In the next two articles we wish to give our attention to an exposition of the verses 10-12 of this first Chapter of I Peter.
The passage reads in full as follows: “Concerning which salvation the prophets sought awl searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace, that (should come) unto you searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow them. To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you they did minister these things, which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven; which things angels desire to look into.”
We ought to remember that Peter is constantly yet speaking in this first section of his letter to the churches addressed, of the great salvation that is ours through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Into this salvation we have been brought and caused to share through the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of sanctification. For we have indeed been born again unto a lively hope in Christ’s resurrection. Old things have passed away, and all things have become new.
We are saved in hope. We do not yet see this final salvation. Christ Jesus, the glorified Lord, we do not see, and have never seen. Yet, we love Him. We rejoice in Him with an immense and unspeakable joy, which is full of glory and which shall be fully manifested in the elect and redeemed saints in the day when Christ shall be revealed.
Such is our status quo!
Thus it is written in the statute books of the Lord of lords and the King of kings. And thus we have noticed this salvation to be the great theme of Peter.
Peter would bind upon our hearts the magnitude of this salvation, and its certainty. It is not merely something of recent date; a passing fancy, something that will die as soon as its proponents go the way of all flesh. It is not a message of man at all. It never arises in man’s heart. This salvation belongs to the things that were never narrated to kings. It is that which eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard. They are the things that God in His inscrutable wisdom has thought out and planned as the architect and builder of our salvation. It is wholly of God. And thus it was ever believed in the days of yore.
Notice, that Peter asserts that this salvation was the great theme of all the prophets. Writes Peter: “Concerning which salvation (the) prophets sought and searched diligently . . .” None less than “prophets”, who stand in the presence of God, and speak His word, have busied themselves with this theme. They did it emphatically in their capacity as “prophets”. The emphasis in the text does not fall on their being a class of men in distinction from others, but on the fact that they are prophets, who are engaged in speaking that which is “pointed out to them” by the Holy Spirit. To say “prophets” is to say “thus saith the Lord”.
Peter gives us a remarkable insight into the deepest yearnings of prophets.
We notice, first of all, the remarkable statement of Peter that the subject (het onderwerp) the all-inclusive and central theme of the Apostle is Salvation. And then not salvation in general, but salvation as to its ultimate and final manifestation. We repeat: according to Peter that was the subject of all the inquiry and seeking of the prophets. When we say that a man writes a book on a certain subject we say he wrote on the subject. Thus it is here. All the prophets were engaged in speaking, teaching, writing on this subject. That was the only subject that engaged their attention. And then it engaged their attention not simply as a theoretical subject, but it occupied their whole souls as a throbbing question of salvation and glory; their eyes searched the prophetic skies. And always the longing is concerning the final salvation .
To emphasize this thought Peter writes in the original Greek (peri hees sooteerias) “concerning which salvation”. The preposition peri (concerning) is employed in the Greek both of the Classics and of Patristic literature to denote the writings on a certain subject. If they would write on the subject of the three persons and the one essence of God they wrote the title: peri etc. Thus also Peter writes of the prophets. They too had a great subject.
And no one less than Jesus Himself calls attention, be it then indirectly, to this great subject which is indicated by the preposition peri (concerning).
Inwe read the following from Jesus mouth: “for that one wrote concerning (peri) me”. As is evident from the context, Jesus does not mean to say, that Moses besides writing in the first five books of the Bible (the pentateuch) on many other subjects and personages, also wrote concerning Jesus! That is not the thrust of this passage. How weak it would then become as a refutation of those who would not believe in Jesus, against those who played out Moses over against Christ! Jesus means to say, in effect, the whole subject of all Moses’ books (Genesis to Deuteronomy) is the Christ. Moses did not write on this and that; he was not simply a law-giver, saying, the man that doeth the same shall live thereby Moses wrote the gospel. The law was added to be a Pedagogue to Me, the Son of God in the flesh. Moses wrote on one subject! He wrote on the Gospel of God in Me, the Christ. He wrote (peri) concerning Me. I am the great subject of Moses’ writings.
And, again, inwe read the account of Jesus’ reproof and instruction of the two travelers to Emmaus. These men could not reconcile the accounts and reports of the women and certain others that Jesus was risen from the dead, with the necessity of Christ’s dying. And the reason for this? They were slow to believe all that which had been spoken by the prophets concerning (peri) Christ. For Jesus, we are told by Luke, beginning from Moses and all the prophets interpreted unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning (peri) Himself. This entire Old Testament Scripture was Christ’s self-portrait.
What is the title of Moses’ writings: it is concerning Christ’s person and work of salvation. Again, what is the title, the real subject of every prophet: it is concerning Christ, and the final manifestation of the salvation in Him in the day when He shall be revealed as the Lord of glory. It is (peri) concerning this salvation that prophets are engaged.
Let everyone, then, give heed, when Peter speaks of this same subject. It is surely worthwhile. It was a matter of passionate and unabated searching on the part of Prophets. Their central theme it is. One has never really preached the subject of the prophets, who has not preached the final salvation they speak of. All the details of the Prophecies fit into this scheme; all things are subsumed to it, and are means to bring this message to our attention. The prophecies are truly eschatological.
Such is the implication of Peter’s “concerning which salvation . . . .”
However, Peter tells us more about the activities of prophets. Writes he: “sought and diligently searched.” Literally we read in the original Greek “concerning which salvation the prophets sought out and searched out . . .”
Two things they did.
They sought out concerning salvation. There is a distinction between the notion “sought out” and “searched out”. This is already evident in the order in which they are given in the text. “Sought out” is given before “searched out”. It is really first; one must first seek out before one can search out. The former indicates the motive of finding; the prophets desired to find this salvation as the pearl of great price. They would lay hold on it. But when they once find it, they are not simply satisfied with its possession. They also desire to know its content, its various aspects, they must know all that it stands for.
That this is the proper distinction between the terms “seek out” and “search out” is also evident from the fact, that Peter in the next clause repeats the “searching” but not the “seeking”. Yes, they still seek salvation, but in order to attain it they must be busy searching it out.
Two points are searched out. They are both concerned with the proper God-appointed time of the suffering of Christ. They would know what the time (season) is. And, again, shall this be known, then they must understand the characteristic features of the time. What the state of the world will be, what Israel’s place will be in that world, how it will be in every sense the “fullness of time”, a time of the restitution of all things, they must know. Of this they spoke. And they spoke of this because they searched it out diligently.
We have a good case in point in Daniel. We read of him in: “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the realm, in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years whereof the word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah the Prophet, for the accomplishing of the desolation of Jerusalem, even seventy years.”
Here we see Daniel seeking out and searching out concerning the redemption of Jerusalem. How he diligently prayed with his face toward Jerusalem is well known to us. He is interested in the return of the captives to Jerusalem. He searches out the prophetic word. He stands, as it were, on the shoulders of Jeremiah. But his prophetic interest is really not in the historical rebuilding of earthly Jerusalem. He looks beyond this city to the eternal and holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem. But, his interest will be in the time and manner of the times in which this shall be accomplished, in order that Israel and all the people of God may read the “times”.
(to be continued)