In this article on this first section “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us , we wish to call attention especially to verse 12. This verse reads as follows: (you) they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”
The purpose of this passage is not, just as all of holy writ is not, to satisfy mere human curiosity. The purpose is to edify in the faith, and to quicken, in the hope, the redeemed and regenerated saints. We must live in spiritual sobriety and see all things in the light of the Word of God that shines more and more unto the perfect day.
With this purpose in mind the apostle called attention to the activity of the prophets in the former verses. Always the attention of the prophets is directed toward the final and glorious manifestation of the Christ of God, and to the manifestation of the sons of God in the new heaven and new earth, where righteousness shall dwell.
Concerning these prophets it should be noticed, that the object of their seeking out and searching out was always the suffering, which would come upon Christ and the glory to follow. And in connection with this searching out they desire to know the time and the manner of the time of this suffering, and the glory to follow. Thus we saw in our former article.
But now the apostle adds another point in which he both shows us the intense interest which these prophets share in the final salvation of the church, and their being conscious of the fact that this salvation would not be realized in their own day. Says Peter: “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us (you) they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel…. ”
Permit us a few remarks on these words of Peter.
First of all a few remarks about this earlier ministry of the prophets compared with the present ministry by the apostles, evangelists and teachers.
We should notice that Peter is here contrasting the ministry in the Old Testament Dispensation with the ministry in the New Testament Dispensation. And then we notice, first of all, that both ministries are wrought through the selfsame Spirit. It was the Spirit of Christ testifying in the prophets in the Old Testament: and it is the same Spirit “sent down from heaven” in the New Testament, which causes the apostles to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation in Christ Jesus. In the former the Spirit prophesied of the good things to come, of the suffering that was to come upon the Man of Sorrows, and the glory to follow for Him and all the saints; in the latter the Holy Spirit is sent from this same “Man of Sorrows” as He has entered into His glory. It is the same Spirit in both. He is the primary author of the ministering of the prophets in the Old Testament as well as of the preaching of the fulfilled promise in the New Testament dispensation.
Why is sameness of authorship emphasized here by Peter?
In the first place, because only when there is one author in both the Old and the New Testaments is there an immutable certainty, that, what we have in Christ is real and genuine: in the New Testament Christ simply finishes through His Spirit, what He had begun and promised in the Old Testament, and both are wrought by Christ through one and the selfsame Spirit.
In the second place, because thus alone we may have the assurance that the prophets were not the authors of cunningly devised fables, but that they spoke and wrote what the Spirit moved them to write. And thus also we may have the assurance, that the apostles were not the inventors of a new religion, speaking against Moses and the customs in the wrong sense of the term, but that they are simply preaching to us the glad tidings, the fulfillment of those things, which many prophets desired to see and could not, and those things, which many prophets desired to hear and might not.
But for this very reason we should all the more be as the “violent,” who take the Kingdom of heaven by force. The wisdom of God in thus performing His work through the selfsame Spirit ought to be justified in us the children. In spiritual sobriety we should hope perfectly for the grace, that is to be brought unto us, in the day of Jesus Christ. Compare .
It is, therefore, exceedingly important that we give good heed to this word of the prophets and to the word of them, who preach the gospel to us.
Beware, says Jesus, how ye hear.
But there is more.
Peter also tells us, that the prophets knew. When they were searching out the time and the manner of the suffering of Christ, that they were not ministering these things to themselves. How did they know this? Peter says: it was revealed to them. God uncovered it to them in their searching. The more they searched out by the operation of the Spirit, the more the Spirit pointed out to them the time and the manner of the time of the sufferings to come upon Christ and the glory to follow. This too adds to the glory of this hope in Christ. The prophets did not think of these things as a matter, which would not be theirs too, even though these things would not be realized in their day. It is true they all died; they died, however, in the faith that they would see Christ stand upon the earth in the latter day, when Zion would be glorious in the beauty of holiness. And they, too, rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory! Shall we, then, who see so much more of this glorious hope, then not lift up the loins of our mind, and reach out in hope for a salvation which is not simply something which must await future fulfillment, but which is “ready to be revealed (uncovered) in the last day”? Forsooth, the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist, and he is the greatest of all the prophets.
As the babes to whom it is revealed, let us lift up our heads in the midst of the manifold trials, and rejoice in the glory to come! In the great “cloud of witnesses”, who encourage us to run the race with patience, the least are not the prophets themselves. For, let it be remembered, that even though they could not minister to themselves the New Testament Covenant of Christ’s blood, as yet, they did nevertheless minister to themselves this great salvation in hope! They saw Christ’s day from afar and rejoiced!
But this is not the only consideration that is forwarded by Peter: not only the attitude of prophets ought to spur us on. There is also the attitude of the very angels of God, who do always behold the face of God.
Writes Peter: “which things angels desire to look into.”
It is to be observed, that in the original Greek text we do not read the angels, but that Peter simply writes “angels”. The absence of the article indicates, to our mind, that Peter does not wish to emphasize the angels as class, but that he wishes to underscore, that the class of beings called “angels” are intensely interested in the entire history of salvation, as well as in this salvation itself. These angels are created spirits of God, moral rational beings. They were created in the beginning, when God created heaven and earth. And always the angels play an important part in the history of salvation of the Church throughout the ages, both in the Old and New Testaments,
Then, too, it should not be overlooked, that Peter says of these angels, that they are “very desirous” to look into this salvation of the saints. The term in the original Greek for very desirous is “epithumou-sin.” The “epi” is prefaced to show intensification. The verb thumein indicates the great warmth, the deep feeling of the heart and soul. The deepest yearnings and emotion is indicated. It is feeling full of power. This verb united with “epi” indicates great and strong desire, which nothing can satisfy except the fulfillment of this desire.
What is the desire of angels?
They desire to look into our salvation, the hope of Israel and the desire of nations. Says Peter: “which things angels desire to look into.” The term employed in the Greek and translated into “to look into” is worthy of special notice and is very expressive. It is a word picture. It literally means: to stoop to a thing in order to look at it; then it suggests: to look at a thing with the head bowed forwards, to look into a thing with the body bent, to stoop to look carefully into, to inspect curiously. (Thayer). That is the picture here employed of the angels. Peter pictures the posture of the angels as indicative of their intense desire to watch all of God’s great and mighty deeds in history.
Just as Peter intensely studies the linen clothes at the open grave on the resurrection morn, stooping down to look in, so the angels all through history watch in rapt attention God’s great and mighty deeds in the salvation of the Church, as searched out by prophets and preached by apostles, evangelists and teachers.
The question as to the scope of the interest of angels in this salvation is here not indicated by Peter. We must not read more into this term than necessary. Peter underscores the fact, that angels have an intense desire to look into the work of salvation, but he does not tell us here just what their interest is. The latter we may learn from other passages of holy writ, such as and .
There is evidently a good spiritual and pedagogical reason for this single emphasis. It is, no doubt, to encourage us to match if not to excel the angels in our desire of hope. We must perfectly hope for the grace, which shall be brought unto us in the revelation of Jesus Christ. If they, who are ministering spirits, have so great a delight and interest in this work, what should not be our delight, who are the heirs of so great a salvation?!
Wherefore let us, indeed, gird up the loins of our mind, and hope perfectly for that which prophets inquired into, and angels desire to see realized.