With all the news of Islamic terrorists stabbing American college students and driving trucks into German Christmas celebrations, one might be somewhat puzzled by the seeming incompatibility of these things with the “peace on earth” that Jesus is said to have brought 2,000 years ago. Two of our most treasured Christmas passages feature peace as a hallmark of the ministry of the Messiah on earth. In Luke 2:14, a multitude of the heavenly host were praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
And in Isaiah 9:6-7, we read: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
We sing so much about peace on earth during this time of year, but are we fooling ourselves? If we pay attention to the news, clearly we’ve got a peace shortage here. What are we to make of these things?
First, the description of Jesus as the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9 is tied to the prediction that He would ascend the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and uphold it. It is also said that His peace would never end. So we should ask ourselves, “have those things happened yet?” We could say, yes and no. According to Peter in his Pentecost sermon in Acts 2, the resurrection of Christ represented His ascending the throne of David (Acts 2:29-31). So we could say, yes, this has been fulfilled already. But in another sense, it has not yet been fulfilled. Jesus will ultimately and finally establish His kingdom on earth in the last days (Rev 21-22). It is then that He will uphold the kingdom “with justice and with righteousness.” It is then that He will establish peace. The ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 9 will take place at the consummation of the age.
This is an example of the “already, not yet” that we occasionally talk about. Many of the blessings we have in Christ, we enjoy in some sense already, but in an ultimate sense not yet. Since the words in Isaiah 9:7 appear to describe events that have not yet been fully fulfilled, and since it is in that context that Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace, His ministry as the Prince of Peace must also be an eschatological reality. That is, the fullness of who Jesus is as the Prince of Peace will be known in the last days. After the Lord returns and vanquishes His enemies and destroys evil and brings about the new heavens and new earth, that is when there will be peace forevermore. When we see evidence of chaos in the world, we can be reminded that Christ is on the throne of David, ruling over His kingdom, but the final consummation is yet future, and we can look forward expectantly to that glorious day.
Second, we must realize that there is more than one kind of peace – peace between men and peace between God and man. The violence we see in the world is an absence of peace between men. But Jesus’ work on the cross made peace between God and man. So if the name Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6 refers to this part of Christ’s ministry as the mediator of our peace with the Father, there is no contradiction between what we read there and what we see in the world around us. Even as man is at odds with one another, God has made peace with the believer through faith in Christ.
As we think about the Savior in the coming days, let’s be thankful for three things: (1) we have peace with God now through the sacrifice of His Son; (2) Jesus rules even now from the throne of David; and (3) the day will come when His kingdom is consummated and there will be complete, final, eternal peace on earth.