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.
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
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.
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
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
“Rescue?” they might have asked. “But we’re still trapped in
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!
Loren Seibold is pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
in Worthington, Ohio.