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1 Peter 1:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 To whom it was revealed 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 desire to look.
To whom it was revealed. They were not permitted to know fully the import of the predictions which they were made the instruments of communicating to mankind. Still, they understood that they were intended to benefit future ages.
That they were not serving themselves. We are not to suppose that they derived no benefit from their own predictions; for, as far as they understood the truth, it was as much adapted to sanctify and comfort them as it is us now: but the meaning is that their messages had reference mainly to future times and that the full benefit of them would be experienced only in distant ages. Comp. Heb. 11:39-40.
But you, in these things which now have been announced to you. Not unto us by name, but their ministrations had reference to the times of the Messiah; and those to whom Peter wrote, in common with all Christians, were those who were to enjoy the fruits of the communications which they made. The word reported means announced or made known.
Through those who preached the gospel to you. The apostles, who have made known unto you, in their true sense, the things which the prophets predicted, the import of which they themselves were so desirous of understanding.
By the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Accompanied by the influences of the Holy Spirit, bearing those truths to the heart and confirming them to the soul. The same Spirit inspired the prophets, which conveyed those truths to the souls of the early Christians and disclosed them to true believers in every age. Of course, this is through biblical studies to understand what the authors meant by their words. The Holy Spirit does not miraculously pop biblical meaning into our minds. Otherwise, all Christians would believe the same. Comp. John 16:13, 14; Acts 2:4; 10:44, 45. The object of Peter, by thus referring to the prophets and to the interest which they took in the things which those to whom he wrote now enjoyed, seems to have been to impress on them a deep sense of the value of the gospel and of the great privileges which they enjoyed. They were reaping the benefit of all the labor of the prophets. They were permitted to see truth clearly, which the prophets themselves saw only obscurely. They were, in many respects, more favored than even those holy men had been. It was for them that the prophets had spoken the word of the Lord; for them and their salvation that a long line of the holiest men that the world ever saw had lived, and toiled, and suffered; and while they themselves had not been allowed to understand the full import of their own predictions, the humblest believer was permitted to see what the most distinguished prophet never saw. See Matt. 13:17.
Things into which angels desire to look. The object of this reference to the angels is the same as that to the prophets. It is to impress on Christians a sense of the value of that gospel which they had received and to show them the greatness of their privileges in being made partakers of it. It had excited the deepest interest among the holiest men on earth and even among the inhabitants of the skies. They were enjoying the full revelation of what even the angels had desired more fully to understand and to comprehend which they had employed their great powers of investigation. The things which are here referred to (εἰς ἃ—unto which) are those which the prophets were so desirous to understand—the great truths respecting the sufferings of Christ, the glory which would follow, and the nature and effects of the gospel. In all the events about the redemption of a world, they felt a deep interest. The word which is rendered ‘to look’ (παρακύψαι), is rendered stooping down, and stooped down, in Luke 24:12; John 20:5, 11; look, in James 1:25; and look, in the place before us. It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It properly means to stoop down nearby anything; to bend forward near, in order to look at anything more closely.—Robinson, Lex. It would denote that state where one, who was before at so great a distance that he could not clearly see an object, should draw nearer, stooping down in order that he might observe it more distinctly. It is possible, as Grotius supposes that there may be an allusion here to the posture of the cherubim over the mercy seat, represented as looking down with an intense gaze as if to behold what was in the ark. But it is not necessary to suppose that this is the allusion, nor is it absolutely certain that that was the posture of the cherubim. See Heb. 9:5. All that is necessarily implied in the language is that the angels had an intense desire to look into these things; that they contemplated them with interest and fixed attention, like one who comes near to an object and looks narrowly upon it. In illustration of this sentiment, we may make the following suggestions: I. The angels, doubtless, desire to look into all the manifestations of the character of God wherever those manifestations are made. (1.) It is not unreasonable to suppose that, to a great degree, they acquire the knowledge of God as all other creatures do. They are not omniscient and cannot be supposed to comprehend at a glance all his doings. (2.) They doubtless employ their faculties, substantially as we do, in the investigation of truth; that is, from things known, they seek to learn those that are even unknown. (3.) It is not unreasonable to suppose that there are many things concerning the Divine character and plans that they do not yet understand. They know, undoubtedly, much more than we do, but God’s plans and purposes are yet made known to none of his creatures. No one can doubt that these plans and purposes must be the object of the attentive study of all holy created minds. (4.) They doubtless feel a great interest in the welfare of other beings—of their fellow creatures, wherever they are. There is in the universe one great brotherhood embracing all the creatures of God. (5.) They cannot but feel a deep interest in man—a fallen creature, tempted, suffering, dying, and exposed to eternal death. This they have shown in every period of the world’s history. Notes on Heb. 1:14. II. It is probable that in each one of the worlds which God has made, there is some peculiar manifestation of his glory and character; something which is not to be found at all in any other world or, if found, not in so great perfection; and that the angels would feel a deep interest in all these manifestations and would desire to look into them. (1.) This is probable from the nature of the case and from the variety which we see in the form, size, movements, and glory of the heavenly orbs. There is no reason to suppose that on any one of those worlds, all the glory of the Divine character would be manifest, which he intends to make known to the universe. (2.) This is probable from what we can now see of the worlds which he has made. We know as yet comparatively little of the heavenly bodies, and of the manifestations of the Deity there; and yet, as far as we can see, there must be far more striking exhibitions of the power, and wisdom, and glory of God, in many or most of those worlds that roll above us, than there are on our earth. On the body of the sun—on the planets Jupiter and Saturn, so vast in comparison with the earth—there must be far more impressive exhibitions of the glory of the Creator than there is on our little planet. Saturn, for example, is 82,000 miles (ca. 131,966 km) in diameter, 1100 times as large as our earth; it moves at the rate of 22,000 miles (ca. 35,406 km) an hour; it is encircled by two magnificent rings, 5000 miles (ca. 8,047 km) apart, the innermost of which is 21,000 miles (ca. 33,796 km) from the body of the planet, and 22,000 miles (ca. 35,406 km) in breadth, forming a vast illuminated arch over the planet above the brightness of our moon, and giving a most beautiful appearance to the heavens there. It is also, doubtless, true of all the worlds which God has made that in each one of them, there may be some peculiar manifestation of the glory of the Deity. (3.) The universe, therefore, seems fitted up to give eternal employment to mind in contemplating it; and, in the worlds which God has made, there is enough to employ the study of his creatures forever. In our own world, the most diligent and pious student of the works of God might spend many thousand years and then leave much, very much, which he did not comprehend. It may yet be the eternal employment of holy minds to range from world to world and in each new world to find much to study and to admire; much that shall proclaim the wisdom, power, love, and goodness of God, which had not elsewhere been seen. (4.) Our world, therefore, though small, a mere speck in creation, may have something to manifest the glory of the Creator which may not exist in any other. It cannot be its magnitude; for, in that respect, it is among the smallest which God has made. It may not be the height and the majesty of our mountains, or the length and beauty of our rivers, or the fragrance of our flowers, or the clearness of our sky; for, in these respects, there may be much more to admire in other worlds: it is the exhibition of the character of God in the work of redemption; the illustration of how a sinner may be forgiven; the manifestation of the Deity as incarnate, assuming permanently a union with one of his own creatures. This, so far as we know, is seen in no other part of the universe; and this is honor enough for one world. To see this, the angels may be attracted down to earth. When they come, they come not to contemplate our works of art, our painting, and our sculpture, or to read our books of science or poetry: they come to gather around the cross, to minister to the Savior, to attend on his steps while living, and to watch over his body when dead; to witness his resurrection and ascension, and to bless, with their offices of kindness, those whom he died to redeem, Heb. 1:4. III. What, then, is there in our world which we may suppose would attract their attention? What is there that they would not see in other worlds? I answer that the manifestation of the Divine character in the plan of redemption is that which would peculiarly attract their attention here, and lead them from heaven down to earth. (1.) The mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God would be to them an object of the deepest interest. This, so far as we know, or have reason to suppose, has occurred nowhere else. There is no evidence that in any other world God has taken upon himself the form of one of his own creatures dwelling there and stooped to live and act like one of them; to mingle with them; to share their feelings, and to submit to toil, and want, and sacrifice, for their welfare. (2.) The fact that the guilty could be pardoned would attract their attention, for (a) it is elsewhere unknown, no inhabitant of heaven needing pardon, and no offer of pardon having been made to a rebel angel. (b) There are great and difficult questions about the whole subject of forgiveness, which an angel could easily see, but which he could not so easily solve. How could it be done consistently with the justice and truth of God? How could he forgive and yet maintain the honor of his own law and the stability of his own throne? There is no more difficult subject in a human administration than that of pardon, and there is none that so much perplexes those who are entrusted with executive power. (3.) How pardon has been shown to the guilty here would excite their deep attention. It has been in a manner entirely consistent with justice and truth; showing, through the great sacrifice made on the cross, that the attributes of justice and mercy may both be exercised: that while God may pardon to any extent, he does it in no instance at the expense of justice and truth. This blending of the attributes of the Almighty in beautiful harmony; this manifesting of mercy to the guilty and the lost; this raising up a fallen and rebellious race to the favor and friendship of God; and this opening before a dying creature the hope of immortality, was what could be seen by the angels nowhere else: and hence it is no wonder that they hasten with such interest to our world, to learn the mysteries of redeeming love. Every step in the process of recovering a sinner must be new to them, for it is unseen elsewhere. The whole work, the atonement, the pardon, and renovation of the sinner, the conflict of the child of God with his spiritual foes, the support of religion in the time of sickness and temptation, the bed of death, the sleep in the tomb, the separate flight of the soul to its final abode, the resurrection of the body, and the solemn scenes of the judgment, all must open new fields of thought to an angelic mind, and attract the heavenly inhabitants to our world, to learn here what they cannot learn in their own abodes, however otherwise bright, where sin, and suffering, and death, and redemption are unknown. In view of these truths, we may add: (1.) The work of redemption is worthy of the study of the most profound minds. Higher talent than any earthly talent has been employed in studying it, for, to the most exalted intellects of heaven, it has been a theme of the deepest interest. No mind on earth is too exalted to be engaged in this study; no intellect here is so profound that it would not find in this study a range of inquiry worthy of itself. (2.) This is a study that is peculiarly appropriate to man. The angels have no other interest in it than that which arises from a desire to know God and from benevolent regard for the welfare of others; we have a personal interest in it of the highest kind. It pertains primarily to us. The plan was formed for us. Our eternal all depends upon it. The angels would be safe and happy if they did not fully understand it; if we do not understand it, we are lost forever. It has claims to their attention as a wonderful exhibition of the character and purposes of God, and as they are interested in the welfare of others, it claims our attention because our eternal welfare depends on our accepting the offer of mercy made through a Savior’s blood. (3.) How amazing, then, how wonderful, is man’s indifference to this great and glorious work! How wonderful that neither as a matter of speculation nor of personal concern, he can be induced ‘to look into these things!’ How wonderful that all other subjects engross his attention and excite inquiry but that for this, he feels no concern and that here he finds nothing to interest him! It is not unreasonable to suppose that amidst all the other topics of wonder in this plan as seen by angels, this is not the least—that man by nature takes no interest in it; that in so stupendous a work, performed in his own world, he feels no concern; that he is unmoved when he is told that even God became incarnate, and appeared on the earth where he himself dwells; and that, busy and interested as he is in other things, often of a most trifling nature, he has no concern for that on which is suspended his own eternal happiness. If heaven was held in mute astonishment when the Son of God left the courts of glory to be poor, to be persecuted, to bleed, and to die, not less must be the astonishment than when, from those lofty heights, the angelic hosts look down upon a race unconcerned amidst wonders such as those of the incarnation and the atonement!
By Albert Barnes and Edward D. Andrews