If you have purchased a home you probably got a title policy. A title policy is an insurance policy for the title to real estate.
Before a company will issue a title policy, it hires a real estate attorney to search through the property records to make sure the title you obtain when you purchase the house is free from any claims. It’s a way of ensuring that the person from whom you purchase the house actually owns it free and clear.
If we were doing a title search for the earth, here’s what you would find.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Gen. 1:1. As a general rule when you create something you own it, unless of course you are being paid by someone else to create it. So, I think we can say with confidence that God, in the beginning had legal title to the earth.
God then created man, placed him on the earth and told him to take dominion over the earth. Gen. 1:28. He didn’t give man title to the earth but lawful possession to it. See also Psalm 115:16b (“. . . . the earth He has given to the sons of men.”). Possession is different than title. A tenant has a lawful right to possess or occupy property even though another owns the property.
When Man rebelled against God and became obedient to God’s enemy, Satan, Man gave possession of the earth to Satan. A boy who receives the keys to his father’s car can give the keys to another to drive the car, but he cannot transfer title to the car. One can give what one does not have, and although Man gave possession of the earth to Satan, God still remained the legal owner of the earth. That is why Psalms, written after the Fall of Man can state unequivocally, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Psalm 24:1.
When Jesus came to earth and took on human flesh he planted the flag of kingdom of God on the earth, and He began winning back possession of the earth from Satan by transferring those in the kingdom of darkness who possess the earth to the kingdom of God. As people give their obedience to King Jesus the part of the earth they possess comes back under the reign of King Jesus.
So, why does any of this matter? Title and possession matter. God has always held title to the world, but possession has been in flux. You can own a beautiful home, but if you rent it out to derelicts, it may not end up looking much like it did when you bought it. GS