Saturday, March 03, 2007

Satan Usurps Adam's Vicegerency Over the Earth; Jesus Returns It

Over on the "Daylight" blog, there's a discussion of a whole bunch of things. I made a passing reference to Lk 4.5-7 meaning that "Adam ceded his authority as God’s vicegerent to Satan, so Satan does exercise (delegated) authority over the nations. Nonetheless, God is still ruler over all (Jn 19.11). Jesus reclaims this position for humanity."

Rick asked for a somewhat broader exposition (quite reasonably, I think). He ended by asking what verses I needed to "solidly prove it." So let me first say that I don't think I can "solidly" prove it. The nature of my argument is that the hypothesis makes sense of a lot of data in a way that no alternative hypothesis does (at least no alternative hypothesis of which I'm aware).

Let me also hasten to add that my hypothesis represents my arm-chair theologizing. While I like the hypothesis, I'm not wedded to it. It mainly just evolved incidentally as I thought about other things.

In any event, what prompted my thinking about this in the first place some years ago, was what was for me a puzzle raised by Luke 4.6, when Satan tempted Jesus. Satan tells Jesus that if Jesus will worship him, then

“I will give you all this domain and it glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.”

So here was the puzzle: Who “handed the world” (“this domain”) over to Satan? Possible answers included God, Adam, or someone else. The most plausible answer seemed to me that it was Adam who “handed the world over” to Satan. This occurred because of Adam's willing submission to Satan by believing Satan’s word in the garden rather than believing God’s word.

Let me sketch the overall story, then I'll point to the individual passages that seem to me to make the story plausible: God gave Adam dominion over the world as his vicegerent. (Adam’s authority was delegated to him by God, so it does not represent complete and absolute authority.) Adam “handed over” this authority over the world to Satan when Adam subjected himself to Satan. (He did this by believing Satan’s word rather than God’s word. By submitting to Satan's word, Satan becomes lord over Adam, and so inherits all that was Adam's.)

Jesus comes as the second Adam (Ro 5.14, 1 Co 15.22, 45, Lk 3.38), taking Satan’s dominion away from him and re-establishing the dominion that Adam was supposed to exercise as humanity's head. In his earthly ministry, Jesus exercised dominion over the earth (halting storms, feeding the crowds), over animals (the fish), over people (“come and follow me”), over demons (Lk 11.20), and over sickness and death (not that Adam would have needed to do that).

Importantly, godly dominion is exercised by service, not by “lording it over” others (Mt 20.24-26). Jesus initiates a new humanity and a new creation in the midst of the old. (This is nonetheless hidden; the argument does not entail an overrealized eschatology.)

Here are the texts I'd appeal to.

1. Adam is given dominion by God Gn 1.26-30.

2. Adam and Eve effectively confess Satan’s word as authoritative (i.e., they believe it rather than God’s word, Gn 3.4-6, cf., Gn 2.17).

Satan thereby has a "seed" (Gn 3.15, Jn 8.44). (Promise to Abraham is dominion reestablished, i.e., a seed covering the earth, being a blessing to the gentiles, rulership.)

3. We subsequently see Satan, not Adam or his seed, exercising dominion.

A. Satan has dominion: John 14.30, Acts 26.18, Col 1.13, Eph 6.12, Mt 12.26 (kingdom).

B. Satan appears in heaven before God along with the “sons of God,” Job 1.6-8, 2.1-2, Zech 3.1, 7 (in Zech 3.7, note that free access to God’s court appears to be something new for Joshua, while Satan’s appearance there seems non-problematic), Lk 10.18.

4. “Morning star” appears to be a designation for dominion over the earth (regarding stars as dominions -- think of the stars on the U.S. flag, which also represent dominions or authorities).

A satanic figure owns the "morning star" title at one time (Is 14.12), but then Jesus owns this title (Rev 22.17, Numbers 24.17), but then Jesus gives this title back to his people (Rev 2.28, 2 Peter 2.19, Job 38.7). (Note the extension of Psalm 2 to Jesus’ followers in Rev 2.26-27).

5. Jesus comes to destroy Satan’s dominion, Jn 12.31, 16.11, Ro 8.18-21, Rev 11.15, 1 Jn 3.8 (see again Acts 26.18, Col 1.13). We are recreated as new men in Christ, 2 Co 5.17, Col 3.10, a new creation having started, Gal 6.15, with a new heaven and a new earth revealed with the revealing of Christ when he returns on the last day, 2 Peter 3.13, Rev 21.1, Ro 8.19-22.


Blogger solarblogger said...

Thanks, Jim.

I'm familiar with a lot of the pieces of this case. In fact, there are a few others that I've been exposed to. Meredith Kline offered an account of the Garden of Eden which explained what Adam was to have done as a vassal according to Near East covenantal arrangements.

I find most of this quite plausible. I find Adam being vice-regent to be pretty solidly argued. (Oddly, when I googled the terms, 'vice-regent', 'Adam', and 'Satan', 2/3 of the sites were Islamic.) The question would be whether Satan, through some legal maneuver, got some officially recognized title through the deal.

I am not convinced either way on that one.

A satanic figure owns the "morning star" title at one time (Is 14.12)

Yes. There the title seems to have been given before his fall. I would wonder if in the drama, you might say Lucifer gets Adam to lose his title to make himself feel better about losing his own. Though I haven't done exhaustive study on this one to know whether the Lucifer/Satan interpretation is the best. Treatments like this are also plausible to me.

March 03, 2007 11:53 AM  
Blogger Jay D said...

Crossposted back at Old Solar (I decided to get an account).

I think you are right on about Satan usurping Adam's vicegerency over the Earth. I gathered from Luke 4:5-7 that Satan possessed the vicegerency, but I never thought about who ceded it to him.

However, I disagree that Jesus came to return it. That is the kind of massiah the Jews at the time were looking for, someone to take back the authority here on Earth.

Jesus did quite the opposite. Jesus submitted to death by the Earthly authorities. By extension, he submitted to death by Satan. He did not wrest authority of this Earth away. While this earth exists, Satan retains vicegerency. But one day, this Earth shall pass away, and a New Heaven and New Earth will be established.

What Jesus did do, was establish a Kingdom of God within us (Luke 17:20-22). This is not a Kingdom you can point to. This Kingdom is within the Earthly Kingdoms. We can't shake the practical reality of being under the authority of Earthly kingdoms, but, thanks to Jesus, we can count ourselves Children of God.

March 05, 2007 9:27 PM  
Blogger solarblogger said...

I have some problem with putting too much weight on Luke 4:5-7. This is taking Satan at his word. That sounds shaky to me.

It is also possible to say that the earthly kingdoms all belong to Christ. If we are to be in the world but not of it, then why can't Christ's kingdom be in the world but not of it? Here, I would gloss "My kingdom is not of this world" to mean "My kingdom is not run like the other kingdoms of this world."

Some of my readings overlap Jay's in his last paragraph. But I would shade some of the others more toward the direction that makes it clearer that Satan is a usurper and that Jesus now has all authority and power.

A big question here is when does 1 Corinthians 15:25 happen: "For he must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet."? Is that happening now? This refers back to Psalm 110:1: "The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.'" Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father now.

March 06, 2007 12:05 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

jay d.

I tried to make your point via the comment about "dominion through service." Perhaps I should have extended that discussion.

The fact that Jesus' means of dominion subverts and confounds worldly expectations, does not any less mean that Jesus exercises dominion. "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth," Jesus says. And then, the bringing of blessing to the Gentiles, and the covering of the earth, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . ."

The big problem with "dominion theology" is that it takes the dominion mandate in Gn 2, so it becomes a tool or rationale for political dominion. In contrast, Jesus' dominion is exerted through the cross. There's a huge difference.

Finally, the Jews of Jesus' time wanted political dominion. Jesus aimed to take dominion away from Satan. There's a big difference there as well.

March 06, 2007 6:53 AM  
Blogger Jim said...


I agree that it's possible that Satan is lying here. He lied to Eve, after all, promising that they would not die if they ate the fruit. Still, it seems as though Satan "acts" as though he has dominion, and there is some evidence that seems to suggest it as well. In addition to what's cited in the post, there's Eph 6.11-12, "rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

I haven't spent a lot of time with 1 Co 15.25, but I'd just take it to speak of Jesus coming at the final judgment. What is hidden now will be manifest then. The old world will be visibly put away, and the new world manifested.

It's a "now but not yet" thing.

March 06, 2007 7:02 AM  
Blogger Eric Phillips said...

Jay D.,

Jesus _did_ return the authority to Man, because He is a man Himself. The One calling the shots above all Heavens right now is a man who was born in Nazareth 2000 years ago.

Good post, Jim. I think you're right on.

March 07, 2007 8:48 AM  
Blogger solarblogger said...

Jim, your position, even on Satan, makes a lot of sense. I don't reject it. I just want to note the varying strenghts of the different parts of your overall position. Some parts are more solid than others. The others may also be true, but I don't like to treat as "givens" the less solid parts, just in case doing so might block other insights later.

March 08, 2007 9:30 PM  

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