"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Prince of Peace


Islamic fundamentalism became front-page news after Sept. 11. There certainly had been plenty of warning, although nobody could have predicted the precise way in which terrorists would get the West's attention. Few would have listened anyway.

Jesus Christ will return to earth just as He promised. He will return not as the humble Son of Man, laying down His life in sacrifice for sin, but as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace.

What is peace? Many of us have seen the bumper stickers pleading for world peace (and the occasional humorous ones asking what are "Whirled Peas"), but do we have a clue what true world peace looks like? The Bible describes what Christ will deliver to mankind as Prince of Peace and the unimaginable changes He will bring about in the world as we know it.

Christ's coming kingdom

To understand the power behind Christ's title Prince of Peace, we must look into the prophecies of His two comings—first and second. Both are mentioned in the same prophecy of Isaiah: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given [that is, in His first coming]; and [in His second coming] the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6, emphasis added throughout).

Jesus was born in Bethlehem and by His early 30s had fulfilled the human part of His mission of becoming a sacrifice for mankind's sins through crucifixion. Just before His death, when He was brought before the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, Pilate asked pointedly if He were a king. Christ answered: "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37).

But Christ had just made plain the fact that "My kingdom is not of this world," meaning not of this age (verse 36). Jesus wanted Pilate to know that, yes, He was a king, but His Kingdom would be established at a later time. At that future time, Christ will return as Prince of Peace with all that His title encompasses.

All-encompassing promise

Scripture promises that the peace Christ brings will in time cover the earth, beginning in Jerusalem and spreading to the farthest reaches of the globe. Isaiah wrote concerning Christ and His servants, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace ..." (Isaiah 52:7). Christ first announces His intent. He will then fulfill His promise.

Zechariah prophesied: "He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be 'from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth'" (Zechariah 9:10). Jesus will proclaim peace to every nation—but with the ability to deliver it, not just speak of it.

Isaiah describes Christ's rule this way: "Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end ..." (Isaiah 9:7). Can you imagine what that means? Christ will bring peace to this strife-torn world, and under His wise rule the entire planet will come to understand peace in its fullest sense. Peace will increase continuously throughout His reign, ever growing as people learn to live God's way of life.

Spears into pruning hooks

We live in a world that is generally satisfied to have even a mere semblance of peace. For the last 50 years we have lived in relative peace—at least in the sense that there have been no world wars.

But peace in the full sense of the word is foreign to us. The Bible suggests that mankind doesn't know how to find peace (Isaiah 59:7-8; Romans 3:17). The record of history validates this indictment.

In the last century alone we have fought two world wars and, since the Japanese surrender was signed on the U.S.S. Missouri to end World War II, countless smaller wars. Terrorism is a constant threat. Wars between neighboring peoples lasting decades are a fact of life, with strife between Arabs and Jews, Indians and Pakistanis, and Irish Catholics and Protestants serving as testimony.

In stark contrast to the reality of our world, a statue stands outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City symbolizing man's dream of one day witnessing the end of war. The muscular bronze image holds his hammer aloft, forging a sword into a plow. For mankind this has been an unattainable dream. But for Christ, the Prince of Peace, it is a sure promise.

Ironically, the statue is nothing more than a sculptor's rendering of a prophecy describing what Christ will do when He returns: "He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation ..." (Isaiah 2:4).

Christ will arbitrate between nations with an authority that the League of Nations, the United Nations and the World Court have never had. His position as King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16) will give Him the ability to institute peace where all human governments have failed.

Neither shall they learn war anymore

Christ's first great achievement will be to bring an end to warfare as we know it. But that is just the beginning. Freedom from aggression takes more than a onetime destruction of military implements. Concluding the verse just quoted, Isaiah further prophesied, "... Neither shall they learn war anymore."

Think of it. With the coming of Christ all vestiges of war will be removed—military colleges, training camps, military bases, weapons-manufacturing plants, stockpiles of munitions, and the list goes on. Men will not only stop warring, they will cease to be trained in the art of war.

The cessation of war and training for war will obviously be a giant step toward peace, a bigger step than man has ever been able to make on his own. But this too is only the beginning.

Peace at home and abroad

If all wars ended today and all armies disbanded, would you have peace—personally? For most of us the answer would be no. When it comes to personal peace, most of us live in a numbed state. If it isn't intolerable it's okay. But that isn't peace.

I have fond memories of childhood—when I could leave my grandfather's farm for town without locking the house, garage or farm sheds. Since then I have traveled to parts of the world of great scenic beauty—but where the citizens live in veritable prisons. In many countries people live behind barred windows, behind doors with multiple locks, in guarded compounds with watchdogs—but still are not assured of physical safety.

Most major cities have districts that are not safe after dark—and, in many of them, areas that are not safe even in daylight. What good is freedom from outside aggression when we live in fear within our own neighborhoods?

Through the prophet Zechariah, God speaks of cities during the time of Christ's Kingdom this way: "... The city [Jerusalem] shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets" (Zechariah 8:5). The intent of these words is to show the secure state of the area. It will be safe for children in a way that it isn't in many cities today. And Jerusalem will not be unusual in that regard.

Isaiah 32:18 expands the promise of prevailing peace: "My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places." What a peaceful feeling it must be to fear no harm or loss from foreigner or neighbor!

But peace is more than this

"Peace" to the reader of Hebrew in the Old Testament or of Greek in the New Testament meant far more than freedom from aggression from without and crime from within one's country.

Shalom, the well-known Hebrew word for peace, is understood even by those who don't speak Hebrew as encompassing everything that contributes to complete contentment and tranquillity. Commentator William Barclay wrote regarding the Greek word for peace: "... In the New Testament sense 'peace' is not just the absence of trouble; it is everything that makes for our highest good" (New Testament Words, 1974, p. 148, emphasis added).

In a biblical sense peace means all that true peace could deliver to a human being—freedom from war, safety at home, sufficient prosperity to remove fear of want, and good health. Comparatively speaking, how much peace do you enjoy?

Are you at peace when you find yourself deeply in debt? How peaceful is life when you are unemployed? Do you see peace, or despair, in the faces of people who suffer from starvation? Have you ever considered that disease—"dis-ease"—literally means the absence of ease, of peace?

If you understand the Kingdom of God and the conditions directly and implicitly promised, you can understand that peace reaches far beyond the absence of harm inflicted by another human being.

A multitude of scriptures paint a picture of what life will be like when Christ returns, establishes His Kingdom and rules as Prince of Peace. A look at just a few of them will allow us to see that His peace will spread into every corner of human life.

Notice God's words in Ezekiel: "I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods" (Ezekiel 34:25).

God will literally change the nature of animals so they will not pose a danger to mankind.

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

"The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:6-9).

How wonderful it will be when this amazing prophecy comes to pass!

Freedom from want

Continuing from Ezekiel's earlier description: "I will make them and the places all around My hill [Jerusalem] a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessings. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase" (Ezekiel 34:26-27).

Throughout time, one of the greatest robbers of peace has been want—not enough food, clothing or shelter to live without worry. Christ will provide relief from the cycle of drought and flooding that has left many parts of the world destitute countless times in man's history.

God showed the prophet Amos a level of prosperity that farmers and vineyard owners have rarely if ever seen: "'Behold the days are coming,' says the Lord, 'when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed ...'" (Amos 9:13).

Although we don't have space to delve into all that Christ will do in the realm of economics, suffice it to say He will provide for individual ownership of property and the blessing of the work of a property owner's hands if the owner will provide the labor and effort (see Micah 4:4).

The greatest peace

Possibly the greatest peace of all will come from the instruction of Christ in how to live a righteous life. As the old saying goes: "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for life."

Christ will teach the nations how to live at peace and how to perpetuate peace. The model society He will establish in Jerusalem at His return will be so inspiring that representatives from around the world will come for instruction in how to enjoy the benefits of a godly life.

"Many nations shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Micah 4:2).

Psalm 72:7 reveals the final outcome of Christ's teachings in the Kingdom of God: "In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more." Literally, peace will prevail until the moon no longer shines. What a fantastic picture!

Christ will one day soon return to earth. "And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end ..."

What a profound message in the simple but infinitely meaningful title Prince of Peace.

by Robert Dick