Identity, the collective question of ‘who am I,’ is critical to our understanding of the meaning of life, and the article “Identity Part I: The Image of God” explores this question. After the issue of ‘who am I’ is answered, naturally ‘what am I’ must be addressed. Our position in the Universe gives answers to significant questions of purpose and to whom we are beholden. God does not leave us without answers to the question of our position, and in exploring the subject, we learn the identities other beings have played in this grand story of the ages.
After infusing man with His image, God speaks directly to His new creations about their position and purpose without ambiguity. God gives four broad mandates early in the Scriptures. In original commands, man finds the first mention that God has a will for their lives and has not set the world in motion to run as an experiment of random chance. Of course, God later adds to the Old Testament Commands with Moses as well as the Christian’s objectives with the Great Commission and Kingdom teachings in the New Testament, but the doctrine of first mention makes the verses in Genesis mankind’s prime directive in relation to the earth.
“And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:28, ESV). ‘Be fruitful’ is the first imperative and an overarching theme of how humans should conduct every endeavor in their lives from work to relationships to society. Bearing fruit requires the purposeful acts of planning, planting, watering, and constant care for a crop; God is calling every person to a purposeful life. God tells Adam and Eve to seek positive outcomes for all their efforts—nothing is to be wasted, and unfruitful endeavors should be abandoned. Human idleness, inactivity, and purposelessness violate the first core value of mankind.
God then tells man to multiply or reproduce to fill the Earth—the mandate of the growth of humanity. Thirdly, mankind is also directed to subdue the earth. ‘Subdue’ is an interesting word, and the connotation is two-fold: make the whole earth like the garden (orderly expansion of settlements) as well as learn about the natural world (science, discovery, exploration). The last command is to rule over the earth. God makes humanity the Vice Regents of Earth—sovereigns accountable only to Him. Mankind’s high position of creation in God’s image is matched by the great responsibility of leadership.
Mankind is not given the option of ‘living a life of leisure,’ even when they can figure out how to do so. The combined commands require exploration, discovery, development, and constant betterment of the group. In other words, God commands humanity through Adam and Eve to build a high civilization that is always increasing and moving forward (notice the parallels to the Kingdom of God described in the book of Revelation). The vast resources of the earth are put at man’s disposal to accomplish this task.
Understanding What Happened in the Fall
I had a person tell me once, “All that king and sovereign stuff is neat, Shawn, but we lost our position as rulers of the earth at The Fall. The best people can hope for is to be sinners saved by grace. All those commands were pre-Fall and don’t apply anymore.” While The Fall cannot be overstated as the single most devastating event in the all of humanity’s past or future, the consequences did not overrule the Word of God. Remember God’s Word is immutable or unable to be changed. Whatever God says is. That is the practical reason why He cannot lie. If God calls something that is not, then it is what He says. You can see this throughout the Bible (most vividly in Genesis 1); God calls what is not to become what is. There was only darkness, and God said, “Let there be light,” etc. The sun and other stars continue to shine without any maintenance commands to keep them going.
Look at the verses in Genesis, chapter 3 carefully. God does not remove the rule of the earth from man, nor does He give it to the enemy. The verses below are the first words of God to humanity after The Fall.
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:16-19, ESV).
At the Fall, God gives two specific curses to Eve, as the representative of all women, for her role in the sin. Childbearing will become a painful process, and women will be subject to the rule of their husbands. The second is ironic since Adam did not lead as he should have when the fruit was presented to them. To Adam, as the representative of all mankind, God actually gives two curses. The ground is cursed specifically to make Adam have to work hard and put much effort into providing basic necessities for his family. The second curse is eventual physical death. Nowhere does God remove the rule of the earth from man and give it to the enemy.
Some of you may be thinking that the enemy is called both the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2, ESV) and “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4, ESV) in the Scriptures. But God did not give the enemy any position of authority in the earth. Adam did. Read the Scripture carefully,
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:1-6 ESV).
The enemy’s authority is delegated, not from God but from man. As soon as Adam and Eve believe the enemy’s lie about the fruit, then they have accepted his authority. As the rulers of the earth, with only God above them, humanity then illegitimately attempted to add the enemy above themselves in the chain of authority. God did not remove man from the rule of the earth. Man tried to remove God from His place.
You are probably thinking we are arguing about two sides of the same coin that makes no difference, but there is an important point to this if you follow along. God and Satan are not some kind of cosmic forces of good and evil representing light and dark at war for all eternity. They are not opposites like the Eastern philosophy of Yin and Yang. GOD HAS NO EQUAL. He is peerless. As the Holy Creator, God is separate and greater than all His creations, including the enemy.
The idea of God and Satan locked in a war is from Hollywood, not the Bible. The story of Satan’s Fall is recorded in Ezekiel 28:11-19 and Isaiah 14:12-17. Satan sinned by becoming proud about his beauty and deciding to make his throne like God’s. In other words, he wanted to replace God as the Most High. This did not go well, as God expelled him from heaven and said, “’So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings . . .So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching'” (Ezek. 28:17-18, NIV). That attempt to overthrow God was an epic failure. Look to the verses about the End Times war in heaven. God does not fight the enemy. In Revelation 12:7, He sends the angles to fight, and in Revelation 20:1-2, an angel binds the enemy.
“But, Shawn, Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness and fights in the battle of Armageddon, so God does take a hand in removing him from the earth.” Yes, and who is Jesus? He is the Word made flesh, right? So, going back to the Fall of Man, there is an interesting prophecy to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15, ESV). Jesus does not come to the earth to fight the enemy as God (even though He is); He comes as the ‘seed of the woman,’ a man, because God delegated the earth to mankind.
Are you starting to see? God’s Word is immutable, so He does not violate it either. God gave rule of the earth to man, so He became a man to displace the rule of the enemy. Did you think all of the verses about a Kingdom and the Second Coming were merely flowery language or prose too heavy in symbolism to be understood? The Bible is the story of a God that was willing to become a man to redeem His precious creations, and in that tale, of which we are all a part, we see the value God places on humanity and the great position He has given us.The Application of the Fruitful Life vs. The Fallen Existence
Sadly, many Christians do not fulfill the mandate of ‘be fruitful’ in their lives. Idleness is rampant and celebrated. A generation ago, large swaths of men living in their parents’ basements, jobless and playing video games all day, would have been unthinkable. Now, it is acceptable and common. Too many children in a family are seen as a burden, and the abortion industry makes over a billion dollars a year taking care of the problem. The pursuits of millennia of human history of raising a family and working a vocation to build a greater society are now optional to many. Even some believers have become convinced that the pursuit of a fruitful life is meaningless and wrong.
These backward beliefs did not develop overnight, but the enemy has been subtly working them into society for some time. The Origin of Species by Darwin in the nineteenth century started an anti-God philosophical movement to embrace the ideas of Evolution as the creation story of the religion of natural science. The philosophy continued to take shape with books like Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb and Carson’s Silent Spring, both published in the 1960s, questioning mankind’s expansion and rule over nature. Together, with a glut of modern studies and media, environmentalism has become the en vogue cause of our day. In this postmodern story, man is nothing more than a smart, bald ape with no special purpose from a Creator. With the removal of the image of God and the establishment of the inherent evil of a fruitful existence, mankind is rendered defeated and purposeless.
Once again, the Vice Regents of Earth try to remove their crowns and hand them to the serpent for a lie. The choice cannot be more clear for every person: Know that you are created in the image of God and be fruitful or exist listlessly and without meaning. Look for the concluding discussion in this series with Identity Part III: Adopted Sons.
Featured Image by Julia Caesar
In-Text Image by Brigita B.
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