(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.
(Gen 1:28 ESV) And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:28 ESV)
The word translated “rule” and “have dominion” is radah, and it’s the word used for the rule of king or of a nation over another.
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. The word translated “have dominion” (mashal) here is also used of God’s reign (1 Chr 29:12).
(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 judgment 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 in 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 …
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.