1 Pet. 1:10-12
I’ve mentioned this before, but I'm both fascinated and maddened by what I call “throw-away” lines in the Bible. I know that strictly speaking, there’s no such thing in Scripture: Every noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and every tiny point of grammar and vocabulary was specifically chosen by the Holy Spirit. But there are times in God’s word in which the author just suddenly seems to “throw something in there” that you dearly wish he'd elaborate on. For example, Paul was castigating the Corinthian church for their shameful tendency to settle their inner legal disputes in a secular court system. He goes off on them severely, and just casually makes this argument: “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” "Sure, Paul, we. . . Saybuhwhat?!" And then of course he just goes on to make further arguments to make his point and doesn’t explain any further.
Quite frankly, a lot of the information we have about angels comes from this type of material. That’s because—once again—the Bible is meant to tell us what we need to know, not all that we'd like to know. If a biblical author gives us any information at all about these enigmatic creatures, it’s always there to make a practical point for our daily lives.
That brings us to today’s reading. Peter in this passage is trying to hammer home just how incredible and awe-inspiring our salvation in Christ really is. He reminds us of the prophets, and tells us that even though God revealed previously unknown truths to them, they still didn’t know everything about what they were writing and saying. Apparently they'd write something and ask themselves “Now what did he mean when he had me say that?” But the Lord explained enough for them to know that the time of fulfillment about which they were writing was not for their lifetimes but in ours.
But then comes our throw-away line. Just as Peter comes to the climax about our salvation, he casually mentions that “even angels long to look into these things.”
My friend, your salvation is a source of awe and wonder before the angels of God. They’ve seen creation and worshiped God near the beginning of it. They’re fully aware of what goes on in the spiritual realm, so they “see” things that we’re never going to grasp or fully understand (in this life). They have vast resources of wisdom and power that I can’t even imagine, having lived for so many years and seen so many things.
But I’ve got them beat in one vital area. They don’t understand salvation.
They’ve never experienced it. The bad angels (as far as we know) were never offered it, and the good angels have never needed it. I guess they can theologically grasp the facts. They understand that the Savior poured out his blood and that this somehow pays the penalty for my sins. They can intellectually understand the concept of forgiveness, I suppose.
But they’ve never experienced it. They’ve never known the feeling of overwhelming freedom from sensing that your sins are forgiven, now and forever. They’ve never been cleansed by the blood of Christ. They've never personally known grace, or mercy.
Poor, poor angels! When we reach glory some day, the great celestial choir will join in one voice to praise the One who deserves all praise. We'll all be able to sing about his Majesty, his Justice, his Power, his Wisdom, his Holiness. We can all sing about our Creator, our Judge, our Protector, our Provider, our Lord. But then the angels will have to fold their wings and be silent when the time comes to sing about redemption. They'll have to stand in awe and close their mouths as I sing about my Redeemer, my Savior, my Friend.
As the hymn writer Johnson Oatman, Jr. writes:
Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of heaven ring;
But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.
Lord Jesus, what can I say? All praise, all thanksgiving, all obedience, all honor, all worship belongs at your feet. Help me to practice Heaven in the here and now.