our King’s character as we did our work.
In other words, if humanity had not rebelled, God’s creation would have experienced us as a perfect reflection of Him in our limited humanness. Our God and King made us as much like Him as we could be without being Him.
But we failed. Sad, isn’t it?
Despite that, we remain much of what our Creator made us to be, even though we’re warped by sin. Our commission to reproduce and rule continues. As God is the Creator and Shaper of all things, so we, as His representatives, share those two aspects. We continue to create and shape through raising families and shaping our world through our daily efforts within our King’s earthly domain.
We also have our King’s authority and power to carry out His commission. When He released us to expand Eden’s boundaries, he equipped us with His authority and power to work on His behalf. He also equipped us with free will to make decisions. But since humanity was so inexperienced and immature, our Heavenly Father gave us a simple parameter to follow – “Do it My way” – until we could always be trusted to choose to reproduce and rule His way without fault.
But we failed.
So, our Subdue and Rule Mandate remains, but it’s unrestrained by God’s standard and driven by our desires. Since the Fall, we’ve also turned from subduing and ruling only creation to including other people. This shift is likely because we’re all made of the same stuff as God’s creation, the ground (adamah, Adam) we were told was our domain to bring under control and manage. There’s a reason why we keep jostling other people for control when our lives, our “domains,” intersect.
Because of our rebellion, God separated us from His presence, provision, and protection. Outside of Eden’s boundary, we moved from safety and security to danger and insecurity, creating something we should have never known – fear.
Why fear? Because of our death sentence. Our sin caused our holy God to push us away from Him because unholiness cannot touch holiness. When sin touches God’s glory, there’s always a reaction. The holy must negate the unholy. Since a holy God has infinite power and unholy creation has less or none, then what is unholy will be destroyed, the ultimate “separation” from God.
We know that separation and negation as death. Death is the ultimate and permanent separation from God, the maximum separation from the source of life.
And we fear it.
We also fear anything that could hasten our death. After Eden, nothing was sure anymore. Not our provision nor protection because we were separated from God’s presence. Being physically separated from God did have one positive aspect because unholy people in the presence of a holy God would instantly die.
This reality of death brought fear to the human race.
Since the Fall, all of us have used the God-given authority and power of our dominion drive in the desperate attempt to control everything around us to find safety and security to quell the ever-present fear of death.
But that’s futile because all of our efforts only postpone our inevitable demise at best. No one can prevent their death. It comes to us all.
So our human story has become a constant battle to control everything around us. If we do so according to God’s standard of what’s right, then we subdue and rule. But if we do so against God’s standard of what’s right because we’re rebellious and love to follow our selfish, uncontrolled desires, then we tend to conquer and dominate. Without God, we’re all bent on using our authority and power to create and shape to dominate our environment.
In short, everybody wants to rule the world.
To keep our drive to conquer and dominate in check, we controllers need controls. God’s rebel governors need God’s government to limit and restrain our ungoverned drive to control. Therefore, as God worked to restore humanity to its “original factory setting,” He included an ever-increasing set of laws over successive covenants to restrain and guide us, culminating in the Torah of the Sinai/Moses covenant. God graciously and mercifully did so to help us learn how they were to live in relationship with Him and one another. Without God’s parameters for our behavior, our dominion drive quickly runs wild into a self-directed Conquer and Dominate mode.
But as we’ve seen (and experienced), external laws don’t work. We just don’t have the heart for it nor the spirit that willingly submits to our King. Israel found it difficult to live within the constraints of God’s Law on an individual and national level. What was ultimately needed was a new heart and spirit that wouldn’t buck God’s restraints due to our persistent urge to follow our desires rebelliously.
Something must change inside of us, and that’s what our King’s New Covenant promised. He promised to fix His rebel viceregents from within. God’s New Covenant not only promised to give us the framework and guidelines for the Subdue and Rule Mandate but promised the needed heart/spirit solution to our insane drive to control everything and bring it back into God’s boundaries. Freeing our “hearts of stone to flesh” via the new birth is like releasing a “seized rudder,” allowing the “ship” of our life to be propelled by God’s Spirit and steered by His Law/Torah.
And here’s where we stand at the end of the Hebrew scriptures and on the edge of the Gospels, the Good News about the New Covenant’s launch. Through the New Covenant, we can be essentially remade, reborn, so to speak.
But as with most inventions, a designer first presents a prototype of his design before the final model goes into full production. Every successive model made from the prototype matches the original design, as the manufacturer desires.
What is a “prototype?” According to etymonline.com, the word comes from the Greek protos, “first,” and typos, “impression, mold, pattern.”
The prototype of the re-engineered human race is Jesus. He is the first “impression, mold, pattern” of the recreated humanity that His Father will reproduce on earth.
To be biblically clear, the Father didn’t “create” Jesus as our prototype. Our God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) was so far ahead of the curve that Jesus, our Prototype, existed as God before creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-2, 14).
Jesus is God in human form (Colossians 1:15, 19). To put this truth in the Subdue and Rule Mandate’s terms, our King “took on flesh” to come to His rebel viceregents to show us how we’re supposed to subdue and rule according to His nature, His character, and His will. For that, we need more than just a tutorial. We need a transformation. But first, our Designer presented His Prototype.
Take a moment to consider what “Jesus is our prototype” means. Jesus is the King’s Son, the God-Man, the Supreme Subduer and Ruler to Recreate, Reshape, and Restore His Father’s fallen world. His single act of self-sacrifice set the course for the re-Edenization of the earth, beginning within us. Through Jesus, God’s kingdom starts as a seed within us and will eventually manifest throughout the globe.
Jesus’ life is our perfect pattern of how we should live under our Father’s dominion so we can exercise our God-given dominion properly. Jesus’ teachings give us clear instructions about how to subdue and rule ourselves and the world around us according to our Father’s will. Furthermore, Jesus’ conflicts with Israel’s spiritual leadership give us excellent lessons of the clash between “dominions,” a “whose dominion will prevail” contest. Finally, Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection set the stage for the initial restoration of God’s image in humanity as viceregents and our Subdue and Rule Mandate at Pentecost/Shavuot.
Our restoration could only be accomplished by the Father’s ultimate imager, His quintessential representative, Jesus. “Jesus was the perfect example of imaging God, representing God. Jesus said, ‘If you have seen me, you’ve seen the Father and that’s what we’re supposed to do” (Heiser). Jesus is the perfect image of God in human flesh (Colossians 1:15), and He is the ideal proxy for God on earth as he is God on earth in human form, totally uncorrupted by sin (Hebrews 4:15, 7:26; 1 John 3:5).
In reverse, Jesus is also the perfect person in God’s image. Regarding Adam, humanity’s federal head and God’s original image, Jesus is everything God intended Adam to be and do. Regarding Israel, Jesus is everything God intended His covenant people to be and do. And as God’s perfect imager on earth, Jesus is everything to which His Father wants to restore us, including subduing and ruling His world as initially commissioned. Therefore, since Jesus is God’s perfect image in human form, then Jesus’ life and teachings should clearly show us how the Subdue and Rule Mandate should be lived and exercised according to our Heavenly Father’s intent and never according to human self-will, self-desire, or self-interest.
The Subdue and Rule Mandate and Jesus’ Example: Dedicated to His Father’s Will
Jesus is our model for our Subdue and Rule Mandate to be carried out because of His absolute commitment to obeying His Father’s will. God’s will alone is the core for correctly practicing our God-given dominion.
The Gospels show Jesus’ dedication to obeying His Father’s will. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:39). Following His Father’s will was Jesus’ modus operandi for life as it should be for us. (Prototype, remember?) Because He was human, Jesus could exercise His own will the way He wanted, as we see by His words above, “my own will.” Furthermore, without a free will to make choices apart from His Father’s will, there would have been no wilderness temptation (Matthew 4; Luke 4), for temptation is the lure to satisfy ourselves in violation of God’s will.
As we’ll explore in the next part, like Adam and Eve’s Eden temptation and Israel’s wilderness temptations, Jesus’ wilderness temptation was a test to see if He would submit His will to His Father’s will. But where Adam and Eve and Israel failed, Jesus succeeded.
By setting His Father’s will as the benchmark for His life, Jesus could subdue and rule the world around Him in perfect alignment with His Father’s standard. Jesus affirmed, “I can do nothing on my own. I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30) and “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who lives in me does his works” (John 14:10).
Jesus affirmed His absolute dependence on His Father’s will to live and work. His reliance on His Father’s will established His self-limited ability to function only in agreement with His Father. Jesus’ unity with His Father’s will meant His work accurately represented His Father as if He alone were present and working rather than Jesus. This unity of wills is the epitome of how a viceregent is to serve their King, and Jesus showed precisely how God wanted humanity to subdue and rule His creation as His viceregent.
When Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:34), He declared His utter dependence on His Father. Food is “any nourishing substance eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc.” (Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary). Under this definition, Jesus declared that He regarded His Father’s will as essential for sustaining His life, providing energy to Him, and promoting His growth.
Jesus’ all-encompassing reliance on His Father is the essential meaning of Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” People go to great lengths to satisfy their hunger, even if it harms others in their quest for sustenance. The threat of famine breeds fears and insecurity, whereas abundant food provides peace and security at a baseline level in life.
As mentioned before, God’s decree to Adam, “You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow” (Genesis 3:19), reveals Adam’s state of fear and insecurity rather than the need for increased effort to produce food from a less responsive ground. It shows an “anxiety––perspiration-inducing fear” (Richter). As we’ve seen, this anxiety from the threat of lack is a significant motivator that turns the Subdue and Rule Mandate into the Conquer and Dominate drive to grasp for security to quell our fear.
Jesus’ declaration revealed that he was wholly centered on and guided by His Father’s will, which provided the sustenance, energy, and growth He needed to complete His Father’s work. Since humanity’s dominion drive is the core of our God-assigned work, God’s will is required as the only motivation and sustaining of our human existence.
God created us to be more than the sum of our appetites, and we are to depend on Him with our whole being. Our task to subdue and rule the world was intended to be exercised for more than simple self-gratification or self-preservation. Our dominion drive is to be in service to the King’s will, carried out His way, and for His purposes alone, just as our prototype, Jesus, modeled.
In John 4:34, Jesus connected His Father’s will with His Father’s work. It’s not enough to know God’s will. Obediently working according to His will is essential, especially for the Subdue and Rule Mandate. Even when Jesus faced His most extreme threat, death via horrific torture and crucifixion with the resulting intense fear (“sweat became like drops of blood,” Luke 22:23), Jesus refused to follow His own will.
In the face of extreme anxiety, Jesus surrendered dominion over His own will to His Father, “Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will… Again, a second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done… After leaving them, he went away again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more” (Matt 26:39-44).
Jesus also said, “All things have been entrusted to me by my Father…” (Matt. 11:27a). As the Father’s ultimate proxy, having been tested and found faithful to His Father’s will, Jesus has been entrusted with everything by His Father, an illustration of Jesus’ assertion that “Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much” (Luke 16:10).
By extension, can it also be said, “he who is faithful, to that person much will be given?” Since Jesus was utterly faithful to His Father’s will in His life and work (Hebrews 3:4-6 ), and exercising the Subdue and Rule Mandate was part of His work, it’s no surprise that His Father gave Jesus all dominion on earth.
Jesus not only exercises complete dominion over the earth according to His humanity but even beyond the limitations of our human mandate. We create and shape our world using tools and technologies. But Jesus controlled the weather (Matthew 8:26-27) and caused fig trees to wilt overnight (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21). He supernaturally healed diseases brought on by pathogens running wild in a fallen world (Matthew 8:3). Jesus restored failed bodies (Luke 6:10) and, as His Father’s perfect proxy, life to the dead (John 11:39-44). That’s complete control, absolute subduing, and ruling over His Father’s creation.
Since the perfect exercise of dominion depends upon God’s will, this explains why Jesus, as a human being, could so utterly subdue and rule the world around Him. Jesus could do so at will because His will was His Father’s will. When Jesus says, “I and my Father are one,” he speaks of the Godhead, which includes Their oneness of will. And because Jesus’ will was perfectly aligned with His Father’s will, He was able to exert dominion upon the physical earthly creation and the God-created supernatural world that interfaced and interacted with the physical world. Jesus’ broader scope of dominion shouldn’t be surprising. Initially, there was no barrier between Eden’s physical and supernatural worlds because God and a spiritual being (in the assumed form of a serpent) interacted with Adam and Eve.
As a human being, Jesus subdued and ruled the physical world of His Father’s creation. As God, Jesus subdued and ruled the supernatural world as well. Moreover, as God, Jesus alone has the divine right to subdue and rule people, a prerogative we don’t have by being only human.
Therefore, Jesus stands between the Father and humanity as His Father’s supreme viceregent.
Jesus is the prototype for how His Father will restore humanity, but only for those who are born-again in the New Covenant. Jesus’s teachings and example are our Father’s pattern that we are to copy, like a prototype’s reproductions rolling off the New Covenant re-assembly line. More to the point, Jesus’ teachings and example show us how our Heavenly Father wants us to subdue and rule our world without infringing, encroaching, or usurping another person’s “domain,” their life. Jesus modeled how His Father wants us to work side by side as we bring His world under control and steward it, culminating in the global messianic kingdom when Jesus returns.
It’s interesting to note that the only reference to Jesus’ early years as a twelve-year-old highlight His self-awareness as a person with a non-human Father and His relationship with His mother and foster father (Luke 2:41-51). As per the Torah, Jesus owed obedience to both of His fathers (Deuteronomy 5:16; 11:22). However, Jesus’ declaration after being found in the Temple, “Why were you searching for me... Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) speaks of His Heavenly Father’s supremacy in His life.
Even with the dual loyalty of having two fathers, Jesus revealed His willing submission to both by remaining in His Father’s House, the Temple, for a time and His cooperative return to Nazareth with appropriate obedience (Luke 2:51). This example from Jesus’ childhood gives us a principle that parallels Adam and Eve’s experience at the moment of their dominion assignment (Genesis 1:28);
To properly exercise God’s dominion, one must first be under God’s dominion.
We can also say, That the degree we’re submitted to God’s will, determines the extent of dominion God gives us. In other words, To those whom God trusts, great things can be entrusted to them.
Without submission to God’s dominion, we, as His viceregents, are left without our King’s authority (making our use of it illegitimate) and His power (rendering us powerless), both of which are needed to carry out our Subdue and Rule Mandate.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition
Dr. Michael Heiser, Unseen Realm Conference, Celebration Church, Jacksonville, Florida, January 23, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHNRNoZYKzU
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary
Richter, Sandra L. The Epic of Eden, A Christian Entry into the Old Testament
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts
Check out the Truth Barista Podcast Latest Episode!
Go Cruisin’ through the Bible!