Monday, 30 September 2019
To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into. 1 Peter 1:12
It is an amazing set of words from Peter. He has been speaking of the prophets who were led by the Spirit of Christ who was in them, and who wrote of the “sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” Now he says that “To them it was revealed that…”
This thought goes along with what he said in verse 10. There, Peter noted that these prophets “inquired and searched carefully.” But their search was to no avail. It was revealed to them that the words they had received were “not to themselves.” In other words, they spoke out prophecy that did not apply to their lives, but to the lives of others, both in time and, at times, in location.
In other words, it often surely seemed obvious that prophecy of the Messiah to come was future. But some of the prophets prophesied from their homes in exile, such as Daniel. Not only were the prophecies future, but they were pointing to the coming of Messiah in a land that they were not even in. It may seem obvious to us now, but in the ancient world, gods were often considered localized gods of places, nations, or people groups. But the prophetic word of the true God extends beyond such limits.
Peter then continues noting that what was revealed was not to them, “but to us.” Peter is writing the words and making the claim that because Christ had come, the prophetic word was to those who were alive since His coming. The span of years spent in waiting had ended, and the time of waiting for the prophetic word to be fulfilled had arrived.
With this understanding, Peter includes himself now in the process of revealing that once hidden word by saying, “they were ministering the things which have been reported to you.” Peter and the other apostles had seen the fulfillment of the prophecies. They were able to see what the prophets of old could not, and they were able to put the otherwise obscure writings into the context of the Person and work of Jesus the Messiah. Because of this, they reported the message, proclaiming that the prophecies were fulfilled.
It should be noted that the words “were ministering” are in the imperfect active. The prophets of old are still ministering to those who read their words even today as they are explained to us by the apostles. This reporting was “through those who have preached the gospel to you.”
The prophets of old vicariously ministered through the apostles. The words they had received were being passed on for the hearer to know and understand the truth of what was written. As noted already, the truth is that even today the writings of those prophets would make no sense to someone who picked them up and read them, unless they had the accompanying words of the apostles found in the New Testament. This is why Paul could say in his epistle to the Corinthians –
“Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” 2 Corinthians 3:12-16
Without the explanation of the apostles, either in person, or by the writings they have left behind, the mysteries into which the prophets inquired and searched carefully are still veiled to the reader. But since the coming of Christ, these things were made known. And this process was not only directly, as if by personal sight and understanding, but more especially “by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.”
It is true that the apostles witnessed much of the fulfillment of what the prophets wrote about. Further, Jesus explained many things from the Scriptures after His resurrection (e.g. Luke 23:13-27). However, there are still other things which were not directly revealed at those times. Rather, the Holy Spirit revealed them through the apostles as they were inspired to do so.
Their writings, which have been compiled into the New Testament, allow the Scriptures to be understood from a Christ-centered perspective which would have been otherwise impossible to understand. This is so much so that Peter finishes the verse with, “things which angels desire to look into.”
Of the word translated as “desire to look into,” Vincent’s Word studies says –
“A very graphic word, meaning to stoop sideways (παρά). Used by Aristophanes to picture the attitude of a bad harp-player. Here it portrays one stooping and stretching the neck to gaze on some wonderful sight. It occurs in James 1:25, describing him who looks into the perfect law of liberty as into a mirror; and in Luke 24:12; John 20:5, John 20:11, of Peter and John and Mary stooping and looking into the empty tomb. Possibly the memory of this incident unconsciously suggested the word to Peter. The phrase illustrates Peter’s habitual emphasis upon the testimony of sight.”
The angels desired to know what the prophetic word said, not as participants in it, but as those viewing the redemptive plans of God from the outside, like spectators in an arena. The astonishing work of God in redeeming man, including the cross of Christ, was a complete surprise to them. This is obvious from the words of Pilate’s wife in Matthew –
“While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.’” Matthew 27:19
Pilate’s wife was given a dream which caused her to warn her husband. But if Pilate had not participated in what occurred, Christ would not have been crucified. The next verses confirm that he did not fully heed her words. The serpent went through the woman in the Garden of Eden to thwart God’s plans, and he had some inkling that the day ahead was one which would see his defeat. Is it that being unable to determine what action to take, he went through a woman again by attempting to have her influence her husband to thwart what seemed to be an inevitable, but as yet unrevealed, part of God’s plan?
If so, this shows us that the devil may know God’s word, but he also does not understand the complexities of the prophecies which are future, nor can he discern those things which have not been revealed, but which remain sealed until God reveals them.
Life application: The prophets of old received God’s word and then turned around and read what they had written out. They searched the words carefully and looked for hints about the glory to come. When they read of the sufferings of Christ and compared them with verses like the one proclaiming Him the everlasting Father, they must have been completely baffled.
This coming One would be buried in a grave and yet He would rule the nations forever? It must have been incredibly hard to understand and reconcile the concepts… maybe there would be two Messiahs? Maybe the passages weren’t to be taken literally?
Finally, they realized that it was simply not for them to know. Instead, others would be the recipients of the revelation which was received; they were merely the conduit by which God was revealing the mysteries that would be revealed in Christ. And who are the favored recipients? They are those who hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We have received enlightenment of the verses which were veiled in times past because Jesus’ ministry fulfilled them. Once His work was complete, the prophetic word came alive. Truly we are a favored generation. As we wait on the return of our Lord, we have the pages of the Bible to guide us and instruct us in our daily lives. Be sure to read your Bible daily, and to share the gospel always.
Thank You Jesus for sending Your Spirit to illuminate Your word to us through the preaching of the gospel and the study of its contents. Thank You for allowing us to be the recipients of the fullness of the writings which tell us of You and Your glorious work in and through humanity. Amen.