Nearly 100 years ago, the Great War in Europe ended. It left 9 million soldiers dead and an additional 21 million wounded. Man's inhumanity to man is mind-boggling. Lasting peace always eludes us.
Mankind has searched for peace but has never attained it. Famed historians Will and Ariel Durant wrote decades ago that in nearly 3,500 years of recorded history, "only 268 have seen no war" (The Lessons of History, 1968, p. 81).
Nations have foolishly waged wars for thousands of years, only briefly interrupted by fading peace demanded by the victors. History proves that what we refer to as peace after a war appears to be little more than a contradiction of terms.
It's often the case that when the end of a war allows one nation's greedy will to be forced on another, the vanquished immediately begins planning to strike back in some way; hence the brewing of another war to overturn the result of the last one. Or another power may seek to exploit the situation. The fact remains: The absence of war simply isn't the same as lasting peace. History is largely a chronicle of wars.
Still human beings often search for peace through the terrible vehicle of war. But what war ever actually brought peace?
In search of peace
Why can't we as people find peace? The reference to World War I as "the war to end war" or "the war to end all wars" is attributed to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who attempted, rhetorically, to soften America's entrance into that European-centered conflict.
Wilson, however, didn't originate the phrase. Famous British author and social commentator H.G. Wells published a series of articles in London newspapers at the beginning of the war that finally became a book titled The War That Will End War.
Wilson's use of this phrase catapulted his popularity and credibility. But years later, the same phrase took him captive when it was used in a mocking, derisive way. His prediction that World War I would end all wars and would make the world safe for democracy and preserve human freedom failed. Wilson was wrong.
Conventional wisdom is wrong. Man can easily get himself into war, but he cannot, of himself, avoid war. This leaves us where we began, in search of peace.
The Great War, later to be commonly known as World War I, was, according to President Wilson's war speech on April 2, 1917, the war that would end all wars. Wilson wanted to build a basis for peace that would prevent future catastrophic wars and needless death and destruction.
When the armistice was finally signed in 1918, the death toll was unconscionable. Yet many more terrible wars followed throughout the 20th century.
Since the end of the First World War, the United States and its allies have been continuously involved in conflict—World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan, the return to Iraq for round two of the Gulf War. This isn't even counting the Cold War between the East and West (1947-1991), the opposing sides led by the then-superpowers the Soviet Union and the United States.
The Soviet Empire dissolved in various revolutions in Eastern Europe. Revolutions in the Baltic states, Poland, Ukraine and other important Soviet provinces began to rip the empire apart. "The evil empire," as it was called by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1983, suddenly became a second-rate empire.
Rumors of war continue to hover over the world, including ongoing threats from North Korea, Iran, Syria, Middle East extremist groups, and more recently Russia and its bullying tactics against Ukraine, as President Vladimir Putin appears to seek to restore the Russian empire.
Where is lasting peace in all these rumors of war? Where is lasting peace after the wars of the 20th century? From time immemorial, humanity continues its search for lasting peace.
Human peace and godly peace
Human beings desire peace; we just don't know how to get it. A quick look at the world is enough to tell us that peace isn't inherent—it doesn't come from within us.
Even so, many philosophies and even religions are based on the idea that peace comes from within human beings. We pursue peace within a false construct, vainly assuming that we know the way to peace. God disagrees: "The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace" (Isaiah 59:8).
True peace exists outside the human condition. God owns true peace. Thankfully He offers to give it to people as a gift, with conditions. One of the greatest conditions is personal sacrifice. True and lasting peace demands sacrifice. It's a difficult choice, because we as human beings prefer comfort to sacrifice.
Although the truth about true and lasting peace is plainly articulated throughout the Bible, people continue to resist it. Why? Human beings are self-absorbed, increasingly more narcissistic, and egregiously selfish. The entire world is given to selfishness, and it's especially hostile toward God and His way of peace and life.
This hostility comes from the god of this age, Satan the devil, who blinds humanity to the true God and His glorious good news of lasting peace (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The apostle Paul wrote that the human condition resists God and His instruction: "For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so" (Romans 8:7, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
Because human beings refuse to acknowledge God and His laws, humanity can't find the key to true, lasting peace. Yet God's desire for humankind to experience His peace was proclaimed after the birth of His Son Jesus Christ: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:14).
God had previously declared that great peace was for those who love His law (Psalm 119:165)—through faith overcoming the fleshly inclination to oppose His law. This is the missing link to finding true, lasting peace. Human beings please God when they obey Him in living faith: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Many professing Christians believe on Jesus but they don't truly believe Him. That is, they don't believe what He says He requires of Christians. Instead, well-meaning Christians falsely assume, especially during the Christmas season, that God's offer of His peace to humankind requires nothing of them.
God does indeed require professing Christians to do those things that please Him, specifically including the Ten Commandments, which, when obeyed, bring peace (Exodus 20; Matthew 22:36-40).
When it comes to true peace, there is a great difference between human beings and God. Christians often think that peace should come naturally if they just desire or prefer it. Do you assume that? God doesn't think the way people with fleshly orientation do (Isaiah 55:8-9). People think selfishly. God thinks unselfishly.
God's laws are at once demanding and peace-oriented. Keep, honor and obey God's laws and you keep the peace. Flout, scorn or reject God's laws and you invite contention and trouble.
God's peace resides in those who make peace by living God's way: "Now the fruit of righteousness [obeying God's commandments (Deuteronomy 6:25; Psalm 119:172)] is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:18). God views peacemakers as His children (Matthew 5:9).
God shows us there's a great difference between man's peace and the peace of God. God is the ultimate and only source of true and lasting peace. When human beings turn to God and honor Him, they are on the road to lasting peace.
God's peace for 1,000 years and forever!
God's promised peace is guaranteed to arrive on earth at the return of Jesus Christ—the Prince of Peace: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:6-7). What a beautiful promise!
God's promise of lasting peace will begin to be experienced by the world at large when Jesus begins His 1,000-year earthly reign. It continues through that 1,000 years and the great White Throne Judgment period that follows—and it will never cease (Revelation 20:11-12).
Ironically, the Prince of Peace will have to enforce His peace on the world at His return. Following the period of unprecedented global trouble often called the "Great Tribulation" (Matthew 24:21), humanity will not welcome Jesus Christ with open arms. The Bible indicates that following Christ's return, some nations will resist Him and His royal edict to come to Jerusalem in observance of God's festivals.
Egypt is singled out as one of those nations who may refuse to come to Jerusalem for the great Feast of Tabernacles. Christ will chasten any peoples who retain and maintain a rebellious attitude toward Him:
"And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain.
"If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16-19).
God deposes Satan
God's peace is assured on earth after He deposes Satan the devil, the unseen god of this world (Revelation 20:1-3). Satan is the driving influence behind man's inhumanity to his fellow man. He is the instigator of all wars. Satan wants to exterminate human beings because he knows our ultimate potential of becoming glorified sons of God. He hates that our destiny is, among other things, to judge angels (1 Peter 5:8; Hebrews 2:10; 1 Corinthians 6:3).
The devil cannot directly destroy human beings without God's express permission (Job 1:12; Luke 22:31). Therefore he sets himself to influence human beings to destroy themselves, hoping to end it all through the carnage of the upcoming Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21).
Satan will fail, but the human family will be severely decimated in the process. The answer to this tragedy is God's plan of salvation for mankind. God will send the Messiah —Jesus Christ—to intervene in the human affairs and save humankind from itself.
God will gather the armies of the earth to an area in northern Israel called Armageddon or the hill of Megiddo. He will allow Satan to motivate them to proceed to Jerusalem to fight the returning Christ (Revelation 16:14-16). It's an epic story. The good news is that the ending has already been written. God wins. Humanity wins, too, with the vast majority of people ultimately saved. Satan, the demons who serve him and the people who ultimately refuse to repent lose.
Christ will incarcerate Satan and the demons for 1,000 years: "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished" (Revelation 20:1-3).
Additionally, Christ will not leave the government in the hands of any man: "And in the days of these kings [of the final revival of the Roman Empire in the end time] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44).
When Jesus removes Satan and the demons from ruling the kingdoms of the world, the wild natures of people and even animals will begin to change (Isaiah 11:6-7). Jesus will write His laws on the hearts of all humanity, and they will have a heart of flesh and not of stone (2 Corinthians 3:3).
True, lasting, universal peace will pervade the earth. No one will have to lock their doors at night (Micah 4:4).
Humanity has no lasting peace yet—only brief interruptions of perpetual war. God's message to you is that you can have God's peace right now if you really desire it.
You can have lasting peace now
Wouldn't you like to enjoy the peace that only God can give to you? Jesus promised His peace to His disciples: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
Peace is not just the absence of war. The Hebrew term shalom denotes complete security, contentment and well-being. God's peace comes from obeying God's laws (Psalms 119:165). True Christians make true peace (James 3:18).
You can find the lasting peace you're seeking. Turn to God in heartfelt prayer and ask Him for His peace. Read His Word to find His true peace. It's right there in the pages of your Bible! Then apply His laws in your life. When you turn to God with all your heart, He will give you godly peace, as promised in Philippians 4:7: "And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."