The War Is Over
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
This has traditionally been interpreted as a proclamation of peace on earth among men. That‘s the way Henry Wadsworth Longfellow took it when he wrote the poem we now know as the Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
Longfellow had lost his wife to a fire that he tried to put out. In the process, he was so severely burned that he couldn’t attend his wife’s funeral. Then his eldest son, Charley, was severely wounded in the Civil War, and they feared he might be paralysed for life.
And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men!”
You might share these same sentiments, especially in the light of current events. The war in the Middle East has the potential of starting a third world war. Ungodliness seems to be on the rise at rates we’ve never witnessed in our lives.
Our nation is polarised more than ever, and it seems civility has nearly ceased to exist. Where is this peace on earth that the angels proclaimed? It’s important to realise that the angels weren’t announcing peace among men. Jesus said as much in Matthew 10:34–36:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
The angels were praising God because Jesus would bring peace on earth between God and men. They were announcing the end of God’s war on man’s sin. This would be accomplished by Jesus taking our sin upon His own body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) and totally paying the sin debt that we owed (Rom. 6:23).
You see, sin had separated man from God (Is. 59:1–2). Although God loved sinful man in spite of his sin, because He was holy, He had to punish sin as He promised Adam in Genesis 2:17. Under the Old Covenant, the Lord allowed men to substitute the death of an animal for their own death, but that was only symbolic. In a sense, God was forgiving sin on credit.
But with the advent of Jesus, the real debt was going to be paid and there would be an end of hostilities from God toward those who would put faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. That’s what the angels were so excited about, and we should be too.
Praise God for Jesus and all He has done to reconcile us to His Father (2 Cor. 5:18–21)!
This Christmas, I pray that the angels’ message will take on new meaning to you as you realise that you now have peace with God through faith in His grace (Rom. 5:1–2). Jesus is God’s greatest gift to mankind.
This is one of the most radical things that I have ever taught. It’s not radical in the sense that it‘s contrary to Scripture, but it’s radical compared to most religion today.
Most religion teaches a partial salvation in which your sins are forgiven to the extent that if you die, you will go to heaven, but every time you sin, you lose your right standing with God or some of your privileges, and you cannot expect God to move in your life. And you surely can‘t expect God to use you if you have any problems in your life at all. The thing that’s wrong with this thinking is that all of us have problems. It’s just a matter of to what degree. James 2:10 says that if you keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, you become guilty of all.
So, it’s not a matter of if you do nine out of ten things right, you get a ninety on your test. No. If you only do nine out of ten things right on God’s test, you flunk! You’ve either got to be perfect or you need a Saviour who was perfect for you. Then you get everything based on what He did, not based on your performance. Not very many people understand this.
Through the offering of Jesus Christ—His one sacrifice—He entered in once into the holy place and obtained eternal redemption for us. Man, that is awesome. The key to the Christian life is learning how to walk in the Spirit and not walk in the flesh (Gal 5:16). We need to learn how to walk in what Jesus has done for us instead of walking in what we do based on our own mental and emotional performance.
Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
There is so much more I want to share with you about this. This month I'm offering a free booklet entitled Goodwill Toward Men. It's a brief summary of this entire teaching titled The War Is Over, which is available in English and Spanish as a book, booklet, study guide, TV DVD series, CD series (English only), and USB. To get this teaching, go to awme.net/war or call our UK Helpline at +44(0)1922 473300.
We love you,
Andrew and Jamie