This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “King & Country: The Story That Changes Everything,” coming in summer 2017. Pre-orders start soon!
You were made to rule the world.
How did you react to that sentence? Did you scoff? “Wow, that’s crazy talk.” Maybe swell up with pride? “I always knew I was special.” Or perhaps you felt uneasy; immediately some red flags in your “error filters” went up. A statement like that doesn’t fit into your theological categories, and now you’re wondering whether this book is full of rank heresy. If that’s you, please don’t burn my book just yet. Hang in there with me for another minute, and let me elaborate on what I mean.
Let me ask you a Bible trivia question: What’s the very first thing and very last thing that the Bible says about humanity? Ever thought about that? Until relatively recently, I hadn’t given it much thought either. In my attempt to be theologically “God-centered,” (which is undoubtedly a good thing), I tend to pay more attention to what the Bible says about God, rather than what the Bible says about me (which, again, is a good thing; the Bible is not primarily about me but about God).
And yet, the first and last word on who God designed you to be just might be significant. So grab a Bible and look at the first page and the last page, and this is what you’ll see:
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; 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.” –Genesis 1:27-28
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. –Revelation 22:4-5
Do you see the emphasis on “dominion” in the first passage and “reigning” in the second? The Bible begins with God creating humans to rule the world, and the Bible ends with humans ruling the world. At the beginning, God creates humanity “in his image,” as his representatives, and gives them dominion over the whole world. Their purpose—our purpose—is to rule the world as God’s regents, on God’s behalf. And at the end of the story, we see that original purpose of creation fulfilled, as a redeemed humanity takes its rightful place on the throne with Jesus, beginning an everlasting human reign over the universe. In between those bookends is the whole story of history, redemption, and God’s purposes for creation. This is the story that we were made for.
This design which was woven into the very fabric of the world and our souls is also the crisis in the storyline of the Bible, the world, and our lives: humans created to rule and to have relationship with God have abandoned both privileges. We now find ourselves dethroned from our position of authority and exiled from fellowship with God. Everything wrong in the world and in our hearts flows from this abdication. Creation, made to submit to the righteous reign of mankind, now bucks against the occupation of an enemy power with earthquakes and cancer and disaster and death. And every human heart, made to rest with peace and joy and purpose in union with the Creator, is consumed by restless, rebellious, homesick longing.
God’s solution to these twin problems—kinglessness and homelessness—is what the storyline of the Bible is all about. Through the Old Testament, God is on a mission to provide a new King—a restored human ruler; and a new Country—a restored paradise of fellowship with the Creator. This is the ultimate meaning of “the kingdom of God”—the place where God’s presence resides and God’s king reigns. This is the story that carries us from the garden, to Abraham, to the Exodus, to the Promised Land, to the Davidic dynasty, to the temple, to the Exile, and finally to the culmination of all the prophetic longings in the person of Jesus Christ.
All the threads of the biblical narrative come together in Jesus, who in the opening pages of the New Testament is revealed to be the long-promised human King who alone can dethrone the cosmic usurper, and the return of God’s presence to dwell with his people. He fulfills and completes all the stories. He is the second Adam who crushes the serpent’s head and leads a renewed humanity back into obedience to the Creator. He is David’s greater son, who builds God’s Kingdom and takes the helm of an ever-expanding government of peace. He is the true Temple, the meeting place between God and man.
And now, in the age between his first and second coming, this is the gospel invitation that his kingdom—the church—proclaims: “Join the renovation of the cosmos and the restoration of the human project by bowing to the rightful King who conquered death and is coming back to make everything new.”