What the Prophets Sought and Angels Desired

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Jesus said to his disciples once, "Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it" (Matthew 13:16-17).

In other words, to experience something that great and wise and holy people longed to experience but couldn't should make us feel blessed, thankful.

That's the same logic we have in our text this morning, 1 Peter 1:10-12. Peter wants us to feel more gratitude and wonder for our salvation because the prophets of God and even the angels of heaven longed to see what we have now experienced through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As to this salvation [just referred to in verses 5 and 9], the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. [In other words, they were searching and longing and desiring to see what the prophets themselves were being moved to predict.] It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. [Not just prophets, but angels themselves longed to see this salvation.]

So the main point of this paragraph is that we should be amazed at the greatness of our salvation and that this greatness is shown by the fact that prophets of God and angels of heaven long to look into it.

So let me say a word about the idea of salvation and then look very briefly at five reasons that show the greatness [or value] of our salvation and the gratitude we should have for it.

A question we should ask here is, "Do I need to be saved?" The question is not, "Do we think we need to be saved?" You can need to be saved and not know it. For example, if a jet taking off from the airport were losing altitude and heading straight for this sanctuary right now, you would need to be saved; but you wouldn't know it unless someone came running in here and shouted what was happening.

So you can see that feeling safe is no proof that you are safe. You may desperately need salvation and not feel in any danger at all. So we ask again, "Do we need to be saved?" Are we in any danger which we may not feel but still need to be saved from? Is there a future life and joy that we are about to throw away and need to be saved for?

Let's let Peter have his say from this letter and you judge about your own need. And may the Spirit of God help you to be honest.

What Do We Need to Be Saved from?

In 1 Peter 2:24 Peter says, "[Christ] Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." Christ bore our sins because we need to be saved from our sins. They are like a terminal disease that will kill us for ever. Christ's wounds can heal that disease.

In 1 Peter 3:18 he says, "Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God." Christ died for our sins because we need to be saved from our sins. They separate us from God. So Christ died for our sins to bring us home to God.

In 1 Peter 4:17 he says, "It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" We need to be saved from God's judgment. Sin is not just a terminal disease that needs healing. It is also terminal guilt that deserves judgment. The gospel is the good news that Christ bears the judgment of all who trust him.

In 1 Peter 5:8 Peter says, "Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." In other words, you need to be saved from the devil who is a liar and a murderer and is trying to destroy as many human beings as he can so that he is not alone in hell. He is a lion, which means he is far more powerful than you or I. So we need salvation from him. The Bible says that the Son of God came into the world to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). And Peter says resist him in our faith.

So Peter's answer to what we need to be saved from is: We need to be saved from the disease and guilt of sin, from the judgment of God, and from the destruction of the devil. The question you need to answer now is: Are you in danger? Is Peter telling the truth? Do you need to be saved?

What Do We Need to Be Saved for?

Are we in danger of losing anything precious? Is there a future life and joy that we are about to throw away and need to be saved for?

In 1 Peter 2:25 Peter says, "You were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls." Salvation means being brought home to a loving Shepherd who will lead us in green pastures and by still waters.

Then in 1 Peter 5:4 he says, "When [this] Chief Shepherd appears [at his second coming], you will receive the unfading crown of glory." This is the "unfading" inheritance of verse 4. So we are saved for an inheritance of glory. No more shame, but honor. No more disgrace or humiliation but the revelation of the glory of the children of God.

1 Peter 5:10 says that God called us to this: "The God of all grace, has called you to His eternal glory in Christ." We are saved to share in the glory of Christ.

And the result of this will, of course, be everlasting joy. "To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation (1 Peter 4:13).

That's what we are saved for: a personal relationship with Christ the Shepherd of our soul, a participation in the eternal glory of God, and a joy and exultation as eternal as the glory.

The word of God this morning—not the word of the newspaper editorialists, not the word of the television, not the word of public schools, not the word of state universities—but the word of the apostle Peter, speaking on behalf of Jesus Christ the Son of God, who expresses the very mind of God is: We do need to be saved. Saved from sin and Satan and judgment. And saved for inexpressible joy with the Shepherd of our souls in light of the glory of God for ever and ever.

So in verse 10 when Peter says, "As to this salvation . . ." we now have some idea of what he's talking about. His aim in verses 10-12 is to intensify our gratitude and fill us with joy and worship for the infinite value of this great salvation.

The Worth of Our Salvation

He does this by telling us five amazing things about our salvation—things that we may have never thought of before. I will briefly mention them and pray they will stick in your heart and bear the fruit of faith and thanksgiving.

Christ Predicted It

1. Peter points out the amazing fact that Christ himself—the Spirit of Christ—hundreds of years before his own death and resurrection, was predicting his own death and resurrection. Look at the middle of verse 11: "The Spirit of Christ within [the prophets] . . . predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow." Christ predicted the sufferings of Christ.

Which means that Christ, the Son of God in Heaven, has been contemplating his suffering and his death for us for centuries. Indeed as far back as the plan of salvation reaches in the mind of God, so far back has Christ been willing and ready to give himself for our sins. You were not loved for just a bloody moment of sacrifice in history. You have been loved for endless ages in the eternal plan of the Father and the Son to save sinners who trust in him.

The Prophets Longed to See It

2. Peter highlights the worth of our salvation by telling us how the prophets longed to be a part of it. Verse 11: "The prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time [Christ was indicating]."

Christ came to Isaiah seven hundred years before the incarnation and said, Write this:

He was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:5-6)

When the Spirit of Christ told Isaiah to write that, Isaiah said, "O, Lord, who? O, Lord, when?" How long, O Lord, how long?

That searching and inquiring and longing is an echo of the tremendous worth of our salvation in the hearts of the holy men of old.

The Prophets Served Us in It

3. The Lord's answer to that yearning cry of the prophets is given in verse 12: "It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you."

The Spirit of Christ said to Isaiah, "Isaiah, be patient, you're not serving yourself or even merely your own generation. You are serving saints hundreds of years from now. They will see in your prophecy of me the proof that I am who I say I am. And its truth will make its infinite value unshakable in their lives. You will not have lived in vain."

The Angels Love to Look into It

4. The next thing Peter says to highlight the value of our salvation is that angels love to look into it. Verse 12 (at the end): "things into which angels long to look."

This does not mean they want to but can't. It means they want to because in a sense they are outsiders to the drama of sin and redemption (since they never sinned) and they love to watch the great work of God's salvation unfold in history and in the lives of the saints.

Peter's point is this: if angels get excited about our salvation, how much more should we. If angels love to look at the work of God in saving sinners like us, how much more should we who are the very beneficiaries of that salvation (not just onlookers) love to look into it and be thankful for it and say with Peter, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . ."

The Holy Spirit Brings It to Us

5. Finally, Peter highlights the value of our salvation by telling us in verse 12 that the Holy Spirit himself sent from heaven has brought us the news of our salvation through the gospel. "These things . . . now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven."

This is the right place to stop. This is what is happening right now. I am preaching to you the gospel—the good news that Christ came into the world to save sinners, with a salvation of tremendous value—far more valuable than anything else you own or know.

But it is not just me that is calling your attention to the worth of Christ and of salvation; it is, I believe, the Holy Spirit sent from heaven speaking through me. And my prayer is that you will not resist his call on your life: That you will open yourself to believe and to experience an ever-growing gratitude for such a great salvation.

Thumb author john piper

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.