The revelation regarding man as God’s image appears in the context of the Creation Mandate. This mandate occurs as the “swelling of jubilant song” at the accomplishment of God’s creative activity. God is now ready to pronounce his creation “very good” (Ge 1:31–2:2). One vital function of that image is man’s acting as ruler over the earth and under God. We see this in the close connection between the interpretive revelation regarding his creation in God’s image and the divine command to exercise rule over the creation order: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Ge 1:26–27). Because man is God’s image, he has the capacity for and responsibility to dominion.
God’s image in man is constitutive of man; it is prior to and definitive of man’s duty, dominion. “Man does not simply bear or possess the image of God, but truly is God’s image.” Man however is not an absolute sovereign; he is God’s vice-regent. God creates him and grants him temporal sovereignty, putting him under command to act obediently in terms of God’s ultimate sovereignty. As John Murray points out, dominion is “a function or office based upon the specific character defined as the image of God.” 
God intends man’s dominion obligation as an act of generic worship, for “the setting of six days of labor in the context of one day of worship and rest indicates the true perspective from which man’s dominion over the earth is to be viewed.” Thus, we must understand man’s temporal sovereignty as deriving from and being interpreted by God’s prior and absolute sovereignty. God creates (Ge 1:26), God blesses (Ge 1:27), God gives (Ge 1:28), and God commands (Ge 2:16). Man must obey (Ge 2:16–17), fellowship with (Ge 3:8), and worship God (Ge 2:3; Ex 20:11). Man lives up to his creational purpose as he multiplies (Ge 1:28a) and acts as a social creature (Ge 2:8) exercising righteous dominion (Ge 1:28b) in the earth. God implants within man the drive to dominion.
God gives the Creational (or Dominion) Mandate at man’s very creation. This distinguishes him from and elevates him above the animal kingdom and defines his task in God’s world according to God’s plan. We must understand Adam’s naming the animals in Genesis 2 in a Semitic sense:
“In Israel as among other peoples there was awareness of the significance attached to a name, and of the power which resided in it. . . . By giving someone a name, one establishes a relation of dominion and possession towards him. Thus acc. to Gn. 2:19f. Adam names all the animals. This means that he exercises dominion over creation and relates it to his own sphere. To name a conquered city (2 S. 12:28) or lands (Ps. 49:11) is to establish a right of possession and to subject them to one’s power.” 
We should not assume that God limits Adam’s sovereign dominion to Eden. Eden is only his starting point. God intends for Adam to extend Eden’s cultured condition (Ge 2:17) throughout the world (Ge 1:26). We see this in that God creates “him to rule over the world of Thy hands; / Thou has put all things under his feet” (Ps 2:6) — not just those things in Eden.
Not only does God give the Cultural Mandate at creation before the Fall, but it remains in effect even after sin’s entry. We may see this in many ways; consider just two of them. First, the revelational record of man’s beginnings show him acting as a dominical creature and with God’s approval, subduing the earth and developing culture. Indeed, from the very beginning and continuing into the post-Fall world, Adam and his descendants exercise dominion. This dominion impulse operates at a remarkably rapid rate, contrary to the primitivist view of man held by evolutionary anthropologists. Man quickly develops various aspects of social culture: raising livestock, creating music and musical instruments, crafting tools from metal, and so forth (Ge 4:20–22).
Because man is a social creature (Ge 2:18), his culture-building includes the realm of political government, as well. We see this in God’s ordaining governmental authority for man’s “good” (Ro 13:1–4). At his very creation, not only does God command Adam to develop all of creation, but he actually begins doing so. Culture is not an accidental aside in the historical order. Any primitiveness found in human cultures from long ago serve as a record of the consequence of sin and estrangement from God, not of original creational status. As Willem Van Gemeren well expresses it: “Christians are responsible for fulfilling the creation mandates to subdue the earth, develop culture, and establish Christian families” so that “the Christian community can be the salt of the earth, or an agency of transformation.” 
And this glorious truth fits perfectly within the postmillennial scheme with its victorious expectations.
1. John Murray, Collected Writings, 2:41.
2. O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants, 80.
3. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 5:253.
4. Willem Van Gemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 452.