The “salvation” that Peter is referring to is what he has described up to this point in the letter: chosen, sprinkled, sanctified, shown mercy, born again, given a living hope and an indestructible inheritance, protected by God’s power through faith, full of joy. It is the salvation that we experience now, and which we will fully enjoy in the future. This same salvation was prophesied and promised in the past. It was the subject of the prophets’ attention and focus and the theme of the apostle’s preaching. It also continues to be at the center of the angels’ interests.
The prophets not only pondered or wondered, but “made careful searches and inquiries.” They were desirous to know and diligent to seek out more regarding this great salvation that was being promised (c.f., Hebrews 11:6; Psalm 119:2, 45, 69, 94, 129, 155). Slothfulness and idleness ought to have no place among God’s people!
III. Spirit of Christ
The “sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” were clearly revealed to the prophets (i.e., all Old Testament writers). What was unknown, however, was the “person or time.” The Spirit of the Messiah Himself was indicating and predicting His own sufferings through the searching of the prophets. Peter’s understanding of the eternality of Christ is remarkable, as the pre-existence of Christ is here inferred and then again implied in verse 20. Peter witnessed Christ in His humanity aging and suffering the effects of time. Yet, he still recognized that this God-Man not only existed in Old Testament times but was active then in the lives of His people.
The sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow are the main themes of the gospel. We read about the sufferings of Christ in Old Testament passages like Genesis 3:15, Psalm 22:1; 34:19-20; Isaiah 50:6; 52:14; Zechariah 12:10; 13:7. The glories to follow (i.e., His resurrection and ascension as King to rule and reign) are predicted in passages like Psalm 110:1,4; Isaiah 9:6-7; 40:9-11. These previous unknowns of “what person or time,” the who and the when, are now known! We now read the Old Testament eagerly, knowing that there we see the predictions of Christ suffering for us and the revelation of the glories to follow.
What did the prophets discover in all their searching and inquiring? They found that “they were not serving themselves, but you.” How they must have longed to see and experience the fulfillment of what they prophesied; but their findings about the suffering and glories pertained to another generation, one yet to come. The prophetic predictions were not without application to the prophets’ generations (c.f., Hebrews 11:13), but the primary application and benefit was for New Testament believers (c.f., Romans 15:4). The great prophets of old were servants of others. Apostolic gospel preaching was the declaration of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the announcement that these prophecies had found their fulfillment in the New Covenant realities inaugurated by Christ and in the establishment of His church.
The Spirit was poured out on the church in the day of Pentecost, and being filled with the Holy Spirit the Apostles continued to preach the gospel of the crucified and risen Savior (c.f., Acts 2:2). Though the sufferings and glories were revealed by the prophets in the Scriptures, these gospel truths remain unseen for individuals still today until the Holy Spirit removes the “veil” (c.f., 2 Corinthians 3:14ff).
VII. Seraphim and Cherubim
Peeking in as outsiders, the “angels long to look” at the salvation given to us. They have no first-hand experience, so they gaze from a distance—a relational distance. The angels’ companions that fell from heaven have no hope of redemption and no chance of regaining what was lost. Therefore, the angels are amazed, astonished, by the reality of this incredible notion—that haters of God and lovers of self could be redeemed and made children. The cherubim must wonder how guilty people can escape their flaming swords and return back into paradise!
- The Holy Spirit of Christ indicated the truths of the gospel to and through the Old Testament prophets. The Apostles proclaimed by the Holy Spirit that those truths found fulfillment in Christ. We live in the time of the fulfillment of what had been promised! It is a supreme privilege to live in the time after Christ has come and when the gospel is preached clearly and fully. Not only do we have the gospel preached fully to us now, but we look forward to delighting in the gospel for ages unending.