What was it those angels said on the night of Christ’s birth? The New King James Version of Luke 2:14 renders it: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” That translation simply follows the classic King James Version. Other translations, however, do a better job of conveying the meaning of the original Greek. Consider the following:
-The New America Standard: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
-The New International Version: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
-The Revised Standard Version: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
-The Holman Christian Standard: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!”
In case you are wondering why it’s important to nail down the translation so precisely, it’s because there are those who try to make something of the fact that Christ’s birth really didn’t bring peace on earth. Obviously, there have been untold numbers of wars since His birth, just as there were untold numbers of them before His birth. But as we see in these various other translations of the angels’ quote, this argument reads something into the quote that actually isn’t there.
You see, the angels weren’t saying that there would be peace on earth. That wrong idea sprang from the inferior translation of the cherished King James Version. If the angels really were saying that Christ’s birth would bring peace on earth, why did Jesus Himself prophesy that the future would bring “wars and rumors of wars” and that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”? (Matthew 24:6-7) Even more than that, why did He flatly say, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword”? (Matthew 10:34)
Still, what we need to understand is that there will come a time when there will be peace on earth, and Jesus will be the cause of it. That time will be His 1,000-year reign upon this earth. Isaiah 2:4 describes it this way:
He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (N.K.J.V.)
Of course, Christ’s 1,000 year reign isn’t here yet, is it? And according to Bible prophecy, a lot has to happen before it gets here. A detailed list of events and proof texts would go on for pages, but here at least are the major highlights:
-There has to be Christ’s snatching away of His people in what is called the Rapture. (1 Corinthians 15:50-58, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
-There has to be the rise of the Antichrist and his right hand man the False Prophet. (Revelation 13:1-18)
-There has to be a seven-year Tribulation period. (Daniel 9:20-27, Revelation chapters 6 through 18)
-There has to be a Battle of Armageddon that climaxes the Tribulation period. (Revelation 16:12-16, 19:19)
-There has to be Christ’s Second Coming to literally walk this earth again and win the battle of Armageddon. (Revelation 19:11-21)
-There has to be the capturing of the Antichrist and the False Prophet and their banishing to the eternal lake of fire. (Revelation 19:20)
-There has to be the binding of Satan and the imprisoning of Him in the bottomless pit for the 1,000 years of Christ’s earthly reign. (Revelation 20:1-3)
-There has to be the great dividing between the living “lost” (those who took the so-called “mark of the beast” during the tribulation period and lived to see the end of the period) from the living “saved” (those who accepted Christ as Savior during the Tribulation period and lived to see the end of the period). (Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 13:11-18)
-There has to be Christ’s formal establishing of His Kingdom throne in Jerusalem. (Psalm 2:6-12, Zephaniah 3:14-15, Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Daniel 2:44)
And so, as we can see, this world isn’t anywhere near ready for Jesus to reign over it in peace. As a matter of fact, the death tolls that will come from the battles and wars during the Tribulation period will be almost beyond belief (Revelation 6:3-8, 7:9-17, 9:13-19). But world peace truly is coming one day. And who will bring it in? Not surprisingly, it will be the One who was born on that starry night so long ago. He is, after all, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
Great work, Russell. That’s good information on the ‘Peace on earth’ being nailed down to those of His favor. I appreciate your clarifying the message that was delivered. This does bring a question for me, as to your use of Isaiah 2:4 as future. Is it possible that Isaiah was seeing this time of peace as also the first coming of our Lord? The reason I ask, is because of a statement made by Justin Martyr in his writings. He claimed, “…we who were filled with war, have exchanged our warlike weapons — our swords, into ploughshares…” Dialogue 110
I guess I’m asking, if Jesus could bring peace on earth that would be experienced only by those in God’s favor, couldn’t this have been the peace described by Isaiah also? It seems that most of his prophecy regarded Jesus and His first coming. Is Isaiah simply proclaiming what the Angels would one day re-proclaim?
Thanks friend and God bless.
Well, I certainly agree with you that Jesus brought peace to His followers. I was going to cover that ground in my next post even before I read your comment (lol). But I think that Isaiah 2:1-3 is clearly talking about future events. If we take the prophecy literally, Israel simply hasn’t seen a time as is described. This puts the prophecy in the same category as prophecies such as: Isaiah 65:19-25, Isaiah 35:1-10, Ezekiel 37:21-28, and Jeremiah 30:1-24. And Jeremiah 30:24 plainly sets the prophecy in the “latter days,” which is a term the Bible uses to indicate times such as the Tribulation period, Christ’s Second Coming, and His Millennial Reign. Furthermore, Micah 4:3 quotes the Isaiah prophecy virtually word for word, and Micah 4:1 (just like Jeremiah 30:24) says that it will come to pass in the “latter days.”
I do realize that during Christ’s earthly ministry He fulfilled the Isaiah 35:5-6 prophecy to some extent (Matthew 11:2-5), but that was only a foretaste of the total fulfillment. We can read Isaiah chapter 35 and understand that all those things didn’t happen during Christ’s life.
Of course, I am with those who interpret Bible prophecy through the lens of a pre-tribulation rapture and a pre-millennial second coming. For the most part, I take prophecy very literally, and I do believe that great promises lay very much unfulfilled concerning the world in general and the nation of Israel specifically.
I think that Zechariah chapter 14 is an excellent example of how the battle of Armageddon that ends the Tribulation period (v.1-2) merges with Christ’s return at His Second Coming (v.3-15) as He slays the armies of the world and wins the battle. Then comes His establishing of His 1,000 year reign (v.16-20) and certain details about that reign. This will be, at last, the true time of world peace.
Great piece, Russell. I’ve always been taken aback by the cold reality of the comments of Simeon. I’ve often wondered how difficult it must have been for him to wait all those years and the glory in his song reflects the moment that has finally come. Then right after his song comes the stark message to Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Lk 2:34-35) I think Simeon is outlining the fact that someone who brings as much peace to believers can only be an absence of peace to those outside the favor of God. Having written on peace the past few weeks, this is definitely another view of peace from the other side. I love this poetic piece from W.H. Auden who projects what might have been going on in the demented mind of Herod:
“Today has been on of those perfect winter days, cold, brilliant, and utterly still, when the bark of a shepherd’s dog carries for miles, and the great wild mountains come up quite close to the city walls, and the mind feels intensely awake, and this evening as I stand at this window high up in the citadel there is nothing in the whole magnificent panorama of plain and mountain to indicate that the empire is threatened by a danger more dreadful than any invasion of Tartar on racing camels or conspiracy of the Praetorian guard… O dear, why couldn’t this wretched infant be born somewhere else?”