From the Beginning

A STORY OF "TIME" by Trevor Topsfield

PEACE

Mankind has sought peace for a very long time, and today the quest continues. Just when we think we are making progress another skirmish breaks out somewhere in the world.

Several agencies have attempted to provide peace on earth and the setting up of the United Nations is one of the latest ideas designed to attain it. Religious groups have often promised it, but peace seems to have eluded them all. Judaism in Jerimiah’s day tried to lull the people into a false sense of security by saying

‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.  (NIV) Jeremiah 6:14b

Jeremiah held the office of prophet for about 40 years, and like Isaiah warned the Jews of the impending discipline they would receive if they did not change their ways.

God had set down in Leviticus 26:14-39 five stages of discipline if they did not listen to him or carry out his commands. Each stage was 7 more severe than the previous and the fifth ended in the collapse of the nation through the death and captivity of the people along with the destruction of the land.

In the days of Jeremiah Judaism was at a similar stage as Judaism was at the time that Jesus Christ lived on the earth. The Chaldeans under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Israel in Jeremiah’s day, while the Romans did the same in 70 AD, forty years after the death of Jesus.

Jeremiah had this to say about the people of his day in Jeremiah 6:13.

From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.

‘Peace, peace,’  they say, when there is no peace. (NIV)

Everyone including the prophets and priests practiced deceit for gain. All sections of the community were greedy and the religious order of the day was no exception. But the institution set up by God for his purpose should have different message. They should have understood the situation as serious and said; “War, War” unless you change your attitude towards the commands of God.

In Jeremiah’s day they were suffering from one of the stages of discipline, and moving from one to another. The fifth was war with Nebuchadnezzar, a war they would lose, and lose badly. Thousands would be killed and thousands of young people would be taken to Babylon as captives.

As long as the Jews continued as they were, peace was never an option as far as God was concerned. To these people, peace was always going to be out of reach, as they had rejected the Prince of Peace.

Isaiah was also at work among the Jews and he explained that peace was still some time away.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor,  Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.  (NIV)  Isaiah 9:6+7

Isaiah is telling the Jews that the Chaldeans are a real threat to their existence. If you want peace then you have to look forward to a time when God through the Prince of Peace will achieve it, He is explaining to these greedy people of his time that it is not peace they should be thinking of, but war.

The Jews of Jesus’ day may have thought that peace had finally come when the angel of the Lord came upon shepherds tending their flock and announced the birth of Jesus.

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This shall be a sign unto you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel,  praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” (NIV)    Luke 2:11-14

Peace on earth at last they probably thought to themselves. This passage is often mentioned around Christmas time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is the fulfilment of the prophecy Isaiah spoke of so long ago.

It would appear that after the birth of Jesus, his life continued without any notoriety until his baptism and then he became the focal point of Israel. To all he was obviously from God, as Nicodemus explained to Jesus that no one could perform the miraculous signs he was doing, if God was not with him.

To the hierarchy of Judaism, Jesus was a thorn in their side, as he undermined their authority. Jesus said that salvation was as simple as believing in him, while Judaism taught the way to please God was to keep the Law of Moses. In reality Jesus was the fulfilment of the Law of Moses and so believing in Jesus was the only way of keeping it. The conflict existed between Jesus and Judaism, because Judaism had distorted the Law into a system of pleasing God by doing good works.

For many Jews, Jesus was their salvation because they believed in him. To others he was the “One” Isaiah spoke of, he was their king and his government of peace would have no end. These people demonstrated their belief on the day we know as Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the people called out.

Hosanna!” Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the King of Israel. (NIV)   John 12:13

However Palm Sunday was the fulfilment of the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9.

Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt. (NIV)

The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was not to take over the rulership of Israel and establish his government of peace. Those who took palm branches and went to meet him with this in mind were wrong to think it at this time. Certainly Jesus is king, but his role as king is for a future time.

Jesus went to Jerusalem not to become king of Israel, but to become the savior of the world. He went not to set up a kingdom, but to die on the Cross. The Cross had to come first, as his eternal kingdom requires subjects with eternal life, and that can only be achieved through the Cross.

Those who saw Jesus as “The King” had rejected him as their Savior. In their pride they considered they would live forever as they had kept the Law of Moses.

At the time of Jesus Christ, Israel as a whole had lost the plot and even though they were God’s people they killed Jesus rather than proclaim his as the Son of God. The peace the heavenly host declared to the shepherds was peace between God in heaven and mankind on earth, for as sinners mankind is at enmity with God. With peace established between God and man an eternal peace is possible.

Israel rejected peace between them and God, for they thought they were already at peace with God as they had kept the Law of Moses. Israel’s pride was its downfall, as it was well and truly at odds with God, so much so that God allowed the Romans to utterly destroy the nation in 70AD.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.     (NIV)                                        Ecclesiastes 3:1

On earth there are some things that have to be done, and there is a time to do them. No one understood this better than Jesus, he knew there was a time for war, a time for peace and when he came, it was not the time for peace.

“Do you suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law- a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’  (NIV) Matthew 10:34-36

Jesus came to divide the world, to separate the believers from the unbelievers. The believer has an inner conflict.

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.     (NIV)     Galatians 5:17

This conflict overflows to the world as a whole and Jesus made sure it continued. Jesus antagonised the religious leaders of his day when he said.

“Woe to you, you teachers of the Law and Pharisees.” (NIV)

How they must have shuddered when Jesus was about, for he would never bypass a fight, as this was a time for war.

Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, You hypocrites!   You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice the son of hell as you are. (NIV)  Matthew 23:15

 This is not the meek and mild Jesus that is often taught at Sunday school, this Jesus in full flight.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, You hypocrites!

You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean.”    (NIV)  Matthew 23:25+26

If it was fight they wanted, then a fight is what they got. The Pharisees were making an issue out of certain sins that were unpopular at that time, just as today. Today smoking seems to be the one of the hot issues and the effort that has been spent in trying to stop people smoking is incredible, but if people stopped smoking altogether they would still not live forever.

The real issue and the only one worth our concern, is the issue of our righteousness.

Righteousness we must have if eternal life is to be ours.

Righteousness which will make us a friend of God’s rather than one of his enemies.

The righteousness which will put us at peace with God, rather than the hostility that is between us.

Righteousness we have through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus gave the Scribes and Pharisees such a hard time over this that they could take it no more, so they had Jesus put to death. The death of Jesus Christ became the issue between the good of the Scribes and Pharisees and the righteousness of God.

There is a peace on earth right now, amidst hostilities that surrounds us on every side, and there is a peace that surpasses understanding.

Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (NIV)   John 14:27

God is at war with Satan and his demons, the feeling between them is one of complete and total enmity. There is no point at which the two parties agree. God can only accept absolute righteousness, while Satan and his demons, good and evil are quite satisfactory.

The issue has to be resolved and the outcome will decide the eternal prospects of both parties.

Satan must win for his own sake and the sake of his demons that followed him. Between them they must make the earth last forever and prove God wrong for judging him as he did. They must overturn the sentence of eternity in hell, for obviously this too unbearable to think about.

God too must win; he cannot allow Satan to prove his point.  God knows that only perfection will last forever. If the sentence of Satan and his demons is not carried out they will contaminate the creation and eventually all will be destroyed. God, for his own preservation cannot allow this to happen and so he must allow Satan’s actions to reach their logical conclusion here on earth so the issues are resolved once and for all.

For Satan the trouble started when through his pride he decided he would be like “the Most High” and attempted to take over from God. While Satan is endeavoring to prove his ability to live up to his boast, God is being God in a way never before possible in the perfection of heaven.

Despite the imperfect conditions found on earth, as opposed to the perfection of heaven, God provides exactly the same things to those who trust in him. For God is able to achieve his objectives regardless of the environment. His only limitation is the failure of the recipients to trust him.

The earth has limited resources, but God is able to provide all the needs of those who believe.

In an environment of good and evil, God never compromises his perfect standards. Under no circumstances will he tolerate imperfections; instead he raises us to his standard so that we might enjoy fellowship with him.

Enmity is prevalent in all walks of life, but even with this hostility abounding, God can provide peace through the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus replied. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and will come to him and make our home with him.

He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

“All this I have spoken while still with you.

But the counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you.

Peace I leave you; my peace I give you.”  (NIV)     John 14:23-27

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would make real the things he taught and therefore he could say.

Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. (NIV)

The peace of Jesus is peace between us and God. Now we have the righteousness of God through the death of Christ and the enmity that was between us has ceased.

We are at peace with the world, for through the teachings of Christ, we know that the problems of the world are nor our responsibility. Our only task in life is to demonstrate God’s ability to care for us in this environment and if others ignore this, they only have themselves to blame.

We are at peace with our fellow man; we know that God has forgiven us all our imperfections, so we can forgive others the same. We are also aware that while we have to put up with the foibles of others, they have to put up with ours.

We are at peace with ourselves. Now with the help of the Holy Spirit we can produce the perfection we desire and when we fall short of this standard we know how we regain the ability to do so.

According to Jesus this peace is different to the peace the world offers.

He said,

“I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (NIV)

Peace is maintained in the world through strength;

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.

Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?

If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace.”       (NIV)      Luke 14:31+32

Peace maintained in way costs billions of dollars and has proved over the years to be very successful for those who can afford the price.

Because of the condition of mankind, we need to be prepared for war; then we are more likely to enjoy peace.

What causes fights and quarrels among you?

Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

You want something but you don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you might spend what you get for pleasures.”         (NIV)            James 4:1-4

Over the years mankind has changed very little. In Jeremiah’s day they practiced deceit for gain, today there are quarrels and fights because of our desires. From a personal basis, our quarrels and fights overflow into a national desire to take what another country has and then it is war. As long as these desires are not controlled, war will always be a part of life as Jesus said in answer to a question from his disciples.

Tell us,” they said. “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”       (NIV)       Matthew 24:3b

 Jesus answered “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming. I am the Christ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”          (NIV)               Matthew 24:4-6

The end of the age! What does it mean? The end of the age Jesus refers to is the end of the age that is current at that time. When Jesus answered this question, the time is the “age of the Jews”. The Church began on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, so Jesus lived at the time the Jews were still the official representatives of God.

So that is how it will be till the end of the Jewish age, wars and rumors of wars and remember it was Jesus who said this. This is right out of the horse’s mouth. What Jesus has said is from the ultimate authority.

The Jewish age has seven years to run after the Church has completed is turn at being God’s representative. Back in the days of Daniel God set the time he would give the Jews to achieve their objectives.

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are degreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.     (NIV)         Daniel 9:24-26

Seventy sevens equals 490 years the Jews will have to do what they have to do.

The clock started running when the decree is issued to restore Jerusalem after Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed it in 586 BC. The decree was issued in 445 BC according to Nehemiah Chapter 2 and the time was broken down into three periods. Seven “sevens”, sixty two “sevens”, and one “seven”.

At the completion of the sixty two “sevens” the anointed will be cut off which is a reference to the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Fifty days later the Church began on the day of Pentecost and the clock stopped for the Jews. This means there is one “seven” left to run for them.

So while the Church is God’s representative wars and rumors of war will continue right through its time, but see that you are not alarmed as this must happen.

Till Jesus returns at the end of the Jewish age no one will be able to provide a universal peace. Various nations have attempted it; the British manage a degree of peace when their navy ruled the seas many years ago. The Americans have spent billions of dollars trying to maintain it at the present time, but it appears as though they will run out of money and still not attain peace.

Take it from Jesus; there will be wars and rumors of war until the end of the Jewish age. When the Jews have completed their role here on earth, Jesus will come and take over the rulership and with it will be the end of war and the rumors of it.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor,  Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.  (NIV)  Isaiah 9:6+7

Universal peace is never going to happen until Jesus establishes it and the only way we can experience real peace both for now and for eternity is through faith in Jesus Christ.

 Trevor Topsfield

 Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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