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The Promise of Peace

By Vance Snively

Soon we will gather with family and friends to celebrate Christmas. We will enjoy both good fellowship and good food with our loved ones. And somewhere in our celebrations we will probably take time to reflect on the very first Christmas.

"Glory to God in the highest; and on earth, peace; good will to men" (Luke 2:14) was the prophecy of the angel multitude to the shepherds about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. It so transformed the shepherds that "they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child" (Luke 2:17). Even two thousand years later, this proclamation not only remains the central theme of the Christmas season but continues to be at the very heart of all Christian religions.

This angelic announcement is prophecy at its finest, for in a few words it captures the essence of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. While Christ's earthly life and ministry was short, the entirety of His ministry stretches from the beginning of time to the end. It is the entirety of His ministry which this prophecy encompasses.

From the beginning, Christ glorified God by His choice to do His will in all things. His birth, life, earthly ministry, and death were in total harmony with the will of God and thus glorified God's name. Through His death and Resurrection, the curse of Adam was broken and the spirits and bodies of all mankind will be reunited to stand before God to be judged of their own works—not Adam's. Through His sacrifice and by obedience to His laws, all mankind will have an opportunity to dwell again with God in His Kingdom. His sacrifice will allow God to fulfill His work which is "to bring to pass the immortality, and eternal life of man" (DC 22:23b). Thus, at Christ's birth, God's angels proclaimed "Glory to God in the highest" because the event, which will redeem mankind from the fall of Adam, had started.

So great was this event that many Old Testament prophets prophesied of the birth, life, earthly ministry, and death of Christ. It was prophesied that Christ would be of the lineage of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Jeremiah 23:5; Psalm 89:3-4). Micah prophesied that He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). According to Isaiah, Jesus Christ would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). He would take flight into Egypt (Hosea 11:1). He would be a priest of the Melchisedec priesthood (Psalm 110:4) and speak in parables (Psalm 78:2). The Jews would reject Him while the Gentiles would believe in Him (Isaiah 8:14; 49:6; 60:3; Psalm 22:7-8). He would enter Jerusalem on the back of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He would be hated for no reason (Psalm 69:4) and betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9) for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12), which would be used to buy a potter's field (Zechariah 11:13). He would not defend Himself (Isaiah 53:7) and He would be beaten and spit upon (Isaiah 50:5). He would be "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12) because He was crucified as a criminal between two thieves. His hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10), but His bones would not be broken (Psalm 34:20). His clothing would be divided and lots cast for them (Psalm 22:18). He would be given vinegar and gall to drink (Psalm 69:21) and would say, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1). He would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9) and would be resurrected from the dead (Psalm 16:10). Of course, all of these Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. And in Jesus Christ—His birth, life, earthly ministry, and death—God was glorified, as the angels proclaimed, because Christ fulfilled the will of the Father in all things and brought to mankind the opportunity for eternal life with God.

But what about the rest of the angelic prophecy which was given at Christ's birth? The angels proclaimed there would be peace on earth and "good will to men." Did this happen during Christ's lifetime? It did not. Has it happened from His life to the present? It has not. So, does this mean that this part of the prophecy was false? No. It just means it has not yet been fulfilled. As stated earlier, this prophecy encompasses all of the ministry of Jesus Christ—that which has been accomplished and that which is yet to come.

The Old Testament prophets—many of whom prophesied about Christ's birth, life, earthly ministry, and death— prophesied about a time when Christ will finish His work, to reign in His Kingdom on earth where there will be peace and goodwill. Malachi prophesied that in the last days the Lord will send His messenger to prepare the way for Him to return. And when He does, the Lord will suddenly come to His Temple and purify His priesthood to become righteous (Malachi 3:1-3). Isaiah prophesied that in the last days the Lord will establish His Kingdom on earth for all nations to learn of her ways. And He will bring judgment upon the nations, but peace will reign in His Kingdom (Isaiah 2:2-4). Prior to Christ's return, valleys will be exalted, mountains will be made low, the crooked will be made straight, and the rough places of the earth will be made plain. Then at Christ's coming, His glory will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together (Isaiah 40:3-5). His Kingdom will be established in power, and the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord. To His Kingdom He will gather the obedient of the house of Israel. And in His Kingdom there will be no enmity between beasts or humans, and all will live in peace (Isaiah 11:1-12). Joel prophesied that in the last days God will pour out His Spirit upon His servants, unto the receiving of prophecies, dreams, and visions. There will be shown wonders in both the heavens and earth— blood, fire, and pillars of smoke. And before the judgments of God come upon the earth, He will turn the sun into darkness and the moon into blood (Joel 2:28-32). Jeremiah prophesied that Christ, who is of the house of David, will reign as King over all the earth and execute judgment and justice (Jeremiah 23:5). Zechariah prophesied that Christ will reign as King over all the earth (Zechariah 14:9). Daniel prophesied that the God of Heaven will establish His Kingdom upon the earth which will stand forever, and all other kingdoms will dissolve into it (Daniel 2:44). Christ will come in glory to reign in His Kingdom on earth. He will have dominion over all things so that all people will serve Him. His Kingdom will not be destroyed, but it will be everlasting (Daniel 7:13-14).

So according to the Old Testament prophets, the angelic prophecy of peace on earth will be fulfilled when Jesus Christ returns to reign in His Kingdom upon the earth. The ministry of Christ was not finished at His Resurrection. His greatest work is yet to be done. He will bring Heaven to earth and reign in His Kingdom with His Father. His work will be finished when the obedient of His creation will be reunited with the Father to live with Him in His Kingdom.

While Jesus Christ has not yet performed this final aspect of His ministry, we can be certain that He will do so. The prophecies about His birth, life, earthly ministry, and death have all been fulfilled. And since those same prophets have also prophesied about Christ's return to establish His Kingdom, we can be assured it will come to pass. And it will be done in the very way and manner God has decreed through them—nothing varying.

For us in the Restoration Branches Movement, this angelic prophecy of peace on earth, given so many years ago, has great significance and promise. It is the promise of peace to us. It is the peace that we have been called to assist the Lord to establish. He has asked us to build His Kingdom, Zion, in preparation for His return to establish peace on earth.

Yet many things need to happen before He can return. God, not man, will first set His Church in order as He did in the early Reorganization. He will return the higher quorums to it. He will call His Prophet to lead His Church. Through His Prophet He will direct the building of the Temple in Zion. Jesus Christ will return to that Temple to instruct His priesthood, who will receive the endowment of the Spirit. Under the power of the endowment, His priesthood will go into all the world to gather out His elect—those who will hear His voice and obey Him—to Zion. The wicked will be destroyed and Satan will be bound. And then, Christ will return to the earth with His Kingdom to rule in peace as prophesied.

As we acknowledge what beautiful things lay ahead, we also recognize that His Kingdom has never seemed further away. For the last fifty or so years we have seen the people of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—Christ's true Church on earth—dwindle in unbelief. His Church has never been in a weaker spiritual position to accomplish the task of bringing peace on earth. Yet, we still have that responsibility before us. It is still our calling to build Zion. It is what we have covenanted with the Lord to do. And for His Church to build His Kingdom, it must again become as vibrant with the Spirit as it was when God restored it in 1830 and reorganized it in 1860.

God has not forgotten the promise of peace proclaimed by His angels at the birth of His Son, or the promises He made through His prophets of old to establish His Kingdom upon the earth. And while we may have forgotten Him through our unbelief, which has caused His Church to become spiritually ill, He has not forgotten us or His Church. He passionately desires His Church to regain its health and be vibrant with His Spirit again. And in time, He will set His hand to bless it again with His powerful Spirit so it can move forward to build Zion.

But what can we do to assist Him in this matter? We can align the focus of our lives to want what God wants. Do we share His same passionate concern for the spiritual healing of His Church? Do we desire Zion to be established more than anything else in our lives? Do we want to use all we have—our powers of mind, body, and spirit—to accomplish this task? And if we do, are these desires reflected in both our spiritual and temporal lives? Do we incorporate in our prayer lives our desires for His Church and His Kingdom? Do we pray daily and fervently that His Spirit will show us those things we can do in our lives to bring Zion closer? Do we pray daily and fervently for God to establish the legitimate higher quorums of His Church and set it in order? Do we pray daily and fervently that God will bring forth a Prophet of the father-to-son lineage of Joseph Smith, Jr., to lead His Church to accomplish the tasks ahead? Do we pray daily and fervently for His priesthood? Do we pray that the Melchisedec priesthood learn how to use the keys of having the heavens open to them and communing with God, Jesus Christ, and the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn? Do we pray that the Aaronic priesthood learn how to use the keys of the ministering of angels? Do we pray daily and fervently that the valid gifts of the Spirit will be returned to our worship services? Do we pray daily and fervently that the powers of Heaven will be released to enable Zion to come soon? And after all of our praying, do we live lives that totally reflect the image of Jesus Christ?

I am thoroughly convinced that if we as a people do these things, the chains of unbelief will be loosed and His Spirit will be poured out again in power upon His Church. His Church will be set in order. Zion will be established and Christ will return in glory. And the promise of peace given by the angelic prophecy over two thousand years ago at the birth of our Lord will be completely fulfilled: "Glory to God in the highest; and on earth, peace; good will to men."

 
 

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