“You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground…” (Genesis 3:19)
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Dune is a remarkable science fiction book. Its intensely messianic theme woven into science fiction fabric makes it a work of art. Considering our topic of the Subdue and Rule Mandate, Dune is apropos as a display of humanity’s exploitation of dominion taken to extremes. Powerful families (House Atreides, House Harkonen, Emperor Shaddam IV of House Corrino) vie for control over the planet Arrakis because of the “spice” that can be harvested. Spice is crucial because it allows those mutated by it (the Spacing Guild) to bend space, making instantaneous space travel possible. As Baron Vladimir Harkonen says in the first movie (not the book), “He who controls the spice, controls the universe.” Why? Because without it, space life as they know it would end.
Therefore, when Paul Atreides becomes a threat to spice production as the indigenous people’s (the Fremen) messiah, great fear sweeps over the empire, and horrendous plans are concocted to maintain the status quo. “This is genocide, the deliberate and systematic destruction of all life on Arrakis!” (Emperor Shaddam IV).
Imagine that! Someone willing to take extreme measures due to the fear of loss, in this case, spice production, resulting in the empire’s collapse and universe-wide chaos.
On the other hand, our hero, Paul Atreides, makes fear a foe to be conquered and controlled. “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.” (Dune)
When faced with the rising tide of World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke the truth, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Why?
“Fear is the mind-killer.” Fear compels us to think irrationally, putting emotions in the driver’s seat.
Fear drives us to doubt God.
And fear is a terrible and effective motivator.
What is fear? Fear: “A very unpleasant or disturbing feeling caused by the presence or imminence of danger” (American Heritage Dictionary). For you etymology geeks (and you know who you are): “fear (n.), Middle English fere, from Old English fær “calamity, sudden danger, peril, sudden attack,” from Proto-Germanic *feraz “danger” (etymonline.com).
Given the above definition, fear can be about actual (presence) or imagined (imminent) threats. Reasonable fear is based on reality, and unreasonable fear is based on a false perception, as in “False Evidence Appearing Real.”
Fear is an effective motivator because it keeps us from doing things that could bring ugly consequences, like touching a hot stove for fear of getting burned. Or not being promiscuous for fear of contracting an incurable, and perhaps fatal, sexually transmitted disease.
The best fear to have to keep us out of trouble is the fear of the Lord. On a positive note, fearing God keeps us in a good place, mentally and emotionally. “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge” (Proverbs 14:6 NKJV).
Fear can also be a terrible motivator: “I’m not ready to give my life to Jesus because I’m afraid of how He will change my life, spoil my fun, or send me to Outer Mongolia as a missionary.”
Seriously, most of our fears come down to “How will it affect me?” Me. Me. Me.
That’s what Adam and Eve faced after acting on their own, violating God’s command, and getting busted for doing so. When questioned about why he hid from God, Adam replied, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10).
That’s the first time fear appears in the Bible and human history.
What did Adam and Eve do for fear that their crime was exposed, leaving them vulnerable to God? They used their subdue and rule authority and drive to construct a covering for themselves, something they thought would give them a sense of security because of the threat of imminent danger – God’s judgment.
In Eden, nothing threatened the two of them. But before their Judge, they found themselves standing on the threshold of a world filled with the threat of danger. After Eden, Eve feared the promised pain of childbirth, and Adam feared the resistant ground and unwanted noxious weeds threatening their subsistence.
Most of all, they feared a great mystery- physical death- something that would remain unknown until it happened.
Adam and Eve lost their place in a homestead controlled completely by God. Since God had total control, they had nothing to fear. They could direct their efforts to bring the “outside” world under God’s authority and manage it for Him. But that changed. Now they had the fearful added burden of doing the same work without God’s controlling hand. They were on their own and knew things “out there” could not easily be controlled, if at all.
What pushes people to extremes to control their world because of the threat of actual or imagined danger to themselves? Fear.
What causes some people to turn into absolute control freaks? Fear.
What causes some people to exploit others or submit to exploitation within human hierarchies? Fear.
Because it’s all about embracing safety and security, two things God gave us entirely “in the beginning” and the two things that were taken from us when we were sent from God’s presence. Without safety and security, we live under the Fear Factor.
So, let’s explore how the Fear Factor puts our dominion drive on steroids. Then let’s see how it weaponizes our Subdue and Rule Mandate for exploitation and susceptibility to being exploited. And finally, let’s look at how Satan uses our dominion drive for his ends.
Consequence: Subdue and rule provoked by the Fear Factor
Back in Eden, Adam and Eve had all they needed for a comfortable and carefree life, freely given to them by their Sovereign King. But when they sinned, they lost everything in exchange for one thing – fear. But this was just the beginning. The losses Adam and Eve experienced ramped-up humanity’s dominion drive to a whole new level because it was now fueled by the Fear Factor, which caused it to go nuclear.
What’s the Fear Factor? It’s fear created by the threatened or actual loss of security. Think about it. What do we have to fear if we have the absolute confidence that every need we have for life and comfort will be met (health, control, provision, protection, and God’s presence)? Life is great when you have nothing to fear. But when life goes sideways and we’re threatened with any deprivation, insecurity hits us, quickly followed by fear. “What will I eat? What will I drink? Where will I live? How will I protect myself? Will I survive?”
That last one is the key: “Will I survive?” as in “Will I die?” because humanity’s greatest fear is the one thing completely out of our control – death. No one in history has raised themselves from the dead, not even Jesus. Doubt it? Check out Acts 3:15, 13:30; Romans 6:4; Galatians 1:1, etc. It was His Father who raised Jesus from the dead. (Talk about trust!)
Adam and Eve met the power of death when they stood at Eden’s gate as God passed judgment on them. For the first time in their lives, they faced deprivation. The awareness of death wafted through every nook and cranny of their minds, and fear was to become their companion until the end of their lives.
When threatened with deprivation, many of us scramble to do anything to regain control over whatever caused our insecurity-spawned fear. We often give way to our fear and frantically look to ourselves, our family and friends, financial institutions, the healthcare industry, the government – anything – that can help us prevent losing or never receiving what we need or want. Sometimes our source of help is legitimate, like a loan from a bank. Sometimes it isn’t, like stealing. When faced with the Fear Factor, our first impulse is to take matters into our own hands, and the Subdue and Rule Mandate kicks into gear in the desperate search for the peace that comes from knowing we have the situation under control.
And that’s what Adam and Eve experienced. At Eden’s gate, life soon became one fear-filled scramble for life’s necessities.
Psalms 24:1 says, “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord.” And some smart aleck will retort, “But Psalm 115:16 says, ‘The heavens are the Lord’s, but the earth he has given to the human race.’” Yes, but with us as stewards, not owners. The truth is God owns everything and has placed humanity on His planet to take care of it for Him. Adam and Eve owned nothing, but they had no fear. Why? God cared for them and provided everything for their carefree lives. As vice-regents, all they had to do was stay faithful to His command as they worked for their King.
In other words, Eden was where Adam and Eve owned nothing and were happy.
Funny, another group today has the same idea: The World Economic Forum. You know, Klaus Schwab and his team of megalomaniacs. Their goal is to take control of the entire planet and own everything. In other words, like all megalomaniacs, they want to supplant the God who created this planet. Talk about the Subdue and Rule Mandate on steroids! Under their Great Reset, all that will be required of us as we work for them is to follow their laws and way of life for as long as they let us live our WEF-granted carefree lives, for they will give us everything they determine we need.
In their words, “You will own nothing and be happy” (A catchphrase originating from a 2016 essay by Danish MP Ida Auken, which was included in the video “8 Predictions for the World in 2030” by the World Economic Forum).
They’re offering us an Eden without God. Oops, sorry. My mistake. They will be our gods. Just like Satan maneuvered to take God’s place over this world through humanity.
And now you know the root of the World Economic Forum.
They’re all about total control, absolute subdue and rule, deployed against God’s human population to create a hierarchy with themselves as the god-like pinnacle of human existence. They will use our fear of loss and desire for a carefree and secure utopia to entice us into submission and to drive us into their planned “return to Eden.”
This is what every utopian promise is, whether from Socialism, Communism, Capitalism, or any other form of humanism. But there’s only one utopia, the Eden from which we were exiled and the restored Eden of the new heavens and earth in God’s presence to which we’re returning (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21).
Let’s take a closer look at the onset of fear at Eden’s gate. God told Adam that from that point onward, he would “eat bread by the sweat of your brow” (Genesis 3:19), and this “sweaty” lifestyle will last until his dying day. The “sweat of your brow” phrase commonly means that Adam would have to step up his efforts to produce food due to the cursed, resistant ground outside of Eden (Genesis 3:17-18). This new situation was the opposite of the ideal, divinely protected world he had known with the readily available provision (Genesis 2:16). Therefore, sweat comes to mean intensified labor, and that’s a reasonable assumption. After all, God did declare the cursed ground would only yield fruit through Adam’s painful labor, paralleling Eve’s painful labor to produce the fruit of her womb. But Adam’s sweat meant something other than effort in this case.
Adam and Eve’s new highly vulnerable, and tenuous state was a dramatic change from the insulated, secure environment they were leaving. For the first time, they faced the real threat of food insecurity, and as we have all experienced, insecurity leads to fear.
According to Daniel E. Fleming, the phrase “sweat of your brow,” as used in Genesis 3:19, is better understood as an idiom for fear, not exertion. Fleming’s interpretation of sweat as “fear” and not “exertion” fits the context of Genesis 2-3. He offers proof from ancient Near East texts linking fear with sweating (Fleming). Furthermore, the biblical text reinforces this interpretation as the couple moves from nakedness without shame (security) in Eden to awareness of their nakedness (insecure, exposed/vulnerable) in the untamed and unpredictable environment resistant to their control and management efforts. “Adam’s sweat will be produced by anxious fear that harvests will fail, and the life-giving grain will not come” (Richter). The fear interpretation of “sweat of your brow” is well-known even today when a person facing fear is told, “Hey, buddy. Don’t sweat it.” Sadly, the pain God told Adam and Eve they would have to endure, toiling as masters of their world, would now be coupled with fear.
Before their Fall, Adam and Eve had everything they needed in the garden to carry out their task as God’s designated world rulers. After the Fall, though, Adam and Eve retained the dominion mandate but lost everything that had been given to them. As Richter puts it, “For each of the human partners we find not just the removal of blessings, but the reversal of blessings” (Richter).
Becoming painfully aware of the total loss of God’s gifts to them likely boosted their sense of vulnerability and fear. The Fear Factor is often the fuel that ignites our need for control into overdrive, and fear pushes us to grasp any semblance of control to eliminate fear and find security. As many of us have experienced, the antidote to this fear is an assured present and secure future that many strive for in life.
In short, we hunger for the original Eden environment, which we instinctively know was our original state and God’s plan for us. This is why humanity constantly dreams of and strives for some utopia where all needs are met, and all desires are satisfied.
Humanity’s constant pursuit of the things lost in the Fall and ongoing efforts to create utopias on earth from micro levels (individual) to macro levels (global) expose our hunger to return to our perpetually secure place. Six post-Fall losses (blessings-into-curses) cause us insecurity and fear, boosting our dominion drive.
The first loss was the loss of life. God gave Adam the breath of life (Genesis 2:7), which was shared with Eve when she was formed. The death process started when the couple disconnected from God, the Source of life. Death had an immediate effect (separation from God and Eden) and an eventual result (separation from their bodies). Thanks to Adam and Eve, we’re born dying.
This dying state carries a sense of frailty and helplessness for many of us when we consider death’s inevitability. Because of the fear of death, we try to control and maintain a safe distance from death by expending great resources through health care and insurance costs to postpone the inevitable as long as possible, especially in the Western world (healthsystemtracker.org).
Because people try to control death’s advance, cosmetics and cosmetic surgery have become multi-billion-dollar industries built around subduing and ruling any evidence of advancing age as signs of death’s inescapable grip (globenewswire.com). Scripture is clear that death was not humanity’s intended state and that death will eventually be eliminated (Revelation 20:14). However, in the meantime, death is life’s unavoidable end (Hebrews 9:27). The fear of death touches everyone to an extent (Hebrews 2:15). Try as we might, the known and unknown aspects of death remain outside our ability to subdue and rule. The fear of death still provokes our Subdue and Rule Mandate as we try to conquer the unconquerable.
The second loss was the loss of personal control. When God exiled Adam and Eve from their covenant land grant for their covenant unfaithfulness, they entered a realm where their ability to control was not as effective as it was in the garden. Within God’s controlled ecosystem of Eden, the environment responded to Adam under God’s supervision. But humanity’s control over their domain diminished once they were exiled into a resistant and unresponsive world.
When we experience a lack of control in an uncontrolled and chaotic world, it makes us insecure and amplifies our fear. Human experience proves that the lack of control drives many to exert whatever means possible to subdue and rule our situation to counteract insecurity. It can be as benign as organizing one’s home or office space or as horrific as committing genocide to bring a resistant population under control to secure a dictator’s control over his domain.
The third loss was the loss of assurance of provision. From the start, God gave humanity readily available food for sustenance (Genesis 1:29-30; 3:2). Judging by God’s decree in Genesis 3:16, securing food and producing children was evidently without painful labor in Eden. Outside of Eden, Adam faced the fearful possibility of food deprivation if he didn’t submit himself to painful toil, and Eve would fear the pain of childbirth.
People fear starvation, and rightly so. It’s a miserable way to suffer and die. Starvation is a slow and painful death. So, people continue to “sweat” food insecurity and daily provisions. While humanity has made great strides to subdue and rule the ground and our bodies, there is no absolute assurance that food or children will be produced successfully. There is no complete assurance that economies worldwide will be able to provide for everyone’s needs. Fear of deprivation inflames our subdue and rule urges into overdrive. If the need is great enough, people can be driven to extreme acts to procure what they need.
The fear of deprivation has been used as a terrible and effective tool by those who wish to subdue and rule individuals, groups of people, or entire nations. Stalin used famine to subdue Ukraine (the Holodomor) and keep it under his thumb. Hitler used famine to dominate concentration camp prisoners and keep them in a submissive state. History documents a long train of abuses where controlling powers use the threat of deprivation to force people to capitulate to the tyrant’s rule and create a submissive social order.
How much easier would it be if our drive to subdue and rule weren’t turned against other people?
The fourth loss was the loss of personal protection. Although “nakedness” speaks of Adam and Eve’s innocence before God, the plain sense of the word nakedness shows the couple lived in an environment where physical protection was unnecessary. Apparently, Adam and Eve could be naked without physical discomfort (Genesis 2:25; 3:7, 10). However, after the Fall, the couple was separated from their perfect environment and exiled into a world where they would be exposed to the elements in a way unknown to them in their Eden home. If this were not the case, God would not have needed to create clothing for the couple to protect them (Genesis 3:21). In His grace and mercy, God prepared Adam and Eve for their new environment.
Self-protection is a fundamental drive that goes far beyond clothing. The fear of physical discomfort or harm can easily lead to unwarranted or extreme risk aversion. Just look at the crazy things people did for fear of catching COVID. For over a year, scared people single, double, and tripled face masked, incessantly preached about social distancing, and sometimes cruelly enforced total isolation even if it meant ostracizing family and friends. Although some choices had no scientific truth backing them up (as revealed now), the fear of being “unprotected” wrecked clear thinking.
The loss of God’s complete protection within Eden pushes us to seek self-protection and self-preservation. When a threat to our safety arises, it provokes our subdue and rule drive to take control of the threatening situation ensuring protection from outward or inward threats, even if it means harming others, sadly.
The fifth loss was the loss of moral boundaries. We were created to live within a closed domain ruled by God’s moral boundaries, and God gave Adam and Eve covenant terms by which they were to live. These simple positive and negative guidelines served as guardrails, clearly showing what God desired for the couple and expected from them (Genesis 1:28; 2:16-17).
Clear boundaries give people a sense of security. The absence of clear and consistent boundaries can create great insecurity, inciting our Subdue and Rule Mandate into action. Our mandate pushes us to establish firm, predictable boundaries within which we feel we can exercise control. Having thrown off God’s rule, our remaining option was to develop our own rules to define what’s acceptable and unacceptable for ourselves. This is the “you shall be as God” fallacy.
Sadly, with each person being a “god unto themselves,” our self-determined moral boundaries can be awfully subjective, inconsistent, and usually opposed to God’s objective and consistent boundaries. Furthermore, we often have no problem bending our artificial laws (boundaries) for our benefit. We’ll rigorously enforce our laws for the “other” person while we make them flexible for ourselves. We see this in the all-too-familiar “Rules for thee, but not for me” abuses. “I’ll use this to control you, but they aren’t meant to control me.” Ah, sin and self-deception. What a trip!
Dominion-driven personal boundaries in their toxic forms can be extended and enforced over people to which they do not apply. For example, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their self-created unnecessary laws to prevent violating the Sabbath. The “fences around the Torah,” remember? Those Pharisees were willing to impose their manufactured Sabbath laws/boundaries/prohibitions over more important personal needs such as offering medical attention or healing on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-12; Luke 13:14-16) or getting food on the Sabbath to quell hunger (Mark 2:23-28).
Our most significant loss was the loss of our relationship with God and His immediate presence. Of all the gifts God gave to humanity, the greatest was Himself. All of God’s previously listed gifts depended on His gracious presence, which dwelled with Adam and Eve in the garden (Genesis 3:8). As said before, God’s exile judgment upon Adam and Eve can be summed up as follows, “If you two really want to do this for yourselves and on your terms, then do it without Me.” Adam and Eve lost God’s immediate presence when they were expelled from Eden. This loss left humanity without direct contact, and open fellowship with God (Ephesians 2:12). It instilled a sense of isolation and aloneness to which many of us can relate all too well.
Because we yearn to reconnect with our One True God, but due to our spiritually darkened minds and twisted imaginations driven by our desire, humanity has used our dominion drive to create myriads of religions and spiritual machinations to cross the great divide.
Even for those who knew Israel’s God, the fear of isolation from Him was an intense emotion of despair, as reflected in David’s words, “Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11) and Jesus’ words, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46). Perhaps Jesus’ foreknowledge of his Father’s imminent abandonment as part of His crucifixion is what caused Jesus to labor “by the sweat of his brow” as he fearfully but resolutely prayed in Gethsemane. Despite His fear, Jesus was faithful to “fight the thorns” and “work the ground” to bring forth the fruit of salvation for us, that is, the way back to our God.
Adam and Eve were the first to experience this fear of isolation as they exited their Creator’s presence. The fear of isolation from God causes people to take matters into their own hands and exercise dominion on their own terms in their effort to reconnect to God. Idolatry and occult practices are expressions of trying to take control and manage the supernatural domain of one’s life in a foolish and ungodly attempt to find God or at least the spiritual part of our existence. Such efforts to establish dominion and control the supernatural world are strongly condemned by God (Deuteronomy 12:30; 18:9-12) and have led many away from God rather than toward Him.
I see a common thread woven through all of these losses and our efforts to overcome them, and that’s fear. As Paul Atreides of Dune said, “Fear is the mind-killer.” Fear drives us toward controlling everything and anyone around us so we can rest secure. But sadly, fear often causes us to think irrationally. That’s why we need God’s thoughts and guidance through His word to help us find the best way to secure what we need and endure until our needs are met.
Paul Atreides continues, “Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.” If we give in to fear, it can drive us to man-based solutions that may work in this life but will lead us to total spiritual obliteration in the next. What we need are God’s solutions to conquer the fears of life. But sometimes what we need doesn’t come, at least in our timing and our way. We need to face our fears at those times, “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”
The fear of the Lord, a reverential trust in Him, causes all other fears to pass over and through us without settling in us. Why? Because God has promised to give us everything we need or help us through times of need until His help comes. Most of all, our fear of the Lord removes the fear of death because Jesus told us, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). If we’re in a relationship with our Heavenly Father through Jesus, we have nothing to fear.
The loss of the gifts God gave us in Eden has led to fear that goads our dominion drive to quell that fear. Fear is the primary provocateur that pushes us to take control and manage any situation to find security. Even though we live in the world between Edens (Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21), reconnecting to God through Jesus is the one thing that conquers fear as people embrace Him and learn to trust Him. Trust was the foundation of our created state, not fear. As Augustine of Hippo wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee” (Confessions, chapter 1).
What’s our solution to fear? “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Sadly, that is not our biblical or historical record. Eliminating fear has become the motivation that drives our quest for dominion, striving to gain control within an out-of-control world. When fear is coupled with humanity’s sinful nature, the Subdue and Rule Mandate morphs into its most extraordinarily toxic and deadly form – Conquer and Dominate.
Ultimate consequence: Weaponized subdue and rule morphs into conquer and dominate
The lust to rule becomes dreadful when disconnected from God’s moral law, directed by people’s subjective and arbitrary guidelines, and intensified by self-focused human desires. The core of the Subdue and Rule Mandate’s corruption came from the compulsion to selfishly satisfy natural desires counter to the standard of God’s nature and will. This satanic corruption caused the Subdue and Rule Mandate to morph into its most toxic and deadly form, Conquer and Dominate.
The Apostle Paul clearly describes humanity’s downward slide into depravity (Romans 1:21-32) and its wholly fallen condition (Romans 3:10-18). Before Jesus’ atoning work, all people were enslaved to their natural desires (Ephesians 2:1-3). This slavery to lusts impacted the dominion drive within all of humanity and perverted it toward personal use, not God’s service. Having thrown off God’s dominion at the Fall, humankind began living according to their fallen natures and self-centered wills. In other words, they took control of their lives to live as they determined was correct. The scope of the Subdue and Rule Mandate widened to include all things created from the adamah (including people), and the moral exercise of dominion was abandoned.
Furthermore, Adam and Eve were called initially to ‘cultivate’ [‘abad] and ‘keep’ [shamar] Eden, to care for it, and to guard its holy precinct against desecration. But that, too, became corrupted. The “work and watch” assignment corrupted toward “exploit and desecrate” under the influence of our fallen, sinful nature. Dr. Mark Rutland once said, “Where there is a truth, there is a perversion.”
Truth’s foundation is in God (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 31:5; John 16:13; Romans 1:25). Without God, what is true is perverted into a contradiction of truth. God’s command to subdue and rule was supposed to reflect the truth of God’s dominion over His creation as His vice-regents accurately represented Him. After rejecting God’s truth, the drive to subdue and rule was soon perverted into a humanistic compulsion to conquer and dominate one’s world.
What was once a holy motivation became an unholy deviation operating independently of God, spurred by human fear and insecurity. What was intended to stimulate us to create, build, restructure, reshape, restore, rearrange, research, achieve, expand, explore, and other world-shaping activities began to emerge as a misused authority, a quest for absolute control, subjugation, oppression, and despotism.
Granted, these are extreme examples of the Conquer and Dominate drive. However, whenever the desire to subdue and rule our immediate world is exercised apart from God’s standard and according to selfish personal desire, the result is Conquer and Dominate to varying degrees. Furthermore, the Subdue and Rule Mandate was placed in us to work for God and bring Him glory. When we’re the focus of our control efforts, the drive to Conquer and Dominate is for our benefit and glory.
While our immoral lusts are the internal components that skew the dominion mandate into a devastating drive, there’s also an external component that causes humanity to turn against itself and God’s creation.
How Satan uses our corrupted Subdue and Rule Mandate
When Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s urging to ignore God’s command and decide for themselves what was right and wrong, they did not surrender dominion over the earth. I know that sounds strange because many Christians are taught that Satan is earth’s ruler because Adam and Eve handed dominion to him, and that’s not entirely accurate.
The earth belongs to God (Psalm 24:1), humanity was irrevocably given dominion over the world, and God has not rescinded that mandate as we’ve seen. Just as the command to reproduce was not annulled, proven by humanity’s continued “multiplying and fruitfulness,” the Subdue and Rule Mandate wasn’t canceled, verified by our collective drive to bring everything under control and management.
What was surrendered was humanity’s allegiance to God. We switched sides from God to ourselves, and in our spiritually exposed and fallen state, we came under the influence of Satan’s domain, called his kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:13), and are held there by God’s decree of death. “Assertion of autonomy against God is the domain of Satan. In asserting his autonomy, Adam was unwittingly swearing allegiance to that domain” (McDurmon).
Along with that transfer of allegiance came all humanity equipped with a mandate to rule the earth. In short, Adam and Eve retained their mandate to subdue and rule while submitting themselves to Satan’s influence and domination. “Adam never had the power and authority to give away God’s ultimate dominion to anyone else nor change God’s commands. He had the ability to join the rebellion of a rival god, but God still remains sovereign over heaven and earth, and over Adam and Satan as well” (McDurmon).
In the post-Fall world, Satan exercises dominion over the earth only to the extent he can influence humanity’s exercise of worldly dominion (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Ephesians 2:1-2). Since Satan holds absolute sway over lost people and humanity’s dominion on earth manifests as “kingdoms,” the kingdoms of this world are under Satan’s influence, a defacto rule. Hence, Satan’s offer to Jesus, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9).
What was Satan offering to Jesus? His influence over rebellious humanity who were on his side against God. Satan’s temptation was to give Jesus what His Father already intended for His firstborn Son and perfect Vice-Regent – dominion over the world, including humanity.
As to Jesus’ humanity, He carried His Father’s mandate to subdue and rule the world like all other human beings. But as to His divinity, Jesus also carried His Father’s authority and power as ruler over the earth, including humanity. All Jesus had to do was to fulfill His Father’s plan to restore humankind to Himself according to the Sovereign God’s will and plan. That included the cross, and Satan offered Jesus a shortcut that cut out the cross.
But that would have been an empty victory for Jesus because doing so would demand the same allegiance transfer that Adam and Eve transacted. Jesus would have rebelled against His Father in favor of His own will, placing Himself under Satan’s influence as Adam and Eve had. By doing so, Jesus would have gained dominion over the world. Still, Satan would retain his current control over lost humanity, only now with a compromised divine-human at its head. Satan would lose nothing and, better still, have part of the triune Godhead in submission to him and in rebellion to itself. How twisted is that?
The only way for Jesus to achieve His Father’s goal of granting Him absolute dominion over the earth as Son and Ultimate Vice Regent (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) was to complete his God-given task of subduing and ruling the death itself, the single Creation covenant punishment that pushed humanity under Satan’s influence. Without the power of death over them, no human is subject to Satan, and Satan has no claim to those for whom the death penalty is canceled.
If God’s Holy Spirit regenerated every person on earth, there would indeed be the Kingdom of God on earth. However, this will occur only at the restoration of all things (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 3:21). In the meantime, Satan exercises a proxy dominion over the world through humankind as they exercise their dominion, warped by sin into the perverted Conquer and Dominate drive for control.
Satan’s influence goads, inflames, and steers people toward conquest and domination in the drive to achieve self-satisfaction and self-glorification. This could be as small as striving to dominate an online argument or as enormous as building an empire in a push for total global subjugation. And this applies to not just spiritually unregenerate people. Although spiritually regenerated people have been freed from the power of death and, thus, Satan’s influence and control, we constantly have to fight the urge to satisfy our dominion drive our way. Part of our sanctification process (becoming what God wants us to be) is continually learning to align our lives with God and His will as in the garden, which most certainly includes our foundational Subdue and Rule Mandate. Yes, boys and girls, we’re training for Eden’s restoration on earth right now.
But as of Genesis 3, humanity is in a terrible fix. The Subdue and Rule Mandate has been corrupted into the drive to conquer and dominate the earth, its creatures, and every person. It took just one generation for Conquer and Dominate to erupt between Cain and Abel and tear up humanity from them through the Tower of Babel, as we’ll see next.
McDurmon, Joel. Is There a Dominion Mandate? Discussion: The Dominion Mandate: Yesterday, Today, and Forever
Richter, Sandra L. The Epic of Eden, A Christian Entry into the Old Testament
Rutland, Dr. Mark, Holy Spirit Conference, North Heights Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN, 8/4/18
Pastor Jay Christianson
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