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:…
It cannot but be deemed remarkable that we should be so isolated from the rest of the universe. Here are millions of orbs brought within the range of our vision by the telescope. We cannot doubt that they are the abodes of rational creatures. Yet of the races that tenant these countless worlds we know absolutely nothing. One race only besides our own is introduced to us: and of that, the notices are quite too meagre to satisfy us. We see just enough of the angels to wish to see a great deal more. We "desire to look" into their affairs, as they into ours. We are on safe ground in ascribing to them superior intelligence and ample knowledge. But the knowledge of a creature, whatever his rank, must necessarily be progressive. The angels, like ourselves, must learn things by the event — excepting when God may have been pleased to reveal His purposes to them. But, except through some special revelation, of which we have no hint, it was impossible they should foresee the extraordinary transactions which were to distinguish this orb from all the others scattered through the wide fields of space. From the very first, however, the Divine procedure on this planet would arrest their attention. How would it astonish them to witness the temptation. They had seen Satan and his fellow apostates cast down to hell: and yet he is now permitted to come to this newborn world, and to appropriate one of the lower animals to the atrocious purpose of seducing the happy pair from their allegiance. Is it fanciful to imagine that this event would fill the angels with amazement? that they would say one to another, "How can these things be?" But something no less inexplicable would now inflame their curiosity. They had heard the threatening, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." It came from lips which could not lie. And yet Adam and Eve do not "die," — i.e., they do not, on their transgression, "return to the dust," nor are they banished into outer darkness. Whether this was intelligible to them we do not know. The fall occurred before the birth of Cain. We are not certain that the angels had ever seen an infant. Among their own race we may with confidence affirm they had not. The difference between our race and their own, in this particular, could not fail to interest them. They were all created in the full maturity of their powers. In some way the seed of this woman is to bruise the serpent's head. Obscure as this intimation must have been, as well to the angels as to the guilty pair, it would unveil to them a new attribute of the Godhead. Up to this period, it would seem, they had known nothing of the Divine mercy. Its absence could be no defect in their eyes, for the idea of mercy was not yet born into the universe of creatures. What a discovery was this which now broke upon them! Truth, justice, goodness, holiness — with these attributes they were familiar. But of mercy they had never heard. Enfolded in the depths of His own infinitude, she had been from eternity awaiting the appointed day of her epiphany, her glorious manifestation to heaven and earth get even now that the period has come, she does not rise full-orbed upon the world, but mild and gentle, like the dawn, as befits the quality of mercy. But this shall suffice for angelic eyes. Though mercy never spake before, she needs no interpreter. These occurrences could not fail to stimulate the curiosity of the angels. They would watch with deep solicitude the course of the Divine administration towards our world. They would treasure every fresh intimation of the future deliverance to be effected by the seed of the woman. The presumption is, that during those forty centuries it was a perpetual study to them; and that as the beneficent scheme was gradually developed, it only increased their desire to look into its unfathomable mysteries.
1. The first and chief of these is, to quote St. Pear's own words, "the sufferings of Christ": by which we may understand His entire work of humiliation from Bethlehem to Calvary. We must believe that the angels knew, long before the advent, that the Second Person of the Trinity was to be the Redeemer of the world. But it is not certain that they had any distinct conception of the Incarnation. "Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh." How could they have penetrated this mystery beforehand? There was neither precedent nor analogy to aid them in resolving it. Accustomed as they were to render co-equal honours to the Trinity, and especially to adore the Son in "the possession of the glory which He had with the Father before the world was," how could they think of Him as stooping to be "born of a woman," as coming into this revolted world as an infant, blending His Divinity and our humanity in an indissoluble unity? Imagine what a season of suspense those thirty years must have been to them which Jesus passed at Nazareth. How often would they visit the favoured village. In what vast encampments would they spread around it. As He emerged from His seclusion to enter upon His public ministry, their interest would become deeper and deeper still, until it found its culmination in the Cross.
2. Not only would the angels desire to look into the "sufferings of Christ," but into the application of redemption also. They were familiar with two types of character, perfect holiness and unmitigated depravity; and with two conditions of being, unalloyed happiness and absolute misery. Neither their own history nor, so far as we are informed, the annals of any other sphere supplied them with any example of a character in which these elements were commingled, or afforded any hint of a possible transition from one state to the other. They knew nothing of forgiveness, nothing of renewal. The sacrifice on Calvary now opens to them a new world, on earth as well as in heaven. They had, indeed, seen something of this before, for the efficacy of the great expiation reached backward to the fall. But its triumph was reserved for the new dispensation. And here they see His miracles of mercy — not less marvellous in their effects upon the souls of men than had been those of the Messiah upon their bodies. There must be much in the history of individual believers to awaken their sympathies, but still more in the general welfare of the Church. We may be sure that things have not always gone as they expected: that events have constantly occurred which were well nigh as inexplicable to them as to us. Must it not be a marvel to them that the Church, the purchase of Christ's blood, should have made its way so slowly and so painfully in the world? that at one time it should be poisoned With error; at another, frozen with formalism; at a third, debauched with secularity; at a fourth, fissured and rent with internal strife?
3. Here, in fact, is another of the themes which stimulate the curiosity of the angels, "the glories which should follow." They have seen the "sufferings of Christ": they would fain see His glory. They have seen — they see now — the sufferings of His Church: they would see its glory. They can, no doubt, frame a better conception of them than we can. And this very circumstance must increase their solicitude to witness the final result. They saw the first faint lineament of the august plan in Eden. They see also the preparation for it which is going on in heaven. No wonder that they long for its sublime consummation. If we inquire whence this curiosity on their part, we may easily conjecture some of the motives which prompt it.
(1) Without dwelling upon that simple craving after knowledge which pertains to every created intelligence, we may refer to the aid which the angels derive from redemption in their study of the character and government of God. To any creature the knowledge of the Creator is the most important of all knowledge. To holy beings, no study can be so attractive. The angels, as already observed, have signal advantages for this study. But there is no volume open to them which yields so much information concerning God as redemption. Heaven cannot lack for evidences of the Divine wisdom; but if it would see this attribute in its glory, it must come down to earth. Its grand achievement is redemption. And what we affirm of His wisdom we claim also for His other moral attributes. Here "mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other." Nowhere else has the Deity made so full, so august, so grateful, a revelation of Himself.
(2) A second reason is to be found in their personal concern in the results of redemption. It is an opinion sanctioned by many eminent names in theology, that the good angels owe their confirmation in holiness in some way to the mediation of Christ. We read, e.g., of "the elect angels." We are told that God "gathers together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him." And that "all power is given Him in heaven and in earth." There is another respect in which they are interested in this work. In the revolt of their associates, they become no less their enemies than the enemies of God. In all the plots and counterplots, the assaults and repulses, the victories and defeats, of this war of centuries, they have taken a conspicuous part. Their immediate personal concern in it, then, is a cogent reason why they should desire to look into the mystery which infolds it.
(3) And this imports that their own happiness is involved in the issue. Merely to glance at this point, the benevolence of the angels must attract them to the study of redemption. They know what the happiness of heaven is. Here is a race whose destiny is undecided, the only race which is in this anomalous condition. Whatever the issue, it must be irreversible. The fate of millions of souls hangs upon the trembling balance. Is it for an angel to look upon such a scene with indifference?Reflections —
1. Let us borrow from this scripture a single ray of light to set forth the quality of that scepticism which men of cultivated minds sometimes cherish respecting Christianity. Now, as of old, the gospel is "to the Jew a stumbling block and to the Greek foolishness." You stigmatise it as not only oppressive in its demands, but even irrational in its principles. Go to the angels for a lesson of humility.
2. There is a keen rebuke in this scripture for those who are living in the neglect of the gospel.
(H. A. Boardman, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: