From the first two chapters of Genesis to the last two chapters of Revelation, God has revealed one plan and one mission for all of humanity:
God is partnering with humanity to fill the entire earth with his image and his glory.
We can see this plan and mission unfold as we read through Scripture, and we can breakdown this plan into three big acts:
- The Garden Project
- The Human Tragedy
- The Restoration Plan
The Garden Project
The garden project is what we find in the first two chapters of the Bible where we are told that God made man in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27) and put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to protect it (Genesis 2:15). He then makes the woman in his own image, blesses them both and tells them to multiply, fill the earth and to cultivate the entire creation for the common good and for God’s glory (Genesis 1:28) — all of this while experiencing an unhindered and unashamed relationship with God and one another.
The belief that humanity was made in the image of God was a revolutionary idea during the time in which Genesis was written. In the ancient world, kings and pharaohs were believed to be the visible ruling representatives of the gods who ruled on behalf of the gods, and so they were often considered to be the images of god. So when the Bible tells us that God created humanity in his own image, it is declaring that God gave all of humanity (not just kings and pharaohs) the incredible gift and privilege of ruling his world on his behalf as his special representatives.
All of us were created to represent to the rest of the creation what the Creator was like and to rule the world on his behalf.
Humanity wasn’t created and placed in a garden paradise to just hang out. God gave humanity the keys to the creation and commissioned them to work hard, have fun and take it somewhere. Then he tells them to multiply and fill the entire earth with more people made in his image and devoted to the common good and the glory of God.
This is how the plan of God and the mission of man begins. God creates a good world full of unlimited potential, and then he appoints humans as his special partners to fill the entire earth with his image and his glory.
They are to enjoy the garden experience and make it a global reality. But God gave humanity a free choice regarding the partnership and how they were going to carry out the mission that he had given them.
Would man use this privilege for the common good and the glory of God or for selfish gain and his own glory?
The Human Tragedy
By the time that we get to the third chapter of the Bible, we see humanity deciding to disobey God and desiring self-rule instead of representative rule. Humanity turns away from God’s ultimate authority and decides to try and do things their way. And it’s a rebellion that we have all participated in on some level. We have all made decisions that have contributed to this world of broken relationships, conflict and violence.
Humanity violated the partnership with God and stained the image of God.
By the time that we get to the sixth chapter of the Bible, we see humanity multiplying, but instead of multiplying people made in the image of God, man is multiplying wickedness throughout the earth (Genesis 6:1, 5-6). This grieves God who created a good world full of unlimited potential but is now watching his special representatives ruin everything.
By the time that we get to the eleventh chapter of the Bible, we see humanity reaching such a level of blatant rebellion that we are doing the exact opposite of what we were originally created to do (Genesis 11:1-4). Instead of trying to fill the entire earth with the glory of God, humanity begins to seek their own glory and decides to just set up shop in one central location.
But with great patience and amazing grace, God decided to scatter humanity because a rebellious humanity that is unified with the selfish-ambition to rule the world for themselves is an incredibly dangerous situation.
The garden experience turned into a human tragedy, and yet God continued to advance his plan forward partnering with humanity to fill the entire earth with his image and his glory.
The Restoration Plan
Throughout the Bible, we see over and over and over again, God’s plan to rescue humanity from its rebellion, to reconcile humanity back into a right relationship with its Creator and to restore humanity back into being what we were originally created to be.
God continued to advance his plan forward through the patriarchs, judges, prophets and kings. God promised to bless all the families of the earth through a man named Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), and he promised to bless the whole world through the family of Abraham who were to serve as his special representatives to the rest of the world (Exodus 19:3-6).
Tragically, God’s people continued to try and do things their way instead of God’s way continuing to violate the partnership with God and staining the image of God. But the plan of God and the mission of humanity never changes.
God promised to send a descendant of King David who would be a Savior King who would extend God’s Kingdom of goodness and glory throughout the whole earth (1 Chronicles 17:11-14). He also promised to send a Suffering Servant who would bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6).
So one day God sends his own son into the world. Jesus is the promised Suffering Servant of Isaiah and the Savior King descended from David.
He wasn't made in the image of God like the rest of us; he was the image of God (Colossians 1:15). He was with God in the beginning and is the direct imprint of God's nature and the exact radiance of God's glory (John 1:1-3, 14; Hebrews 1:1-3).
And through his obedient life, sacrificial death and powerful resurrection, Jesus rescues us from our rebellion, reconciles us back into a right relationship with God and restores us back into being what we were created to be — men remade in the image of God who once again represent to the rest of the world what God is like.
Jesus initiated a revolution that is reconciling the creation back to its Creator and restoring us back into a position of partnership with God.
And in his last words to his first followers, Jesus commissioned his followers to be his special partners that cultivate God’s world once again, and then he tells them to multiply and fill the entire earth with his image and his glory (Matthew 28:18-20). The great commission given by our King is actually a recommissioning of the original commission given by our Creator. Followers of Jesus are members of God’s family who are to serve as his special representatives to the rest of the world (1 Peter 2:9-10).
And when we get to the last two chapters of the Bible, we are told that a day is coming where God will gather his people from every tribe and language and people and nation and the whole earth will finally be full of his image and glory forever (Revelation 21-22).
This is the unfolding plan of God and the ongoing mission of humanity. God is partnering with humanity to fill the entire earth with his image and his glory.
So the big question then is, “Are you joining in and embracing this incredible privilege of partnering with God to advance his plan?” God has invited each and every one of us to take part in something that is much bigger than ourselves — something that he has been doing since the beginning of human history. We are invited to join in on the same mission that men like Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jesus, Peter and the apostle Paul participated in. You and I were born and are breathing today for this purpose.
If you’ve ever wondered what God wants you to do in life or if you’ve ever asked, “What’s God’s will for my life?” all you need to do is ask yourself, “Where do we fit in the unfolding plan of God?”