Peace in Christ never conforms to worldly expectations. The notion of world peace is a parody of the true peace only Jesus brings. We must not be deceived.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Today’s verse reminds us of four powerful truths concerning the peace we are promised as followers of Christ. All of them fit dramatically into the context of the end times, in which we are, without a doubt, now living. At the same time, however, they are just as powerfully appropriate to our daily Christian walk and the difficulties we face along the way. As a starting point, though, we need to remind ourselves that the peace in question is that which passes all understanding.
The supernatural nature of our promised peace.
It is impossible to understand our peace in Christ if we approach it with the limited comprehension of worldly expectations. It cannot and will not ever conform to a logical or rational principle according to the world’s standards. In fact, the opposite is true. Peace in Christ is certain to defy every human measure or rationale. It challenges the limited view the world has of peace because it exists outside our expectations. It exists supernaturally, and it works supernaturally to lift us out of the conventional wisdom of the world.
This is what Jesus refers to when He says that in Him we may have peace. The ‘Him’ here is the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is the Son of God, risen, resurrected, and glorified. It is the peace of the Spirit, by the Spirit, and for our spirits, not our physical, mental, or emotional self. This peace has Jesus as its core and reality, and can only be found in Him. What this means, effectively, is that unless we are in Him, we can never know this peace. It’s not a separate state of mind but is the actual peace of Christ Himself imparted to us through our unity with Him. Outside of Jesus, it does not exist.
The peace of God and the Word of God.
The first phrase of today’s verse highlights the powerful dynamic between the peace and the Word of God. Our starting point is the truth that Jesus is the Living Word. He is the Word of God made flesh. In other words, everything He spoke and did is God’s Word in action. It is a physical manifestation of the Word. We can therefore easily see that the peace of God isn’t possible without the Word of God, because it’s not possible outside of Christ who is the Living Word.
If we look at the context of today’s verse, we see that it has to do with persecution, the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, and spiritual wisdom that Jesus shares with His disciples. All of these fit together and lead up to the peace Jesus promises in Him. What’s important is that these things are spoken. The central motif of this chapter is the spoken Word of the Son of God. That is the basis of this supernatural peace – the Living Word of God becomes the spoken Word of God. Essentially, we receive His peace through faith, which comes by hearing the Word of God.
Spiritual wisdom and peace in Christ.
This entire chapter of John is a sharing of spiritual wisdom. Jesus imparts truth and wisdom which, while it defies conventional understanding, settles in as discernment. We do not understand any of these things on a natural level because they contradict conventional wisdom and understanding. The wonderful truth, however, is that Jesus will and does speak these things to us if we are willing to listen. Any true disciple will hear His words and receive a supernatural peace that transcends situations and circumstances. He speaks to us today, just as He did then.
Of course, hearing the Word – the kind of hearing Jesus defines here – requires relationship with Him. It requires that we be ‘in Him,’ that we remain in the intimate relationship of branches with the vine. Those who are separate will not hear, and they won’t receive the spiritual wisdom that is the foundation of our faith. If we don’t hear and believe, we cannot receive. Spiritual understanding is the critical factor in receiving the peace beyond understanding. Unless we hear Jesus speak and unless the Spirit quickens the Word within us, we will remain chained to the wisdom of the world which makes real peace impossible.
Peace and worldly expectation.
The next section of today’s verse highlights the truth that Christ’s peace is not the kind of peace the world expects or demands. Interestingly enough, Jesus never tells us to pray for peace – at least not in the context of ‘world peace.’ We’re told to live in peace with others, and we’re told to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, which signals His return. ‘World peace,’ on the other hand, is contradictory to the Word of God. We are told that the end times will bring wars and rumours of wars. While the concept of world peace is admirable and may be a genuine desire, it actually may well signify the coming the Antichrist.
While there is much debate around the interpretation of key Bible verses defining the emergence of the Antichrist, it is clear that he appears as a ‘saviour.’ It’s important to remember that his fundamental purpose is to deny the sovereign, divine identity of Christ and to deceive the world. Jesus Himself warned us about the Antichrist and the smaller ‘antichrists’ – those who usurp the power of the Son of God by pretending to be Him. While ‘Antichrist’ essentially means ‘against Christ,’ we need only look at Satan to see how this plays out. Satan desired to be like God, and that has not changed. The Antichrist will assume the ‘persona’ of Christ in order to deceive and turn the world away from the true Christ. World peace will undoubtedly be the platform he uses to steal the worship that belongs to Jesus.
Peace in Him does not end tribulation.
Our verse goes on to tell us categorically that, while on earth, we will continue to have tribulation. There are no pretentions or ‘feel-good’ half-truths here. It is what it is. The world may desire universal peace, but it’s simply not going to happen. End times are defined by wickedness and increasing sinfulness. As Satan steps up his assaults – he knows that his time is short and will throw everything he has into the battle – tribulations will increase. Lawlessness, abominations, and depravity will continue to climb to unprecedented levels. Jesus Himself assures us that tribulations must and will happen.
There is dangerous teaching out there which promises a ‘peace’ that is entirely man-made. It focuses on our desires and disguises itself as spiritual-sounding aspirations. We’re taught to believe that faith in Christ will somehow ‘magically’ make it all better, that we’ll miraculously escape persecution and live ‘happily ever after.’ Christian leaders encourage us to pray with those of other faiths, subverting the critical principle of Christian unity to a semblance of spirituality. When we pray in so-called ‘unity’ with others who pray to demonic entities, we’re agreeing with them. This is not the kind of unity that God can or will ever bless. Instead, we’re opening ourselves up to demonic seduction and spiritual compromise. Tribulation will only be worse because we cut ourselves off from Christ and invite demonic activity in our lives.
Joy in Christ results from peace in Christ.
It seems almost impossible to ‘be of good cheer’ when we consider the reality facing us. How can we possibly be cheerful in the face of increasing tribulation? The simple answer lies in our peace in Him. What Jesus is saying is that we don’t have to fear or succumb to the pressures. The tribulations won’t vanish, but we will be supernaturally sustained and empowered in them. That is the nature of His supernatural peace – it lifts us to a place of supernatural power, enabling us to cope above and beyond our own abilities.
This is a fundamental truth which is firmly and unequivocally established in the absolute reality that He has overcome the world. It is a perfect and complete overcoming. Remember, Satan is the ‘prince of this world.’ When Jesus says He has overcome the world, He includes Satan. If we are in Christ and He is in us, nothing the devil can throw at us can defeat us. It can make life uncomfortable, and even wound or kill us, but it will never overcome us. Even death is a victory, because we are certain of resurrection. This is the source of our joy – Jesus has overcome. In Him, we overcome through the word of our testimony and the blood of the lamb. While Satan won’t acknowledge it and will fight on to the bitter end, it’s ‘done and dusted.’ The peace that comes from knowing this brings the ‘good cheer’ Jesus speaks of.
Peace is the supernatural evidence of victory.
The crux of today’s verse is the dynamic that exists between the peace of God, the joy of the Lord, and the power that unity with Christ brings. With these words, Jesus reminds us that this world isn’t our destination. It’s simply the ‘train trip.’ As this world races headlong into the fulfilment of end time prophecy, we have our rest in Him. Jesus willingly speaks the wisdom we need. He graciously provides the spiritual discernment that brings supernatural peace and is Himself the assurance we need of victory. His resurrected life in us is the source of peace and joy that transcends the things of this world, however great the tribulations may seem.
Sweet saviour, thank You that You did not leave us alone when You ascended to heaven, but have made it possible for us to remain in You, even as You remain in us. Strengthen our hearts and open our spiritual ears to hear Your voice. Help us to listen and to believe, and to separate ourselves from the foolish aspirations of a fallen world. Teach us Your truth so that we may know Your peace and joy, so that others may see You in our lives and Your Word be made manifest, even in our tribulations.