PART 3: EXPOSITION – Chapter 9: Creation

Kenneth L Gentry

Narrated By: Aidan McGuire
Book: He Shall Have Dominion
Topics: ,


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Chapter Text

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16-17)

We move now to the actual exposition of the postmillennial eschatology. A predominant and distinguishing theme of biblical eschatology is that of a sure expectancy of gospel victory in time and on earth. This may be seen in various ways in the Old Testament revelation.

We begin with the Creation record. The Christian faith has a genuine interest in the material world, as noted in Chapter 6. God created the earth and man’s body as material entities, and all “very good” (Gen. 1:1-31; 2:7). Consequently, the record of Creation is important for developing a Christian worldview, and, therefore, for understanding biblical eschatology.

In order to understand a thing aright, it is always helpful to understand its purpose according to its designer and builder. Eschatology is a theological discipline that is concerned with teleology, with discovering the divinely revealed, long-range

purpose of the world and of history. What will the consummation be? What are its precursors? How will it be brought about? When will it occur? By necessity, then, eschatology must be concerned with creation, for it is the divinely decreed fruition of creation. In short, the end is tied to the beginning.[1]

Genesis is of primary significance to the Christian faith. The very title “Genesis” is derived from the Greek of the Septuagint translation of Genesis 2:4a: “This is the book of the generation [geneseos] of heaven and earth.”[2] The word geneseos means “origin, source.” It is in the opening chapters of Genesis (chapters 1-3) that we find the foundational elements of biblical eschatology. The end is found in the beginning. Creation had a purpose.

The Edenic Expectation of Victory

God has created the world for a purpose. Despite the confusion brought into the question by certain leading dispensationalists, Reformed theology sees as the ultimate goal of universal history, the glory of God.[3] His creational intent in bringing the world into being was for the manifestation of His own glory: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:11).[4] All men live before God in the material world,[5] which He has created for His own glory, as the place of man’s habitation.[6]

At the very outset of history, God created man in His own “image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26). In its setting, the Creation Mandate occurs as the “swelling of jubilant song” at the accomplishment of God’s creative activity.[7] At that time, the creation had just been completed and pronounced “very good” (Gen. 1:31-2:2). One vital aspect of that image is that of man’s acting as ruler over the earth and under God. This is evident in the close connection between the interpretive revelation regarding man’s creation in God’s image and the divine command to exercise rule over the creation order: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26-27). Because man is the image of God, he has the capacity and responsibility for dominion.

The image of God in man is constitutive to man; it is prior to and definitive of man’s duty, dominion.[8] Man, however, is not, nor was he ever, an absolute sovereign; he is God’s vice-regent (gerent). God created him and granted him temporal sovereignty, putting him under command to act obediently in terms of God’s ultimate sovereignty.[9] All of this is done in generic worship to God, for “the setting of six days of labor in the context of one day of worship and rest indicates the true perspective from which man’s dominion over the earth is to be viewed.”[10] Thus, the temporal “sovereignty” of man must be understood as derivative and interpreted in terms of the absolute sovereignty of God: God created (Gen. 1:26), God blessed (Gen. 1:27), God gave (Gen. 1:28), and God commanded (Gen. 2:16); man is to worship God (Gen. 2:3; Exo. 20:11). Man lives up to His creational purpose as he multiplies (Gen. 1:28) and acts as a social creature exercising righteous dominion in the earth. God has implanted within man the drive to dominion.[11]

The Creational (or Dominion) Mandate was given at the very creation of man, distinguishing him from and elevating him above the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms and defining his task in God’s world in accordance with God’s plan. Adam’s naming of the animals in Genesis 2 must be understood in the Semitic sense of naming. “In Israel as among other peoples there was awareness of the significance attached to a name, and of the power which resided in it…. By giving someone a name, one establishes a relation of dominion and possession towards him. Thus acc. to Gn. 2:19f. Adam names all the animals. This means that he exercises dominion over creation and relates it to his own sphere. To name a conquered city (2 S. 12:28) or lands (Ps. 49:11) is to establish a right of possession and to subject them to one’s power.”[12]

We should not assume that Adam’s sovereign dominion was to be limited to Eden. Eden was only his starting point. Adam was, in essence, to extend the cultured condition of Eden (Gen. 2:17) throughout the world (Gen. 1:26).

Not only was the Cultural Mandate given at creation before the Fall, but it remains in effect even after the entry of sin. This is evident in many ways. Consider just two of them. First, the revelational record of man’s beginnings show man acting as dominical creature and without disapprobation, subduing the earth and developing culture. Indeed, from the very beginning and continuing into the post-Fall world, Adam and his descendants exercised dominion. This dominion impulse operated at a remarkably rapid rate, contrary to the primitivist view of man held by evolutionary anthropologists.[13] Man quickly developed various aspects of social culture: raising livestock, creating music and musical instruments, crafting tools from metal, and so forth (Gen. 4:20-22). Because man is a social creature (Gen. 2:8), his culture-building includes the realm of political government, as well. This is evident in God’s ordaining of governmental authority (Rom. 13:1-2). Upon his very creation, not only was man commanded to develop all of God’s creation, but he actually began to do so. Culture is not an accidental aside in the historical order. Any primitiveness that may be found in man’s cultures is a record of the developmental consequence of sin and of estrangement from God, not of original creational status.

Second, the Creation Mandate is specifically repeated in Scripture. This assertion bothers Hanko, who argues: “Adam did not abandon the cultural mandate; sin and the curse made it impossible for Adam to continue it. This is not a mere quibbling over words; this strikes at the very heart of the [millennial] question. Forgotten is the fact that sin and the curse made it forever impossible for the cultural mandate to be fulfilled in this present world.”[14] This view deliberately ignores Scripture.

The Cultural Mandate is repeated as still in force in both testaments (Gen. 9:1ff; Heb. 2:5-8).[15] Psalm 8 clearly evidences the Cultural Mandate: “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psa. 8:4-6).

The optimistic expectations of postmillennialism comport well with God’s creational purpose as evidenced in the Cultural Mandate. They highlight the divine expectation of the true, created nature of man qua man. Postmillennialism expects the world as a system (kosmos)[16] to be brought under submission to God’s rule by the active, sanctified agency of redeemed man, who has been renewed in the image of God (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24). In other words, postmillennial eschatology expects in history what God originally intended for history. It sees His plan as maintained and moving toward its original goal, but now on the new basis of God’s sovereign and gracious redemption. Hanko’s objection to postmillennialism’s employment of the Cultural Mandate is rooted in a very deep sense of the genuine fearsome power of sin. The postmillennialist, however, sees God’s continuance of the Cultural Mandate, but upon a new principle: the very real and even greater power of redemption in Christ.

The Post-Fall Expectation of Victory

The first genuinely eschatological statement in Scripture occurs very early: in Genesis 3:15. In keeping with the progressively unfolding nature of revelation, this eschatological datum lacks the specificity of the order of later revelation. “Revelation is the interpretation of redemption; it must, therefore, unfold itself in installments as redemption does…. The organic progress [of redemptive revelation] is from seed-form to the attainment of full growth; yet we do not say that in the qualitative sense the seed is less perfect than the tree…. The truth is inherently rich and complex, because God is so Himself.”[17] At that nascent stage of revelation, the identity of the coming Redeemer was not sharply exhibited; it would take later revelation to focus the picture, a picture not perfectly clear until Christ came. Yet the broad outlines drawn by this original eschatological statement are clear enough: “O.T. Revelation approaches the concept of a personal Messiah very gradually. It sufficed for fallen man to know that through His divine power and grace God would bring out of the human race victory over the serpent.”[18] A sore heel does not save the rebellious head.

Orthodox Christian Bible students recognize the reference in Genesis 3:15 as referring to the coming redemptive labor of Jesus Christ as the Promised Redeemer.[19] He is promised as One coming to crush His great enemy – undoubtedly Satan, the head of a nefarious kingdom of evil.[20] This verse portrays in one sentence a mighty struggle between the woman’s seed (Christ and His kingdom)[21] and the serpent’s seed (Satan and his kingdom).[22] “[U]nless we want to separate the second part of the verse completely from the first part and apply the deeper meaning only to the second part while taking the first part strictly literally, we cannot escape the conclusion that the first part of the verse announces the ongoing spiritual conflict between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. In other words, what we have portrayed here is the constant conflict between the children of the devil and the children of the kingdom.”[23] “This first gospel promise, therefore, despite the terse and figurative language in which it is expressed, provides a true perspective of the whole sweep of human history.”[24] This, then, explains the struggle in history: God’s creational purpose is being resisted. (It also helps to explain the Bible’s concern with genealogies leading up to and culminating in Christ, Luke 3:23-38.)

This, then, is the establishment of the covenant of grace, for this is the first promise of a redeemer.[25]

Despite this great struggle in history, the fundamental point of this poetic datum is that of the victorious issue by the woman’s seed, Christ. Later revelation in the New Testament shows that this prophecy began to find fulfillment at the death and resurrection of Christ;[26] it is not awaiting some distant beginning of its fulfillment. Christ has already ascended to God’s throne.

Yet, citing Genesis 3:15, Hoekema asserts that “the expectation of a future golden age before Christ’s return does not do justice to the continuing tension in the history of the world between the kingdom of God and the forces of evil.”[27] He draws too much out of this terse statement. Why may we not refer it to Christ’s first corning in the establishment of His kingdom and Church (cf. Col. 2:15; Rom. 16:20)?[28] Later revelation developed the nature of the struggle and its outcome in history, as Hoekema himself admits: “We may say that in this passage God reveals, as in a nutshell, all of his saving purpose with His people. The further history of redemption will be an unfolding of the contents of the mother promise.”[29] In addition, the verse seems clearly to relate Satan’s death blow with Christ’s heel-wound, i.e., with Christ’s crucifixion, which occurred at His first coming. His wound has empowered His Church.

Thus, here we have at the very inception of prophecy the certainty of victory. Just as the Fall of Adam had a world-wide negative effect, so does the salvation of God, on the basis of the resurrection of Christ, the Last Adam, have a world-wide positive effect (Rom 5:15ff; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45).[30] The crushing of Satan is not awaiting a consummative victory of Christ over Satan at the end of history. The idea (as we will see more fully later) is that Satan the Destroyer, his nefarious kingdom, and its evil effects are overwhelmed progressively by the superior strength and glory of Almighty God the Creator through Jesus Christ.


The stage for the optimistic prospects of redemption is set in the opening chapters of Genesis. The creation of man is for the purpose of ruling the world under God and to His glory. Man is commanded to develop culture, to exercise dominion in the earth. Postmillennialism expects the fulfillment of this mandate.

Man falls from favor with God by the intrusion of the tempter, Satan. Rather than scrapping His original purpose for the world, the Lord immediately begins to work out His redemptive plan in history. The outcome of that plan is prophetically clear: the seed of the woman will crush the seed of the serpent. God’s covenantal dominion will be extended in history through His covenant-keeping representatives in history. The spiritual heirs of the Second Adam will progressively fulfiill the comprehensive task that was originally assigned to the First Adam. Redemption progressively triumphs in history over reprobation. The resurrection of Christ was and remains more powerful than the Fall of Adam: not just judicially but also culturally.

This understanding of the power of Christ’s resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of God is denied by amillennialism.[31] The amillennialist sees the fall of Adam as by far the more powerful force in mankind’s cultural development. He sees Christ’s redemption as “souls-only, Church-only, Christian families-only.” He draws the line at culture, which is to say, he draws a judicial boundary around the transforming power of the Gospel. This is because he has already drawn an eschatological boundary around the transforming power of the Gospel.[32]

The historical outworking of God’s redemptive plan is covenantal, as I noted in Chapter 6. The development of covenantal redemption is traceable from these opening chapters of Genesis throughout the Scriptures. Let us next trace the progress of redemption through the Old Testament revelation. Again, theonomic postmillennialism fits well with this prophetic expectation, co-ordinating the redemptive and creative actions of God.

[1] Isa. 46:10; see the Edenic imagery in Rev. 21:6; 22:13.

[2] The term geneseos occurs frequently in Genesis as a heading to various sections. See: Gen. 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12; 25:19; 36:1; 36:9; 37:2.

[3] Reformed theology’s emphasis on God’s glory is expressed in its most basic, covenantal creed: the Westminster Standards. See the Confession of Faith (3:3, 7; 4:1; 5:1; 6:1; 16:2,7; 18:1; 33:12), the Larger Catechism (Q. 1, 12, 13, 190), and the Shorter Catechism (Q. 1, 2, 7, 47, 66, 101, 102, 107).

[4] Psa. 8:1; 19:1-16; 89:11b; 82:8b; Rom. 11:36; Rev. 4:11.

[5] 2 Chr. 16:9; Psa. 33:13-15; Provo 15:3; Acts 17:28; Heb. 4:13.

[6] Psa. 24:1; 115:16; Prov. 15:3; Dan. 5:23; Acts 25:24-31; Rev. 4:11.

[7] C. F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch, The Pentateuch, in Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, [n.d.] 1975), 1:64.

[8] Amillennialist Herman Hanko insists that through the Fall, “the image of God was changed in him to the image of Satan” and “that the fall brought about a complete loss of the image.” Herman Hanko, “An Exegetical Refutation of Postmillennialism” (unpublished conference paper: South Holland, IL: South Holland Protestant Reformed Church, 1978), pp. 23, 22. The Scripture, however, grants that even fallen man is still in the image of God, although it is a fragmented and corrupted image (Gen. 9:6; Jms. 3:9; 1 Cor. 11:7). This image testifies to him of his sin. It is renewed and strengthened in holiness and righteousness in a redeemed man (Col. 3:10).

[9] Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (2nd ed.; Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), ch. 3.

[10] O. Palmer Robertson, Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1980), p. 80.

[11] See: Francis Nigel Lee, Culture: Its Origin, Development, and Goal (Cape May, NJ: Shelton College Press, 1967); Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, [1898] 1961); Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1959); Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live’: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1976).

[12] Hans Bietenhard, “onoma,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., 10 vols., trans. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967),5:253.

[13] That apes, lemurs, and monkeys are called “primates” (from the Latin primus, “first”) is indicative of the evolutionary view of man.

[14] Hanko, “An Exegetical Refutation of Postmillennialism,” p. 10.

[15] See allusions elsewhere: Gen. 3:15-20; Eccl. 3:1-17; 5:18-19; 9:9,10; 1 Cor. 10:31; 15:22-28; Heb. 4:9-16; 6:7-11; Rev. 20:12; 21:24-22:5.

[16] Kosmos (“world”) is the Greek word (used in the New Testament) that is expressive of the orderly system of the world; it is contrary to chaos. For a discussion of this concept, see Chapter 12, especially pp. 263-68.

[17] Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948), pp. 14, 15, 16.

[18] Ibid., p. 55.

[19] Some liberal scholars argue that this prophecy must be understood etiologically rather than messianically. Gerhard Von Rad, Genesis, trans. by John Marks (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961), pp. 89-90.

[20] Rev. 12:9, 14-15; 20:2; cf. John 8:44; 1 John 3:8.

[21] Although there must be a specific reference to Christ as the Seed, clearly here we have reference to a collective seed, as well. Eve is called the “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). Cf. Matt. 25:40, 45; Luke 10:18; John 8:44; 15:1-7; Acts 13:10; Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; 1 John 3:10; Rev. 12:7-9.

[22] See the conflict between Adam and Satan, Abel and Cain, the Sethites and Cainites, Noah and Nimrod, Abraham and the Chaldeans, Israelites and Canaanites, Christians and pagans.

[23] Gerhard Charles Aalders, Genesis (Bible Student’s Commentary) trans. by William Heynen (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 1:107. See also: Robertson, Christ of the Covenants, pp. 97ff.

[24] Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Interpreting Prophecy: An Essay in Biblical Perspectives (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), p. 11.

[25] Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 180.

[26] 1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14; Col. 2:14, 15.

[27] Hoekema, Bible and the Future, p. 180.

[28] On the binding of Satan, see below: pp. 258-259, 413-415.

[29] Hoekema, Bible and the Future, p. 5.

[30] Gary North, Is the World Running Down? Crisis in the Christian Worldview (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1988).

[31] It is also denied by premillennialism in its view of Church history prior to the bodily return of Jesus to set up his thousand-year earthly kingdom.

[32] Perhaps it is the other way around. Van Til argued that ethics is primary; intellectual error is secondary. Thus, Gary North suggests that it is Christians’ desire to escape personal and corporate responsibility for fulfilling the terms of the Dominion Mandate that has led them to invent false, pessimistic eschatologies.