Meditations in 1 Peter : 7 : Seeking prophets
1 Pet 1:10,11 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
The previous section had come to an end with Peter declaring, “for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (v.9). It is natural for him now to say something more about this salvation: “Concerning this salvation…” Now I’m going to consider these verses above in reverse order.
“When he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” Who is the ‘he’ here? It was the “Spirit of Christ in them” and the ‘them’ were the Old Testament prophets. So he reminding us of a strange feature of the Old Testament that perhaps we take for granted. It is said that there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that Christ fulfilled, i.e. 300 that pointed to Christ, and some of them speak about his sufferings. Now the Old Testament period teachers really struggled with all of this for some prophecies also spoke about a coming One who would be a ruler. We’ll stick to prophecies from Isaiah for this comparison purpose. As to a ruler: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” (Isa 9:6,7) Note the ‘ruling language’ there.
Yet when we go into a later part of Isaiah we get pictures of a suffering servant: “See, my servant will prosper; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.” (Isa 52:13) Oh that’s confusing, it starts out speaking of his success! But watch how it continues: “there were many who were appalled at him– his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.” (Isa 52:14) That doesn’t sound very good! “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isa 53:2,3) This successful servant is not going to be a handsome hero and in fact he’s going to be despised and rejected!!!! “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5) It continues: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer (Isa 63:7-10) All of this speaks of the work of the Redeemer, the Messiah, the Christ.
All of this, God knew because it had been planned within the Godhead from before the foundation of the world. This is what the Spirit of God was communicating through many prophecies throughout the Old Testament period. Thus there were a number of prophets who found themselves speaking out these things and who were left wondering, “What does this mean? When will this happen?” Surely some times there was a double fulfilment in respect of what was spoken, a fulfilment within years and then centuries later through Jesus Christ, but even so the prophets were left wondering, and the teachers were left wondering, what form of person does this refer to? How can opposite pictures we true? These things seem contradictory! On one hand a victorious and glorious king, but on the other hand an oppressed and crushed servant! How can these things be? Is it any wonder they had lots of questions.
No wonder the apostle Paul spoke of “the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings.” (Rom 16:25,26) and “he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Eph 1:9,10) and “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.” (Col 1:26).
What does all this say? It says that this glorious Gospel was not some last minute strategy from God to dig the earth out of a hole; it was a plan that had been on God’s heart from the beginning of time and which came at exactly the right time in human history. Hallelujah!