We have been looking so far at one aspect of being created in the image of God; that we are His representatives until Jesus comes again. Being created in His image will still be as true when he has returned, however; this week we will look at our roles in eternity. While there are a multitude of voices out there who refuse to use credit cards, talk about the rapture a lot and store as much dried and canned goods as will fit in their cellar I do not wish us to dwell upon how the world will end, what order events will occur in and who I'll be sitting next to in heaven. I would, however, like to look at the roles which we have in common - because we are created in the image of God not just on an individual level but corporately as well.
I would like us to look at two key passages this week - the first is Hebrews 2:5-9, which says this: 'Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world l to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honour, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.'
John Piper paraphrased this text and its surroundings like this: 'don't neglect your coming great salvation, because in the coming world it is not angels who will have everything in subjection to them - it is not angels who will rule, but . . . But who?' It should not take a degree in theology for us to figure out where John Piper was going with this. The quote used by the writer to the Hebrews is taken from Psalm 8, which is about mankind. The juxtaposition of man's frailty ('what is man, that you are mindful of him?') with the glory of being created in the image of God ('you have crowned him with glory and honour') is poetic, yes, but also a reminder of our great responsibility in the world to come ('putting everything in subjection under his feet').
The problem with this is twofold. Firstly, surely we will never truly reign - Jesus is still God and is the same 'yesterday and today and forever' (Hebrews 13:8), so at the most we will reign under his supervision, but secondly we do not see that this world is in subjection under our feet. We try to convince ourselves that we rule by creating new technologies, artforms and so on, but the truth is that we are subject to this world - the common phenomenon we are all subject to would be, of course, death. And this answer is provided in verse 9 above. Jesus Christ, who took the form of a man ('was made lower than the angels'), received the punishment of death in our place ('he might taste death for everyone') and it is because he willingly became subject to that which we should have been that we do genuinely receive the glory and honour which is his! This means that when Jesus returns and all sin, guilt, shame and death are banished for eternity we will truly reign with him, not under him.
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