A Hope that Fascinates Even God’s Greatest Messengers (1 Peter 1:10-12)
Have you ever felt, in reading the Old Testament, like you wished you lived in those times? It would be really amazing to see the Red Sea parted (Ex.14:21) or Goliath falling at the hands of a young David (1 Sam. 17:49) or Elijah being whisked away in his chariot (2 Kings 2:11) or the Hebrew boys standing in the fire and not being burned (Dan. 3:24-25) or even being part of Nehemiah’s wall building project (Neh. 6:15). Those would be amazing times to see with our own eyes! Part of me envies Moses who was able to talk to God as a man talks to a friend (Ex. 33:11) or Isaiah who saw God high and lifted up in the temple (Is. 6:1-5). Or wouldn’t it be really cool to be an angel? I mean you can fly around (I have always wanted to fly) and send messages to people, and even sneak up on them! G.K. Chesterton said, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”And they never had to live on earth or experience sin of any kind.
Now what if I told you that actually in reality the prophets of the Old Testament and angels actually envy us, in a sense? What would you say? Don’t get too excited because it’s not because we are all that, but because we have tasted something full and free that they have not. What is that you ask? It is in one word: salvation. If you remember from a few weeks ago, 1 Pet. 1:3-12 is one long sentence in the Greek. If you notice three times in these verses (1 Pet. 1:5, 9 and 10), Peter uses the word salvation. That has been his theme in these verses. He wants his readers to be obsessed and possessed by it and we are closing off that section today.
Peter is celebrating salvation. And sometimes for Christians through the history of the church and sometimes in our own lives, there has been little else to celebrate. And Peter is reminding them no matter how bad it gets, no matter how severe and difficult the trial, you can always bank on the hope of your eternal salvation. And in that you can be comforted. He talked about the future aspect of salvation in 1 Pet. 1:3-5 and the present aspect of salvation in 1 Pet. 1:6-9. Guess what he is going to talk about in 1 Pet. 1:10-12 to wrap up this section? The past aspect of salvation. All three aspects were written to encourage these Christians going through serious persecution, trials and suffering.
Today we are going to look at the greatness of our salvation through the lenses of the prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New Testament and the angels of heaven, although we are going to focus on the first and the last today. The title of the message is “A Hope that Fascinates Even God’s Greatest Messengers.” We are going to look at two reasons why our salvation hope fascinates even God’s greatest messengers according to 1 Pet. 1:10-12: First,
I. Because we are the object of fulfilled prophecy (1 Pet. 1:10-12b)
Peter starts off by saying, “concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied…” In other words, “the salvation believers experience now, which will be consummated in the future, was also prophesied in the past. Believers in Christ represent the fulfillment of prophecy. They enjoy the great privilege of living in the days when the history of salvation is being fulfilled.” He is looking at these suffering Christians and saying, “Don’t be discouraged! Do you know what important times you are living in? You are all fulfillment of prophecy!” Let’s break it down:
a) God’s messengers
God’s messengers in the OT were prophets. A prophet was God’s spokesperson of the Old Testament who made God’s Word and Himself known to His people. They were God’s mouthpiece. They had two functions: they were forthtellers (declared the truth about God) by being foretellers (predicting what God will do). The first prophet was Moses (Deut. 34:10) and the last was John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Some of the other prophets included Deborah (Judg. 4:4), Samuel (1 Sam. 3:20), Elijah (1 Kings 17:1), Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and twelve minor prophets, to name a few.
b) God’s message
All of these messengers had one thing they kept thinking about and were fascinated with: God’s message of the promises of salvation. Here Peter says they prophesied or foretold about the “grace that was to be yours.” Peter loves the word “grace.” Maybe this was because Peter was such a huge recipient of God’s grace all of his life?! He uses it ten times in this book. In fact, if you take the number of times it is found divided by the number of chapters in any NT book, Peter wins, with 9.5%!
Here he is talking about God’s unmerited favor. He uses it in another sense to mean power and motivation to do God’s will. Here it is the former meaning in regards to salvation. Some have said that grace stands for God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Now what is the connection between salvation and grace? Salvation is the divine act of God in delivering sinners from His wrath. Grace is God’s all encompassing motive behind His saving work.
Notice, this grace “was to be yours.” Not grace that you worked for, earned or strived for, but grace that came to you in your sin, in your unworthiness and it reached out and embraced you and you realized it was yours! Beloved, never forget that the message of salvation is great because it showed you how great God’s grace was!
By the way, it is a grave error to say that God was not gracious in the Old Testament. God does not change and God by nature is gracious. Let me give you a couple of examples. In Exodus 33 Moses has a vision of God. And in Ex. 33:19, God says, “I will…I myself will make all my goodness pass before you, I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you, I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” The Psalms are full of how gracious God is to His people. The prophets all knew God was gracious, even as they talked about God bringing His people back from exile back to the land.
Also, why did Jonah run and not want to preach to the Ninevites? Because he knew God was gracious and would save them. For Jonah, to see Gentiles get saved was utterly disgusting. Jon. 4:3 says, “I knew you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…” So the OT is full of God’s grace. But no one in the OT recognized how deep and how wide and how long and how high God’s love and grace really went.
c) What the messengers did with the message
Let’s go back to 1 Pet. 1:10. The prophets “searched and inquired carefully.” This informs us that the prophets were not merely pondering and wondering about salvation, like lying on their beds imagining, but they were more like actively, diligently seeking to figure this whole thing out. They studied every letter, every phrase, every sentence, every chapter and every book, trying to understand what God was going to do. They studied with intense curiosity.
Peter is repeating what Jesus told him and the disciples: “For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matt. 13:17). Where are the prophet-like believers today in the churches searching and inquiring in the Word today to know God and His ways more? We don’t have time for that because we have too much tv to watch and too many wall posts to read and too many useless stats to study for our sports team.
d) The messenger’s dilemma
What exactly where they trying to figure out? Look at 1 Pet. 1:11. They wanted to understand the time and circumstances of the coming of the Messiah. It was not even for a general understanding, but they wanted all the details. John Macarthur notes, “They sought to know more precisely what person would come as savior, judge, prophet, priest, and king, and during what season or era (time) that coming would occur. The queries were about who and when.” Remember John the Baptist’s question to the disciples to ask Jesus? “Are you the Expected One or shall we look for another?” Jesus’ answer was, check the prophecy of Scriptures against what you see happening right now: the blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleansed, etc. (Matt. 11:2-6). Interestingly, this is exactly the two queries now regarding New Testament prophecies. Aren’t all the squabbles in evangelicalism today focused often on the timing of the Rapture? Though we know Jesus is the main One who is coming, there are nevertheless a lot of discussions on the identities of other figures in the end times, like the Antichrist and the two witnesses in Rev. 11.
Before we look into the nature of their study, notice here “the Spirit of Christ in them” was “indicating,” which means, “making plain.” This is internal evidence for the inspiration of Scripture. Look over at 2 Pet. 1:20-21. We will look further into this when we get to 2 Peter, but let me say our position here at Living Hope is that we believe in verbal plenary inspiration. Verbal means that means the inspiration extends to the very words themselves, not just concepts or ideas in the original languages. Plenary (means “full” or “complete”) means that the inspiration extends to all parts of Scripture and all subject matters of Scripture. Inspiration means that it is God-breathed like it says 2 Tim. 3:16 (All Scripture is breathed out by God). Together then, “verbal plenary inspiration” means that all parts of Scripture to the very words themselves in the original languages is an exact record of the mind and will of God as He intended it to be. As a result, we believe the Holy Scriptures are infallible (incapable of error), inerrant (totally free from error), totally authoritative and trustworthy. To deny God’s Word as anything less than that is to deny God.
With this being said, when Peter writes that the Spirit of God was making it plain to them, he is not saying it was some mechanical, trance-like dictation. It was God supernaturally guiding them while without waiving their personality, literary style, individuality or any other human expression. A lot more could be said here, but let me leave it at that so that we are clear on where we stand here on the matter.
Now back to the nature of their study: the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. Notice two more key words for Peter here: “sufferings” and “glory.” One commentator notes, “It is significant that when Peter speaks of the sufferings of his Lord, he never uses the name Jesus in this connection, but the title Christ (1 Pet. 1:11, 19; 2:21;3:18; 4:1, 13, 14; 5:1), and Christ is, of course, simply the Greek form of the Hebrew Messiah. What struck Peter, with his Jewish background, was that Messiah of all people should have to suffer.”Sufferings of Christ were predicted just as His glory. The crown would only come after the cross. He received glory after He suffered, and so shall you, Peter says. The characteristics of messianic prophecy were the following: the Messiah would suffer (Ps. 22; Is. 53 for example), the Messiah would triumph (Ps. 2:6-12; Ps. 110:1; Zech. 14:3, Dan. 2:44) and lastly, the Messiah would save (Is. 61:1 and 2). Let’s look at some of the prophecies of suffering:
|Mocking of scoffers||Ps. 22:7||Matt. 27:39–43; Mark 15:29–32; Luke 23:35,36|
|Crucifixion||Ps. 22:16; Zech. 12:10 (400 hundred years before crucifixion was invented)||Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:33; 24:40;John 19:23, 37; 20:25|
|Suffering||Is. 52:13-53:12||Matt. 27:57,60|
|Drinking sour drink||Ps. 69:21||Matt. 27:48; Luke 23:36; John 19:29|
Other Scripture fulfilled: Isaiah 9:6–7 says that the Promised One would be born as a child and would establish an eternal kingdom. Isaiah 7:14 says that the Promised One would be born of a virgin. Psalm 72:9–11, 15 says that the Promised One would be worshiped by shepherds and kings, who would bring gifts of gold to Him. Micah 5:2 says that the Promised One would be born in Bethlehem.
James MacDonald writes, “There are sixty-one major prophecies concerning the life of Jesus Christ, written many hundreds of years before His birth. Even unbelieving scientists applying the measurement of statistical probability tell us that the chances of just eight of those prophecies being fulfilled are one in 1017 (one hundred thousand trillion). This wasn’t luck. Do you want to know what kind of a coincidence all of this would be? Take the whole state of Texas and cover it all with silver dollars two feet deep. Take a blindfolded person, tell him to wade out into the money, and pick up the silver dollar that has the red dot on it. That is the likelihood of all of the prophecies in the Old Testament regarding Christ coming true by way of coincidence.”
But in the Old Testament, the prophets knew the Messiah would suffer, but that He would also reign and rule. This is why they were perplexed and studying with intense curiosity. Zech. 14:4 says that the Messiah will stand on the Mt. of Olives and reign, but in Zech. 12:10 it says the Messiah will be pierced. Is. 9:6 says the Messiah will have the government upon His shoulder in triumph, but in Is. 53, it says the Messiah will be despised and bruised for our transgressions. Dan. 2:44 and 7:13-14 says that the Messiah will have a dominion and kingdom that will never be destroyed, but in Dan. 9:26 it says the Messiah will be “cut off.” This is why they were confused.
I want to show you an illustration of how they must have felt. Let’s read Is. 61:1-2 and Luke 4:16-21. Notice Jesus did not finish the verse in Isaiah. He left out “and the day of vengeance of our God” because that part will only be fulfilled at His second coming. So a 2,000 year gap (at least) is found in between two phrases of a single verse! No wonder they were confused!
It is almost like these prophets saw two mountain peaks: Mt. Calvary and the Mt. of Olives, but they missed the valley in between, which has been 2000 years apart already. They didn’t understand that they were writing of two comings—that Messiah would come as a suffering Savior before returning as a conquering King. If you remember, even while Jesus was with the disciples, they didn’t get the teachings about the cross. They were ready to overthrow the Romans and start ruling with Christ. Even Peter once told Jesus not to go to the Cross and Jesus told him that such a statement comes only from the pits of hell (Matt. 16: 21-23).
e) The messengers encouragement and legacy
Lastly, Peter says the prophets’ did receive some encouragement. It came from the fact that though they did not get all the answers, they were still going to be used for God for a time after their deaths, according to 1 Pet. 1:12. What a great privilege! Notice the word “serving.” The picture is one in which the prophets have spread a table so that others might “feast” on the rich spiritual food found in the Messianic prophecies.
We envy them, but they envy us because they knew we would one day get the whole picture, for which they saw only in part. Even Daniel, a great man of God, who received a lot of prophecy said toward the end, “I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, ‘O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?’” (Dan. 12:8). God didn’t tell him. He replied, “Go your way Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end” (Dan. 12:9). Even Daniel couldn’t get in on God’s ultimate plan, but we have!
Lastly notice that the same Spirit who inspired the prophets, empowered the apostles to carry on the legacy of the prophets. After the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the New Testament apostles took the fully revealed gospel and preached it as Paul said, just one message—Jesus Christ and Him Crucified! (1 Cor. 2:2)–to these believers who heard it and believed it for their salvation. God’s Word came true from long ago. He did just as He said!
Now here’s the point. What happens in trials is that the Enemy starts to make you doubt the authenticity of the gospel and the Word of God. Remember the first question Satan asked Eve in the Garden was “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1)—questioning the Word of God. And these believers here might have asked, “Is God real?” and “Is this gospel really true” You get disillusioned. Peter is reminding these believers that the salvation they have received is the very thing that these great men of God spent their lives looking for! The prophets, the great people of God of old, they were serving you (1 Pet. 1:12) He’s making them go back to the fact that they are living in the times of fulfillment of prophecy and just as Jesus suffered and went to glory (though we are waiting for the completion of it), we too are part of God’s great plan.
What you need to remember in trials is that the God who has proven His Word all these years, is still faithful. He will keep His promises. He doesn’t change! And you are experiencing the very thing that even the prophets longed so badly to understand: salvation. Though we suffer, we are nevertheless a privileged people. We are the object of fulfilled prophecy! When John saw in Revelation a great multitude that no one could number, a people from every tongue and tribe and nation worshipping Christ (Rev. 7:9-12), he must have wondered, “How is this going to happen?!” Now look 2,000 years later…even us here, an Indian pastor in a majority Asian church, preaching the gospel. Wow! What a great salvation! What a great Savior!
Secondly and lastly another reason our salvation is great is:
II. Because we are the object of the angels’ fascination (1 Pet. 1:12c)
Look at the latter part of 1 Pet. 1:12: “things into which angels long to look.” Isn’t that just a marvelous thought? We envy angels, as they enjoy the fellowship of God in Heaven, but like the prophets, they envy us in regard to salvation. Interestingly, Peter mentions angels here as he already mentioned two other messengers of God: prophets and apostles.
Angels are created beings in Scripture who have several functions. They oppose demons, who are fallen angels (Dan. 10:13; Jude 9). They carry messages from God (Dan. 8:16–17; 9:21–23; 10:11; 12:6–7; Matt. 2:13; Luke 1:19,28; 2:10–14) and perform other divine service (1 Kings 19:5; Ps. 91:11–12; Matt. 4:11; 13:39–42; Acts 12:7–11;Heb. 1:14). Contrary to popular belief, they are not all-knowing (Mark 13:32; Eph. 3:10). I love Heb. 1:14 which says, “Are they not all ministering servants sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” They serve believers and the writer of Hebrews says practice hospitality, because we may sometimes have entertained angels unaware to us (Heb. 13:2).
But here look what Peter says. Angels long to look into the features of salvation. The word “long” describes “having a strong desire or overpowering impulse that is not easily satisfied. The term indicates that the angels’ interest in salvation is not merely whimsical or an incidental curiosity but a strong passion with them.” They want to “look,” which literally means to stretch one’s head forward or to bend down. It reminds me of the cherubim, who spread out their wings and looked down into the mercy seat (Ex. 37:9). The same word is used of John in John 20:5 where he came to the empty tomb and he stooped down and looked in. The verbs are in the present tense, meaning they are continuously longing to look, not a quick glance, but constant gazing…to understand what salvation is all about. The angels in a sense want to get down close and look deeply into the matters related to salvation. They have a holy curiosity to understand the kind of grace they will never experience. They are servants, but not sons. They are fascinated by it and want to understand it further for the purposes of glorifying God further.
I think the best illustration regarding the fascination of angels to our salvation was given by Charles Spurgeon in describing what it was like for the believing thief to come to Heaven. If you remember, Jesus had promised him that “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). So if you figure that Jesus died first, the thief must have quickly followed Him. What a sight that must have been for Heaven and the angels? Spurgeon writes:
“Who is this that entereth the pearl-gate at the same moment as the King of glory? Who is this favored companion of the Redeemer? Is it some honored martyr? Is it a faithful apostle? Is it a patriarch, like Abraham; or a prince, like David? It is none of these. Behold, and be amazed at sovereign grace. He that goeth in at the gate of paradise, with the King of glory, is a thief, who was saved in the article of death. He is saved in no inferior way, and received into bliss in no secondary style. Verily, there are last which shall be first!
Here I would have you notice the condescension of our Lord’s choice. The comrade of the Lord of glory, for whom the cherub turns aside his sword of fire, is no great one, but a newly-converted malefactor. And why? I think the Savior took him with him as a specimen of what he meant to do. He seemed to say to all the heavenly powers, ‘I bring a sinner with me; he is a sample of the rest.’”
Sometimes I think when God is looking at me and my failures, my self-sufficiency and proneness to wander, I feel like He turns to Michael or Gabriel and says, “Now why did I save Him again?” Actually now I think the angels ask that. Scripture says there is joy before the angels of God when a sinner repents (Luke 15:10). After the party, I wonder if they go to God and say, “Wow you saved that guy! Even after all that he has done? And wow, you saved her?! Don’t you know how much she complains? Wow!” And God smiles and says, “Yes, isn’t my salvation so great?” and the angels bow before God and sing, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13). They’re singing our redemption song! Maybe that’s why they’re so fascinated?
Beloved, both the prophets and angels are fascinated with God has done with us. Bu the question I want to leave you with is the same question I asked when we began this section from 1 Pet. 1:3 a few weeks ago: Are we un-fascinated, indifferent and disinterested with the very thing that God’s personal mouthpieces of old—the Old Testament prophets—were fascinated about regarding us? The prophets lived in holy wonder of God’s message of salvation? Do we now that the gospel has been fully revealed? The angels long to look in the matters of salvation. Do we? Do we overlook the very things the angels long to look at? I don’t mean it in a guilt-trip kind of way, but a serious question because if we are, we are the most miserable people on the planet. We need to return to the foot of the cross again and be in holy wonder again.
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