Dominion and the Problem of Vertigo
What is dominion and who exercises it?
How is dominion passed to another?
What happens when a creature wants to exercise dominion from below upward?
These are questions that come to my mind as I have been pondering a teaching by Jim Wilder about this subject recently. I find this very fascinating and helpful in understanding many other issues surrounding our relationship with God and the condition of sin we find ourselves in. And it particularly is helping me to clarify what the real differences are between our relationship with God during Old Testament times and how we relate to Him now in New Testament perspective.
I will touch on exploring these questions but also realize that there is much more to unpack here than what I can do right now. But this issue of dominion and its implications is a rather new one for me so I am interested in learning more about it and how it affects my life right now.
Dominion and authority seem to be very closely tied together. It is also linked to the words ruler or to rule throughout the Bible. It is clearly an issue of relationships and designations of responsibility. Authority, as I learned many years ago, is also something that has a great deal to do with recognition of authority by those being governed. A healthy relationship in authority always works best when authority is granted and cooperated with by those under authority. Rebellion against authority often occurs when those under authority either do not appreciate the true nature of those over them in authority or are chaffing under abusive exercise of authority.
In the very beginning of the Bible, it talks about this issue of dominion and authority. By the threads about this that keep showing up all throughout the Bible I am beginning to see that it is very integral to the issues involved in the great conflict between Christ and Satan going on in this universe. So in order for us to understand more clearly what is really going on and the true nature of our salvation, it is highly important that we come to understand this concept of authority, dominion and how to align ourselves properly with authority in the right direction.
So, what clues do we have to start with as to the real meaning of this word dominion? Let me look at how it is described in the first mention of it.
Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 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 air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." (Genesis 1:26-28 NRSV)
According to these verses dominion applies to fish, birds, all animals and every living thing that moves on the earth. Other translations render this word to rule instead of dominion. It is a word denoting governance or responsibility handed to the first humans assigned to take care of this planet.
It is also interesting to note some things that are not included in this list of dominion. Adam and Eve were not given authority to kill anything under their dominion. They were not given dominion over people's freedom of choice except for their own. And they were not given dominion over anything after death. The only area of dominion that they were assigned was over living things on this earth.
In addition, they were also instructed as to the conditions and terms of this dominion. God stated very clearly that their relationship to Him included obedience to His instructions about the Tree in the middle of the garden. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17)
The Law of God and perfect obedience to that Law was the conditions under which Adam and Eve were to govern the whole world entrusted to them. Interestingly, when one dies the Law no longer applies to their life. But their dominion was not over things pertaining to death but only to things that were alive. Parallel to this they themselves we only allowed to have dominion as long as they lived within the terms of life itself. Implied in God's warning to them was that if they chose to disobey they would die that very day and consequently would lose ability to govern over their dominion.
As we know, Satan tempted Eve through the agent of a talking serpent and induced her to surrender her authority to one of the very creatures over which she had been given dominion. In turn, she used her charms and influence to entice Adam to join her in turning against God and mistrusting His words to them and then found themselves in a strange new world they had never expected to experience.
So, just how is dominion transferred from one entity to another, especially when it is done outside of God's normal methods? From what I have perceived so far it is accomplished by inducing the one in authority to give up their rights to rule by violating the conditions under which they are viewed as the duly recognized authority. It is done by enticing them to yield to a temptation that violates their conditions of dominion.
Adam and Eve surrendered dominion to Satan in the person of a creature they were given dominion over by yielding to his enticements to disobey their commission from God who had appointed them. Their disobedience violated the terms of their rights to dominion and Satan took over claims to the dominion they had relinquished. Possibly he may have partially done this by claiming that since they through death would not be around very long to exercise authority on this planet that he was next in line to take that position since he was not going to die like they were. He claimed that they had chosen him as their duly appointed successor and immediately seized control of the reigns of power on this planet. He immediately began implementing his own methods of governance and began forming his own ideas about how relationships should be conducted between everyone and everything under his new arena of dominion.
Satan had been studying for a long time how to make an alternative system of government work in God's universe. He understood better than anyone else the inner workings of God's mind and God's ways so he knew the secret codes better than any other intelligent being in the universe. This is similar to a person who has free access and great knowledge of the inner workings and programming code of highly sensitive information in government computers. Given this inside knowledge, he felt that he could create an alternative operating system that might work better than the arrangement of love and submission that God had set up under which all creation was to function.
The loophole that Satan thought he had discovered in God's system of governance was in the idea that somehow he could arrange for a lesser creature to be able to manipulate the decisions or control others above and around him. This was the situation that he himself was in because of his desires to be like the Most High. Since he was not the Most High but he wanted the influence and power and prestige of the Most High it would be necessary to figure out a way for a lesser creature – namely himself – to somehow exercise authority not delegated to him from above.
This was exactly the nature of the temptation that he offered to Eve. God had clearly spelled out to Adam and Eve that they were to have dominion – rulership – over all living creatures on the earth. They were to subdue the earth which would imply all of the creatures in the earth as well. So in order to obey God's instructions, it would have been proper for Eve to subdue the serpent speaking to her from the tree in full dependence on God instead of reasoning with it and giving it undue credibility and access to her mind and emotions.
But it was Satan's purpose to induce Eve into following his own plan of an authority figure surrendering to one over which they are suppose to have dominion. But this submission was not from the posture of humility as is what happens in God's kingdom but from an attitude of self-serving and self-advantage. A creature over which Eve had dominion was offering her a deal that supposedly would cause her to achieve even more dominion than what she had been originally endowed. Thus Satan was modeling to her the very thing that he desired to achieve throughout all of the universe for himself. A lesser creature would rule over those who were supposed to have dominion over them.
As soon as Eve and Adam surrendered to this scheme and embraced this false logic, their indulgence in this temptation cost them the very dominion they had received from God. And because they had surrendered their dominion to a creature under their charge, their whole perception of reality was suddenly turned upside down from what they had always know before. And to this very day we all have struggled to make sense of reality because from our upside-down perspective inherited from Adam everything about the kingdom of God seems like vertigo to us. What leads to life looks like death. What leads to leadership and honor looks like degradation and humiliation. What seems like up is really down and what seems like down is actually up.
Ironically, God's plan to recapture the dominion of this earth and return it to God's team employed a similar strategy that Satan used to usurp it in the first place, only using principles of reality and justice instead of deception and allurements. This new kind of temptation actually exploited and entrapped Satan in his own snares. Jesus took advantage of Satan's own greatest weakness in causing him to literally tempt himself into losing his own grasp on dominion that he had taken from Adam and Eve.
When Jesus came to this earth He was unique in several ways. He was the first human since Adam and Eve to live on this planet outside of the dominion of Satan. Jesus never came under the authority or rule of Satan because of several reasons. Some of these are well known but others are less familiar to us because of our lack of careful study of the Bible.
Jesus was fully human by virtue of His birth to a human woman who passed on her flesh and blood humanity to Him. However, this did not include any propensities to sin as I will elaborate on a little later.
As a human, Jesus never violated parole, so to speak because He never Himself chose to go against His true Father's will at any time while He lived among us on this fallen world. This is commonly referred to in the assertion that He never sinned. Of course, the problem with most religious people is that they have very confused ideas about what sin is to start with so they assume this means Jesus never broke the Law. However, sin is much deeper than doing bad external things or just breaking rules; it is more a description of a condition of separation at the heart level from the will and ways of God in the innermost being.
Jesus was actually fathered in Mary's body by the Holy Spirit, part of the Godhead. Since the Holy Spirit had never made any deals with Satan there was no reason for Satan to have dominion over Jesus from this direction.
And one more reason that I know of that is rather interesting but far less known about: Jesus did not take on our sinful liabilities and vulnerabilities through being born as a human because His humanness came through a woman and not from a man.
That may sound rather strange until the word iniquity is better understood. The Bible teaches that sinful propensities are passed down generationally from fathers to their children, not from mothers to the children. The Bible uses the term iniquity to describe this phenomenon and consistently traces it down through the father's lineage. Because Jesus never had a biological earthly father He was free of all natural contamination that occurs in every other human by nature of being born from earthly fathers.
It is true that Jesus took upon Himself all of our sins and iniquities. But that is a whole different issue and those liabilities were not in any way associated from anything inherently within Himself.
Based on all of these criteria, Jesus was never subject to Satan's authority or dominion and He stated as much in His discussions with those around Him. Even with a lifetime of intense hammering, enticements and allurements by Satan from every angle imaginable, Satan was never able to get Jesus to surrender Himself to any claims of rulership or acknowledge any dominion over Him by the current ruler of this world.
It is actually quite revealing in relation to this issue to look at three times that Jesus refers to the ruler of this world.
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31 NIV)
I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; (John 14:30)
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:7-11 NIV)
There are a number of implications in these statements about Satan and his claim to dominion over this world. But the most important of them is what happened between him and Jesus at the cross of calvary. What actually transpired there was that, strangely enough, the devil literally tempted himself into viciously attacking and killing the very One who had come to give him this very opportunity. But because he knowingly killed someone who was not under his dominion by any standards of measurement, he was forced to relinquish his own claims to dominion in exactly the same way that Adam had lost it. He violated the intrinsic terms that had allowed him to exercise his dominion and thus surrendered it to the Person who had come to take it away from him – the second Adam.
Satan by that time must have realized the trap that was being set for him and at least some of the potential consequences that would be incurred if he fell for it. He must have perceived, at least to some extent, the liabilities that would be incurred if he ended up killing the innocent Son of God who was outside of Satan's domain. But because of his own sinful nature he literally could not resist his own temptation and urges to kill, and so he ended up crossing the line of no return by killing the Son of God and thus forfeited all rights of dominion that he had received from Adam. At this point Jesus laid claim to dominion over this world and a radical transition of power took place with a new government to be immediately installed that would conduct business in a very different way on this planet than had ever occurred since Adam had lost his position.
The biggest problem that we encounter today in relation to all of this is that we fail to understand or appreciate the new rules of conduct and relationships that we live under with Jesus as the rightful authority on this planet. Satan is still running around acting like nothing has changed and like he is still in authority and most people seem to accept his claims for it. We continue to blame God for all the bad things that happen to us and fail to perceive our new standing under the new covenant that God has with His people. Satan has managed to distort our understandings of this new covenant so much that we still relate to God in ways of either slavery or with little regard for His holiness and immense danger. We don't understand love, grace, forgiveness or obedience. Pretty much every religious word and concept introduced in the new covenant has been hijacked by Satan and their definitions subverted to mean something other than intended under the rulership of Jesus Christ. We still tend to focus on religion as an external set of beliefs and exercises and behaviors instead of allowing God's presence to transform our hearts and lives from the inside out.
It is time for each one of us to take notice of the change of the guard that took place nearly 2000 years ago and learn the ways of God and how He wants us to relate to Him. We need to understand the true meaning of the cross and its implications for our lives instead of looking at it as some sort of appeasement for an angry God threatening wrath and punishments against a rebellious planet. We must come to realize that the Father and the Son are in perfect unison in their feelings about us and their desires to bring us into perfect conformity with their infinite love. The plan has already been revealed, but it has also been terribly distorted and confused by the enemy since its first introduction.
It is now time to allow the fire of God's passionate love to fill our lives and burn away all the sin and fear and confusion about Him that continues to allow the enemy to operate so freely in our lives. It is time to surrender our own claims of dominion to Jesus Christ who is the only rightful ruler on this planet. It is time to fill our minds and imaginations and hearts with the real truths about God and to lay aside the many sources of misinformation being offered to us through the media, entertainment and various other sources of distraction. It is time to become fully aware of what the dominion of Jesus really means for us personally and to begin to live life in the full freedom and complete submission of our hearts and lives to our new Master.
Satan has been exposed and stands condemned as an impostor. Now it is time for us to embrace that reality and to live under total allegiance to the new master of this world, Jesus Christ, the one who died because of our transgressions and proved that God will never stop loving us for any reason whatsoever.
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will (should be allowed to) have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14 NRSV)