Sunday, 29 September 2019
…searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 1 Peter 1:11
The words here speak of “the prophets” of the previous verse. He said that they “inquired and searched carefully … of the grace that would come to you.” Now, he continues with that thought, explaining what it was like for these men who spoke out and wrote down the oracles of God. He says they were “searching what, or what manner of time.”
The idea of “searching” is to make a diligent inquiry. These prophets wrote out the prophesies transmitted through them, and then they thoroughly investigated what they had written out. They wanted to know “what,” meaning the details concerning the Messiah they had prophesied about. They were given a broad brushstroke of His coming, but they lacked the details. They could see aspects of Him, but the Man Jesus was out of their ability to see – who He would be, what He would be like, and how He would accomplish the things they wrote of.
They also wanted to know “what manner of time” these things would come about. This may be speaking of the actual timing of the coming of Messiah, but more probably it is speaking of the state of the world at the time of His coming. How could the things they wrote down be fulfilled? What would be the condition of the people who anticipated His coming. What would be the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles? On and on, “what manner of time” lay ahead when Messiah would be revealed?
Peter next gives an indication of the means of the prophetic word coming to these men. He refers to “the Spirit of Christ who was in them.” Charles Ellicott notes that the term “Christ” here speaks of the office, and not specifically a title of the Man – meaning Jesus Christ. This may be a correct analysis. The “Spirit of Christ,” is that which anticipates the coming of Messiah, it speaks of Him and His work, and so on.
It is not impossible, however, that Peter is speaking of “the Spirit of Christ” as referring to the Holy Spirit, whose role in the Godhead is to reveal the Lord Jesus before His coming, during His advent, and continuing on after His ascension. The work of God within the Godhead has one united purpose. Thus, the term “Spirit of Christ” would then be synonymous with “Holy Spirit,” “Spirit of God,” and etc. This is seen, for example, in Romans 8 –
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Romans 8:9
Peter continues on, noting that “the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand.” Whether “Spirit of Christ” refers to the office, or to the inspiration which comes from Christ personally, the words “was indicating” show that the men were influenced by a force which led them to record what was instilled in them by God. The things He purposed for them to know were revealed. There was enough information to make the work of Christ fully understandable in relation to what was written once it occurred, but not until it occurred.
Until Christ came, it remained veiled even though specific words were given by God as “He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ.” In Scripture, it is the Lord who speaks out prophecy, and yet it is the Spirit who speaks out prophecy, and it is God who speaks out prophecy. And in those words which point to Christ, they – like all other Scripture – were recorded in the word. And the word itself then speaks out prophecy. In this word, the sufferings of Christ are clearly indicated, even from the earliest chapters of Genesis.
In Genesis 3:15, it is now quite clear that Messiah is being referred to. There it says that the serpent would “bruise His heel.” From that point on, countless examples of the sufferings of Christ are recorded. The sacrifices and offerings of the Levitical priesthood point to the sufferings of Christ. His sufferings are detailed in small and in great ways in the prophets. They are obscurely referred to in the account of the birth and naming of Benjamin in Genesis 35:18, where he was first named Ben-Oni, or Son of my Suffering.
A complete record of the study into how many times the sufferings of Christ are mentioned in the Bible would take up innumerable pages of analysis. Vincent’s Word Studies explains why Peter highlighted this. He says, “Peter was especially concerned to show that the sufferings of Christ were in fulfilment of prophecy, because it was a subject of dispute with the Jews whether the Christ was to suffer (Acts 3:18; Acts 26:22, Acts 26:23).”
By testifying to the sufferings of the coming Christ in advance, there was no excuse that Israel – the stewards of the oracles of God – should have missed the coming of Messiah. Along with these sufferings, Peter also refers to “the glories that would follow.” This refers to everything that would come in successive steps after the sufferings of Christ.
The cross was a point of suffering, but it was also a point of glory. The resurrection, the proofs of His resurrection, the ascension, the continued work of the apostles and the church since, the coming rapture, the physical return of Christ, the millennium, and the eternal state are all referred to in the glories that would follow.
These were recorded by the prophets, and they were all carefully searched out by them, but they could not sufficiently peer into the words they had been inspired to write in order to see what they desired to see. Those things were reserved for those who came after they occurred, and which could then be pieced together in order to be seen in the revealed light that God so intended for them to be seen.
Life application: Today, we have the revelation that the prophets searched out in hopes of knowing, but to them it was a mystery. Paul uses this term quite a few times as he speaks of the ministry of Christ. For example –
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— 27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” Romans 16:25-27
Here we see that the work of Christ was a mystery kept in the mind of God since the very foundation of the world. However, it was made manifest in the gospel. This mystery was presented in the “prophetic scriptures” which is exactly what Peter is talking about. The prophets of old wrote of the coming glory, and yet to them it was veiled.
Likewise, the times of the coming of Christ and the fulfillment of the ages is veiled. We can search carefully, get out our calculators and computers, look at calendars of coming events, and strain our minds over the times and the seasons, but in the end, we must simply wait on the Lord’s timing. As Jesus said in Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”
When He is ready, He will be back – but not a moment sooner. It won’t come by the desires or uninspired guesses of prognosticators; it will come by the wisdom of God.
Lord God, we sure would love to see Jesus, and we would very much like to sit in His presence and dine together. May that day be soon. But Lord God, Your will be done, not ours. Our garments are washed, our hearts are ready, and Your invitations are in our hand. When You call, we will respond with joy. Until then, we love You and we will be about the business You have for us. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.