Peace in Creation and the Cosmos
Christ’s peacemaking work also has cosmic purposes. By his death on the cross he began the process of reconciling all creation to himself. This will ultimately be fulfilled when God brings about the new heavens and the new earth, when the creation obtains the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom 8:21). It will be a time as described in Isaiah 11:6-9:
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
This vision of peace in God’s creation is explicitly connected to the coming of the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” (Isa 11:1). It is the Messiah who brings peace.
Christ’s mission was to reconcile all things. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20). This reconciliation will end all rebellion against God so that the creation and the cosmos will be at peace.
But this reconciliation of all things requires the pacification with those things that are set against him, namely the powers and authorities that have been warring against God. By the cross God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col 2:15). The way he has disarmed them is seen in the preceding verses. Speaking of the Colossians Paul writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:13-14).
The powers are disarmed through the forgiveness of our sins. Because our sins are forgiven “these forces no longer have any grounds to accuse the Colossians and us who believe (cf. Col. 2:15). In such accusation lay their power. Christ dying in our place robs them of their power (Rom. 8:31-34). Christus Victor needs the explanatory power of substitutionary atonement.”1
God’s defeat of Satan and his minions was always a theme of Christ’s ministry. He was engaging them before the cross, but it was at the cross that he makes the decisive victory. Not all enemies can be reconciled and brought back into right relationship. Those who will not lay down their weapons must be pacified. Jesus makes clear that these enemies are not people (i.e the religious authorities who put them to death). His enemy is the god of this world who has sought to take his throne.
He had confronted the religious leaders his entire life, but his heart for them at the end was still for their salvation. “And when he drew near and saw the city [Jerusalem], he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19:41-42). This is clear from his attitude on the cross. In the midst of being put to death he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The Jews of his day wanted to usher in the kingdom of God through warfare. They wanted to rise up and throw off the oppressive regime of the Romans. They were looking for a Messiah that would take the sword and cut off the head of their oppressors. The believed God had promised them victory. Jesus, on the other hand, knew that this kind of battle could never bring the kingdom of God. He understood that their greatest enemy was not the Romans. “He believed . . . that the way to peace, blocked by zealotry all around, could only come by his fighting the real battle against the real enemy.”2
Being the God of peace required him to crush the enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy all peace. It is not incongruous for Paul to write, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20), for there is “no peace without disarmament.”3
1 Graham A. Cole, God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 184.
2 N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 447.
3 Cole, God the Peacemaker, 184.
Posts in this Series:
Peace (shalom) in the Old Testament
Created in Peace and the Consequence of Sin
The Gospel of Peace and the Death of Jesus Christ
Peace with God
Peace with Others
Peace in Creation and the Cosmos
Excursus – Is Peace an Attribute of God?
Called to Be Peacemakers
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