By Spencer D Gear
We who live in the 21st century are at an incredible advantage when it comes to knowing Christ. How come? If an all-knowing God exists who knows everything, he knows the future – all of the future. If this God exists, it is possible for him to make predictive prophecy about the future.
In fact, one of the strongest pieces of evidence that the Bible is inspired by God is its prophecy about the future. The Bible is like no other book. It “offers a multitude of specific predictions – some hundreds of years in advance – that have been literally fulfilled or else point to a definite future time when they will come true” (Geisler 1999, p. 609).
Bible teacher, the late J. Barton Payne listed “1817 predictions in the Bible, 1239 in the Old Testament and 578 in the New” (Geisler 1999, p. 609).
A young converted Jewess, daughter of a New York rabbi, tells this story:
My father taught me to read the Bible in Hebrew when a young child. We began at Genesis. When we came to Isaiah he skipped the fifty-third chapter. I asked him why. He said it was not necessary for Jews to read that chapter. I became more curious. I asked him who it was for, and he said Christians. I asked him what the Christian Bible was doing in our Bible. He became very angry and told me to keep quiet. He said again it was not necessary to read it.
I wondered why God would put unnecessary things in the Bible. I copied the fifty-third chapter on paper and carried it in my stocking for two years until I came to America—the free country. I looked at it at night and every chance I could without being seen. I took better care of that paper than people do of money.
Through reading this wonderful chapter I was led to accept Christ as my Saviour. I was walking in New York one day and heard a lady reading this chapter. She explained that it referred to Jesus Christ. It satisfied me completely (Sunday School Times, n.d.).
What’s so special about Isaiah 53? Here are verses 4-6 from that chapter:
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 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. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
I want to link a passage like Isa. 53:4-6 to I Peter 1:10-12 because Peter states that this wonderful salvation that we experience today was predicted long ago by Old Testament prophets and was fulfilled in Christ’s death.
What is “this salvation”? We have read about it, using many different terms in the first 9 verses of 1 Peter. Peter speaks of:
- God’s elect, chosen (vv. 1-2);
- Sprinking by his blood (v. 2);
- New birth (v. 3); Living hope (v. 3);
- Inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (v. 4);
- Salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (v. 5);
- Your faith – of greater worth than gold (v. 7);
- You believe in Christ “and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (v. 8);
- “You are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (v. 9).
What does this passage say about the OT prophets and their predictions about “this salvation”?
I. First, the prophets of the OT spoke of the grace to come (v. 10).
This passage doesn’t tell us which prophets spoke about this grace to come. We’ll look at those prophets in a moment. Still in v. 10:
II. Second, these prophets of the OT searched intently.
The NIV translates that they “searched intently and with the greatest care.”
The KJV: ” have enquired and searched diligently.”
The ESV translates: “searched and inquired carefully”
- “Earnestly sought” (generally);
- “Earnestly searched” (specifically) [Lenski 1966, p. 44].
These OT prophets not only spoke to the people of their day, but they spoke of the time when the Messiah would come. In predicting the future, they did not clearly understand exactly what they were predicting. Daniel 8:27 explains: “I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.”
Daniel 12:8: “I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, ‘My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?’”
Remember what Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 10:23-24: “‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’”
The prophets of the OT longed to see what we have experienced. The disciples saw it and upon us this mighty prophesied salvation has been outpoured.
III. Third, the prophets of the OT tried to find the time of Christ’s sufferings and glories (v. 11).
The NT used two Greek works for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos refers to chronology – day after day, month after month. Peter was NOT saying that the prophets were wanting to find the exact date of Christ’s first coming 2,000 years ago.
Here Peter refers to kairos time: “What kind of period the Spirit in them was indicating” (Lenski 1966, p. 11). The prophets were pointing to an era, a dispensation. “With the life and especially the suffering and death of Jesus, the old age has passed away and with the . . . present time of true divine righteousness (Rom. 3:26) a new epoch, the fulfillment of the times, has dawned” (Hahn 1978, p. 837). It was this “period of time characterized by some feature . . . a ‘time charged with opportunity’ . . . the salvation of the Messianic age” (Selwyn 1947/1981, p. 135).
There are “29 prophecies from the Old Testament, which speak of the betrayal, trial, death, and burial of our Lord Jesus Christ, [which] were spoken at various times by many different voices during the five centuries from 1000-500 B.C., and yet all of them were literally fulfilled in Jesus in one twenty-four-hour period of time” (McDowell 1972, p. 58).
While the OT prophets are not mentioned by name here in I Peter, we are told that these prophets “predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (v. 11). To what prophecies could Peter be referring?
A. Those that predicted Christ’s sufferings:
Let’s look at a few examples of Christ’s sufferings that were prophesied:
1. Psalm 41:9, “Even my close friend, whom I trusted,he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9). This was fulfilled in Jesus’ betrayal by Judas (Matt. 26:49-50);
2. Isa. 53:7, ” 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. He did not open his mouth before his accusers” (fulfilled in Matt. 27:12-19);
3. Isa 53:5, ” 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.” Zech. 13:6 states, “If someone asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ he will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’” Fulfilled in Matt. 27:26.
4. Isa. 50:6, ” I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” (also in Micah 5:1; fulfilled in Matt. 26:67)
5. Ps. 22:7, ” All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads” (filfilled in Matt. 27:39-43).
What about the prophecies that indicated the glories of Christ?
B. Those that predicted Christ’s “glories.”
What could that be referring to? Please note that this is not the singular, “glory,” but the plural “glories” of Christ. On the Road to Emmaus, after Christ’s resurrection, Luke 24:26 records this: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
What are these glories that were prophesied? These are referring to the glory of Christ’s resurrection, the glory of the ascension, the glory of Christ’s second coming (Kistemaker 1987, p. 42).
Where do we have OT examples of
1. The Resurrection of Christ
Ps. 16:10, “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Paul discusses the fulfillment of this verse in Christ’s resurrection in Acts 2:27).
Another prediction about Christ’s resurrected glory is in Ps. 30:3: ” O LORD , you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.”
Where do we have OT predictions of
2. The Ascension of Christ
Ps. 110:1 states, ” The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” This is acknowledged as a fulfillment of Christ’s ascension in Acts 2:34.
What about the glory of Christ’s Second Coming? Was that predicted by the OT prophets?
3. Christ’s Second Coming
Yes it was. Take a look at verses such as these:
Daniel 7:13-14: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Zechariah 14:4-5, 9: “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. . . Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. . . The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD , and his name the only name.”
This is referring to Christ’s Second Coming. Peter goes on to tell us that
IV. Fourth, the prophets of the OT discovered this: They were not serving themselves but us (v. 12)
Isn’t this amazing? It ties the OT and NT together. These OT prophets did not fully understand the circumstances and the era to which they were referring, but this they knew: “We are not serving ourselves.” They knew they were writing for another generation. They were servants of us.
One of the things that has really struck me this week is the profound unity of the Bible. Both OT and NT are tied together by a wonderful prophetic bond. It has also provoked me to do more preaching on the OT. In my preaching ministry I have concentrated on preaching the NT. But OT and NT are a unity. If I don’t preach adequately from the OT, two-thirds of the Bible is neglected.
The Jesus who came to die on the cross, rise again, and ascend into heaven, is coming again to reign in righteousness over the whole earth. It is an everlasting kingdom and King Jesus will be King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
I also want us to note that . . .
V. Fifth, these things have now been preached in the gospel.
“through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (v. 12). See the sacred thread!
The OT prophets spoke
- to their own generations,
- but they prophesied about a future era when
- the Messiah would come to earth,
- die a criminal’s death for our sin,
- rise again,
- ascend into heaven, and then
- with the promise he is coming again.
There’s one other fascinating point in these 3 verses:
VI. Sixth, of these things, even the angels are ignorant (v. 12)
“Even angels long to look into these things.” What could this possibly mean?
Let’s state something very clearly. The Bible is clear about the existence of good angels. What’s an angel look like? As a general rule, you won’t be able to see them. Bible teacher, Wayne Grudem, gives this basic definition that I think is consistent with what the Bible says: an angel is “a created spiritual being with moral judgment and high intelligence but without a physical body” (Grudem 1999, p. 479).
Briefly, what’s the place of angels in the purposes of God?  The ministry of angels falls into some well defined areas.
A. They ministered to Christ.
During the lifetime of Jesus, there was extra angelic activity. For example, they
1. Predicted Christ’s birth (Luke 1:26-33);
2. They announced His birth (Luke 2:13);
3. They protected him as a baby. When the Magi had left, Matt. 1:13 tells us that “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream” telling Joseph, Mary & Jesus to flee to Egypt;
4. Angels strengthened Jesus after his temptation (Matt. 4:11);
5. When Jesus was arrested just prior to the crucifixion, he stated that his heavenly father could “at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels” (Matt. 26:53), but he did not use them;
6. They strengthened him in Gethsemane (Lk. 22:43), and
7. They rolled away the stone from the tomb and announced His resurrection (Matt. 28:2, 6).
B. What’s the ministry of angels to believers?
1. Angels serve us, according to Heb. 1:14, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” They are engaged “in their ordinary activities of guarding and protecting us (Ps. 34:7; 91:11; Heb. 1:14)” (Grudem 1994, p. 397). Ps. 34:7 states: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” It’s an unseen, but profound, ministry of angels to those of us who are believers. You won’t see them doing this ministry, but we can be assured that angels are ministering to us who believe.
Who knows how many times you have been protected from dangers and even death by God’s angels who surround you!
2. Angels are involved in answering prayer (Acts 12:7). This was Peter’s miraculous escape from prison: “Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.”
3. Angels give encouragement in times of danger. When Paul was threatened from a severe storm at sea on his way to Rome, Acts 27:23-24 records: “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’”
4. Angels care for believers at death. Remember the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:22, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.” See also Jude 9.
C. Angels have a ministry to the nations of the world.
In Revelation, chs 8-10, angels are involved in judging the nations.
D. There’s a ministry of angels to unbelievers.
1. In Acts 12:23 angels are involved in judgment. It states: “Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
2. In Matt. 13:39-41, in the parable of the weeds (wheat & tares), it states: “and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.”
So, what does it mean here in 1 Peter 1:12, “even angels long to look into these things”? The verb, “long to look” means “to stoop over to look. It implies willingness to exert or inconvenience oneself to obtain a better perspective” (Blum 1981, p. 222).
Angels are continuously giving this salvation a close examination.
Let’s apply this to ourselves today.
All right, God predicted the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, hundreds of years before they happened. So what?
1. First, J. Barton Payne, in his Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy
stated that “it has been calculated that 27 percent of the entire Bible contains predictive prophecy. This is true of no other book in the world. And it is a sure sign of its divine origin” (cited in Geisler 1999, p. 617). God’s prophecies about Jesus and everything else demonstrates his omniscience (his knowledge).
“The Old Testament written over a 1,500 year period contains several hundred references to the coming Messiah. All of these were fulfilled in Christ and they establish a solid confirmation of His credentials as Messiah” (McDowell 1972, p. 147).
Peter Stoner considered the fulfillment of “48 prophecies” concerning Christ and looked at the probability of those being fulfilled in ONE person. He concluded: “We find the chance that any one man fulfilled all 48 prophecies to be 1 in 10157“. That’s a chance of 1 in 1 followed by 157 zeros.
This shows that God is a God of truth – absolutely. You can depend on his accuracy. Use this fact when you are witnessing to others.
2. Second, if God knows what will happen hundreds, even thousands, of years before it happens, what does that mean about what God knows about you – to the minutest detail?
After 27 years of youth and family counselling, this I know: I am staggered at the length children and their parents will go to keep facts from others – to lie about the details in their lives.
But there is absolutely nothing you can hide from God. When you face him one day as Saviour or Judge, you will get a 100% accurate assessment of who you are and what you have done with Jesus and with your life.
I urge you to be open and honest with your children, parents and spouses. God hates lies. Live in the light of eternity.
You can hide nothing from God. What are you trying to hide from him today? Where are you in your relationship with him?
3. Third, Peter says that the prophets, gospel preachers, and the angels, are all concerned about “this salvation.” Are you?
Michael Green, British evangelist, states that
whenever Christianity has been at its most healthy, evangelism has stemmed from the local church, and has had a noticeable impact on the surrounding area. I do not believe that the re-Christianisation of the West can take place without the renewal of local churches in this whole area of evangelism. We need a thoughtful, sustained, relevant presentation of the Christian faith, in word and in action, embodied in a warm, prayerful, lively local church which has a real concern for its community at all levels (Green 1990, p. ix).
For evangelism to be real, it needs to come from this local church. Evangelism is proclaiming Christ AND your presence in this community as a born-again community.
That great Baptist preacher and evangelist of the 19th-century, C. H. Spurgeon, maintained that evangelism “is one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread” (in Green 1990, p. 8). I like that definition because it places the emphases on the needs of the people living in this region (they are deprived spiritual beggars) and it places an emphasis on the generosity of you and me, the givers. We have spiritual bread to give and this community desperately needs it.
What will this church do, from this local church, to change the spiritual and moral climate of the Kolan Shire? You know that this church will die if you don’t evangelise. But even worse is that this community will be in spiritual darkness, the moral climate will decline, crime and violence will only worsen – if you don’t evangelise.
Have you experienced the good news? How dare you keep it to yourselves?
I was reading my local newspaper, Bundaberg NewsMail, on Feb. 5, 2005, in which there was an article about a “psychics true words” that swayed a “major sceptic” of a journalist (that’s how he described his views) into being a psychic believer of sorts.
What did the psychic do? She told him things about his family life, his height, his wife’s height, and the colour of his wife’s hair. She even told him the number of children (male and female), and even told him which child was the “really stubborn one.”
But why did this journalist go to interview the psychic? She “has helped search for missing Sunshine Coast boy, Daniel Morcombe.” That’s a tragic situation for Daniel’s family. I pray that Daniel will be found or his parents know what happened to him.
Have a guess what? This psychic might have been able to tell the journalist cute things about his family, BUT she was an utter failure when she came to finding the whereabouts of Daniel Morcombe. When push came to shove, her psychic abilities did not locate Daniel. Daniel is still missing.
That’s not how it is with God Almighty. He predicted the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ, hundreds of years before they happened. Have a guess what? They all came true, right down to the minutest detail.
God has also predicted Christ’s second coming and it will happen just as he has stated – right down to the details he has prophesied. God keeps his promises – accurately. He is not like a hit and miss psychic. He is the living God who tells the truth, all the time, and in prophecy.
That’s why leading Bible teacher and theologian, Norman Geisler, has stated that “one of the strongest evidences that the Bible is inspired by God . . . is its predictive prophecy” (Geisler 1999, p. 609). God predicts with 100% accuracy.
Blum, E. A. 1981, ’1,2 Peter’, in F. E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary(vol. 12), Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.
Geisler, N. L. 1999, ‘Prophecy, as Proof of the Bible’, in N. L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Green, M. 1990, Evangelism through the Local Church, Hodder & Stoughton, London.
Grudem, W. 1994, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England/Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.
Grudem, W. 1999 (ed. J Purswell), Bible Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England.
Hahn, H. C. 1978, ‘Time’, in C. Brown (ed.), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (vol. 3), Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Kistemaker, S. J. 1987, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire.
Lenski, R. C. H. 1966, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude (Commentary on the New Testament), Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MASS.
McDowell, J. 1972, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Campus Crusade for Christ Inc., Arrowhead Springs, San Bernardino, CA.
Ryrie, C. C. 1972, A Survey of Bible Doctrine, Moody Press, Chicago.
Selwyn, E. G. 1947, 1981, The First Epistle of St. Peter (Thornapple Commentaries), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Sunday School Times (date unknown), available from “Illustrations,” at: http://elbourne.org/sermons/index.mv?illustration+4252 [10 March 2005].
2. The following is based on Ryrie 1972, p. 90f.
Copyright (c) 2007, Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at: 13 October 2015.