Tag Archives: Creation

Subdue and Replenish the Earth

This is the third part in a series of blog entries related to the First, Greatest, and Last law of God, the command to make, multiply, spread, and steward life.

The command from God comes from Genesis 1:28 which says “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

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This command from God has three parts. First is the command to multiply, then the command to fill the earth, and last the command to replenish and subdue the earth. I have said before that each of these three laws correlate with one another in such a way as to be impossible without their own mutual support.

This third law, to subdue and replenish the earth is probably the most misunderstood. Many translations have used the word “steward,” in place of “subdue,” while others use the word “Master” and others use “dominion,” or even “dominate.”

Obviously the word creates difficulty in translation, but the general theme is clear. Humankind is to have a leadership role over the creation. A good way to understand what kind of leadership is expected is to look in Genesis 2, when God’s creation of Adam is clearly explained. After creating Adam, God says to him “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” Other translations says “care for it and keep it,” in place of “cultivate.”

However, the intention is clear. Adam’s job description given directly by God is to care for the garden. God has created it, and Adam’s job is to take care of it, to make sure the plants are living in harmony, they are pruned well, they are producing fruit and seeds, etc.

As such, the command in Genesis 1, to “subdue and replenish” the earth is much easier to understand. We are to to be gardeners, weeding out the trash and keeping everything in line.

God desires his creation to not only create and spread life, but he wants that life to be beautiful, complete, healthy, and thriving. He wants his garden to spread to the whole earth, and he wants it to do so in a healthy way. He created humankind to tend it and ensure that it thrives.

This is why, after sin enters the world, among the first things it effects are the earth itself and the life on the earth. God curses the ground, saying that instead of springing up new life, it will resist Adam’s work, and will grow weeds and thorns instead. Rather than a world that Adam can cultivate, he will get a world that resists him.

Adam, the one who was supposed to make the world better by replenishing it, instead made it worse by introducing sin into it. This is why in Romans 8, the apostle Paul tells us “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” The creation itself is waiting earnestly for the sanctified children of God to come back and subdue, replenish, and cultivate it.

The creation was made with the original intention of yielding to God’s image. Now it is broken, because God’s image is broken, but through Jesus we can have God’s image restored in us, and as it is restored in us we are able to bring the earth back into its right position.

The earth is waiting for it eagerly. The command is still in play. God still desires us to have a right position under him and a right position over the earth.

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Fill the Earth

I am in the midst of a three-part blog series about the first, greatest, and most important command in the Bible.

The first part of the command was “Be fruitful and multiply,” the second is “Fill the earth.”

The full command is given by God in Genesis 1:28Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.

Related Read: The Biggest Question I have About Genesis

It is my opinion that this law given at the foundation of the world to the first of God’s created humans in his image, is not only the first command, but also the last, and all other commands in the Bible stem from it. It is three parts that each correlate to one another.

Fill the earth is the secondary command to “multiply.” It would be virtually impossible to succeed in multiplying greatly without also filling the earth, and it would be hard to expand territory without also multiplying. Therefore the two commands rely on each other to be accomplished.

God wants us to fill the earth for two reasons.

First, he wants us to fill the earth because we are his image, and his image is good. If there is a part of the earth that lacks his image, then that part is lacking, and God’s creation is not meant to lack anything. In fact, it could be said that the reason God did not simply fill the earth with people in his image from the first day was for the sole purpose of allowing humankind to multiply, fill, and steward on our own. In this way, we would not be lacking opportunities to carry God’s image, and God’s creation would not be lacking because we would ensure that it was filled.

Think of it this way. God is a creative, life-giving, life-loving God. If we are in his image, then we will naturally want to create, give life, and love life. Therefore, since we are in God’s image, we are naturally inclined toward doing these things. Therefore God made the world relatively empty on purpose, so that we, in his image, would have the opportunity to live out his image by creating more.

Therefore the command to multiply and to fill the earth is simply the result of us carrying the image of God and staying true to it. It is so thoroughly engrained into us that even after sin entered the world and turned humanity upside down, we still have a natural instinct to reproduce and multiply, and then to move out into the world somewhere away from our home. It is instinct because it is part of us. It is part of us because we are in God’s image, created to do what he does, which is give life, expand life, and care for life.

That was the first reason he wants us to fill the earth.

The second reason is because of the third part of the command – we are to care for the earth. We can’t obey that part unless we are obeying the other parts. If we don’t fill the earth, how will we steward it? If we don’t multiply, how will we fill it? Therefore the three commands relate to one another. All of them relate back to being in God’s image.

Now, of course there are plenty of problems with filling the earth, notably, Genesis 11, in which all of humanity unites together for the stated purpose of NOT filling the earth, but we will get to that later.

The commandment to fill the earth is echoed by Jesus, just as the command to multiply was echoed by Jesus. In the Great Commission, Jesus’s last words to his disciples before heaven, he brought them directly back to Genesis 1. He told them “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me,” reminding them of the first verse of the Bible, “God created the heavens and the earth.” He then told them to go out and multiply disciples, fulfilling the first of the original commands to multiply. He then told them specifically to go into all the world, filling it. In this way God’s three part law of multiplication, filling, and stewarding is fulfilled by the Great Commission.

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Be Fruitful and Multiply

The first part of God’s three-fold command at creation is to “Be fruitful and multiply.” The command in full, says , “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.” As we have said, is a three-part command, with multiplication being the first part, and, in my opinion, the most important part, though all three are tied together.

Multiplication is probably the theme of Genesis 1 as a whole. All living things are commanded to multiply upon their creation. The plants were created for the express purpose of reproducing. The plants were created bearing seeds and fruit with seeds in them, to reproduce after their kind. Likewise the fish, the birds of the air, and all the animals that walk on the surface of the earth were commanded to multiply.
Related Read: Cain, Abel, and Why God gave Cain an Impossible Command
It should not be a surprise, then, that the first people were also given this command.

God’s creation is a life-giving creation. If new life is not being created, God would not be satisfied with his creation. In God’s kingdom, either there is life-multiplying life, or else it isn’t God’s kingdom. As you study the Bible and the sayings of Jesus it becomes obvious that the entire purpose of God’s kingdom is to advance, to spread, and to multiply. Jesus tells us he came so that we would have life, abundant life. “Abundant means “Abounding, which means healthy, growing, and at its core, it means multiplying. If you are extremely healthy and fit, but unable to multiply, then you are not extremely healthy and fit. Jesus says that trees which produce no fruit are unfit, and will be burned. He came so that we would have life, so that our lives would produce more lives. There are no commands in scripture to stop, only commands to advance.

Interestingly, one of the few contributions that Darwinian evolution has in common with the understanding of Genesis is the mutually high regard for reproduction and multiplication. The theory of Darwinian evolution is drastically flawed from a scientific perspective, and is also mostly contrary to scripture. However, the entire dogma of evolution is that species that reproduce the most are the “fittest,” and those which are unable to reproduce as quickly will die off. The phrase “survival of the fittest” is mostly used by Darwinists, but it is also the first command of God, to multiply. I believe multiplication and reproduction are the primary laws of the world that God made, so obvious and simple that even Darwinists and atheists can understand it.

Why does God put such importance on multiplication? I believe he wants us to multiply because we are created in his image, and he himself is a life-giving, live-loving God. Since we are in his image, and since his image is good, then we should desire his image to increase. It could be narrowed to a simple analogy of chocolate. Ask a little kid if they like chocolate. They will say yes. Now ask them if they would prefer one piece of chocolate, or chocolate that continually multiplies? It is very simple. If you love it, you want more of it. God is life, God is love, God loves life, therefore God wants more life, and any form of life that loves what God loves, must also want more of it.

God is good. God is desirable, God is loving, merciful, just, and all-wise. Do you want his image confined to one single place at a time, or multiplied everywhere? If you love God, you love his image, and you love his agenda, and you want more of it. The command to multiply God’s image is a very straightforward and simple command that is instinctively obvious and hardwired into us from the beginning.

In fact, not only is multiplication of God’s image the first command God gives, but it is also the last command Jesus gave on earth. Just before he ascended into heaven, he gathered his disciples to himself, saying “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to do and obey all that I have commanded you,” Matthew 28:19.

Do you see what Jesus is doing there? He starts off by reminding us of his power and the creation story, by saying “all authority in heaven and earth is mine.” That is an obvious reference to Genesis 1:1, when it says “God created the heavens and the earth.” Jesus is calling the disciples to remember the creation story. Now, Jesus is condensing the creation story down to the single most important command of the story, the command to multiply and fill the earth.

But now, in the New Testament time, the earth is already multiplied and filled with people in the image of God, but that image is corrupted by sin and death. Death is antithetical to God, which is why he sent Jesus to overcome it.  So instead of simply telling the disciples to multiply more, he now tells them to multiply disciples. Go back and make new creations out of these corrupted, sinful images of God. Go back and re-claim them as God’s image, making disciples out of them, new creations who will overcome death.

But of course the command is not simply to convert and overcome death. No, God’s kingdom is always expanding. The command is to multiply disciples. To multiply people who in turn multiply more people, who in turn are multiplying again. We are called to multiply new life into God’s eternal image.

When a person is saved by the blood of Jesus, they are enabled to become the true image of God that he originally designed us to be at creation, before sin. Sin has spread to everyone, and death has spread through sin. Death is the opposite of life, it is the opposite of fruitfulness and the opposite of multiplication. Jesus came so that we could have life, and so that we would multiply that life.

Therefore the first commandment, to multiply, is also the last commandment. Jesus came to earth in order to save the image of God from death. Yes, of course there is biological reproduction, which is part of God’s kingdom as well, but there is also spiritual multiplication. God’s command in Genesis was about physical multiplication of his image over the face of the earth. Jesus’s command is about spiritual multiplication to reclaim his image over the face of the earth.

This is why I contend that the first command is the most important command of God in the entire Bible. It is so important that he sent his son to die in order to ensure it was fulfilled. God wants life so much he was willing to die in order to give life.

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The Most Important Command in the Bible

There is one commandment in the Bible that nearly everyone ignores, even though it is the first thing God commanded us, and unlocks the primary key to God’s purpose in the world and in your life. It is in the first chapter of the Bible, and it is spoken immediately upon creation so you will not miss it, yet nearly everyone does. It is the last thing Jesus talks about on earth, and it is his primary purpose on earth. In fact, it is God’s primary purpose in his own existence. It is the most important command in the Bible.

The first chapter of the Bible lays out God’s creation and purpose in his creation. When God creates, he does so for a purpose. For example, when he creates the stars, the sun, and the moon, he says they are for keeping track of times and seasons and days and years. They have a purpose. The purpose of the plants is to bear fruit and seeds, and the purpose of the birds is to fill the skies. These are the foundational commands of the world, which determine how it will operate and work. Birds can’t help themselves. They fly and fill the skies simply because it is in their nature to do so. Likewise, the stars move through the galaxy because they were built to do so.

—— Related Read: The Biggest Question About Genesis 1 ——

There is also a commandment here that has direct personal application for every single person in world history, and very few pay any attention to it.
Here it is:
Genesis 1:26-31 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. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Do you see the commandment right there? “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” That is the central command God gave to all humankind, from the moment he created us. It is a three-part command, to multiply, to fill the earth, and to have stewardship over the earth.

Is it still applicable?
Yes. In fact, it is more applicable now than it was then. You may think the world has already been filled, that humankind has multiplied greatly over the whole earth, and of course you are correct, but I suggest that the world is more deeply in need of this command right now than it was when God gave it. I believe it is an eternal command that grows in power as time goes by, that God’s eternal plan is based entirely on this command, and the more people multiply and fill the earth, the more we are commanded to do it. In fact, he is so focused on accomplishing this command that when the time came, he was prepared to send his son to die in order to multiply life.

For the next three blog entries we will look at this three-part command and see what it means for us today and how it gives the framework for studying the rest of scripture as a whole. I believe this original three-fold command is absolutely central to understanding the entire Bible, and without it, all attempts to understand God’s will on earth will fail.

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The Biggest Question about Genesis 1

Genesis chapter one describes the original creation of the universe and the world around us. All of God’s creation was completed by God’s spoken word, with purpose, in order, and without assistance. In fact, one of the primary lessons of Genesis one is that God is a purposeful and good God. This theme is clearly understood by the structure of the chapter, with each day beginning with God speaking a new thing into existence, the explicit repetition of the thing God spoke actually coming into existence, noted and described as good, and the day ending the same way each time. Genesis 1 goes out of its way to describe and explain order and clarity in God’s creation.

So how can there be a Big Question about the chapter?
To understand Genesis one, you have to think about it from the perspective of the original writer and audience.
The original readers of Genesis were surrounded by stories and myths about creation which involved scores of gods competing, fighting, and conspiring together, with the world coming into existence in a haphazard and accidental kind of way. The Israelites, who would have been taught the stories of Genesis after their time as slaves in Egypt, were very confused about the nature of God. Genesis was written to set them straight.
Egyptian legends said the gods of Egypt created the world by accident, with a god named Atum sneezing, because he was sick, and a male and female god and goddess emerged from his spittle, and eventually gave birth to lesser gods, who waged war and the world was created as spoils from their wars. In one great battle, the god osiris was killed by his brother named set. Osiris went to live in the underworld, where he controlled the Nile river. Each year he would flood the river and destroy the other gods of the land. However, the flooding would replenish the soil with new silt, and would cause the plants to grow up faster and healthier, thus giving the land gods more power and causing a perpetual war that never ends, and the land of Egypt constantly hanging in the balance while the gods have a war, mostly oblivious to what happens to the people of Egypt.
When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, he wanted them to know that God’s creation was orderly and intentional, and that God cared about them. God is in charge of nature, and there is no second place. There is no war of the gods with the world hanging in the balance. There is God, God’s creation, and it is very good. Of course, we know that there is a great war between God and Satan, but that was not the original created order, nor is it central to how God made the earth. The earth is created in an orderly way, by God’s intentional command. This is the primary takeaway from Genesis 1.
However, modern readers of Genesis focus on the theory of evolution and attempt to explain how evolution and the Bible can or cannot accommodate one another. The truth is Genesis was not written from a modern perspective. It was written from an ancient perspective, answering questions the ancients asked, about whether the world was accidental or purposeful, whether the forces of the world (gods) were attentive to the world, or withdrawn from it. The Egyptians believed they were accidental footnotes in the ongoing story of the universe, acted upon by greater forces with little or no concern for their existence.
But, of course, there is nothing new under the sun, and this ancient perspective may actually be closer to the modern way of thinking than it seems. For example, the theory of evolution suggests that the world is the result of a accidental processes and forces of nature, leading, ever so slowly, to the current state. If there is a god, he is uninvolved in our concerns, doing other things while the forces of the world shape and form it. Is that so different from the ancient theory that the earth was an accidental result of god-like forces playing out their parts in the cosmos?
Maybe you see major differences in the ancient and modern beliefs, maybe you don’t. Either way, Genesis 1 remains the same. It says that God spoke the world into existence, he did so intentionally, and he did so with care, making sure to note that each day was good, and concluding that everything was “very good” when he finished. Throughout the Bible we will see that when God speaks, the world snaps to attention and instant obedience, with no delay of time and with no other forces capable of stopping God’s command. God’s creation in Genesis 1 cannot be reconciled with an accidental, haphazard creation. Either Genesis is true and evolution is false, or vice versa. Just as the original readers of Genesis had to decide whether to believe it, or to believe the teachings of their neighbors, so modern readers must make the same decision.
The central question of Genesis 1, is, do you believe in a God who spoke the universe into existence, or not? The Bible starts with this question because everything that follows assumes you believe chapter 1 is true. If you do not believe it, then the Bible becomes a collection of interesting stories, just as the Egyptian myths are interesting, but nothing more. If you do believe it, then the Bible turns into a description of God’s work in the world that he made.
Which do you believe?

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