Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Answering a Jewish Objection to Jesus: World Peace

Jewish people who do not believe in Jesus claim that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because he did not bring world peace. In support of this Jewish objection to Jesus are a variety of messianic prophecies. One of many examples is Isaiah 2:4, which says, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and 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.” Since the nations are still at war, Jesus cannot be the Messiah, according to the Jews.

How should Christians respond to this objection? Let's begin with areas of agreement. We concur that these texts are Messianic. The Hebrew Bible foretells the coming of a Messiah who will be an exalted King. This Ruler will bring peace to the world. There is no question about that. However, when we read the Bible carefully, we will also find many messianic passages, which give a different view of the Messiah. These passages must be equally taken into account.

The Messiah is depicted as one who comes riding on the clouds of heaven in exalted glory (Daniel 7:13), but we also read of Messiah coming “humble and mounted on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Isaiah’s prophecy contains many references to the Messiah. The earlier prophecies in chapters 2, 9, and 11 certainly emphasize that Messiah will be a righteous King who brings peace to the world. However, when we read the Servant of the Lord prophecy in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we discover that Messiah will only be exalted after a period of suffering and death. In the end, God’s servant will be “high and lifted up, and shall be exalted” (Is. 52:13), but that only takes places after “he was wounded for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities”; “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (Is. 53:5). “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6). God’s servant did this because he was “an offering for guilt” (Is. 53:10). Thus it is only after the Messiah suffers and dies that he is exalted to his throne (Is. 53:12).

When it comes to the biblical portrait of the Messiah, then, we find this pattern: suffering precedes glory. The same pattern is found in Psalm 22. Suffering and rejection come first (Ps. 22:1-21); then comes exaltation (Ps. 22:22-31). It doesn’t happen overnight, but God has promised: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.”

Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). He purchased peace by his death on the cross (Is. 53:5). His peace doesn’t begin the outward (the cessation of war) but the inward (the forgiveness of sins). We must have peace within before we have peace without.
Through his resurrection Jesus has been exalted to God’s throne where he rules and reigns as the Lord’s Anointed. But as was the case in the days of King David, the nations are rebelling against the Lord’s righteous rule. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us” (Ps. 2:1-3). The nations are still at war because the nations are still rebelling against the Lord and his Anointed.
God’s purpose, however, isn’t thwarted by mankind’s rebellion. “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath and terrify them in fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill’” (Ps. 2:4-6). God has established Jesus as King. He laughs at the futile attempts of the nations to resist his righteous rule. “I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’” (Ps. 2:7).
The good news is that God will give to his only begotten Son the nations as a heritage (Ps. 2:8-9). But again, this doesn’t happen overnight. Though Christ, God has now sent out his word from Jerusalem (Is. 2:3), summoning the nations to his presence (Matt. 28:19-20). Until the nations bow before King Jesus, the Prince of Peace, nation will rise up against nation (Matt. 24:7) and the gospel will be proclaimed to all the nations (Matt. 24:14). Only then the end will come. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Is. 11:9).

The main reason this objection fails is that it doesn't distinguish the two comings of Messiah. First, the Messiah comes in humble suffering. Second, he comes in triumphant victory. Peace will come to the world; war shall cease. But that will not happen until the nations are evangelized and Jesus returns to establish his kingdom on the earth. But when that happens, what a day of rejoicing it shall be!
So let me encourage you, my Jewish friend, to obey the words of King David: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:12). Find your refuge in Jesus Christ, the son of David, the King of kings, and the Prince of Peace! 

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