Many are familiar with the scriptural refrain “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” But will true world peace ever be possible?
In a world beset by war, we may wonder: “Is world peace really possible?” The quest for peace seems endless. From Afghanistan to Ukraine, war seems to be in the news almost every day. Rather than finding peace, our world grows more brutal by the minute! The two world wars fought in the twentieth century did not bring peace, nor did the end of the Cold War; they brought only a more divided and troubled planet.
Every year at Christmas, religious leaders speak of the Christ-child and peace on earth—yet violence and war continue to escalate! Religious people light candles and say prayers for peace. Idealists sign petitions, stage marches, and organize conferences to seek it. “Hawks” urge their nations to build bigger weapons to enforce peace. Yet all these efforts have failed.
Is peace a mirage—an unrealistic, unattainable goal—an impossible dream? Why is the peace process so frustrating and difficult? Many in our modern world do not realize that biblical prophecies are coming alive in today’s news headlines. The Bible not only foretells the major challenges of our age; it also reveals why human efforts have not produced peace. Scripture also explains the way to peace, and how peace on earth will ultimately come.
Preachers often tell us that the message of Christmas is “Peace on earth and good will toward men.” This is in reference to an angel’s announcement at Christ’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). But the Bible does not indicate that peace will come from humanity’s good intentions or by everyone working together for peace. In fact, it says just the opposite!
We often hear that the “gospel message” is about love, peace, and harmony. Yet Jesus plainly said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Christ indicated that political, religious, and philosophical differences would divide human beings and generate strife until the end of the age.
Jesus also said that one of the signs of His imminent Second Coming would be the constant news “of wars and rumors of wars… for nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6–8). Jesus did not say that prayers, candle-lightings, negotiations, or nuclear weapons would bring peace. He warned that world conditions would grow worse and worse, culminating in a period of great tribulation that would mark the end of the age (Matthew 24:9–22).
Many religious leaders gloss over—or ignore—this sobering aspect of Christ’s message. Yet that message permeates Scripture! The Apostle Paul wrote that “in the last days perilous times will come.” These times would be characterized by selfish materialism, skepticism, blasphemy, disobedience, brutality, and the mad pursuit of pleasure, with many having a form of godliness but denying that religion has any real authority in their lives (2 Timothy 3:1–5). What an accurate description of our age!
The Hebrew prophets predicted a coming time when well-intentioned but misguided civil and religious leaders would cry out “‘Peace, Peace!’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). They will say that “we looked for peace, but no good came” (Jeremiah 8:15). Isaiah warned, in the context of the end time, that “the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly” as they see their plans and efforts come to nothing (Isaiah 33:7). Ezekiel prophesied that “they will seek peace, but there shall be none. Disaster will come upon disaster” (Ezekiel 7:25–26).
Jesus proclaimed that, as we approach the end of this age, we would face the end of human civilization “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). Biblical prophecies that are coming alive today reveal that human efforts to find peace will ultimately fail. Scripture also reveals why!
Describing human efforts to find peace, the Bible tells us a sobering truth: “The way of peace they have not known” (Isaiah 59:8). Human efforts fail because the world has largely ignored or rejected what the Bible teaches about peace.
King David wrote, “Great peace have those who love Your law” (Psalm 119:165), yet most professing Christians today believe that God’s law has been rendered obsolete! David also wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The laws of God point the way to peace.
Jesus told His disciples, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), yet many—even many who call themselves “Christian” and profess to be Christ’s followers—believe that such obedience is no longer necessary! If we keep the commandments of God, we will not kill, steal, lust, lie, commit adultery, practice fornication, nor disrespect parents or others in positions of authority. This is how to really love your neighbor and avoid conflict!
If we love God, we will avoid the idolatrous worship of other gods—or anything apart from Him. We will not follow religious practices the Bible condemns. We will keep the Sabbaths God has designated, rather than holidays steeped in paganism and materialism. To find the way to peace, we must learn to obey and live by the laws of God. Reasoning around the commandments, lighting candles, praying to saints, joining marches, or seeking United Nations interventions will not bring lasting peace. Jesus Christ is called the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), and He said, “I am the way” (John 14:6). There is no other way to peace!
Jesus Christ preached a Gospel about the coming Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14–15). That Gospel, that “good news,” is not about a baby in a manger who is waiting patiently for people to give their hearts to Him. The Kingdom of God is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart. It is not some semi-peaceful ecumenical community that the Church will establish on earth by compromise and consensus.
Biblical prophecy foretells that Jesus Christ will return to take over the kingdoms of this world, and that He will rule with great power (Revelation 11:15–18). He will set up a world-ruling government, headquartered in Jerusalem, that will bring peace to this earth (Isaiah 2:2–4; 9:6–7). The saints—today’s genuine, faithful Christians who will be resurrected as “firstfruits” at the start of the seventh millennium of human history—will reign with Christ (Revelation 1:6; 5:10) and teach the world to follow the laws of God (Isaiah 30:20–21).
As human beings learn a new way to live, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks… neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). In this way, peace on earth will finally be achieved! These prophecies will come alive in the years just ahead. This is the real biblical message of peace, and what the true Gospel is all about.