1 Peter 1:10-12
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come to you:…
In order to ascertain what Peter means by the phrase "which things," we must look back to the antecedent context. It is plain, therefore, that the matters of angelic solicitude here referred to, are just the same as those of prophetic study; that is to say, the salvation of the gospel; or, as it is more minutely described in the eleventh verse, "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." The text farther declares in what manner the angels study these subjects. In the holy of holies, the most secret shrine of the Jewish temple, stood the ark of the covenant, an apparatus in whose interior was deposited the canon of the Mosaic law, the blessings and the curses, the promises and the threatenings, of God's most holy word. Over the top of this ark was laid a covering or lid of massive gold, which was denominated the Mercy seat. It was a symbol of our Saviour's propitiation. Now, above the mercy seat were figures of cherubim, whose expanded wings overshadowed its circumferences, and whose many faces were all bent down in silent gaze upon the emblems underneath. They looked down, in the attitude of eager gladness and adoring wonder, upon the interposing medium which annihilated the presence and the power of the law. These cherubim, as the prophecies clearly show, represent the heavenly angels; and therefore we have here found, in the typical emblems of the Jewish economy, a literal picture of the doctrine of the apostle, that the pure spirits of the upper world bend down, in the attitude of learners, to explore "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." But once more our text indicates not merely the posture but the spirit with which the angels engage in this contemplation. They desire to look into it. They are anxious, warm, eager, ardent in the matter. Their hearts, as well as their eyes, are bent on it; and, with intent, assiduous, and persevering zeal, they devote themselves to scrutinise it in all its depth, though it is unfathomable, and in all its extent, though it is limitless.
I. We remark that the angels desire to look into "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that shall follow," NOT BY ANY MEANS IN CONSEQUENCE OF IGNORANCE IN REFERENCE TO THE GRAND FACTS OF THE SCHEME OF REDEMPTION. When Adam was expelled from Paradise, and an angel stationed at its gate to deter the guilty rebel from ever approaching the place whose sanctity he had profaned, we may imagine that that angel was aware of the hopes and consolations sealed up in the great promise, and knew man was not accursed forever. Angels visited in his tent the Father of the faithful, and knew that unto his off spring God had promised eternal blessings. Choirs of angels welcomed the incarnation of the Lord with strains of heavenly music. Doubtless, these blessed spirits knew the subject of which they sang so sweetly. Heaven's heralds knew they were greeting the human nature of Heaven's eternal King. However, it is proper to take notice of a text, which, at first sight, will rather appear to demonstrate that the angels are not deeply versed in the matters of fact connected with the redemption of Christ (Ephesians 3:9-10). But this passage by no means implies that it is the Church alone which enlightens the heavenly host in the glorious dispensation of the Gospel of Christ. The assertion of the passage is not that the heavenly host were in ignorance of that subject till the Church instructed them, but that they never learned the subject through the Church till the Church received, and professed, and obeyed the truth. The angels knew the mystery of redemption before the apostles went forth on the theatre of the world to preach salvation to every creature. But it was not till, from their lofty dwelling place in heaven, they saw the Gentile and the Jew alike being gathered into one fold of the one great Shepherd, that they knew, by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God.
II. We remark that the angels desire to look into the sufferings and glory of Christ, BECAUSE THERE THEY OBTAIN THE BRIGHTEST DISPLAY OF THE DIVINE PERFECTIONS.
III. The angels desire to look into "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow," BECAUSE THE ETERNAL INTERESTS OF MANKIND DEPEND ON THESE THINGS, AND BECAUSE THESE ETERNAL INTERESTS ARE AT STAKE. When we analyse the motive which impels the angels to look into the mystery of redemption, it resolves itself not only into a reverential desire of studying the Divine perfections, but also into an anxious concern for the salvation of sinners. This concern is itself twofold, depending partly on the desire of the angels to see Christ glorified in the salvation of sinners, and partly on the benevolent affection of the angels to these sinners, whom they see in such imminent danger of everlasting destruction.
IV. The angels desire to look into "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow," in other words, INTO THE PROGRESS OF THE WORK OF REDEMPTION, BECAUSE THE ISSUE OF THAT WORK WILL BE THE ELEVATION OF THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT OVER THE ANGELIC RACE, IN DIGNITY, GLORY, AND POWER. What strange and striking thoughts it must suggest to an angelic being to look upon a human creature, depraved, condemned, absorbed in the pleasures of sin, and at last falling a prey to death, who yet, in virtue of a previous union to Christ by faith, shall rise above the fetters of mortality, shall be elevated to the holiness and happiness of heaven.
Parallel VersesKJV: Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: