Genesis 1:26-28 – The Image of God and the Dominion Mandate

It is my opinion that missionary work received it’s call into existence not in Matthew 28:19-20 but in Genesis 1:26-28. Missions is more than a NT idea. I believe that we’re given the full picture of missions in Genesis 1.

Some people call Genesis 1:28 the ‘Cultural Mandate’ while others call it the ‘Dominion Mandate.’ The name doesn’t matter here, what does matter is what Adam was told to do in this mandate. 1:26-28 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and 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 them; male and female He created them. And God blessed them. 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.’”

In this mandate Adam was commanded to do 4 things:

1) Fill the earth with the image of God through procreation

2) Subdue the earth

3) Exercise authority and dominion over the creation

4) Accomplish these tasks with the assistance of his helpmate, Eve.

Now we know how Adam did don’t we? In all these things the he failed. Remember what the serpent said? “You will be like God if you eat this fruit.” He wanted it, and grabbed it, and proved to be disobedient. Through this sin Adam tried to grasp equality with God by grasping for the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

Now, you may think that the Mandate may have disappeared after Adam, but it didn’t. Listen to what Noah was told by God in Genesis 9:1-2, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.” Did you hear that? All the same elements from Adam’s mandate are back in Noah’s mandate. Now the question turns to: Did Noah fulfill all these things? Not fully, because of the actions of his son Ham (who was the father of Canaan). Because of what Ham did, Noah cursed Ham’s son Canaan for his actions; and blessed his other sons Shem and Japheth.

After Noah, we read of Noah’s descendents, the incident at Babel, and then Abraham. And with Abraham we see a dynamic turn of events. Remember Adam and Noah were given commands in Genesis 1:28 and 9:1-2 while Abraham receives something else. God didn’t tell Abraham to do certain things like He told Adam and Noah. Rather, Abraham (who was known as Abram at the time) was given a promise, not a command. God told him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand of the seashore, and that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed. To confirm this covenant promise, in Genesis 15 God has Abraham cut an animal in two pieces, so that the two could walk through to confirm the covenant. In that day, this is how you formed a treaty/covenant. You would cut an animal in two and walk through the pieces together. This would symbolize the binding oath between two parties by stating, “If either one of us breaks this covenant, what has been done to this animal will be done to me.” After Abraham prepared the animals, God did something unexpected. He caused a deep sleep to come over Abraham, and then God alone walked through the animal parts. Why did God do this? He wanted to show Abraham that this covenant did not depend on his own actions, but on His own. And more so, if either party, God or Abraham breaks the covenant, the curse of the covenant would fall upon God alone. This is called a self-malecdictory oath. Can you see how rich the OT is with the gospel? We know that Israel broke this covenant with God, and God kept His Word by causing the curses of the covenant to land on His Son in full measure. God killed His Son because His people did not keep the covenant.

But let’s back up and ask a broader question: Why did God give a command to Adam and Noah, and give a promise to Abraham? Why the change? I think God still had Gen. 1:28 in mind. I think that God was planning to display the fulfillment of Gen. 1:28 through the obedience of His Son. Follow me, I just said that Jesus is now fulfilling Gen. 1:28, we need to ask how did He is doing this? Remember, Adam was commanded to do 4 things. 1) Fill the earth with the image of God through procreation,

2) Subdue the earth, 3) Exercise authority over the creation, 4) Accomplish these tasks with the assistance of his helpmate, Eve. Adam failed to do these things, and so did Noah. But where these two failed, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, succeeded, Follow me now:

1) The first Adam failed to fill the earth with the image of God by procreation with his wife Eve. But the last Adam, Jesus, is now filling the earth with the image of God, not by procreation, but by making new creations out of us. When someone is made a new creation in Christ, they begin to be conformed more and more to His image, the image of Christ, and Christ is Himself the image of God. Therefore Jesus is filling the earth with the image of God by making new creations out of people through the gospel. Because the first Adam was created in the image of God and the second Adam, Jesus Christ, is the image of God, then the overall message of Scripture is that though man was made in the image of God and lost it through the fall, the image of God will be restored to fallen man through the work of the second Adam. Thus, when we talk of man being created in the image of God we cannot stop in Genesis we must move forward into the rest of Scripture to see the One who is the very image of God Himself. Anyone have Hebrews 1:1-3 in mind? “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the Heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” Lesson? The triune God created man, male and female, in His image. That God did this and placed mankind in His world to rule over creation was a declaration that the triune God ruled over creation. That man is made in the image of God shows that both male and female possess many of the qualities of God, reflecting God’s own character. Because the fall took place, this image of God in man was marred, and in made complete when we become new creations in Christ, who is Himself the very image of God.

Christ as the image of God means that the image of Christ defines what man is truly supposed to be, He is indeed the Perfect Man. Yes, both Adam was and Jesus is the image of God but one was created while the other always has been the uncreated image of God. To look at Christ, the image of God, is to see what man is truly supposed to be like.

Christ as the image of God also means the image of Christ is the goal of mans redemption. Think Romans 8:29 here, “Those whom God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The goal of a Christians sanctification therefore is Christ-likeness. Anthony Hoekema once said, “Since Christ is God’s perfect image, likeness to Christ will also mean likeness to God. This perfect likeness to Christ and to God is the ultimate goal of our sanctification. John Calvin said in two ways: one quote says, “All that we lost in Adam we regain in Christ.” Another quote says this, “The beginning of our recovery of salvation is in that restoration which we obtain through Christ who also is called the Second Adam for the reason that He restores us to the true and complete integrity.”

2) The first Adam failed to subdue and exercise authority over the earth, but who is it that the NT says has all authority in heaven and on earth to do whatever He pleases? The Last Adam, Jesus. Jesus is obedient where Adam was disobedient. The first Adam failed when he tried to grasp equality with God by grasping the fruit. But the Last Adam, the true Son of Man, Jesus, was equal with the Father and yet He didn’t use His equality with God to save Him from the cross, but He willingly went to it, as Phil 2:6-8 gloriously states, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (like Adam did), but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” In the disobedience and failure of the 1st Adam, we see how glorious the obedience and humble submission of Jesus is.

3) Lastly, we come back to missions. The first Adam failed to use his helpmate Eve to accomplish the tasks assigned to him in the mandate. But Jesus didn’t fail as Adam did. Jesus, the last Adam has a helpmate as well. I hope by now you can see that Adam was a type of Christ, what is rarely mentioned along side of this is that Eve as Adam’s helpmate is a type (or foreshadow) of the Church. As Eve was Adam’s helpmate, the Church is Jesus’ helpmate. Jesus is now using His helpmate, the Church, to accomplish this work on earth. It is through the Church that Jesus saves people and forms them more and more into His image. So when missions happens, people are saved, when people are saved, they begin to grow into the image of Christ more and more. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, so those growing Christians, are growing in the image of God, and when those Christians go on missions they are spreading the image of God by sharing the gospel in word and deed!

Thus we have missions, fully developed in the Dominion Mandate of Gen. 1:28. Jesus, as the last Adam, is using His helpmate, the Church, to spread His image around the world, by bringing men and women from every tribe, nation, tongue, and language to treasure Himself above all things among all the peoples of the world. Adam points to Jesus, Eve points to the Church, and God is the main actor in all of it!

Notice that this mandate was given before the fall of man? What does that tell us? Jesus fulfilling the Dominion Mandate, by sending His helpmate, the Church, around the world with the gospel, was plan A, not plan B. Too many people think that Jesus was merely God’s answer to the problem of sin (as if God didn’t know what to do and asked Jesus to solve this problem for Him). Wrong. Jesus is not only an answer to a problem, Jesus was always in view, He was present and planned Gen. 1:28 to be written so we would get a preview of missions. Don’t get me wrong here. Matthew 28 is a great place to preach and think on missions. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I’m just saying that Matthew 28 exists, because of Gen. 1:28! So, if you’re doing missions to any degree, you are Jesus’ helpmate, spreading the image of God throughout the world, through the gospel. You are part of a plan that is not NT only, but a plan that goes back from the foundation of world! When you do missions, you’re part of plan A.

In conclusion: as a type of Christ and the image of God Adam was the first prophet, priest, and king, but by rebelling against God we look to another Adam, the Second and Last Adam Jesus Christ to make us right with God. The difference between Adam and Christ is the reason Genesis 1-3 exists, and to see this closer, we must take a look at the setting Adam was placed – the garden.

The Garden-Temple of Eden

Throughout the history of the Church, and I’d even say today also, most people have viewed Eden as a Mesopotamian farm, and since it’s viewed as a farm, most people view Adam as a farmer. Here’s a few quotes to show you this. Henry Morris said, “Adam was instructed merely to till the ground in the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and keep it.” Similarly John Calvin said, “…the earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation.” Martin Luther agreed and said Adam received a twofold duty “…to work or cultivate this garden and, furthermore, to watch and guard it.” Is this really the intent of the passage? Is Adam merely a farmer? Many people have understood such a meaning from Genesis 1-3 and deduced a simple work-ethic. That man working is a pre-fall activity, therefore work is good. What’s the problem with this? It interprets Scripture without a view to Christ, and if you’ve seen anything so far in this seminar it is that we should interpret all of Scripture with a view to Christ. Therefore, it is my opinion that Adam wasn’t merely a farmer but rather, he was the first priest who labored in the first temple. I hold this opinion because I believe the text of Genesis 1-3 teaches this in two ways. First, in the features of the garden, and second, in the activity of Adam.

  1. a) Features of the Garden:

-Eastward Location: Genesis 2:8 mentions that God planted a garden in Eden, specifically placing it in the east. The eastward direction is important when it comes to Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning God’s presence in His temple. Ezek. 11:1 Ezekiel is brought to the east side of the temple, and in Ezek. 11:23 it says Ezekiel watched the glory of the Lord depart to the east. Years later in Ezek. 43:1-4 it mentions Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord return to the temple through the eastern gate. If Eden was the first temple, it would make sense to see the garden within Eden as the holy of holies and the garden as a whole as the rest of the first temple.

-On a Mountain Top: there is no explicit statement in Genesis 1-3 that the garden in the east of Eden was higher in elevation than the surrounding land, but there are clues that tell us this very thing, and further passages of Scripture that make this important. Genesis 2:10 states that a river flowed out of Eden, and knowing that rivers flow from high elevations to lower elevations, downstream, is further evidence that Eden sat on a mountaintop. Throughout Scripture there are many references to God’s temple and God dwelling on top of mountains. In a judgment against the nation of Tyre, Ezekiel rebukes them in Ezekiel 28:14, “You were on the holy mountain of God.” God made His presence known on top of Mt. Horeb (Ex. 3:1), Sinai (Ex. 18:5), Mt. Zion (Ps. 48:1-2), and the Mount of transfiguration in the gospels. Hebrews 12:22 mentions that we have come to mount Zion, the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. And lastly in Revelation 21 we see the holy city Jerusalem, a great and high mountain, coming down out of heaven from God. Taking all this together, Scripture makes an important connection between God’s presence in His temple, and the temple’s location being atop mountains. Because a river flowed out of Eden means it was on top of a mountain, and is further evidence that Eden itself was the first temple.

-The River of Eden: Also, that a river flowed out of Eden in Genesis 2:10 means much to indicate Eden as the first temple. Psalm 46:4 mentions the connection between the presence of rivers or water and temples. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” Also, a river flows out of the temple Ezekiel saw in Ezek. 47:1, healing everything it touched in Ezek. 47:8. It would make sense with the rest of Scripture that God’s presence is likened to moving waters that bring healing because in Jeremiah 2:13 God is called “the fountain of living water.” Joel 3:18 and Zechariah 14:8 mention that “a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord.” John’s vision at the end of Revelation (22:1) also shows “a river, with crystal clear water, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb.” Lastly, Jesus Himself mentions that when one has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of him that “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38-39). All this is evidence that Eden was the first mountain top throne or temple, because a river flowed out of it.

-The Trees of the Garden: in Genesis 2:9 we learn there were trees in the garden, which would make sense if it was the first temple because trees have always had a place, and will always have a place in God’s presence. They were present in Eden, they were present in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:31-39), they were present in Solomon’s temple in the form of drawings of palm trees (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 7:18), they were present in all of Ezekiel’s visions of the temple (Ezek. 31:8-9, 41:18-26, 47:12), and they are going to be present in the new heavens and new earth, the temple that will descend from the throne of God. Psalm 1 also gives us the image that the trees in glory won’t be actual trees like the earthly temples but will be the saints themselves which are likened as trees that drink deeply from the river of life in Psalm 1.

-Precious Stones and Metal: Genesis 2:10-14 also records that there were precious gems in the garden as well. There was gold and onyx in the garden temple, and the only other places precious gems show up in Scripture is always in reference to a temple. There was gold, onyx, sardius, topaz, diamonds, beryl, jasper, sapphires, emeralds, and carbuncle in Ezekiels vision (Ezek. 28), and the only other place this shows up is in the John’s vision of the new temple in Revelation 21:18-20 where we see gems on a high mountain of jasper, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethysts.

-The Cherubim: in Genesis 3:24 it states that cherubim were placed at the east entrance of the garden to block Adam and Eve’s way back in. Cherubim are only mentioned in Scripture in relation to temples. Moses had them craft two cherubim to sit on top of the ark as well as weaved into the fabric of the veil (Ex. 26:31). In Solomon’s temple two cherubim guarded the inner sanctuary (1 Kings 6:23-28). In Ezekiel’s visions cherubim played a prominent role in the temple as anointed guards (Ezek. 28:14). And when Jesus was killed on the cross what tore in two? The veil, which was blocking the way into the holy of holies in the temple, on which were woven images of cherubim (Matt. 27:51). All this to say, that cherubim were present guarding the garden, means the garden is more than a Mesopotamian farm, it was indeed the first temple, the first holy of holies.

  1. b) Activity of Adam

-God’s Presence: God walked among the garden, with Adam, talking with him in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). That God was present here in the garden, and only present throughout the rest of Scripture in temples and tabernacles means the garden was the first temple (Lev. 26:11-12, Deut. 23:14, 2 Sam 7:6). It also means that John 1:14 is very important for how God walks among us today, through His Son, who had dwelt (or tabernacle’d) among us.

-Adam’s Responsibilities: Genesis 2:15 says God commanded Adam to do two things in the garden, ‘work it and keep it.’ This is why people have said Adam was merely a farmer of the world God had made. Yet, do you know the only other place these two Hebrew words (work and keep) are used together again in Scripture? The only other place these words are used together in the Bible is when Moses describes the priest’s duties within the tabernacle in Numbers 3:7-8, and 4:23-24, 26. As Adam was called to work and keep the garden, Moses calls the priests to work (or tend to) and keep the tabernacle. Conclusion? Adam was the first priest, in the first temple, whose duties were more priestly and agricultural.

When you take all the features of the garden and place it next to the duties Adam received from God to in and with the garden, it becomes evident that Eden was not a farm, but was a microcosmic version of God’s sanctuary, it was the first temple. This means that in Genesis 1-3 we see God creating and calling man to dwell within His own temple forever, ministering to Him as priests. Moving forward into Scripture this sets the stage and prepares us, as Bible readers, for the 2nd coming of Christ when it won’t be a giant city-farm descending from the throne, but a city-temple. Thus, God planted a temple in Eden, not a farm to prepare us for the greater temple; and within it placed the first priest, not a farmer, to prepare us for the faithful and greater High Priest, Jesus Christ.

What have we learned so far? That God created man, in His image, placed him in the garden-temple, brought man into a covenantal relationship with Himself through the pronouncement of blessings and cursing’s, gave him the work of filling the earth with the image of God and extending this temple to the ends of the earth, doing all these things with his helpmate, Eve. In this work Adam failed, but the first and faithless Adam prepares us for the last and faithful Adam to come.

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