colorfulserbianiconA study of how the themes of temple, the image of God, and, indeed, the creation mandate unfold in the New Testament is beyond the scope of this blog post. However, there is one question that I would like to explore in regard to the New Testament. That question is, “Does not the coming of Christ, as the last Adam, fulfill the creation mandate?” The answer is: yes and no.

On the one hand, Christ, as the last Adam, is portrayed in the New Testament as the One who succeeds in the ways in which Adam fails. As such, this last Adam can usher in a new creation through His conquest of the hostile world (John 16:33) and the commissioning of His “progeny” to multiply, fill the earth, subdue and rule it.[1] The Great Commission of Matthew of 28:18-20 demonstrates this well:

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In this text, Jesus declares Himself king of Creation. As cosmic King, He commands His disciples (whom, as those who are first “in Christ”, are His new creations; see 1 Cor. 5:17) to make disciples of all nations and baptize them (that is, the nations) into the Triune name. In other words, Christ commands His new creation to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Likewise, the cosmic King also commands the disciples to teach the nations that they disciple to observe all that the King has commanded them. In other words, Christ commands His new creation to subdue the earth and rule over it. Thus we see that, indeed, the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as the Great Commission, does in some sense fulfill the creation mandate of Genesis 1:26-28.

However, in my estimation, it is not as though we should understand the creation mandate as an Old Testament type that Christ fulfills in such a way that transforms or abolishes its original intent all together (as an antitype). This kind of understanding would be just as improper as understanding the entrance into and conquest of Canaan by the Israelites as the complete fulfillment of the creation mandate.[2] Rather, I would contend that it is better to understand the enthronement of Christ and the Great Commission as utilizing the theme of the creation mandate, rather than outright fulfilling it, as a means of reconciling the world to God (2 Cor 5:19).

Looking back at the curses of Genesis 3, recall that just before God curses the purpose of humanity, He promises that one day the “offspring” of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent (Satan). Ironically, this cursed purpose of humanity, that is, family, is the very means of the serpent’s destruction. In this way, the text of Genesis utilizes the theme of the creation mandate as a means of abolishing evil and rectifying the problem of human sin. However, it would be erroneous to think that once the serpent was dealt with, the text of Genesis would then understand the creation mandate and the purpose humanity has been fulfilled. Rather, it seems to me that the entire point of destroying the serpent and fixing the problem of sin in the world is for the sake of restoring their relationship with God and lifting the curse upon their purpose. In other words, the utilization of the theme of procreation in Genesis 3 is to ultimately liberate humanity’s purpose in family (especially procreation) from the curse of pain and death.

Thus, I propose, that in the same way, the coming of Christ, His enthronement, and the Great Commission are the fulfillment of the creation mandate only in the sense that it is the ironic means of destroying the dominion of Satan. The very human purpose that he had a hand in enslaving to sin is the same means God uses to purge the world of him and his influence. However, this defeat of Satan is not the end of human purpose, but the rather, it signals its final reconciliation. The entire point of Christ coming to forgive of us for our sins and banishing evil from this world is so that He can make a new heaven and new earth in which humanity may dwell in the full restoration of their purpose. On this last point, let me clear: the final goal of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and the reason He died in our place (the reason for our salvation) was so that our purpose might be restored in a new creation where we would be free from sin to glorify Him, worship Him, and make Him eternally known in our family and work.

In this way, I wonder if this can add a new layer of meaning to Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:10:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Next, in part 8 of the series, I will explore how scripture portrays the human purpose of family and work in the eschaton.

-David


[1] of G K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2011), 385-86

[2] Contra Schmutzer, Andrew J., Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Crux of Thematic Repetition in Genesis 1-11 (Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2009), 204.