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The Subdue and Rule Mandate, Jesus’ Teachings – The Kingdom and Torah Foundation

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

Why does our Subdue and Rule Mandate frequently compost into the drive to Conquer and Dominate everything, especially other people? Because humanity bought into Satan’s lie, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:4). In our King/viceregent terms, the King’s trusted servants staged a coup and declared ourselves kings over our domain. As presumptive kings, we grant ourselves the right to control everything around us and anyone who “enters our kingdom/domain.”

Salvation isn’t just about our Heavenly King granting us amnesty after Jesus took our penalty for treason. That’s the starting point of the Father’s salvation plan. Peter puts it best. “Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through his holy prophets from the beginning” (Acts 3:21, italics author).

The time of the restoration of all things. What might those things be? All things. Everything that God created. The endpoint of the Father’s salvation plan is not us becoming a bunch of lazy spiritual beings lounging about on clouds, strumming away on harps.

Our Father, our King, will restore His fallen earth, the world we messed up through sin, rebellion, and irresponsibility, back to the “very good” condition when He finished it and rested (Genesis 1:31-2:1).

From the moment of creation’s completion, it was up to His viceregents to bring the untamed world under their King’s control and keep it orderly according to His will. “One world, under the King, with His will for all,” to borrow from our Pledge of Allegiance.

The starting point of salvation is to restore our allegiance to our King. Once He has our allegiance, we must relearn what it means to live as the subjects and viceregents were called to be. The foundation the Lord wants to establish in us is His kingdom and will. With those two crucial aspects firmly ensconced within us, we can use our dominion drive to properly subdue and rule the part of God’s kingdom for which we’re responsible.

That’s why Jesus was not only His Father’s prototype and our model of the King’s perfect viceregent. He gave us life-changing teachings to help us live our King’s way, not the fallen world’s way.

Jesus and the Primacy of his Father’s Kingdom

Jesus’ first step was to establish the priority of His Father’s kingdom, which He did through His preaching and teaching. This step gets to the heart of our problem with subduing and ruling. Whose kingdom takes priority? The only one that matters – God’s. This may surprise you, but we don’t have a kingdom and never did. We’re not kings (or queens) and never were. There is only one kingdom in the universal creation, and it belongs to the One King. Therefore, when we come to the Father through Jesus, we take off our pretend paper crown, bend the knee before our Sovereign, and swear everlasting allegiance to Him as it should be.

But we often struggle with fulfilling our commitment. Much of that comes from our lifelong habits of ignoring the King and doing things the way we want. Sure, as born-again people, we’re free from our bondage to sin and human desires. We even have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide and motivate us. But we’re not dead people animated by the Holy Spirit. God’s relationship was always meant to be a cooperative venture between the Holy Spirit and us. Therefore, when we rejoin the King’s kingdom, we must actively “follow the leader.”

The sad part is that some Christians think they only have to give mental agreement to God’s offer or pray a simple prayer, and they’re home free. Not so. Jesus was quite clear in a somewhat terrifying way. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

As much as I’ve tried to twist that theologically, it won’t bend. The only people in the Father’s kingdom are those who do His will. Doing our Father’s will proves we’re His subjects. If you call God your King but don’t do His will, you’re either not in His kingdom or run the severe risk of being thrown out (depending on your Calvinist or Arminian view of salvation). Either way, the Father’s kingdom, and His will are inextricably intertwined. God’s kingdom is where His will is done. No will, no kingdom. Those are Jesus’ words.

Jesus’ teachings continually affirmed the supremacy of his Father’s kingdom, and understanding this is the absolute starting point. Establishing the preeminence of God’s kingdom is crucial for knowing how to properly subdue and rule since our dominion drive is an extension of God’s rule, which began as a royal command from our divine King (Genesis 1:28). Without the King and His kingdom, there is no dominion mandate. Knowing the King and His commands is the first step toward exercising dominion as the King does. And for our Subdue and Rule Mandate to be correctly used, it must be kept within the boundaries of the King’s will.

It’s no accident that Jesus’ first words, as recorded by Matthew and Mark, call for repentance “because the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15). Why are repentance and the Father’s kingdom connected? It’s Jesus’ call for us to deny ourselves – our self-will and self-determined ways – and turn back to His Father to embrace Him and His ways as the sole guidelines for our lives. To properly employ God’s Subdue and Rule Mandate, we must deny the impulse to exercise dominion to satisfy ourselves and achieve our goals instead of God’s desires and goals. We must put the King and His kingdom first, just as Jesus did.

Jesus is not only His Father’s exemplary viceregent but also His Father’s delegated chief rabbi (John 17:8). As a rabbi, Jesus’ goal was to teach and train His followers to imitate Him in character, word, and deed. Jesus expected His disciples to not only receive His kingdom teachings but to live them and exercise the same kingdom power their rabbi did (Matthew 10:1). Disciples are supposed to reflect their rabbis accurately (Matthew 10:24-25), and Jesus’ followers are supposed to copy Him as we are being conformed to His image (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Since Jesus upheld the primacy of His Father’s kingdom as a prerequisite to exercising proper dominion, so should we as His disciples.

Once we establish the Father’s kingdom as the only kingdom in our lives, how do we learn (or relearn, actually) how to be His subjects, and more specifically, be our King’s trusted viceregents who refuse to usurp His rule over our fellow subjects/viceregents? We must turn to our King’s Law of the land (His Torah) because the King’s Law expresses the King’s will.

Jesus and the Primacy of his Father’s Torah

Jesus’ teachings instruct us how to subdue and rule as intended because His teachings are perfectly aligned with the King’s Law which gives us specific guidelines and principles within which our dominion mandate rightly functions.

What is the Torah? The Hebrew word Torah means “instruction.” It’s related to two Hebrew words, yara, “to cast, to throw, to shoot (e.g., an arrow),” and moreh, “teacher.” While God’s Torah has a judicial law side, its primary purpose is to teach us how to live and shoot us toward the bullseye of God’s standard.

God’s first “Torah” was the “Do it My way” command having to do with the Tree Prohibition. After the Fall, Noah received the same commands as Adam and Eve, with some expansions to address new situations about eating meat and handling blood properly (Genesis 9:3-6). Centuries later, at Mount Sinai, the Israelites received the same Torah (“Do it My way”) with 613 commands to tell them precisely how they should “do it God’s way,” more specifically as a nation and individuals.

Do you see what happened? Because of our fallen nature and disconnect from our King and His standards, we’re still accountable to “Do it My way,” but we need help applying that single command to the specific situations in life around us. That’s why God kept increasing the details.

My point is the Torah is our foundation for how we’re to exercise our Subdue and Rule Mandate, with God giving us the details and practical applications through Jesus’ teachings on the subject (which we will get to, I promise).

At this point, I realize I might be losing some of you because you’ve never studied or even read much of the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Or if you attempted, the minute you moved from the stories to the commands, your eyes glazed over because you probably saw little that applied to a modern-day 21st-century Western Gentile Christian. I get it.

But that doesn’t give you a pass. As the proverb goes, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” God’s law stands until He has restored all things (Matthew 5:18), and until then, all people are accountable to it, whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 3:19-20). So, rather than claim ignorance or lack of understanding to excuse ourselves from our unavoidable responsibility before God, we should ask Him to help us read, understand, and practice His Torah the way Jesus did.

Some of our King’s commands and instructions are easily understood and applied, and others are tougher because they’re soaked in ancient Israelite culture. Not to fear. There are excellent resources out there to help you learn the cultural background of the Bible.

Or you may ask, “How can I keep the King’s laws that pertain to the priesthood since I’m not a priest or the laws that apply to the ancient Israelite government since I live under a different political system?” No worries. I’ve learned from years of study that the King’s laws have profound principles underlying the specific commands. When rightly ferreted out under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, those principles can be applied to myriad situations the Torah never directly addresses. That’s the joy of ongoing Bible study. You never run out of material to put into practice.

And just because we’re unable to follow a particular command because “I’m not a Levite” or “I don’t live in the land of Israel,” that doesn’t negate those laws because all of God’s Torah is part of His Scripture and “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:6-17, italics author) of which exercising dominion God’s way is one such good work.

Many have long argued that Jesus’ salvation work “fulfilled” the Torah, meaning it was annulled and no longer in effect. I don’t believe that’s the case for the following reasons:

First, God promised to place His commands in us (internalizing the Torah) under the New Covenant. This means that knowing and following His ways will become more natural after we’re saved because the Father’s ways will become part of us via the Holy Spirit living in us. Best of all, we will want to do so even if we struggle as we learn to obey. The struggle is why we need Jesus’ ongoing forgiveness and cleansing when we inevitably fail. Not only does God gives us everything we need for life and godliness, but He also covers our shortcomings to get us back on our feet and moving forward. It’s a win-win!

Second, when Jesus declared, “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17), He did not mean He was doing away with the Torah as some would understand “fulfill” to mean. Again, “abolish” and “fulfill” are rabbinic idioms describing how one does or does not correctly interpret and apply the Torah.

“‘Destroy’ [abolish] and ‘fulfill’ are technical terms of rabbinic argumentation. When a sage felt that a colleague had misinterpreted a passage of Scripture, he would say, “You are destroying the Law!” In many cases, his colleague might strongly disagree. What was “destroying the law” for one sage, was often “fulfilling the Law” (correctly interpreting Scripture) for another.” (Bivin and Blizzard).

Dr. Brad Young writes, “When one misunderstands the proper meaning of Torah, one may not obey the Lord’s will and therefore cancel the law. Hence a person may abolish Torah by misunderstanding the divine revelation. On the other hand, when one understands the proper meaning, one is able to obey God’s will and therefore fulfill Torah.” Therefore, Jesus’ purpose was not to do away with the Torah but to give his disciples its most accurate meaning so it could be obeyed as God intended.

Third, Jesus affirmed the Torah’s continuity, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). Jesus’ reference to heaven and earth is no accident.

As before, every covenant has witnesses for verification and enforcement. Although ancient pagan nations called upon their god to enforce each side’s pledge of allegiance, “clearly it was inappropriate for other deities to be included in the biblical covenants (cf. Deut. 4:35), but not for certain elements of the world to be referred to as witnesses to divine statements (Deuteronomy 32:1; Isa. 1:2; Micah 6:1-2)” (

In the case of the Older Covenant, heaven and earth are the covenant witnesses (Deuteronomy 30:19). As long as the covenant is in force, the witnesses are needed. For Jesus to say that even the Torah’s smallest letter and tiniest ornamentation will remain until heaven and earth pass away is His massive affirmation that the Torah is still in effect. Based on what? Because heaven and earth still exist!

However, there is coming a time when heaven and earth will pass away, on the Lord’s Day (2 Peter 3:10), also known as the Final Judgment (Revelation 20:11). Heaven and earth’s passing will coincide with the destruction of death and hell. At that time, the possibility of covenant violations (sin) will no longer exist because all the existing people will either be in God’s kingdom on earth as the regenerated and restored humanity under the New Covenant or unregenerated and separated from God in the Lake of Fire.

Why do heaven and earth pass away at the end? Once all creation has been restored, and sinning is no longer a possibility, a relationship-preserving covenant isn’t needed, and therefore, the witnesses may be dismissed. On this side of that Day, however, since the probability of covenant betrayal remains even under the New Covenant, the witnesses attached to the Older Covenant (heaven and earth) continue to the New Covenant. Jesus’ reference to them shows the Torah remains God’s covenant terms even under the New Covenant.

My fourth reason why Jesus didn’t annul the Torah is based on His words, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).

To be clear, Torah observance is not and never has been the prerequisite for salvation. Salvation has always been through trusting God, i.e., “faith” (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3). The Torah’s covenant commands are God’s instructions for walking out the righteousness that’s already been credited to us by trusting God. Jesus affirmed this when he said, “will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” or “called great in the kingdom of heaven.” It is not if one practices or teaches the commands that determine kingdom membership. Jesus affirms that the Torah’s breaker and keeper are in the Father’s kingdom. Keeping the King’s Law is our self-affirmation that we’re already His subjects and full members of His kingdom. In this case, Jesus points out how keeping or breaking God’s Torah apparently affects a person’s standing in the Father’s kingdom.

So, did Jesus do away with the Torah? No. He gave it his “stamp of approval” (Berkowitz). But some claim Jesus replaced all the commandments of the Torah with the single command to love one another. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). This is a misreading that doesn’t line up with the rest of Jesus’ Torah affirmations.

Jesus gave his disciples a “new” command, an expansion of the “old” command. The Greek word for “new” is kainos, which indicates refreshing as new something that already existed, not a new thing never existed. In Leviticus 19:18, God’s people are commanded to “love your neighbor as yourself.” What Jesus does in John 13:34 is take the “old” command and update it to explain how the disciples are to love each other – not as they would love themselves, but as Jesus would love them, thus raising the bar. Jesus gave His disciples this Torah-based command not as a replacement for the Torah but as an expansion to a specific Torah command within the New Covenant.

So, here are my challenges to the claim that Jesus nullified the Torah under the New Covenant:

· Since God promised to internalize the Torah under the New Covenant, why would Jesus, whose work initiates and activates the New Covenant, declare the Torah null and void under the New Covenant?

· If Jesus did away with the Torah, what other “Torah” is there that God promised to write on a New Covenant believer’s heart? And if the New Covenant truly is a covenant, what are the New Covenant “terms” that replaced the Torah, for every covenant requires terms for the covenant to be valid? Some say it is the totality of commands Jesus gave His disciples. And yet, many of those “new” commands are just the “old” commands drawn from the Torah.

· If the Holy Spirit’s foundational purpose is to create a new heart and spirit so we can follow God’s commands, why bother with the process if the Torah was to be made null and void?

· Suppose the Torah has been discarded after Jesus’ death and resurrection. In that case, Jeremiah 31:33 should read, “I will put My nullified law in their minds, and write it on their hearts,” and Ezekiel 36:27 should read, “I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my repealed statutes and carefully observe my rescinded ordinances.”

· Finally, why would Jesus speak against the Pharisees nullifying His Father’s commands (Mark 7:13) if His goal was to nullify His Father’s commands?

The New Covenant’s terms are the same terms from the Older Covenant outlined in a renewed covenant, an upgraded and improved Older Covenant.

Understanding that Jesus unequivocally endorsed the Torah as God’s guideline for life is very significant to the Subdue and Rule Mandate. Since the original dominion mandate was to be carried out according to God’s will alone (His creation covenant terms), it must still be exercised according to God’s will, as revealed in the Torah. The Torah that Jesus taught includes commands and explanations which show how a person is to 1) subdue and rule their self (heart, will) first, and 2) subdue and rule their world side by side with other people without infringing, encroaching upon, or usurping another’s “domain.”

In the next part, we’ll look at Jesus’ teachings that address the heart and will issue as they stand between the Torah and Jesus’ subdue and rule teachings.


Berkowitz, Ariel and D’vorah. Torah Rediscovered, Challenging Centuries of Misinterpretation and Neglect

Bivin, David, and Roy Blizzard, Jr. Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, New Insights From a Hebraic Perspective

Pastor Jay Christianson

The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts

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