Given the cruel, debilitating effects of war, man has often longed for peace. The Bible explains why it has been so elusive and how world peace will come.
[From the January/February 2014 issue of Discern.]
City of Peace?
The city of Jerusalem presents what may be one of the greatest ironies in the world. Its name means “City of Peace,” and tourists and pilgrims can find the famous inscription “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6) in several places of biblical interest around the city. This inscription is found on monuments and plaques of more than one of the major religions.
Yet neither Jerusalem nor the world has ever experienced real, lasting peace. The city remains uneasy, a nexus of conflicting claims and competing religions. Its holy places—including the Dome of the Rock and the Western, or Wailing, Wall—are among the tensest places anywhere on earth.
And, according to the Bible, this city—and the entire world—will prove unable to find true peace in this age of human rule prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Why no peace?
Why? Why is it that a city that is so important to three major religions also finds itself the center of conflict? Wouldn’t one think that religious folk would be the best equipped to bring peace to that “city of peace” and to the world? Yet apparently that isn’t so.
God gave us the reason centuries ago through the prophet Isaiah: “The way of peace they have not known” (Isaiah 59:8).
What an apt characterization of this world and its weak attempts to bring peace to humanity. People pay lip service to the goal, but lack knowledge of the way to get there.
A clue as to why may be found in the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. It’s easy to miss the significance of the sequence of the horsemen. Notice that the first horse, the white one, goes forth “conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:1-2).
This first horseman resembles Jesus Christ, the King of Kings who will come back from heaven on a white horse (Revelation 19:11). Yet, in what seems to be a paradox to many, the rider of this horse doesn’t bring peace! Quite the contrary. It is this impostor, the false Christ, whose influence stokes the fires of war, suffering and destruction.
The second, red, horse “was granted … to take peace from the earth” and to cause people to kill one another (Revelation 6:3-4). There is a cause-and-effect factor here: The riding of the first horseman, symbolizing false religion and false philosophies, gives rise to the second—widespread war on the earth.
Is world peace possible?
How much war has there been in recent decades? The carnage is horrifying. Estimates of deaths due to war in the 20th century vary, but one source suggests 35 million human beings died in war during the 20th century (Democratic Peace Blog), while another offers a much higher figure of some 160 million (Scaruffi.com).
Whatever the exact figure, the 20th century proved to be the bloodiest in history, in spite of the efforts of the League of Nations and, later, of the United Nations. And the 21st century isn’t looking good either, as wars continue to smolder in places such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Jeremiah summed it up well in a phrase that has made its way into common usage: “Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11).
Every human effort to bring lasting peace has failed. If it depends on us, it seems world peace is impossible.
World peace will come only through the Prince of Peace
Simply stated, on its own humanity lacks the divinely revealed knowledge of how to bring peace. It is ultimately going to require the return to earth of Jesus Christ, and the setting up of the Kingdom of God, to bring true, just, lasting peace.
Notice this wonderful prophecy about the Messiah: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and 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).
He will bring with Him the administration of true justice and the pathway to real peace: “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, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). That time is coming!
But how will this be accomplished? Should we expect this to come about simply by the efforts of national governments? Will the famous “swords-into-plowshares” statue that sits in front of the United Nations building in New York become a reality as a result of peace talks?
No, peace will not come about through peace talks
Many world leaders and diplomats have worked tirelessly to try to bring cease fires and peace treaties. But throughout history those efforts have eventually failed. Humans have proven powerless to bring real, lasting peace.
Instead of convening a peace conference, once Jesus Christ has returned to earth, He actually first will have to act swiftly and decisively to put down rebellion against His rule. We read of the aggressive action of the last world-ruling empire (one based in Europe) and its leader (one referred to as “the beast”) who “will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:8, Revelation 17:14).
But this evil military campaign will not be successful. Rebellion against the righteous rule of the Messiah will be forcibly put down.
Then Jesus Christ will begin to introduce the elusive way of peace.
World peace will come, starting with Jerusalem
Under God’s inspiration, the prophet Zechariah gave us a beautiful description of the changed conditions in the city of Jerusalem under the Kingdom of God. “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zechariah 8:4-5).
Christ’s government, and the way of peace that it brings, will expand outward from Jerusalem and encompass the whole earth and its inhabitants.Both the aged and the young will then be free to enjoy the beauty and security of this, God’s capital city, with no fear of bombs or violence.
Once Jesus Christ has returned and set up His rule, peace will expand outward from the city of Jerusalem to finally bring rest to this war-weary world. “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:7).
God’s government will bring world peace and security
God’s government of peace will be established, beginning with the city of Jerusalem. People will stream to that city to learn of God and His ways.
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us to 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.
“He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
“But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:1-4).
The way of peace
No one will learn war, but everyone will have the chance to learn the way of peace—God’s way of love, expressed in His laws. Learn more about the way of peace in our article “The Way of Peace.”
Christ’s government, and the way of peace that it brings, will expand outward from Jerusalem and encompass the whole earth and its inhabitants. World peace will finally come.
A celebration of peace
These events are represented in the biblical Feast of Tabernacles, celebrated each year in the fall (in the northern hemisphere) by members of the Church of God. As one of God’s appointed festivals, it is an annual celebration of the soon-coming time of peace to be brought to earth, not by man’s efforts, but by the miraculous intervention of Almighty God. It provides a wonderful foretaste of the time of peace.
To learn more about this joyous biblical festival, we invite you to read the article about the Feast of Tabernacles on the LifeHopeandTruth.com website. Also, for more information, please see the article titled “1,000 Years: The Millennium.”
Yes, world peace really is coming. It will be a reality. And isn’t that good news?
To learn more about the coming Kingdom of God, which will usher in the peace humanity has longed for, see the articles in the section “The Kingdom of God.”