There are hurting people all of this world who are praying for the promised peace (for their welfare: health, well-being, and/or prosperity). In this sense, they are praying for the promise of physical, mental (emotional or psychological), financial, and/or spiritual healing (cf. Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24b)—the promise that Jesus the Christ’s suffering has made believers whole . . . as well as set them free from errors and sins by bringing about their salvation. Then too, there are people all of this world who, in their obedience to God’s Word, also are praying for the peace of Jerusalem (cf. Psalm 122:6)—they are praying that they will see safety, security, and tranquility in God’s holy city.
The sad truth is that even though people might experience having their body healed, their soul (mind) rehabilitated, their spirit rejuvenated, or their bank account enlarged, many of these people still have not been made WHOLE. Likewise, even though people constantly pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they still do not see any long-lasting safety, security, or tranquility in God’s holy city.
Now, in the New Testament, according to Strong’s Greek Lexicon Number 1515, the Greek word Eirene means: a state of national tranquility; exemption from the rage and havoc of war; and peace between individuals (meaning harmony, concord, security, safety, prosperity, and felicity, because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous). Eirene also denotes the Messiah’s peace (the personality and ministry of Christ; of the way that leads to peace [salvation]); Christians’ tranquil state of their soul being assured of its salvation through Christ, and that the soul fears nothing from God but is content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is; and the blessed state of devout and upright men after death.
Furthermore, the Strong’s Greek Lexicon says that Eirene corresponds to the Hebrew word Shalom. According to Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon Number 7965, Shalom means: completeness, wholeness, perfectness, fullness, safety, soundness (in body), welfare (health, prosperity, and peace), peace (quiet, tranquility, and contentment), peace (friendship, of human relationships, and with God, as in a covenant relationship), peace (from war), the absence of agitation or discord, rest, and harmony.
Additionally, the Jewish people use Shalom idiomatically as a greeting (hello) or a farewell (goodbye), or as a pleasant expression of good wishes (similar to Americans’ “have a nice day”). Shalom also means peace between man and God, and it means peace between two countries. Lastly, Shalom means restitution, as in the person who has caused a deficiency being responsible for the restoration of everything that has been lost, stolen, or taken.
The various meanings of Eirene and Shalom make it clear that God wants His children to be made WHOLE! The Apostle Paul definitely proves this last statement to be true when he prays: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Now, although the primary focus of the apostle’s prayer is on believers being made entirely holy, which is the result of being made WHOLE through the Holy Spirit’s sanctification process, the truth is that this sanctification process is predicated on the need for God’s peace to be working in believers’ lives.
That is to say, even though the Holy Spirit is inside believers, His indwelling doesn’t automatically mean that He is sanctifying them. The Holy Spirit does not force Himself on anybody, which means believers have to submit to Him—they need to allow Him to do His work in them, which involves but is not limited to taking them beyond their positional justification. Thus, those believers whose flesh still struggles with the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:16-17) will need to cease from their rebellion and totally surrender their lives to Christ’s Lordship and to the Gospel (Word) of Christ. When this surrender happens, their sanctification process can proceed, for they now not only are living at peace with God (cf. Romans 5:1) but also they are functioning in the peace of God (cf. Philippians 4:7). Indeed, it is only when believers are at peace WITH God that they can receive the peace OF God!
This last point is why the peace (in the Greek language, Eirene) of God that Apostle Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Philippians 4:7 corresponds to the Hebrew word Shalom! In particular, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, the Apostle Paul is speaking to the church in Thessalonica about the supernatural tranquility of the soul that surpasses all understanding. He makes it clear to these Christians that they must have the peace of God before their whole body, whole soul, and whole spirit can be entirely sanctified—before they can be totally healed, having nothing broken, nothing missing or lacking.
This peace of God, that is, every believer’s certainty about his or her eternal security, is not based on circumstances like Christians’ physical or mental health and world peace. For sure, God’s peace is at its best in the midst of a believer’s trials and tribulations, as well as during global pandemonium. This last reason is why it is the peace of God that must be functioning in every believer’s life before he or she can be fervent about participating in the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying process, which preserves each person’s whole body, whole soul, and whole spirit by keeping these three blameless (spotless, prepared) until he or she is ready to wear his or her glorified body when this individual meets Jesus the Christ in the air.
There is no doubt, then, that when the Apostle Paul speaks of the peace (Eirene) of God in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 he most definitely is using Eirene in the same sense that the Old Testament writers use the Hebrew word Shalom. In fact, Eirene is almost Shalom’s exact equivalent in meaning. A major difference is that unlike Shalom, Eirene describes what God has done for human beings through Jesus the Christ; for example, Eirene is defined by the good news or Gospel message, which often is about peace: peace with God; the peace of God; peace with others; and/or peace with death.
Once again, Eirene in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is that peace of God that is necessary for keeping believers’ body, soul, and spirit blameless until the Second Coming of the Lord. In other words, like Shalom, Eirene (from which the English word “irenic” [peaceful or conciliatory] is derived), means much more than the absence of the threat or act of war, or the absence of quarrels or contentions of any kind. Like Shalom, Eirene (peace of God) is that peace by which believers’ past sins are forgiven; the peace by which believers’ present trials can be overcome; and the peace by which believers’ future is secured, eternally—it is healing that brings about wholeness, completeness, perfectness, fullness, prosperity, and well-being.
More than ever before, people all around the world are crying out for physical, mental (emotional or psychological), financial, and/or spiritual healing, and they are crying out for peace from wars and all kinds of conflicts. Not only are people longing for a generic healing and for a nonspecific peace, but also the whole Earth groans for an unequivocal relief, consolation, healing, and peace from pain and suffering, as well as peace from global chaos and injustices. God’s answer is that those in need of Shalom healing must first have Shalom peace WITH Him, which is found in total surrender to Jesus the Christ’s Lordship—found in complete trust and deliberate obedience to Jesus the Christ and His Word, not just at the moment believers receive salvation, but every moment of every day for the rest of their life. As already mentioned, this trust and obedience make it possible for believers who are at peace WITH God to experience an ongoing sense of the peace OF God.
Lastly, this incomprehensible peace OF God is what causes believers, in the midst of all their problems and troubles, to rest in the strength of the Lord’s everlasting arms. This peace OF God also is what causes believers to rely on His supernatural power to meet all of their needs, especially everything they need to keep their whole spirit, whole soul, and whole body blameless, with nothing broken, nothing missing or lacking!