(Gen 1:26-27 NAS) 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
The word translated “rule” is radah, and it’s the word used for the rule of king or of a nation over another. Now, if one of the themes of the Bible is the restoration of mankind to God’s original place for man, then we will surely see evidence of God working to restore kingship to mankind.
The Genesis account is echoed in the Psalms —
(Psa 8:3-9 ESV) 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
The Psalmist sees us as already having dominion over the creation.
(Dan 7:1 ESV) 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’
(Dan 7:21-22 ESV) 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.
(Dan 7:1 ESV) 27 And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’
Daniel is not easily interpreted, but there’s clearly the idea here that the saints will possess a kingdom and that all others will serve and obey them. In those days, kings were judges — the supreme court of the land — and so giving judgement to the saints puts them in the place of kings. It’s hard not to read this as a prediction of the rule of God’s saints.
“And he lives forever with his saints to reign …”
(Rom 5:17 ESV) 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
(1Co 6:2-3 ESV) 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
(Eph 2:4-7 ESV) 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
(2Ti 2:11-13 ESV) 11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful– for he cannot deny himself.
(Rev 5:9-10 ESV) And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
(Rev 22:3-5 ESV) 3 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. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 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.
Most of these passages speak of our becoming kings in the future, but Rom 5:17 and Eph 2:6 seem to speak of a present reign. However, both passages speak of our reigning either “through” or “with” Jesus. You see, we are part of Jesus — being his body and having been baptized into him.
I don’t claim to fully understand this, but this idea is at least partly that because we are in Jesus, like Jesus, we reign. We don’t reign independently of Jesus, but our being in Jesus makes us royalty and kings.
1 Cor 6 has puzzled many, because Paul declares that we will be judges — when we typically think of terms of having to face the Judgment. But in those days, there was no separation of powers. The king was also the supreme court. Paul’s final appeal was to Caesar — not the Roman supreme court, and Solomon was famous for his wise decisions as a judge.
Therefore, if we are or will be kings, we will also be judges. Interesting …
While we’re on the subject, I should point out that we are also priests — which is a much more familiar doctrine, but it’s fits in with all this.
(Exo 19:5-6 ESV) 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
(Isa 61:5-6 ESV) 5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 6 but you shall be called the priests of the LORD; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast.
(Rev 1:4-6 ESV) 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
These ideas blend together in —
(1Pe 2:9 ESV) 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
We are not only priests, but royal priests — and “royal” means we’re both priests and kings. Now under the Law of Moses, this was quite impossible, as only Levites could be priests, and only a descendant of David, of the tribe of Judah, could be a king. But as Hebrews teaches us, Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek, that is, a priest of the God Most High not from Levi.
And so, you see, we’re also kings and priests, although we’re from the wrong tribe. Most of us aren’t even Jews. Rather, we find our priesthood and kingship in Jesus.
Now for the point. Who in the Old Testament received the Spirit? Well, judges and kings. And what are we? Well, judges and kings.
And why did God give them the Spirit? Because their duties as judges and kings required divine assistance. God wanted his people to have wise judges and righteous kings, and so he equipped them with his own Spirit.
So what does this mean we’re supposed to do? Go around issuing decrees? Deciding disputes? What?
Well, no. We are to be kings and judges and priests of the same kind as Jesus — that means, we get to be the kind of king of who will lead his troops in battle from the front — willing to die for the cause. And yet we are to be peacemakers. Like Solomon, we are to resolve disputes and bring peace to the land.
Like Josiah, we are to read the Law to the people and warn them against idolatry — and be willing to die for those for whom we reign. Like David, we are to sing God’s praises in the assembly. We might even compose a psalm or two.
And, yes, like David, we are to lead God’s armies into war, but not against God’s people. No internal wars allowed! Rather, we lead an assault against the gates of Hades — defeating even death by the hand of God.
(2Co 10:4-6 ESV) 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
(1Ti 1:18-19a ESV) 18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience.
We are kings who serve, sacrifice, bring peace, and judge. But we don’t seize authority or kingship. Rather, our authority comes from our service and submission. It’s an upside-down kind of kingship — a kingship not yet fully realized but yet sure.
You see, like Jesus, we are cruciform kings — filled with the Spirit because it takes God’s help to be that kind of King.