When Jesus was born the heavenly host said there would be peace on earth.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2:14
This was appropriate for the incarnation of the Messiah who was prophesied to “execute judgment and justice in the earth” (Jer 23:5). He would be called the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6).
The prophets spoke often about the peace that would come during the time of the Messiah’s reign on earth.
“In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.” – Psalm 72:7
Yet, in the later portion of Jesus’ ministry to Israel Jesus taught that there would not be peace on earth.
“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:” – Luke 12:51
There is no way to force the prophecies and angelic proclamations together with Jesus’ own words without a contradiction. Of course, the answer is in the context. They were speaking about different times.
The prophets spoke of the Messianic kingdom after he had conquered his enemies. The time of peace would come after a day when the righteous judge forcefully divides the righteous from the unrighteous.
When Jesus said he came to give division, he referred to separating the wheat from the chaff, the blind guides from the believers, the fruit bearing from the fruitless.
This is indicated by the Lord quoting Micah 7:5-6 which speaks of Israel’s rejection of God and the division that would occur even within homes. The guides of Israel were dishonest and even those of the same house would be deceived by them.
Jesus spoke directly to the blind guides in Israel who were rejecting the Messiah in his ministry and said:
“Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?” – Luk 12:56
Those who followed the Messiah needed to separate from the fruitless rulers. In turn, the rulers would persecute the followers.
While the hope of Israel concerns a coming peace to the world through the Messiah, when Jesus came the first time it was to give division to the nation. He was separating the faithful from the faithless.
Jesus would bring both peace and division to Israel. The student of scripture must discern the times and rightly divide one from the other.