2.) The Prince of Peace and the Coming Crisis
The Privilege and Power of Prayer; Developing Good Prayer Habits
By Rev. Oliver W. Price
The wise men's inquiry at Jerusalem concerning, the birthplace of the King of the Jews, whose star they had seen in the east, struck a note of fear in the historic capitol of Judaism.
"When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him."
We can understand Herod's disturbance, but what about the rest of Jerusalem? Did they fear the woes that might come with the advent of their Messiah? Was their conscience perturbed at the thought that the long awaited Deliverer had really come? Probably they were afraid of the cruelties of Herod which they anticipated. If so, their fears were fully justified by the cruel slaughter of the infants.
It was not accidental that the birth of the Prince of Peace was soon followed by the desperate bloody effort to destroy Him. He was never received with lukewarm indifference. His ministry plunged His nation into a crisis marked by violent debate, worried conferences among His religious adversaries and renewed attempts on His life. When Jesus cleansed the temple with a scourge in His hand it was quite obvious that His approach to peace was not by the route of appeasement. John the Baptist, who came before Jesus to prepare the hearts of the people for His coming, was beheaded at the order of Herod. John had been forthright, too, in dealing with the sins of the day. Jesus saw the end of His own ministry foreshadowed in the murder of John.
"The peace on earth and good will toward men which Jesus came to bring had its roots in righteousness not compromise. Thus John came before Him as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." (Mark 1:3)
Man confronted with the righteousness of God either repents or rebels. A minority accepted Christ, but the majority of the nation rejected Him. Divided deeply and bitterly on other issues, the religious parties were strangely united in this decision, "We will not have this man rule over us."
Jesus knew His preaching would not bring peace on earth while sin remained unjudged. Fully aware of the strife which would culminate in His crucifixion, He said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)
The world has not yet accepted God's judgment on sin at the cross, so the conflict rages unabated. Meanwhile, the invention of destructive weapons has brought the search for world peace in our time to the brink of desperation.
This Christmas our daily papers will, doubtless, carry their annual survey of world conditions in relation to peace. Again we will be reminded that the world is still far from obtaining the peace on earth which the angels announced at the birth of our Lord. The average reader is left wondering how to explain the apparent discrepancy. One liberal minister capitalized on this question, taking the occasion to present his own antidote for war. His ad in the local paper was titled, "Old Time Religion Hasn't Stopped War." Pointing out that the biblical hope of peace had never been obtained on earth, he added that the "Cambridge Modern History" includes a large volume on "The Wars of Religion". He seemed quite sure that the world will never see peace on earth on Scriptural terms.
Thus we are brought face to face with a situation that is preparing the world for another prince of peace and another crisis that will sift Christendom as Judaism was shaken by the coming of Christ in the first century. Completely overlooking our Lord's prediction of continued "wars and rumors of wars", it is the popular notion today that the church must evolve a religious program which will provide the world with peace and brotherhood which it urgently needs.
The careful student of Scripture has not been left unprepared for this turn of events. Jesus predicted that false Christs would offer themselves prior to His return. One such deceiver will gain worldwide acceptance.
"I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."
There is good reason to believe that this pretender will come as a great peacemaker. This may be the prophetic significance of the rider on the white horse (Revelation 6:2). Since the next rider has power "to take peace from the earth", the first one must have brought peace. It seems that he conquers by peace. Conquest through peace propaganda is a well-known tactic in modern times.
The world will evidently be lulled to sleep prior to the return of Christ with the confident assurance that the age of "peace and safety" has at last come (I Thessalonians 5:3). This hope will be short-lived, but until the rude awakening the world still rejecting Christ will rest in the wisdom of its own conceit.
As God's people of the first century were faced with the necessity of identifying Jesus as their Messiah, so believers today must discern the difference between a delusive program for peace and the Scriptural teaching to wait for the return of the Prince of Peace.
Once the church accepts the responsibility of bringing peace to this troubled world, it is on the road to embracing the false Christ. Assuming that it is our task to bring peace on earth, some religious leaders are asking that Christians lead the way to world brotherhood by uniting on an equality with other religions. Thus Jesus is to be placed on a level with the other great religious leaders of history. A great peacemaker will be needed to head this broad brotherhood. As the first century apostasy was culminated in the rejection of the Prince of Peace, so in the last days all religious apostasy will reach its climax in the acceptance of the coming false prince of peace.
As our Lord met the temptation to seek the kingdom by the road of compromise (Matthew 4:8-10), so the church is approaching the same critical decision in the face of the growing demand for a religious program that will produce world peace. The Christian must firmly insist that there is no peace apart from the cross. The crucified Christ will return and those who wait for the coming of the Lord's Christ, like Anna and Simeon of old, will see his salvation.
Originally published in The Sunday School Times.