Thrust Statement: Jesus is God’s peace for sinful humanity.

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:14

INTRODUCTION

            The Gospel of God is about peace with God and with one another. The Good News of God is that God came into the world through the Incarnation bringing salvation, righteousness, forgiveness, mercy, and peace. Christ came not only to proclaim a Gospel, but also to be a Gospel, that is to say, He is the Gospel of God in all that He did for the deliverance of humanity from the Fall by restoring peace between God and humanity.  As one approaches Ephesians 2:14, one is confronted with one of the most penetrating Scriptures in this Book—“He himself is our peace.”[1] If one wishes peace with God, one can only find this peace in and through Jesus Christ. If one wishes peace with others who are also members of the community of the Resurrection, this peace can only be found in the Savior of the world.

Peace is not the absence of war and tragedy in one’s life; it is the presence of Jesus in one’s life.  It is through Jesus Christ that one recovers the peace that Adam and Eve had with God before the Fall; it is only in and through Jesus Christ that one acquires peace with others. The word peace (eijrhvnh, eirhne) occurs eight times in the Book of Ephesians (1:2; 3:14; 2:15; 2:17 [2 times]; 4:3; 6:15; 6:23). Paul begins this Epistle with greetings—“Grace and peace” (1:2). In this salutation, grace (cavri", caris) comes first and then peace. As a result of God’s grace in and through Jesus, one experiences peace, reconciliation, and wholeness with God (Isaiah 53:5). It is because of this Peace that Christians are to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:4).

            The second occurrence of the word peace, as stated above, is found in Ephesians 2:14—“He himself is our peace.” The third count is listed in 2:15 in which Paul calls attention to the reconciling of both Jew and Gentile into one body—“His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” Again, the fourth and fifth uses of the word peace are found in 2:17. In this verse, Paul calls attention to Jesus as having come and  “preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” Paul employs the sixth use of the word peace as he admonishes Christians to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3). As Paul brings his short Epistle to a close, he encourages the believers to put on the armor of God (6:10-20), which includes the “gospel of peace” in 6:15. This “gospel of peace” is also called the “administration of God’s grace” (3:2). And, finally, Paul says, “Peace to the brothers” (6:23).

Mystery of God’s Peace Unfolded

            Paul, as he seeks to unfold this mystery of God’s salvation in and through Jesus, drives home the point that without Jesus one cannot have peace with God. Listen to Paul as he paints in graphic detail the life without Jesus:

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-15).

If one wishes peace with God, one must accept Jesus as the Savior of the world. When one does not have Christ, one is “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God.” How can one have hope and God? Paul’s answer is Jesus. Paul follows this terrible picture of what life without Jesus is like with the following words: “For he himself is our peace” (2:14). This peace with God can only be found in Jesus the Messiah. One can scarcely read this Epistle without deliberation upon the words of Jesus Himself: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This statement of Jesus is quite revealing. Jesus not only brings peace, He Himself is Peace. For this very reason, Paul stresses that God’s salvation is “in Christ” (ejn Cristw/', en Cristw).

This phrase occurs fourteen times in Ephesians (1:1, 3, 9, 12, 13, 20; 2:6, 7, 10, 13; 3:6, 11, 21; 4:32). Again, listen to Paul as he seeks to set forth the place of salvation and the place where peace with God is found. To do this, he employs another phrase, “in him” (ejn aujvtw'/, en autw). Paul employs this unique expression nine times (1:4, 7, 11, 13; 2:21, 22; 3:12 [two times]; 4:21). Paul makes use of other expressions to emphasize Christ as the Peace of God. This “Peace” with God existed in eternity, even before God created Adam. With the coming of Jesus, this “mystery” (musthvrion, musthrion) that had been hidden for ages is now revealed (3:1-6). This mystery is the coming of Christ. This mystery is about the Logos (Lovgo", “Word”) breaking into another dimension—the sphere of human history. The coming of Jesus corresponds to the coming of the Word (John 1:1-14). In Christ, the Word comes from the other side. The Word made flesh is essentially the mystery of God (Colossians 2:2). Christians should stand in awe as they reflect upon this mystery, which says that Christ comes to humanity from beyond the frontier of creaturely existence since He comes to this earth from the side of God.

The word mystery occurs seven times in Ephesians (Ephesians 1:9; 3:3, 4, 6, 9; 5:32; 6:19) and the expression “administration of God’s Grace” is used one time (3:2). Whether one speaks of “mystery of his will” (1:9), “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (1:13), “mystery of Christ” (3:4), “this mystery” (3:6), “administration of this mystery” (3:9), “profound mystery” (5:32),  “the gospel of peace” (6:15), or “the mystery of the gospel” (6:19), one addresses one and the same thing—“He himself is our peace” (2:14). The word Gospel appears five times in this Epistle (1:13; 3:6, 7; 6:15. 19). This "gospel of your salvation" in 1:13 is also called “the gospel of peace” in 6:15. Jesus has solved the problem of relationships with each other in His own person. God’s word of peace promised through the prophets is fulfilled through the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary (1 Peter 2:24). One can say that Christ is both Peace and Peacemaker.

            This “mystery of the gospel” is about Christ who is “our peace.” The “mystery” is “Christ” Himself. Paul goes right to the heart of this matter in his Colossian Epistle:

I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments (Colossians 2:1-4).

Again, one recalls the words of Paul as he speaks of peace between God and the human race: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (1:19-20).  Paul desired the Colossians to have the “full riches of complete understanding” of this “mystery of God.” It is in this same vein that Paul writes to the Ephesians: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-19). In the Gospel of God, one witnesses the drama of God’s mighty act as deliverer from estrangement and restoration of fellowship with Himself.

Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is about the Person of the Mediator. The Mediator must be understood as an act of God’s grace. It is in Him and only in Him that God does something to humanity. The coming of Jesus to the human race in revelation and redemption is an act of God’s sovereign will. As one studies the Epistles of Paul, one observes that the predominant message is about Christ’s coming down, the sending of His Son, His taking on Himself the form of a servant for sinful humanity, His suffering, His death, and His rising again for justification for those who put their trust in Him for salvation. It is in the incarnation that God reveals Himself as the God who approaches men and women in their lost condition.  Individuals who want peace can only find peace in one’s acceptance of Christ as the Savior of the world. Paul articulates this peace to the Romans as something that can only be found in Him: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wea have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

The word peace in Ephesians 2:14 is about the Prince of Peace that Isaiah (9:6) prophesied about seven hundred years before His coming in human flesh (John 1:14). One can say that Christianity had a life before its birth (Genesis 3:15). This One that is called Jesus is the One who reconciles lost people to God. It is in this same vein that Isaiah also predicts: “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). Again, Isaiah proclaims: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (53:5). One can say that the Gospel is the Good News that God is creating a new world in which peace dwells. This peace can only be found in the One who became flesh.

To illustrate this truth that peace is given only to those who put their trust in Jesus as Savior, one turns to the Book of Luke for the teaching that peace is limited to those who believe in His Son Jesus. Luke writes: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14, NIV).  The question that confronts one is: on whom does His favor rest? The RSV translates:  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” Again, the question is: “with whom is he pleased? On the other hand, the KJV reads: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” According to the NIV and the RSV, God’s favor only rests upon those who listen to His Son. The KJV renders this verse as if peace is generic. The KJV does not convey the same concept as the NIV or the RSV.  The difference in the KJV from the other two translations hinges upon one Greek word that is translated as either “good will” (nominative—eujdokiva, eudokia) or “on whom his favor rest” (genitive—eujdokiva", eudokias).  Verlyn Verbrugge writes with insight:

The Greek manuscripts used to translate the KJV contain eujdokiva (nominative), whereas the older manuscripts used to translate the modern versions contain eujvjdokiva" (genitive)—literally translated, “of good will” or “characterized by [God’s] good pleasure.” In other words, the peace that the angels sang that belonged to the earth as a result of the birth of Christ is not a generic, worldwide peace for all humankind, but a peace limited to those who obtain favor with God by believing in his Son Jesus (see Romans 5:1). What a difference a single letter can make in the meaning of the text![2]

            This interpretation by Verbrugge also upholds Paul’s point of view about salvation in the first chapter of Ephesians. In Paul’s comments, he strips away all extraneous matter and goes right to the very core of where salvation occurs: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13). In order for one to be “in Christ,” one must hear the Gospel of salvation and believe, not before. If one wishes peace with God, every one must hear the Word of truth and believe that Jesus is the One He claimed to be, namely, the Son of God, the Savior of the world (swthvr tou' kovsmou, swthr tou kosmou).

Paul, as he seeks to grasp the richness of God’s grace, calls out: “For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Again, Paul puts across the very center of this peace as existing only in Jesus, as he expresses elsewhere in very concrete words: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wea have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).[3] Jesus enters the world of sinful history in order to redeem. Just a perusal of God’s whole revelation reveals God coming down to save sinful men and women. As one reflects upon the Incarnation, one quickly realizes that the cross of Christ and the message of the atonement are the last phases of the Incarnation. One cannot understand the life of Christ if one does not understand His life as culminating in the Cross. God makes “peace through his blood shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20). It is obvious that the death of Jesus was not a tragic defeat; it was a component of God’s age-long purpose (mystery) for the deliverance of both men and women from condemnation.

The Cross of Jesus makes it impossible for Christians to take forgiveness lightly. The crucifixion of Jesus is the outcome itself that gives forgiveness its complete weight. In the Cross of Jesus, one witnesses divine holiness and divine love. God Himself has provided the divine safeguard—the Cross of Jesus. God wants to have communion with His creation, but this peace is found only in one’s acceptance of Jesus as God’s message of free grace. Forgiveness and justification and peace of the sinner can only be found in the suffering Savior (Isaiah 53). In order to have peace with God, there must be forgiveness. When one reflects upon his or her guilt, one realizes that guilt is too great to be removed by forgiveness pure and simple, that is to say, God could not just speak: “I forgive you.” The Christian doctrine of forgiveness is established upon the Atonement of Jesus. The Atonement for sins is not offered by men and women, but by God Himself. In the Atonement, one observes God descending and running after lost humanity.

God makes peace through the Cross of Jesus. It is in the Cross that one observes God’s holiness and God’s mercy coming together. In the words of the psalmist, one can also say that “righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10). Deliberation upon the Cross of Jesus causes one to reflect upon the words of Paul to the Galatians: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). As one studies the Book of Ephesians, one should pray that this Scripture would sink into his or her heart and stand fast. The very essence of the Christian faith is to believe that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). One cannot live with God unless one’s sins are forgiven. Forgiveness is only found in Jesus. Paul writes with power as he ponders God’s grace: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

Prophecies Concerning the Coming of the Messiah

To understand Jesus as one’s Peace in all its fullness and wonder and awe, one must seek to examine the prophets in order to grasp the significance of this mystery that had been kept hidden from the foundation of the world until the Word became flesh (Ephesians 1: 3-14). Hopefully, this study will awaken one to the essential need to fathom the prophetic books in all their richness concerning the coming Messiah. The prophets wrote about this mystery, but they did not understand its completeness and totality. This disclosure by the prophets concerning the coming of God’s Son and redemption even astounded the angels. How could God justify sinful humanity? How could God bring about peace between Himself and sinful men and women? Yes, justification for sinful human beings created a problem even for God. How could God be just and justify the sinner at the same time? Paul reveals the dilemma and the answer in his Epistle to Rome. Listen to Paul as he unfolds how God dealt with the problem:

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,a through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).

The secret of justification can only be found in the mystery of the Person of Christ. Jesus comes to civilization from beyond the frontier of creaturely existence (John 1:1-14); He comes to men and women from the side of God. Since Jesus stands on the other side of the frontier, beyond which only God Himself can stand, then this One, who comes from the other side, is Himself our Prince of Peace.  Peter, in his first letter, writes about this salvation that the prophets foretold:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things (1 Peter 1:10-12).

            This salvation was so marvelous that Peter says that the angels desired to stoop low and look into the mystery of how God would justify sinful human beings. The prophets did not know the time or the circumstance to which the Holy Spirit pointed them. Nevertheless, the prophets assert that they had an authoritative divine word to proclaim, a message from God. It was “the word of the Lord that came to Hosea” (Hosea 1:1). Again, Jeremiah, in writing his words, said: “The word of the Lord came to him” (Jeremiah 1:2). Once more, Peter writes about the One behind the prophetic writings:

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21).

            Peter is saying that what the prophets wrote did not originate with them. It was not their imagination. What they wrote about lies outside the realm of human knowledge. Even though the prophet is an ordinary man, the prophet is honored by God to receive a word that no man could possibly discover to be the truth by his own efforts. The words of the prophets were distinct in that they received words from the other side, the communication of a divine secret, or mystery. Since this revelation has come from beyond, the other side, this revelation must be received as legitimate. Since this word has come from God, one must listen to it with the knowledge that this word about the One who would put away sin in one day has actually come from God Himself. The Word of God is transcendent; it has come from the other side. In the prophets, God reveals an event that will break into time—God becoming flesh to rescue sinful humanity. In other words, the prophets speak of a day in which the Divine Word is plunged into the current history of the world. Emil Brunner says with clarity and power the place of prophetic revelation when he writes:

The prophetic revelation points beyond itself to something which is “more than prophetic,” and Jesus Christ points back to the prophets as those who stand behind and below Himself. The prophetic word of revelation is thus conceived from both points of view as a provisional message, as a transitional phase, like the first flush of dawn before the sunrise, incomplete in itself.  . . . The prophet of the Old Testament had what no one else had or could have unless he were a prophet by vocation; he had a divine word of revelation, whose truth depends wholly upon the fact that it is a word of revelation; this “word” can never be transferred to the sphere of general truth without a complete distortion of its original meaning. Hence because he alone—not in virtue of that that which he is in himself, but in virtue of the fact that he is the chosen mouthpiece—has this word, the prophet stands between God and man as a new fact.[4]

 What do you think about the Old Testament? What do you think about the prophetic writings? What did Paul imply in his exhortation to Timothy concerning the inspiration of the Old Testament in 2 Timothy 3:14-17? Do you read the Old Testament? Unfortunately, within the community of the redeemed, the study of the Old Testament is often treated as something that is antiquated. The prophets and their writings are not studied with a great deal of attention or passion, especially within some segments of the Churches of Christ. Yet, Jesus took the time to explain to His disciples the Messianic prophecies found in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (Psalms) [Luke 24:44-49). It is also in this identical frame of mind that Paul reminded Timothy to study the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Christians should take the prophets seriously, because they spoke about the coming of the Messiah. The prophets do not speak in their own names, but in the name of God. A prophet is one who has an authoritative divine word to proclaim, a message from God Himself. 

The truths concerning the coming of the Messiah go beyond religious or ethical truths. In other words, the truths concerning the Messiah could not have been known otherwise than through God’s revelation. Neither men nor women could have discovered these truths about the Messiah on their own, because the content of the Messianic prophesies is a divine mystery, a mystery that lies outside the realm of human knowledge and understanding. The prophets never write on their own authority, but rather by the authority of God. The prophet considered it his duty to disclose the divine secret that is disclosed to him. The prophet only possesses the Word; he is not the Word itself. The prophets foretold about the Word, which is Jesus. They foretold the Good News about God’s coming salvation in which He would do away with sin in one day—the Atonement of Christ upon Calvary (Zechariah 3:8-9). If one wishes peace with God, it can only be through the Prince of Peace—Jesus. This Gospel was preached even to Abraham (Galatians 3:8). What was preached to Abraham? It was the Gospel! What is the Gospel? Paul explains it in verse four of Galatians the first chapter: “Who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.”

A. M. Ramsay writes with influence as he speaks of the true nature of the Gospel, a Gospel which the prophets foretold: “Jesus Christ came not only to preach a Gospel but to be a Gospel, and He is the Gospel of God in all that He did for the deliverance of mankind.”[5] Jesus is the very heart of God’s Gospel because it is in His Person that God unites the human and the divine natures. It is in Him that one finds peace, because Jesus is the Prince of Peace (<olv* rc^, c^r v*lom). Before the creation of the universe (Genesis 1:1), the Trinity decreed that One would become flesh in order to redeem sinful humanity. Paul pens the following words as he seeks to capture the richness of God’s grace: “ For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 hea predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:4-5). If one wishes to really understand this One that Paul refers to as “He himself is our peace,” one needs to turn to the Old Testament in order to more fully grasp the significance of what it is that God accomplished for lost people.

Unfolding the Mystery of the Ages

Paul, as he seeks to unfold this mystery of God’s will, relies upon the “foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (2:20, see also Isaiah 28:16)). As stated above, one quickly grasps from the study of the prophets that Christianity had a history before its actual history.[6] Even though Paul does not discuss the Messianic prophecies concerning the Messiah in the Book of Ephesians, nevertheless, he calls attention to God’s household as resting upon the foundation of the prophets (2:20). Paul, in the Book of Ephesians, unfolds the prophecies as having fulfillment in Jesus, without discussing the prophecies themselves. The study of the prophecies in the Old Testament will enhance one’s appreciation for God’s love and one’s consciousness of who Jesus is and one’s awareness of the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. What did Jesus think about the study of the prophets? What did He think about the Writings (the third division of the Old Testament, sometimes called the Psalms)? What did He think about the first five books of the Old Testament called the Law of Moses? Luke gives his readers an insight as to the authority of the Old Testament writings in seeking to understand the ministry and mission of Jesus. Jesus, after His resurrection, addresses the Messianic prophecies in order that His disciples might understand what had happened in His crucifixion:

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things (Luke 24:44-48).

Jesus unfolds the prophecies about Himself as foretold in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Since Genesis is one of the books of Moses, one cannot help but observes the first reference to the coming of the Messiah in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspringa and hers; he will crushb your head, and you will strike his heel.” Paul, so it seems, makes brief mention of this prophecy in the Book of Romans as he predicts the downfall of Jerusalem in the near future: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (16:20). In conclusion to Romans, Paul calls attention to this Gospel that God had long ago foretold through His prophets, prior to the coming of Christ, and is now, in Paul’s day, continuing to unfold this mystery through His prophets of the first century:

Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen (Romans 16:25-27).

            Christians have long recognized that in the “seed (ur~z#, z#r^u, “seed”) of the woman” that one witnesses the first words of the covenant of grace spoken of by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34).[7] It is also in the “seed of the woman” that one also recognizes that the promised seed of the woman was particularized into the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:17-19). Paul reveals to the Galatians the meaning of Genesis 22:17-19 as he seeks to set forth the true meaning of the Gospel:

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”a 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”b 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith (Galatians 3:6-9).

            God said to Abraham: “through your offspringb (;u&r+z^b=, b=z^r&I*, “by your seed”) all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me” (Genesis 22:18). Paul, in his explanation about Abraham’s “offspring,” does not stop abruptly, leaving one hanging in the air as to his meaning.  But rather, he continues to identify this “seed” as centering in and around just one person, namely Jesus: “The promises were spoken to Abraham[8] and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’a meaning one person, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). Genesis 3:15 is the inauguration of God’s grace. This is the first recorded reference concerning salvation from sin for men and women. God spoke precisely about Christ in His redemptive role just as he later spoke of Christ in His reference to Abraham’s seed. The “seed of the woman” and Abraham’s “seed” signified the coming One, namely, Christ.

            As stated above, the “seed of the woman” was personalized in the seed of Abraham in whom the families of the earth would be blessed. One can also say that Jesus was the seed of Isaac[9] (26:4) and the seed of Jacob[10] (28:10-14). Out of Jacob would come the One from whom “peace” for the nations would emerge—peace between God and humanity. Again, Moses[11] amplifies the prophecy to Jacob in 28:10-14 concerning this One who would bless all nations. This strengthening of this prophecy is given in Genesis 49.  In context, this prophecy relates to Jacob and his children. In this prophecy, Jacob centers in on one of the tribes through whom the Messiah would come—the tribe of Judah. Jacob says to his son Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongsc and the obedience of the nations is his” (Genesis 49:10). The KJV translates: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”

            “Until Shiloh come” (hl)yv!, v!l)h ) is a prophecy relating to the Messiah.[12]  Judah is specific concerning a descendant of his reigning as king and that the royal scepter would not depart from between his feet until “Shiloh” comes.[13] That is to say, “He to whom it belongs.” The whole passage would be unintelligible if Shiloh is not a person to whom the people (<yM!u^, u^M!‚m, “peoples”) gather for obedience.  Ezekiel (593 BC) was acquainted with this Messianic prophecy in Genesis 49:10, and, thus, he tells Zedekiah, the profane and wicked king of Judah, to take off his crown. This crown would not be restored until the One comes to whom it belongs:

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Because you people have brought to mind your guilt by your open rebellion, revealing your sins in all that you do—because you have done this, you will be taken captive. 25O profane and wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax, 26 this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low. 27 A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! It will not be restored until he comes to whom it rightfully belongs; to him I will give it’ (Ezekiel 21:24-27).

            Surely Ezekiel was up to date with Genesis 3:15 as well as Genesis 22:18. Ezekiel must have known that Jesus was covenantally prophesied in 3:15, 22:17-18, and 49:10.  Without doubt, Ezekiel must have read about Jesus in Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, and 53:1, Scriptures that deal with Jesus’ deification. John, the apostle, confirms the words of Ezekiel (21:24-27) as he writes in the Book of Revelation (ca. AD 68) about this One to whom it belongs: “ The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

Another clue to this identification of the time of the coming of Shiloh is Jacob’s words in 49:1: “Then Jacob called for his sons and said: ‘Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.’” The KJV renders this verse: “And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.” The “last days” (<ym!!Y`h^ tyr]j&a^B=, B+a^j&r!t h^Y*m!<, “in coming of the days” ) signifies the days of the Messiah. Daniel also employs “In the last days” in his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the future. According to Daniel, God gave Nebuchadnezzar the dream in order to reveal to him a vision of what would happen in the future. In this dream, Daniel reveals four world empires. In the fourth empire, Daniel discloses that the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will endure forever: “And in the daysm of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44).

In describing the time frame of this spiritual kingdom, Daniel says, “ but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come” (<ym!!Y`h^ tyr]j&a^B=, B+a^j&r!t h^Y*m!<, “in coming of the days” ) [2:28]. The KJV renders this verse: “But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.”  Daniel’ expression “in days to come” is the same phrase in Genesis 49:1. Both Isaiah (2:2) and Micah (1:1) foretell about the coming of the Messianic kingdom with the same expression (“In the last days). Pay attention to the words of Micah (735 BC) concerning the coming of the kingdom of God:

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. 2 Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 3 He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore (Micah 4:1-3).

            Isaiah (739 BC) writes:

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3 Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore (Isaiah 2:1-4).

            Both Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries and spoke of the Lord’s temple being established “in the last days.” Joel (835 BC) also writes about the outpouring of God’s Spirit in the last days (Joel 2:28-32). Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, over eight hundred years later, referred to this prophecy:

These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’a These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’a  (Acts 2:15-21).

            Peter identifies the “last days” as having reference to the coming of Jesus. With just a simple perusal of the New Testament writings, one immediately detects that Jesus believed Himself to be the absolute and ultimate incarnation of that messianic image and anticipation that the prophets wrote about.  For example, Jesus applies Psalm 110:1 to Himself (Matthew22: 41-45), which concerns David calling Jesus Lord. Also, Jesus, while in Nazareth, stood up in the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61:1-2 and applied this to Himself (Luke 4:17-21), which prophecy foretold Jesus’ ministry to the poor and the preaching of the Good News about God’s covenant of grace. Once more, Isaiah 53:12 speaks of Jesus as being numbered with the transgressors, yet Jesus cites this Scripture as having its fulfillment in Him (Luke 22:37).

Yes, Jesus is that Shiloh, or Prince of Peace, spoken of by Isaiah (9:6). Following the seventy years of Babylonian captivity, God called three prophets to address the present condition of Israel as well as the end times (last days)—Haggai (520 BC), Zechariah (520 BC), and Malachi (433 BC). Haggai, for instance, spoke of the time when “the desired of all nations will come” and fill the house with glory (Haggai 2:7-9). In the Book of Zechariah, God said to Joshua: “Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch (jm^x#, x#m^h)” (Zechariah 3:8). Once again, God said:

Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two (6:12-13).

            Within these words to Joshua, one discovers a messianic overtone in reference to the “Branch,” the name by which God would call Him. Following this prediction, Zechariah again pens another messianic prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your kinga comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (9:9). Yet another time, Zechariah identifies this One as the coming Messiah: “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver” (11:12). And finally, but not the least of the prophecies, Zechariah foretells the crucifixion of the Branch:

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirita of grace and supplication. They will look onb me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (12:10).

            The Branch (jm^x#, x#m^h) spoken of in Zechariah 3:8 is none other than the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, the “one who bore the sin of many” (53:12). One hundred years earlier, Jeremiah (627 BC) spoke of the “righteous Branch” whereby Judah and Israel will live in safety. Observe the words of the Holy Spirit as he spoke through Jeremiah:

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to Davida a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5-6).

            “This is the name by which he will be called” identifies the “righteous Branch” as “The Lord Our Righteousness.” One hundred years later, Zechariah (520 BC) speaks of the Branch in 6:12 in which he says that His name is “Branch”:

Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’

            Isaiah (739 BC), approximately two hundred years before Zechariah, following his Messianic prediction concerning the kingdom of Christ (2:1-4), also spoke of the Branch of the Lord: “In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel” (Isaiah 4:2). The Branch of the Lord (ho*hy+ jm^x#, x#m^j y+ho*h, “Branch of Yahweh”) refers to the divine nature of this coming Ruler. It is also in this same vein that Micah, seven hundred years before the birth of the Messiah, prophesied concerning His birthplace: “ “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clansb of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose originsc are from of old, from ancient timesd” (Micah 5:2).

            The utterance itself provides ample evidence for viewing this Scripture as Messianic. Seven hundred years after this prophecy, the chief priest and the teachers of the Law so understood when they were questioned by Herod concerning the news floating around Jerusalem about one born king of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-6). Even though the religious leaders did not accept the birth of Jesus as the fulfillment of this Messianic prophecy, nevertheless, they understood the implications of Micah 5:2.[14]  Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, was fully aware of the deplorable conditions among his countrymen. Through the Holy Spirit, he condemned the political leaders in 3:1-4 and the religious leaders in 3:5-8. Then in 3:9-12, he pronounces judgment upon the nation, especially upon Jerusalem. Still, in spite of God’s judgment, he predicts the “last days” concerning the coming of the Messiah (4:1-3). Following this Messianic prediction about the coming of God’s kingdom, he again paints a rather dismal picture of the calamity about to fall upon Jerusalem (4:9-10). Yet again, he, in almost an abrupt manner, turns his attention to the little town of Bethlehem from which the future deliverer of the nations would come forth (5:2).

            Matthew cites this Scripture as Messianic (2:6). What does “out of you will come for me” mean? The expression ax@y} yl!  (l!y@x@) indicates that the Messiah performs an exclusive and very important share in the development of God’s plan of rescue from condemnation (see also Daniel 9:24-27). Again, what does ‘whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” signify? The KJV renders this verse: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlastinga.  “From of old” is from the Hebrew word <d\q# (q#d#m), which indicates ancient times. The phrase “from everlasting” is from the Hebrew word <l*ou (uol*m), which indicate eternity as well as ancient times. After identification of the birth town of the Messiah, Micah says that a ruler (lv@om, mov@l, “a Ruler”) will go out for me in Israel and His proceedings from ancient times from the days of eternity. David Cooper captures, so it seems, the true interpretation of this prophecy:

Irrespective of the choice of definition in this oracle, the statement, “whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting,” assumes the preexistence of this ruler before his appearance in Bethlehem.[15]

            Isaiah had already told of His virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14). It was left for Micah to name the place (Micah 5:2). Not only did Micah name the place, but he also calls attention to His existence prior to His birth in Bethlehem. Over seven hundred years after this prophecy about His eternity, Jesus entered into controversy with the religious leaders by asserting that “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). The Jews were flabbergasted at this saying: “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham.” (Abraham was born in 2166 BC) [8:57]. Jesus then dropped a bombshell by asserting: “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am” (8:58). Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed: “And now Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (17:5). These sayings of Jesus only confirm what John writes at the beginning of his Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men (1:1-4).

CONCLUSION

Do you have peace with God? Do you want peace? Do you want freedom from sin and guilt? If so, Jesus is the answer to the sin problem. In conclusion to this study—Jesus Is Our Prince of Peace—it is appropriate, once more, to briefly reflect upon the words of Jesus: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). In the sequence of this same discourse, Jesus lays out the distinction between Himself and the Pharisees: “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (8:23-24). But He does not stop with this piercing statement, but He continues His remarks by telling them about His crucifixion: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be” (8:28).

If one wants freedom from condemnation and peace with God, one can only experience this relationship of peace with God in and through Jesus Christ. Listen to Jesus as He sets forth this truth: “If you hold to my teaching (lovgw'/ tw'/ ejmw'/, logw tw emw, “my word”), you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (8:31-32). The teaching is that Jesus is from above and the savior of the world. Jesus follows up this announcement with reference to Himself: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (8:36). Earlier, John the Baptist gives his testimony about this One from above:

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for Godc gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him”d (John 3:31-36).

In this same chapter, Jesus speaks to Nicodemus these words: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man” (3:13). How can one escape the wrath of God? Paul develops this subject in Romans. Listen to Paul as he explains how one escapes God’s wrath and finds peace: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wea have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And web rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). “If one wishes peace with God, this peace can only be found in the One who is the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the centerpiece of history (14:6). He is the single way to God. This is the very reason that Paul cries out: “He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). The One who existed from all eternity is the One that Paul, too, speaks of as “our Peace.” It is in this regard that Charles L. Feinberg’s comments about Micah 5:2 are well worth citing:

The Ruler comes forth from Bethlehem in time, but He is not circumscribed by time. His goings forth have been from old, from everlasting. These goings forth were in creation, in His appearances to the patriarchs, and throughout the Old Testament history of redemption. The phrases of this text are the strongest possible statement of infinite duration in the Hebrew language (Ps 90:2; Pr 8:22-23). The preexistence of the Messiah is being taught here, as well as His active participation in ancient times in the purpose of God.[16]

            As the loving God, God wishes to draw everyone to Himself. It is His mercy that sends His Son to die for the sins of the world. God’s assault upon the world is Jesus Christ. This assault upon the world is what the atonement is all about—peace with God. What does the Cross and the Atonement mean? It means acceptance with God and eternal life and peace. The reality of God’s wrath is seen in both the Atonement and the Resurrection of His Son Jesus. God’s love and His peace are known only in and through His Son. One receives God’s peace at the place of horror—the Cross. Jesus is this bridge between God and humanity.

It is in Jesus that the love of God breaks through His wrath. The Cross remains the sign of this Peace. It is only in the coming of Jesus that the barriers that are opposed to forgiveness are torn down. The picture of salvation is this: God descends and runs after men and women. If one wishes God’s Peace, this peace can only be found in the One who is the Prince of Peace. It is only in Christ that the injury caused by the Fall has been made good. This truth is the center of the Christian Faith—“He Himself is our Peace.” Listen once more to the words of Jesus: “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:23-24).

 



[1] All Scripture citations are from the New International Version, unless stated otherwise.

 

            a Or let us

[2] Verlyn Verbrugge, “Exegetical Insight” in William Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 45.

            a Or let us          

[3]All Scripture citations are from the New International Version, unless stated otherwise.

            a 25Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin

[4] Emil Brunner, The Mediator (1934, London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), 222.

[5] A. M. Ramsey, The Resurrection of Christ (1945, reprint, London: Fontana Books, 1962), 10-11.

            a 4,5 Or sight in love. He

[6] See David Baron, Rays of Messiah’s Glory: Christ in the Old Testament, (1886: reprint, Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002), 1. I am indebted to David Baron for his insight and comments on the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. I have rephrased many of his comments in order to avoid so many footnotes. 

            a Or seed

                b Or strike

[7] For an excellent study on the “seed of the woman,” see David L. Cooper, Messiah: His Nature and Person (Los Angeles, California: Biblical Research Society, 1933), 25-36.

            a Gen. 15:6

                b Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18

                b Or seed

[8] Abraham’s date of birth: 2166 BC. For a detailed explanation of biblical chronology for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, see Dallas Burdette, “What Is Liberalism,  [ONLINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net (accessed 5 May 2004) located under the caption Sermons and Essays and then under Unity in Diversity.

a Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 24:7

[9] Isaac’s date of birth: 2066 BC

[10] Jacob’s date of birth: 2006 BC.

[11] Moses’ date of birth: 1526 BC.

                c Or until Shiloh comes; or until he comes to whom tribute belongs

[12] For a detailed analysis of this prophecy (Genesis 49:10), see David Copper, Messiah: His Nature and Person, 45-54.

[13] The word Shiloh is spelled three different ways in the Old Testament. It is spelled olv! (v!lo), three times  olyv! (v!lo), and one time  hOyv! (v!Oh), which occurs in Genesis 49:10.

m the days: Chaldee their days

            a Joel 2:28-32

                a Joel 2:28-32

            a Or King

                a Or the Spirit

                b Or to

            a Or up from David~s line

            b Or rulers

                c Hebrew goings out

            d Or from days of eternity

[14] For an excellent study on this passage (Micah 5:2), one should consult Robert L. Reymond, Jesus Divine Messiah: The New and Old Testament Witness (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2003), 128-134.

[15] David Cooper, Messiah: His Nature and Person, 200.

            c Greek he

                d Some interpreters end the quotation after verse 30.

                a Or let us

                b Or let us

[16] Charles L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets (1948, Chicago: Moody Press, 1990), 173.

            a Or I am he; also in verse 28