Rudimentary Thoughts on the Plotline of Scripture

Domnion

By far, this is one of the most important books I’ve ever read on the Bible.  I’ve read others in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, but this one is my favorite.  In short, Dempster seeks to showcase the linguistic and conceptual unity of the Old Testament, taking special note of how each individual book advances the overall plotline of the Bible.  Although other books may be written on this subject, I think Dempster’s main contribution in this monograph is his contention that the entire Old Testament can be summarized in two words: Dominion and Dynasty. 

After God created Adam and Eve, he told them to take dominion over creation (Gen. 1:26, 28). This point should immediately capture the reader’s attention because it brings to light the fact that God’s original intention was to rule the earth through the agency of human beings.  This is why so many theologians refer to humanity as God’s “vice-regents.” [1]  This is what Dempster means by “dominion.”

Of course, readers of the Bible learn in Genesis 3 that God’s original plan for his image-bearers didn’t last that long.  In an act of rebellion, Adam and Eve seek to decide for themselves what is right and wrong.[2]  This is followed by God’s curses upon creation and humanity (Gen. 3:14-19); and we’re left wondering how the rest of the story of humanity is going to play out.  Thankfully, Gen. 3:15 gives us “genealogical hope.”[3]  The seed of the woman will restore humanity to its proper place: exercising dominion over God’s earth, while enjoying God’s wonderful presence.

With respect to dynasty, Demspter builds upon this “genealogical hope,” taking readers to Genesis 12.  God’s promise to Abraham to make him a great nation is one of the most important promises in all of the Bible.  While more could certainly be said about this, let’s fast forward to David (2 Sam. 7).  David is an important figure in the Bible for a number of reasons, not least of which because the promises made to Abraham are transferred to him.   As Dempster notes, “the Davidic covenant is designated as being more secure than the fixed order of creation” (Jer. 33:19-22).[4]

Fast forward again: the writers of the New Testament are at pains to point out that Jesus is the long-awaited seed of David.  This is the point of Matthew’s genealogy (Matt. 1:1-17) and the reason people cry out to Jesus, referring to him as “the Son of David” (Matt. 9:27).  Additionally, this is why the angel Gabriel informs Mary that God will give to her Son “the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33, emphasis mine).

Jesus, the Son of God and man, restores humanity to its proper place as God’s vice-regents.[5]  While all human beings are created in the image of God, Jesus Christ is the image of God par excellence (Heb. 1:3).  He is God’s only unique Son (John 3:16; Heb. 1:5).  Thus, in his earthly ministry we see him exercising dominion over the earth in very specific, clear cut (indeed, miraculous) ways.  For example, his exorcisms (Matt. 12:28; Lk. 11:20), healings (Matt. 9:35; Lk. 9:1-6), and power over nature (Matt. 8:27).  All of these actions demonstrate that “The proper order of man over creation was being restored.”[6]

Although we do not walk around doing the kinds of things Jesus did, by trusting in him “man’s viceregency is representatively restored.”[7]  As the second Adam, Jesus “has come to restore the human dominion and greatness that Adam lost.”[8]  God’s plan from the beginning of creation was to have a people among whom he could dwell and with whom he could be in relationship.  Whereas in Eden it was lost, in the New Jerusalem it will be regained.  Where Adam failed, Jesus was obedient.  For all eternity we will live as God’s people in God’s place with God’s blessing, as we joyfully submit to God’s king, Jesus Christ.  As Egger nicely summarizes, “With joy we will superintend the new earth and all its creatures. . . .   The glory and dominion of God and his Christ will endure forever, and the glory and dominion of those re-created in the image of God to rule, serve, and guard the creation in righteousness will be secured forever.”[9]

Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.


[1] Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible (Downers Grove: IVP, 2003), 59.

[2] Ibid., 63.  Vaughn Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible (Downers Grove: IVP, 2002), 39.

[3] Dempster, Domnion, 68.

[4] Ibid., 167.

[5] Dan G. McCartney, “Ecce Homo: The Coming of the Kingdom as the Restoration of Human Viceregency,” Westminster Theological Journal 56 (1994): 1-21.

[6] Ibid., 10.

[7] Ibid., 8.

[8] Thomas J. Egger, “Jesus: The Second and Greater Adam,” Modern Reformation 22:6 (2013): 44.

[9] Ibid., 45.

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