A Deeper Meaning of Shalom

Shalom. People typically associate this word with “peace”.  But that’s not the whole story…

Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings

The noun שלומ (shalom), often translated as “peace,” comes from the verb שלמ (Sh.L.M). The verb shalam means to “restore” in the sense of replacing or providing what is needed in order to make someone or something whole and complete. The noun שלומ (shalom) is one who has, or has been provided, what is needed to be whole and complete. <AHLB# 2845 (c) / Strong’s# 7965> (Jeff A. Benner).

When the biblical book of the Revelation speaks of the New Jerusalem, it is referring to a kind of Shalom. Completeness. No more tears. Restoration. Wholeness.

Tim Keller explains it like this: Everything sad will become untrue.

“The Bible teaches that the future is not an immaterial “paradise” but a new heaven and a new earth. In Revelation 21, we do not see human beings being taken out of this world into heaven, but rather heaven coming down and cleansing, renewing, and perfecting this material world. The secular view of things, of course, sees no future restoration after death or history…

The Biblical view of things is resurrection—not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater…

In Greek (specifically Stoic) philosophy there was a belief that history was an endless cycle. Every so often the universe would wind down and burn up in a great conflagration called a palengenesia, after which history, having been purified, started over. But in Matthew 19:28 Jesus spoke of his return to earth as the palingenesis. “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things (Greek palingenesis), the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne.” This was a radically new concept. Jesus insisted that his return will be with such power that the very material world and universe will be purged of all decay and brokenness. All will be healed and all might-have-beens will be.

Just after the climax of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee discovers that his friend Gandalf was not dead (as he thought) but alive. He cries, “I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” The answer of Christianity to that question is—yes.” (1)

Everything sad will become untrue and will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost (Keller).

How do I experience Shalom here and now? By resting in the glimpse of this future glory. A glimpse of the New Jerusalem.

“Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.” (Isaiah 60:20)

*Much of the content of this post came from my good friend, Wayne Rickert. Wayne and I met when we volunteered together as Area Coordinators for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Internet Evangelism team. Thank you, Wayne, for your permission to share.

(1) Keller, Timothy (2008-02-14). The Reason for God (pp. 29-31). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

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