By Moses Bean
Is peace on earth really possible?
If we look at trends in world history, has there ever been less war, less racism, less oppression than there is today? I am not flirting with pessimism here for its own sake, but just want to put the Christmas story into context. After all, the Bible actually says nothing about world peace prior to heaven. In fact Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) So what exactly did the angels mean when at Jesus birth they said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased?”
They meant that God has made it possible to be reconciled with Himself…for eternity!
Suffice it to say that when God sees all the wars, the famines, and the injustices in the world—the human trafficking, the drug trafficking, the oppression and deception and agonizing loneliness—it makes Him angry. "I came to cast fire on the earth,” said Jesus, “and would that it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49) And just a cursory reading of the book of Revelation shows the fierceness of His wrath:
Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Revelation 6:15-17)
In the end, which will be the beginning, justice will roll down like an ever-flowing stream. There will be heaven and there will be hell.
In short, He will divide the world into those who follow him and those who rebel against him. For now there is still a lot of confusion and indecisiveness, but when all is said and done the grey areas and shadows will give way to the black and white, the light and the dark. On one side will be the self-righteous and God-hating; on the other side will be the humble and God-fearing. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23)
Is there anything more offensive than that, anything less divisive? After all, everyone has to say something about Jesus Christ. He is the one we measure the years by, and any view of history calls us to consider whether this man was a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord God Almighty.
By God’s design, rejecting Him requires increasingly great resolve. We cannot just disregard Jesus and choose neutral ground. Instead, according to the Bible, we will become adversaries of all that He preached. Many in America might call this division a culture war—disputes over the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, etc.—but the Bible says that it is polarized around the Prince of Peace. The more we deny Him, the more we will call evil what He calls good, and call good what He calls evil.
Jesus actually talked a lot about hellfire and the wrath of God, but the crowds flocked to him. It was only the political and religious elite who despised him. Perhaps they have their own ideas about how to bring peace on earth. Some say the solution to the world’s problems will be political and economic. We just need better leaders and more freedom for all. Others say the main problem is lack of understanding, and that we need more education and enlightenment. If we can just see reality more clearly, we’ll be able to work on the major issues. Others say the problem is religion—that we need less of it or more of it, or at least more caring for the poor, etc.
The Bible says the world’s problems will worsen until He comes and judges the earth with fire. But the wonderfully good news is that, if we let Him, He will take all of the blame and forgive us our sins.
And so when He was born, the angels rejoiced.