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Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Sometimes television brings the world a little too close, I think. Makes it a bit too real. Perhaps we were happy enough before TV cameras broadcast each of the world’s tragedies in high-definition detail onto a screen in our homes.

And so one evening another of those tragedies appears in my family room on the 6:30 news: a young dead soldier—of whose side it is not necessary to say, nor should we care; each—ours and theirs—is someone’s child, someone’s parent, each too young to die.

I see him, his face (once smiling, once bright-eyed, once kissing his children, looking into their eyes, pressing his nose to their freshly washed hair—now paralyzed in death) to the camera. They pan over his mangled corpse rapidly, but not rapidly enough; the broadcasters want to shock—and they do.

And as I watch it, I wonder, for the ten-thousandth time, whatever happened to “Peace on earth, good will toward men”?

Once upon a time

Millenniums ago, on the hills of Galilee, those words filled ordinary people with hope—people with neither comfort, nor safety, nor much at all to look forward to. I suspect they believed it literally; it came to them, after all, from the lips of angels. They believed that somehow, in their lifetimes, war would cease. Soldiers would become obsolete. People would begin to like each other. Romans wouldn’t hate Jews, nor Jews, Romans. Husbands and wives wouldn’t fight with one another or with their children. The poor would not go hungry. Rulers would cease raising armies and manufacturing swords, and they would be content with the territory and authority they already possessed.

How disappointed the people must have been! World peace did not happen. In their lifetimes, Jerusalem was destroyed, along with the temple they revered. Could they have seen forward into time, they’d have wept over a proliferation of war-making beyond their wildest imaginings. They’d have seen ships, of water and air, monstrous things of unimaginable size and speed and destructive capability. They would have seen bombs made self-propelled, self-guiding, and reproduced in the tens of thousands, until the merest of mistakes (a misidentified blip, a malfunctioning switch, a shaky finger) might set off a war that could destroy all life on earth.

Thus, a contradiction: a 2,000-year-old promise that Jesus’ coming would bring peace on earth, and the simple, unarguable fact of our ongoing unpeacefulness.

I propose to you, however, that the promise still stands. That the angels’ promise is as good today as it was back then. The misunderstanding was one of time, and place—of where and when.

Peace where?

Was it actually this old world into which Jesus was to have brought peace? Not according Jesus himself. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”1 It was, clearly, not among the affairs of men and nations that Jesus’ coming would end strife; in fact, said Jesus, you will find My message so clear and compelling that you must choose either for Me or against Me.2 Jesus warned his followers that those who are against Me will not feel particularly peaceful, either toward Me or toward those who follow Me, for “you will be hated by all nations because of me.”3 Even those who followed Him most closely could not be guaranteed entirely peaceful lives. “In this world you will have trouble,”4 says Jesus.

Where, then, is that peace to be found? Though “my peace I give you,” says Jesus, please understand that “I do not give to you as the world gives.” Worldly matters (war, money, and politics) will still be settled on the public stage. Sometimes problems can be solved; often they cannot. Yet those who love God, those who trust in His Son Jesus, can find peace within themselves, even in the midst of chaos without. “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”5 says Jesus. “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”6

I am sorry to have to say that I see no signs that we will ever see complete peace while we live this life. What we can have in lieu of peace on earth, says Jesus, is peace within. The apostle Paul understood this about a Christian’s peace. “I have learned,” he said, “the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” That secret? “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”7

Clearly, the peace that Jesus brought has not yet become universal: but it does exist in the hearts of those who know that Jesus is reliable and trustworthy.

Furthermore, He has something better in store for us.

Future hope

The Quecreek Mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, made history for five tense days in July 2002. Nine miners were trapped in a flood of water 250 feet below the surface, less than 13 miles from the tragic spot where United Airlines flight 93 had crashed on September 11, 2001. The miners’ situation was grave, their hope of survival slim. Unknown to them, frantic efforts were being made above ground to save them.

Less than 24 hours after their ordeal began, the miners heard a grinding noise, and soon a drill penetrated the roof of the shaft where they were holed up. Fresh, hot air began flowing in from the surface. Next came food, water, and light. Best of all, rescue was on the way!

“Rescue?” they might have asked. “But we’re still trapped in here!”

Nevertheless, even though they were still underground, from that point forward they had hope that they would eventually be free. And sure enough, 78 hours—a little over three days after their ordeal began—the last of the miners was pulled out of the flooded mine.

Jesus’ death and resurrection has made it clear that even though we’re still living on this troubled earth, we will eventually be free. Jesus left, He told His followers, to prepare a place for us. His promise: “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”8 And where He is, praise God, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”9 In fact, the entire “old order of things” that we live by on this earth (wars and armies, attack and revenge, power and money, survival of the rich and strong at the expense of the poor and weak) will be done away with! There will be “a new heaven and a new earth.” One of Revelation’s interesting observations is that in this new earth, gates and doors will never be closed, for all threats of violence, all war and crime and corruption, will have disappeared. “The glory and honor of the nations” will be brought into that city; but “nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful”10

Are you impatient for the day when there’s really peace on earth? So am I. But I know it will come. I am absolutely certain of it. And it may come sooner than we think.

In the meantime, thank God for the peace and confidence that Jesus brings us. Our rescue is assured!

1 Matthew 10:34. 2 See Matthew 12:30. 3 Matthew 24:9. 4 John 16:33. 5 John 14:27. 6 John 16:33. 7 Philippians 4:12, 13. 8 John 14:3. 9 Revelation 21:4. 10 Revelation 21:4, 1, 25–27

Loren Seibold is pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Worthington, Ohio.

“Will There Ever Be Peace on Earth?”

by Loren Seibold
From the December 2004 Signs