The Exalted Man of God in Perfection (Chapter 14)
We have now come to our last chapter in these essays on Postmillennialism. Thus far we have repeatedly noticed that it is the teaching of the Postmillennial writers that God intends to Christianize the entire world and every nation under the sun. Every facet of human life is to be Christian due to the power of the Gospel by the Spirit, that is, in their political, social, economic, and religious life. Such is to be the leaven of the kingdom of heaven. Everything in this world will be under the Christian motif before Jesus returns to claim His kingdom publicly.
It ought, however, to be kept in mind that not every Postmillennialist bases his teaching on the same considerations for such a world-dream of a Christianized, perfected world. Some think of this perfected kingdom in terms of the power of the Holy Spirit by the preaching of the Gospel. This too we have noticed repeatedly and we have shown that the Bible passages referred to do not teach this when exegeted according to sound rules of interpretation. Others in our day speak of this perfection of the Kingdom in terms of the so-called Cultural Mandate, which they then elicit from Genesis 1:26. In this passage we read, “And God said, let Us make man in Our image, after Our own likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowls of the air, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
It was under the energetic leadership of the late Dr. Abraham Kuyper that the adherents of the theory of Common Grace (Gemeene Gratie) teach that Genesis 1:26 speaks of a Cultural Mandate to Adam, and in him to the whole human race, to subdue the earth. And it is then pointed out that God adds the words, “Be fruitful and replenish the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).
This theory of Common Grace holds that this same Cultural Mandate is still in effect after the fall of man, after the entire world has become dead in trespasses and sins, incapable of doing any good and prone to all evil, except they be born again by the Spirit of Christ. The natural man is not as evil as is spoken of in Ephesians 2:1-4. There are still in him the glimmerings of natural light. And, therefore, by virtue of this restraining influence, nonregenerative influence, of the Holy Spirit the natural man can still fulfill the Cultural Mandate ofGenesis 1:26. In our day this Cultural Mandate is so connected with Common Grace that the world and the church work together, and so subdue the world in all spheres: cultural, educational, aesthetic, political, and economic, yea, even in a religious sense.
Both church and world fulfill the creation ordinance ofGenesis 1:26. Fact is, this latter is acclaimed as being the very genius of Calvinism. When the church does this she is doing so as the regenerated man, and the world does this by virtue of the restraining power of Common Grace.
Now a careful reading of the text will show that the main thrust of Genesis 1:26 is summed up in Genesis 1:27, where Moses writes, “So God created man (male and female) in His own image, in the image of God created He him…male and female created He them.”
The chief point in this creation narrative in Genesis 1:26 is not what man is obligated to do; the real crux is how God created man, and to what high estate He exalted him in the earthly creation: lord over all. He was lord over all under God. Yes, God created man in His own image and likeness. This does not merely mean that man has “dominion,” as teach the Arminians concerning the image of God in man; however, the text basically teaches the exalted position, his divinely given and increated dignity above the animals, the moving creature, the animal world in sea, land, and air, and also far above sun, moon, and stars. However, it must not be willfully forgotten that man stood thus in dignity only as long as and as far as he stood clothed in true righteousness and holiness, serving his Maker and Creator. No Cultural Mandate can be fulfilled in the spiritual, ethical sense of the word apart from the obedience of love. A hateful world, hating God and the neighbor, no longer can or will subdue the world and all things in God’s Name and to His glory.
We should notice that in the state of original righteousness Adam is to:
1. Replenish the earth. The entire earth must be peopled (Gen. 1:28). All nations are out of one blood. Yes, God has determined the times before appointed and the bounds of the habitation of all the nations. But when God still had man subdue the world, and all nations are gathered and scattered in all the earth, it is in the deep way of Sin and Grace. That is, indeed, the watchword of Scripture. It was the word which was written in the “banner” of the war-flag of the Protestant Reformed Churches of America. I repeat that the way now is not “nature and grace” but “sin and grace” in the natural. Yes, then the natural is first, but it is there to serve the spiritual and the heavenly. And this will be accomplished through the death, resurrection, and glorification of Christ.
2. Man stood in paradise, not merely as a moral rational creature, but he stood there as the “Man of God.” He was a son of God, man of God, image of God, God’s prophet, God’s priest, and God’s king. It is, therefore, a begging of the question, exegetically, to speak of a mere “cultural” mandate in Genesis 1:26. It was basically a “covenant” mandate for Adam with the law of God in his heart. Adam is to have dominion over fish, fowl, and every creeping thing. He is not yet so perfected that he also has dominion of the powers and principalities in the heavens. That is indeed the perfection of Adam and the human race in the one man, Jesus Christ. But that was not yet. However, the creature is there to serve man, his needs, his dignity under God. We see that, once more, when Noah is assigned such dignity over the animals and all creation (Gen. 9:5). Even the beast that kills a man must be put to death as God’s vengeance.
3. And thus the earth must be replenished and subdued. The term to subdue in the Hebrew text is “Kabash“; it does not mean to subdue like an enemy is subdued in battle (Judges 3:30; 8:20), but it means the ultimate sovereignty of man over all creation. For Adam this meant the earthly creation. He was of the earth, earthy (I Cor. 15:47). God gave the earth to man; it is the natural habitat of the first Adam. However, man was really driven from his high estate. This was only at the tree of life. But the cherubim of God drove him from the holy place of God. He no longer has sovereignty. He is a fallen man, and creation fell in him and was subjected to vanity because of him. Now the song is in order: vanity of vanities, all is vanity. It is a vicious circle until Christ came to save the world, and to make a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness shall dwell.
However, all things are subject to vanity in hope of being delivered from the vanity of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:20). And in this sense we can understand that profound word of Christ, “For God sent not His Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). And so there is not merely a saving work of Christ to save sinners, but there is also a cosmological extent to this work. The entire creation, heaven and earth, will be subjected under the last Adam. All shall be placed under one Head, in heaven and on earth (Eph. 1:10).
And thus we come to the Man of God, the Seed of the Women, Christ in His church Head over all things (Eph. 1:10). And thus Christ is really the One, as the Firstborn of all creatures, Who has the dignity and the preeminence over all things. The words of God, spoken as a soliloquy (God said by Himself: let us make man) surely come to pass. The great design and plan of God in these words was not frustrated by sin. In the way of “sin and grace” this is brought to a high glory and luster so that now man is not only lord of the earthly, but he is Lord over all things.
Mere cultural mandate fulfilled here in the earthly? Not at all. Yes, we begin to see a bit of this in the church. God has brought forth a church by the Word of truth to be “some firstfruits’of His creation.” Firstfruits! This beckons presently a full harvest. But we must remember that the church is saved in hope. It is not yet seen—this putting under Christ’s feet of all things (Heb. 2:8, 9). And we never shall see this in this life. This will not be till the regeneration of all things, not till this earth and heaven are consumed by burning heat, the elements are burned, and we shall receive the new heavens and the new earth which we earnestly look for; yea, for which we press the gates of heaven in earnest hope (II Peter 3:10-14; Matt. 19:28).
There is one point which we must not overlook. It is that the saints in the sphere of their life are the light of the world, a city on a hilltop which cannot be hid. The fact that we are “some firstfruits” of God’s creatures implies that we begin in hope to live as kings and priests on the earth under Christ. So we do have Christians who are doctors, lawyers, professors in learning and science. We have talents which we may not and must not bury in the ground. And we must really labor while it is day to the highest of excellency. God does not need our “learning,” it is said—correctly said, if rightly understood. Nor does God need our slothful ignorance; He does not use spiritual—ethical dullards either. He needs and uses and prepares and molds men to His service in every field by the Word of truth, which is profitable for reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, that the man of God be thoroughly prepared unto every good work (II Tim. 3:16, 17).
However, that is not the perfection of the “cultural” mandate, but it is the fulfillment of Gods law in every sphere of life, including also the cultural in a man who has been saved from sin, and who looks in hope for a world which is to be completely delivered from the vanity of the curse of the Fall into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
And, therefore, to teach a perfected world here of the nations, is like that of a thirsty man looking for a well of water in the thirsty and dry desert, and as he stumbles along sees only a fleeting mirage in the desert. Let us not be deceived by vain talk. The “cultural” (if so we may speak of it for convenience sake) mandate will be when the Christ is “perfected” in the glory of His kingdom, that is, when He and His church are exalted to the highest pinnacle of dignity, the very effulgence of God’s glory, the expressed image of His being, above the angels.
This kingdom is now here in principle in the church. Truly all things are now Pro Rege. Yea, all things are already laid at Christ’s feet. He is subjecting all things now. The great Consummation will be when Christ enters into the eternal Kingdom, consummated in the heavens above in the ages to come.
That will be the Man of God. All things will be subjected under His feet, He is the Lord of lords, and the King of kings forever. Lift up your heads, O, ye gates, and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, He is the King of glory!