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Riveted Angels

The apostle Peter describes our salvation as predicted by Old Testament prophets who spoke of “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Peter 1:10–12). The prophets longed to grasp this gospel more fully. But the prophets weren’t the only ones. According to Peter, the gospel of our salvation also contains “things into which angels long to look.” And the reasons for their longing are worthy of our looking into. 

Peter’s words here are somewhat ironic, given our human interest in angels. How many of us long to look into what’s going on with them? And yet if you could listen in on their conversation, if you could see what’s on their bestseller list, if you could somehow travel into their abode and have a conversation with some angel standing sentry out there, he’d tell you that in their world, all the buzz centers around what Jesus is doing for you.

That is what they long to look into. That is what keeps them riveted. Your salvation is like a book they can’t put down, because they can’t wait to see what happens next. The angels are spectators of God’s great story. Ever since creation, they’ve been watching and marveling. In Job 38, we read of how when God laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4–7). They were like fans in the bleachers cheering as God displayed His wisdom; or like spectators watching the opening act of an epic movie, murmuring “This is gonna be good!” 

But the story wasn’t over; the best was yet to come. Peter reminds us that the angels don’t know all the details. That’s why they’re on the edge of their seats, because they don’t know all the spoilers! When Adam and Eve fell in the garden, and God promised to save them, the angels must’ve been wondering, “How’s He gonna pull this off?”

We get a picture of this in the mercy seat—the golden lid that sat atop the ark of the covenant covering God’s law, where the sacrificial blood was poured (see Exodus 25:17–22). Atop that mercy seat were two carved cherubim looking down, as Spurgeon put it, “intently gazing into the marvel of propitiation by blood.” That’s a picture of what we have in 1 Peter 1:12, the angels looking down in wonder at how Christ covered the law we had broken with His own obedience and blood.

As a Christian, you may think your life and calling are dull. But you’re wrong. There’s an epic drama unfolding that keeps even the angels riveted, and you’re at the center of it. In Ephesians 3:9–10, Paul says that it’s through you, the church, that God is making known His wisdom to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (i.e., the angels). As the angels watch what God is doing through you, they learn more and more how wise He is, and they stand up and cheer, and fall down and worship.

When the devil drew a third of the angels after him, God said, “Let them go.” But when the devil drew God’s human children after him, God said “I want them back. And by My holy name I will have them back, whatever it takes.” And unlike all the prophets and angels for millennia, we now know exactly what it took. In the words of Hebrews 2:9–16:

“We see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus … so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone … Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham.”

The holy angels didn’t need a Redeemer, and the devil and his angels didn’t get one. But when it comes to the fallen sons of Adam, God’s grace has overflowed all bounds. If we end up in the eternal fire with the devil and his angels, we won’t have the devil’s excuse. Because 2,000 years ago there was a Man on a cross with a nature like ours, who shed His blood for sinners just like us. So when you hear the message that says “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” (Isaiah 55:1), you’re being given a uniquely human privilege. It’s an invitation no angel has ever received. It’d be a shame to waste it.

There’s nothing wrong with being curious about angels. But it would be backwards to make them our focus. Because if we could look into Heaven at what they’re doing, we’d find their eyes fixed on the One seated on the throne, their mouths singing praises to the Lamb (Revelation 4–5). And we’d hear them telling us, “We are your fellow servants. Worship God” (see Revelation 19:10; 22:9). 

So let us wonder about angels but worship their God. And for every look we take at them, let us take ten looks at the object of their gaze: Jesus Christ, the One who was made lower than the angels that He might raise us above them.

—Justin Dillehay, condensed