At the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the angels announced good tidings of great joy...to all people...on earth peace, good will toward men" (Lk 2:10-14). Yet God's gracious and merciful offer of peace was refused! God's Son was crucified, rose from the dead and went back to heaven, having been rejected by His own people and most of mankind. He will return to earth soon to execute judgment upon a world of increasing evil and continuous wars that grow ever more numerous and destructive. In the meanwhile, God's offer of pardon and peace goes largely unheeded, while global leaders seek to establish peace through their own devices.
Mankind continues to this day to spurn Jesus and the peace He came to bring. Jews have a special rationale for rejecting Christ: "He didn't bring the peace which the prophets said the Messiah would establish, and he was crucified. A dead man can't be the Messiah!" This reaction rejects the historical fact of Christ's resurrection. It also reveals a basic misunderstanding of the peace God offers. The same ignorance afflicts the world at large.
Most people think of peace as the cessation of wars between nations. The peace that God offers, however, though essential for peace among nations, is far more basic and awesome. Romans:5:1 declares, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peacewith God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The implication is both instructive and frightening: that man is God's adversary and in a state of war against his Creator.
Many other scriptures confirm the ominous fact that man has made himself God's enemy and desperately needs the specific peace which would end that conflict: "the carnal mind is enmity against God" (Rom:8:7 ); "enemies in your mind by wicked works" (Col:1:21 ); "A friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas 4:4), etc. Who would dare to rebel against God? Yet this is the condition of mankind, which must repent of its insurrection and accept peace on God's terms or suffer the awful consequences.
Only when earth is no longer at war with heaven can there be peace among the inhabitants of this planet. And to attempt to establish peace among nations without first of all accepting the peace with God that He offers is to remain in a state of war against God himself. Such is the terrible warning of Scripture!
Encouraged by the end of the Cold War, world leaders are attempting to establish a new world order of lasting peace. All recognize that the key to global tranquility is a peaceful partnership in the Middle East between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Unprecedented efforts are being expended to bring this about. God, however, is left out of the process.
One would expect secular leaders to ignore God. Yet President Bush, Vice-President Quayle and Secretary of State Baker, all of whom profess to be born-again Christians, also ignore God in their attempts to establish peace.
But wait! Haven't we heard these men invoke God's blessing? Yes, but they ask God to bless humanistic efforts to bring about a "peace" that He cannot bless, for it contradicts His Word. The very peace they seek is a form of rebellion against God! Nor can such an accusation be dismissed as the wild ravings of a fanatical fundamentalist. Let us look dispassionately at the facts.
There are many irrefutable evidences that the Bible is true, but none more convincing than prophecy fulfilled. In this the Bible is unique. Neither the Koran, the Hindu Vedas, the Book of Mormon, nor the scriptures of Buddhism, Shintoism or any of the world's other religions contain prophecies that have been fulfilled down through the centuries and are still being fulfilled in today's modern world. Yet such prophecies constitute about 25 percent of the Bible, with the major subject of biblical prophecy being Israel.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were promised by God that their descendants would possess forever a land bordered on the south by "the river of Egypt" in the Sinai, by the Euphrates on the north, the Mediterranean on the west and reaching into Jordan on the east (Gn 12:1-7; 13:15; 15:7; 18-21; 17:7-8; 26:3-5; 28:13-14; 35:9-12; 50:24; Ex 6:2-8; 33:1-3,16; Lv 20:22-26; Dt 32:49; 34:4; Neh:9:8 ; Ps:89:28-36 ; Jer:30:3 ,10,11; 31:7-12,35-36; 33:20-21; Ez 37:21-28; Am 9:13-15, etc.). That area has thus been known as "the promised land." We dare not forget that it belongs to Israelby God's decree. Yet this is exactly what is denied by the Arabs and ignored by Bush, Gorbachev, the Pope and other leaders in the present Middle East peace negotiations.
God warned His chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), that for disobeying Him they would be scattered throughout the world, where they would be hated and killed. History attests to the accuracy of that ancient prophecy. God also said He would bring His banished and persecuted people back to their own land in the "last days," just before the return of their Messiah. That incredible promise was fulfilled in 1948!
That the Jews could have been dispersed throughout the entire world for 2,500 years since the Babylonian captivity, 1,900 years since the Diaspora at a.d.70, yet remain an identifiable ethnic people, is undeniably miraculous. And that after all of these centuries they would return to their own land is even more astounding. No one living today can doubt the existence of God or that the Israelis are His chosen people. The evidence provided by Israel's presence in her own land after 2,500 years is irrefutable!
Yet God foretold something even more astonishing: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling...[and] a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it" (Zec:12:2-3 ).
At the time of that prophecy 2,500 years ago, Jerusalem was in ruins and the land of Israel was abandoned swamp and desert. So it remained until recently. Yet God's seemingly preposterous promise was fulfilled. Today the attention of the entire world is focused upon that tiny piece of once forsaken and worthless real estate, in fear of what may happen there—exactly as Zechariah prophesied!
Surrounded by enemies who have sworn its extermination and greatly outnumber it in men and equipment, Israel has survived war after war and has grown in size and strength. How has that been possible? And what makes this minuscule nation so important? The answer is found in Bible prophecy. These are God's special people; He has given them that land. And to them Christ will soon return to rule the world from the throne of His father David. So said the angel Gabriel when he told Mary that she would have a child (Lk 1:31-33). Here is the forgotten promise of "Christmas."
Satan desperately wants to destroy Israel. All who have attempted to do so, from Hitler to the Arabs, have been his pawns. If he could remove the Jews from the promised land, then God would be proven a liar. Bible prophecies concerning Israel back in her land and the Messiah reigning over her on David's throne in Jerusalem could not be fulfilled. Satan would have achieved a stalemate in his battle against God and would have escaped the final judgment pronounced upon him and those who have joined in his rebellion.
Current attempts by world leaders to establish peace in the Middle East are yet another fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Just as Zechariah foretold, Jerusalem has indeed become "a burdensome stone for all people." And the solemn warning remains that "all that burden themselves with [Jerusalem] will be cut in pieces"! President Bush, and all who burden themselves with Jerusalem, beware!
God has given to Israel the land she now possesses, and much more surrounding it. Woe to anyone who seeks to take land from Israel or who promises Israel "peace" in exchange for any part of the "promised land"! Yes, Israel will make that exchange, "peace" will seem to be established, but it will be a major step on the road to Antichrist's rule and the ultimate holocaust. So says the Bible.
What should Christians such as Bush and Baker do? In light of the proven accuracy of Bible prophecy, they need to heed God's promises to Israel and make certain that they don't oppose them. They must cease from pressuring Israel not to occupy parts of the promised land which it has taken in self-defense to preserve its very existence. Instead, they ought to seek to persuade the Arabs to allow Israel to possess the entire land God promised to her (Gn 15:18-21) and to live there in peace under Israeli rule.
Such a suggestion would inflame the Arabs and be rejected as madness by world leaders. Yet the Bible leaves no alternative. Were President Bush simply to follow what the Bible so clearly says, it would be the end of his popularity here and abroad. But it would gain for him God's approval for eternity, which is far more important than transitory political polls!
If George Bush is truly a Christian, then he surely knows that there can be no genuine peace among nations until mankind has ended its state of rebellion and accepted peace with God on His terms. If he believes this, then he must declare it to the world. Who knows what the result might be, for nothing like it has ever been attempted by a world leader. Has God called him for this purpose?
Here is the neglected message of the world's "Christmas." Here is the cause we must all espouse. Instead of joining with the ungodly in unbiblical efforts to save the world ecologically or politically, we must declare the good news: Christ has "made peace [with God] through the blood of his cross" (Col:1:20 ). His enemies can now be "reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom:5:10 ). And we must warn of the awful consequences for all who reject this gracious offer of peace with God.
Muslims deny that Christ died for our sins, was raised and is coming again. So do most Israelis. The same is true of Hindus, Buddhists—and even many who call themselves Christians. We have pointed out that 950 million Roman Catholics embrace a false gospel which denies that Christ paid the full debt for sin and claims that He must be offered again and again in the Mass, that we must suffer for our own sins in purgatory and that salvation is in the Church through the seven sacraments administered by its priesthood, etc. It is a solemn fact that today's world is filled with "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil:3:18 ), many of whom claim to be Christians! Let us be certain that we believe and obey God's Word!
There is a further personal application of the gospel. Many Christians are beset by fears, anxieties, and inner turmoil. They have accepted peace with God for eternity, but do not rest in the enjoyment of that peace here and now. They have selfish desires that rob them of God's peace. Unwilling, as a practical experience of daily life, to be "crucified with Christ" (Gal:2:20 ), they are ruled by the tyrant Self instead of by the Holy Spirit.
What joy when it is no more self but Christ who rules our lives! Only then can we know the happy fulfillment of the promise: "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil:4:7 ). Such is the eternal peace Christ came to bring—and it is meant to begin here and now. TBC