The World was Made For Us to Reign Over It

The World was Made For Us to Reign Over It May 29, 2018

In terms of the biblical narrative, I think it helps if we remember that we are consistently given a picture of God’s intention to make humanity his vice-regents who will reign with him and for him over the world. This was the role of Adam in Eden, Israel in Canaan, and the church in Christ’s kingdom is explicitly promised to reign on behalf of God (see Gen 1:28; Exod 19:6; Dan 7:27; 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 5:10; 11:15; 20:6; 22:5), its why the saints will inherit the “earth” or “world” (Matt 5:5; Rom 4:13), and why disciples are promised a specific role in Christ’s reign (Matt 19:28/Luke 22:30; 1 Cor 6:2-3).

What is no less interesting is how two very different texts, both post-70 AD, 4 Ezra and the Shepherd of Hermas, treat creation as made explicitly for them to rule over it.

In 4 Ezra we find this statement:

“On the sixth day you commanded the earth to bring forth before you cattle, wild animals, and creeping things; and over these you placed Adam, as ruler over all the works that you had made; and from him we have all come, the people whom you have chosen. All this I have spoken before you, O Lord, because you have said that it was for us that you created this world. As for the other nations that have descended from Adam, you have said that they are nothing, and that they are like spittle, and you have compared their abundance to a drop from a bucket. And now, O Lord, these nations, which are reputed to be as nothing, domineer over us and devour us. But we your people, whom you have called your firstborn, only begotten, zealous for you, and most dear, have been given into their hands. If the world has indeed been created for us, why do we not possess our world as an inheritance? How long will this be so?” (4 Ezra 6.53-59 [NRSV]).
What is interesting is a similar view is found in the Shepherd of Hermas:
“As I slept, brothers and sisters, a revelation was gien to me by a very handsome young man, who said to me, ‘Who do you think the elderly woman from whom you received the little book was?’ I said: ‘The Sibyl.’ ‘You are wrong,’ he said. ‘She is not.’ ‘Then who is she?’ I said. ‘The church,’ he replied, ‘she was created before all things; therefore she is elderly, and for her sake the world was formed‘.” (Herm. 8.1 [trans. Holmes]).
In which case, I think it safe to say, that “salvation,” in its eschatological coordinates, has to include the notion of creaturely participation in God’s rule over all things.

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