Theologians have written countless pages in an attempt to identify the central theme of Scripture, the idea that unifies the Old and New Testaments. Various ideas have been suggested, including covenant, redemption, election, and many more. A good case can be made for many of these suggestions, but there is one theme that incorporates most of these broad concepts and several others. It is also the theme that Jesus spoke about more than any other — the kingdom of God.
The exact phrase “the kingdom of God” does not appear in the Old Testament, but the concept is present throughout, especially when we consider 1 Kings 8:60, Psalm 47:2, and the hundreds of other texts that refer to God as king and lord. Also, as we saw in our look at Genesis 1:1–2:3, God’s sovereign rule over the universe is established in that He is the creator of all things.
Genesis 1 is also the first place in the Bible where we are given the remarkable truth that our Creator has made human beings to share in His reign. The Old Testament tells us that the Lord God created the heavens to declare His glory (Ps. 19:1), but it tells us that mankind was made to do the same through ruling over the earth. Men and women alike are made in the image of God (vv. 26–27); thus, we are special and unique reminders to the creation of its ultimate sovereign. The ancient Israelites who first read Genesis 1 were familiar with the statues or images that conquering kings set up throughout their empires to manifest visibly the extent of their reign. In revealing that we are the image of God, the Lord is telling us that we were made for a similar purpose — to increase and spread across the globe to reflect God and His glory (v. 28).
Besides filling the earth, verse 28 explains that we are to subdue and exercise dominion over the world, not trashing or exploiting the planet, but cultivating its gardens, increasing its produce, and making it show forth the Lord’s glory more clearly. As the image of God, we are in a sense a “copy” of God, and in exercising righteous rule, we imitate our righteous ruler and contribute to the revelation of the King and His kingdom. We are subjects of this magnificent King, but we are not mere subjects; rather, we are dignified vice-regents made to authoritatively bring His righteousness to bear on all areas of life.