The Prince of Peace
“He will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10, NASU).1
by Tom Gilbert
Of all the titles given in the Bible for the Son of God, perhaps none is more pleasant to the tongue and the mind than “the Prince of Peace.” There is no human heart that does not yearn, at least at some deep subconscious level, for more peace in life. The very thought that the Bible prophesies a future ruler whose government is so characterized by the tranquility that he is called the Prince of Peace, brings comfort and hope.
Isaiah was not the only prophet who referred to our Lord as a prince. Daniel (9:25) gave a time prophecy pointing to the time of “Messiah the Prince,” when Jesus ministered here on earth and gave his life to redeem Adam and all humanity. In the New Testament, Peter and the other apostles defended themselves before the Sanhedrin for teaching in the temple, say‑
ing, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:29-31).
The World’s Need for Peace
Peace has largely eluded the human race. There have been wars and savagery within and between different population groups from the earliest times of human history. People have fought over territory, water, food supplies, natural resources, and freedom from enslavement. The Bible records a slice of that history up to the time of Jesus.
Many of these conflicts have been justified on the basis of national or ethnic interest and cloaked in the guise of patriotism. Nevertheless, most have been initiated on the basis of selfishness and greed for wealth and power. Accompanying these conflicts have been episodes of genocide, such as the Holocaust during World War II.
Chris Hedges states that there have been only 268 years of complete peace among humans in the past 3400 years of history.2 Military conflict among nations is the norm; peace is the exception.
The human suffering associated with this violence and conflict extends far beyond those directly involved in the battles. Wars especially interrupt supply chains of food and other necessities for life and health. They result in homelessness, poverty, and starvation.
Peace and cooperation are necessary to provide adequately for human needs. Peace and freedom enable people to pursue education and make decisions that will provide for themselves and their families, and the fulfillment of their human potential.
When our Lord left the heavenly realm to live as a human being, his birth was announced with a promise of peace among humanity. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14, KJV).
However, the pattern of conflict and violence has continued and has become more horrifying.
(1) All scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition unless otherwise noted.
(2) Chris Hedges, What Every Person Should Know About War, New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2003, page 1.
Even the history of the Christian church has been marred by sectarian fighting and conflict. There is enmity between Christians and follow‑
ers of other religions.
There are presently 52 ongoing armed conflicts in the world, ranging from wars between nations to civil wars and armed insurgencies within nations.3 Tens of thousands of people are dying in these conflicts, many of them civilians. The number of people killed in wars in the 20th Century has been estimated at 108 million. Estimates of the number killed in wars throughout all of human history range from 150 million to more than 1 billion.4
(3) Wikipedia, List of Ongoing Armed Conflicts.
(4) Hedges, About War, page 1.
The Prince Who Brings Worldwide Peace
Since he who bears the title was born over 2,000 years ago, does the title Prince of Peace have any real meaning? Isaiah’s prophecy (9:6) says Jesus will establish worldwide peace. God utilizes the time between Jesus’ first and second advents to train and qualify a cadre of 144,000 peacemakers from among humanity to work with him in establishing worldwide peace during the Kingdom.
In Matthew 5:9, Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” The message paraphrase for this verse is very descriptive of what it means to be a peacemaker: “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of competing or fighting. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
God is developing a spiritual family of peacemakers. Under the leadership of his Son, Jesus Christ, they will help free the world from violence and conflict. The Apostle Paul tells us that the whole world is (unknowingly) waiting for the completion and revealing of this family of peacemakers so that their work of bringing this freedom — this peace — can begin.
“The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21).
For leading this work laid out in God’s plan for humankind, Jesus is rightly called the Prince of Peace. He is also the Prince of the peacemakers.
Peace Is More than Absence of Conflict
One of the prophecies describing the end of war and human conflict is found in Micah 4:14: “And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, ‘Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.”
While this passage clearly prophesies an end to wars and the weapons of war, the last sentence describes another important qualitative feature of the peace that Jesus will establish. Everyone will have what is necessary to live and enjoy a tranquil and satisfying life.
This important meaning is actually contained in the Hebrew word translated peace in our theme passage — shalom. Jesus is the Prince of Shalom. It is important to understand that shalom never means only the absence of trouble. Whether used as a greeting or salutation, it always means everything which makes for a person’s highest good and welfare. The Message paraphrase (by Eugene H. Peterson) reflects this understanding by rendering Jesus’ title in Isaiah 9:6, “Prince of Wholeness.”
In Christ’s kingdom of peace, everything necessary to make people “whole” will be provided. No one will be homeless. No one will be hungry. Disabilities will be healed. Everyone will be healthy — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Everyone will be valued.
The Golden Rule will operate in the kingdom of peace. Those who work for the good and welfare of others will receive eternal life. This is the clear lesson of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46).
Peace Established Through Justice
The prophecy of Micah tells us that the end of wars and conflicts will result from the propagation of God’s law and word, and the exercise
of judgment and justice among peoples and nations. God has committed this work to His Son, the Prince of Peace (Acts 17:31). “He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but
with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth” (Isaiah 11:3-4, NIV).
“Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level; then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters will overflow the secret place’” (Isaiah 28:1617). God’s justice will be enforced at first until, through education, it is embraced by every human heart. “They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
Shane Claiborne writes: “Peace is not just about the absence of conflict; it’s also about the presence of justice. … true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, forgiveness. Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.”5
(5) Shane Claiborne, Common Prayer: A Liturgy
for Ordinary Radicals, Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Zondervan, 2010, page 382.
Justice in the Bible has to do with right and good relationships. Justice is a condition in which people flourish in healthy, nurturing relationships with God and each other. When something injures those relationships, doing justice involves setting things right. Justice involves the restoration of integrity, wholeness, and wellness for people and their relationships.
Justice, after all, is a relational concept. Justice is only meaningful when it is describing a relationship that is right or equitable between
people, or between God and his human creation. It has no meaning in the abstract. Justice and righteousness are essential to peace and harmony in any relationship. Justice provides for access by all to the good things of life. None can justly prosper at the expense of others, or even in the light of the poverty and need of others.
The healing and restoration of each human heart through the establishment of true justice will bring lasting peace to the earth.
“Then justice will dwell in the wilderness and righteousness will abide in the fertile field. And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness, and confidence forever. Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, and in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places” (Isaiah 32:16-18).