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.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
God created man, male and female, in His own image and according to His likeness. Then He blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, and to have dominion. This is called the “creation mandate,” also known as the “cultural mandate.” It was not given as a means for selfish exploitation but for stewardship on God’s behalf. This is why it is important that man was created in the image of God and to be like God.
God’s purpose was for all creation to be filled with Godlikeness, reflecting the glory of God in every thing and in every way. In other words, it was that the will of God would be done on earth as it is in heaven, just as Jesus taught us to pray in what we call the “Lord’s Prayer.”
The Hebrew word for “subdue” means to bring under subjection. Though God created the Garden of Eden in the world, and it reflected the glory of God to the world, the whole world itself was not yet a garden. That is what God intended for man to do, to bring the rest of the world into alignment with the divine pattern of Eden. The result would be, in a very real way, heaven on earth.
However, man rebelled against the will of God and in doing so disconnected from the life of God. And instead of heaven on earth, hell was unleashed. That is why, to make a long story short, Jesus came. He became flesh and dwelt among us in order to redeem the world of humanity, and even creation itself.
At the cross, Jesus defeated sin, death and the power of the devil — every thing that worked against humanity and creation. Then God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:20-21). All who belong to Christ when He comes again will likewise be raised from the dead, as Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15, the “Resurrection Chapter.”
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:22-24)Between now and then, King Jesus is in the process of bringing all things into alignment with His kingdom: “For He must reign,” Paul says, “till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25). All authority on earth as well as in heaven has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18) and through the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) He is bringing humanity into line with His kingdom. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will one day confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God (Philippians 2:9-11), and all who belong to Him will be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). Creation itself awaits that day:
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)The creation mandate God gave to the first Adam is being fulfilled by the Last Adam, King Jesus the Messiah.