The Way of the Kingdom

As a youth pastor, students often ask me questions about this passage—one question in particular. It usually sounds something like this: “If Jesus is God, didn’t he really already have rule over the kingdoms of the world? Was this really even a legit temptation?” It’s a great question, and it’s one I have wrestled with myself. In my study of the kingdom and the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, I believe I have arrived at an appropriate interpretation by considering this passage as part of the whole of God’s redemptive story. You be the judge.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and he created humanity in his image. He also designed humanity with a distinct twofold purpose: (1) to be numerous upon the earth and (2) to rule over the earth (Gen. 1:28). In order to understand the twofold purpose, we first must understand what is meant by “being created in God’s image.” There are like a zillion proposed answers to this. One that is certainly part of proper interpretation here involves the ancient practice of kings claiming territory and marking it with their image. Kings identified their claim on a territory by establishing an image of some sort (e.g., a statue) in the land that belonged to them. This same sort of thing can be observed in Mark 12:13–17. When Jesus was challenged about paying taxes to Caesar, he asked “Who’s image is on the coin?” Of course, Caesar’s image was on the coin. Thus, he replied, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” What belongs to God? Humans do. Why? Because his image is on them.

Now then, how do we understand the twofold purpose in God’s creation of humanity? First, humanity was commanded to be numerous so that the image of God  would have more of a presence on the earth. Second, humanity was commanded to scatter and fill the earth so that rule of God would spread upon the earth as his image (i.e., humanity) expanded the boundaries of Eden.

Then comes the Fall. What happened in the fall? The humans who had been established as the representatives of God’s rule on the earth rebelled against the King and did not act in a way that expressed God’s ownership over them. They sided with God’s Adversary. While it is difficult to explain in detail what happened with regard to the rule of God upon the earth as expressed in humanity, something changed. The repetition of the command after the Flood in Genesis 9 is slightly different; there is not a command to “subdue the earth.” Further, the Adversary is given titles like “prince of the power of the air” and “the ruler of this world.” Thus, it appears that humanity forfeited its role as the image of God in the Fall.

Enter Jesus. The Adversary immediately tempts the Godman (i.e., the second Adam) to inherit the kingdoms of the world by submitting to him in worship. So, is his temptation legitimate? Absolutely. God’s prescribed way for humanity to be restored to its position as the image of God (i.e., the representative of God’s rule) was through the faithfulness of the second Adam. He would have to be faithful even on the road of suffering and death on a cross. He would have to be faithful unlike unfaithful Adam. Satan extended a temptation to Jesus to inherit the nations of the world apart from suffering and death, apart from allegiance to the Father and his will. Now read Matthew 26:36–46.

We often maximize Jesus’ deity over his humanity, and we forget that in his humanity he lived as a man who perfectly walked in step with the Spirit of God. In so doing, he offers the restoration of the image of God in humanity. Further, we become participants in spreading the rule of God by faithfully following Jesus’ journey to death and resurrection. One day, the second Adam will return and usher in the complete establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth. New heavens and a new earth will follow so that what God desired in the beginning will indeed come to fruition all because of the faithfulness of his beloved Son.

  1. #1 by lawdawg23 on July 6, 2011 - 1:38 am

    Great post, bro!

    • #2 by rexhowe on July 11, 2011 - 3:21 am

      Thanks Josh. I look forward to – hopefully – getting together when we are in for a visit. We have a lot of catching up to do!

  2. #3 by lawdawg23 on August 18, 2011 - 6:46 pm

    That we do! Can’t wait to see you.

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