Peter writes to encourage and admonish believers suffering terrible persecution. He emphasizes his gratitude for Christ’s mercy, resurrection, and salvation. In Christ we have an eternal inheritance, a living hope, and an inexpressible joy. He reminds believers that their suffering and trials are temporary and serve to strengthen and refine their faith (1 Peter 1:6–7). Following this introduction, Peter makes an interesting statement regarding both prophets and angels:
Peter reminds the New Testament believers that they are the recipients of the prophets’ scrupulous documentation and attention to Christ’s redemption. Even as they wrote of the Messiah’s suffering and glorification, the prophets did not fully understand what would happen or when it would happen. They desired to know the object to which Scripture pointed. New Testament believers now understand the gospel and the salvation about which the prophets had spoken.
Peter then says something unexpected about the angels: “Even angels long to look into these things.” That is, they are curious about the gospel and how and why it was procured. The angels live in the presence of God, so why would they be interested in human salvation (Matthew 18:10; 22:30)?
Believers in Jesus Christ understand what it is like to be dead in sin and alienated from God (Ephesians 2:1–3). They also understand the overwhelming grace and mercy shown in Christ dying the death they deserve (Ephesians 2:13). They are adopted into the family of God, and their relationship with God is redeemed (Romans 8:14–17). Angels, on the other hand, do not know the sweetness of redemption. They have no experiential knowledge of grace and salvation. Angels in heaven have not been separated from God, nor have they personally known reconciliation or the depth of intimacy that follows. It is a foreign concept that piques their curiosity. The Greek word for “to look into” means “to physically stoop down, peer intently, and inspect curiously.” Over the course of human history, angels have had a front row seat in watching God’s redemptive work with humanity (1 Timothy 3:16). The book of Hebrews describes them as “ministering spirits” sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14, ESV). They are amazed by salvation and lean in attentively, longing to understand its mysteries.
It is important to note that the angels who disobeyed God are not restored or redeemed like humanity. The Son of God became a man to redeem humanity; He did not become an angel to redeem the heavenly host. Angels cannot fully understand salvation, as it is not for them.
In the book of Exodus, we see further evidence of angelic interest in God’s mercy. God commands that the cherubim on the lid of the ark of the covenant were “to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover” (Exodus 25:20; cf. Numbers 7:89; 1 Kings 8:7–8; Hebrews 9:5). The mercy seat represents God’s throne; it is where His presence dwelt and the blood of the atonement was offered for sin. The gold cherubim on the ark were placed as if gazing upon God’s redemptive purposes. In 1 Peter, angels long to understand the immeasurable joy found in Christ’s atonement for sin.
The fact that angels long to look into things pertaining to our salvation is a poignant reminder of what a precious gift salvation is. May we long for salvation and cherish the wonder of redemption!