Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
— 1 Peter 1:10–12 —
In his commentary on 1 Peter, the late biblical theologian, Edmund Clowney, observes that “Glory is the goal of the Old Testament promises” (56). Indeed, glory is the goal of creation, salvation, and really everything God does in his world. And in 1 Peter 1:10–12, the apostle of Jesus widens his view of salvation to include all the Spirit of Christ revealed to the Old Testament prophets about the coming messiah, from his sufferings and his subsequent glories to the gospel of grace that came from Christ to the elect exiles in Asia Minor.
For us, who read 1 Peter, it is worth our time to ponder all that God has done in redemptive history also. Such a meditation solidifies the foundation on which we stand in Christ and secures us further in times of trial. Indeed, salvation, which comes by faith alone in Jesus Christ, depends upon understanding the Christ of Scripture and not the christ of our sentimental imaginings. With that in mind, we should constantly be rehearsing the high points of the biblical storyline to better know who Christ is and what he did.
To that end, Clowney highlights the story of God’s glory in his commentary on 1 Peter. And his summary, like his books on the subject seeing Christ in the Old Testament (The Unfolding Mystery and Preaching Christ from All of Scripture ) provide a helpful introduction to the Old Testament story and their fulfillment in Christ. As we prepare to hear from 1 Peter this Sunday, let us ponder the story of God’s glory as told by Edmund Clowney.
From the first oracle in the garden of Eden, God promised victory over the serpent through the Son of the woman. Peter, preaching after Pentecost, declared that Christ would remain in heaven until his coming again when ‘the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets’ [Acts 3:21].
Even a casual reading of the Old Testament prophets reminds us of their vision of glory. That vision stands out against the history of Israel. God promised Abraham that his descendants would be blessed, and would be a blessing to the nations [Gen. 12:1–3]. God did redeem and bless Israel. Solomon could say, when the temple was dedicated, that all God’s promises of blessing had been kept. He looked for the nations to be drawn to pray at God’s temple, and asked God to hear those prayers [1 Kgs. 8:56, 41–43]. But the glory that filled Solomon’s temple did not remain. Solomon himself turned his back on the house of God to dedicate a shrine to Chemosh on the Mount of Olives. Idolatry brought God’s judgment: the glory departed from the house of the Lord. Where the glory cloud had rested, the smoke of destruction pillared upward. Israel in the north, then Judah in the south, went into captivity.
The message of the prophets pronounces God’s judgment on the sin of his people, but it does not stop with judgment. The final vision of the Old Testament is not of dry bones in death valley [Ezekiel 37]. Rather, it is renewal beyond conceiving. The prophets picture the restoration of all that had been lost: the land, the temple, the sacrifices, the priesthood [Isa. 2:2–4; 56:7; Ezek. 40:2; 44;9–31; Jer. 33:18]. But the restoration does not look back to recover the past; it looks forward to God’s final renewal. God’s fulfilment will transform everything. Not only will the remnant of Judah and Israel be gathered, but the remnant of the Gentiles will be gathered with them [Isa. 2:2–4; 56:6–8; Mic. 4:1–3]. Not just Israel, but Egypt and Assyria will be called the people of God [Isa. 19:19–25; 66:21; Zec. 14:16–20]. Eden will be restored, and more: God will make a new creation where peace will be universal and darkness will be gone [Isa. 11:6–9; 30:26; 35:9; 60:20; 65:17; 66:22]. This incredible glory can come only because the God of glory will come. The Lord God will appear in order to save his people and renew creation [Isa. 35:1–10; 40:3, 10, 30; 60:1, 20; Zech. 14:16]. The coming of the Lord is joined to the coming of the Angel of the Lord, and to the coming of the Messiah, the Servant of the Lord [Isa. 9:6; Zech. 13:8; Mal. 3:1–2; Isaiah 40–42; Ezek. 34:11, 23. Cf. Pss. 2, 45, 72, 111]. On the mount of transfiguration Peter saw the glory of the Lord shine from the face of Jesus, the Son and Servant of God. Now Peter looks for the return of Christ in glory to finish his fulfilment of the promise of the prophets.
The Old Testament also describes the sufferings of the Messiah, the Servant of the Lord. In the Psalms we hear the cry of the righteous servant as the reproaches directed against God fall on him [Pss. 69:9; 22:1–21; 57:4; 59:3–4]. David’s wanderings to escape Saul’s jealous fury become a symbol of the innocent suffering of the Lord’s anointed. The prophets themselves suffer for their faithful proclamation of the word of the Lord [e.g., Elijah and Jeremiah]. The prophets show, too, that the animal sacrifices of the ceremonial law cannot make final atonement for sin. There must be a better sacrifice, a sacrifice God will provide; not the ram caught by its horns on Mount Moriah, but the willing offering of the Servant of the Lord, whose soul will be an offering for sin [Hos. 6:6; Isa. 1:11–17; Gen. 22:13–14; Isa. 53:12–53:12]. Suffering precedes glory because the precious blood of the Lamb of God opens glory for believers.
The pattern of sufferings and glory has profound meaning for the church. Job’s anguished accusations from the ashes have an astonishing answer. Our suffering is not a sign that Christ has betrayed us, or that he is no longer Lord; rather it is a sign of our fellowship with the risen Lord who first suffered for us. Suffering, indeed, becomes a sign of the glory that is to follow. (56–58)
From Clowney’s brief run down, we can see how glory pervades the promises of God and how Christ’s suffering is the necessary precursor to God’s final glory. This is what Peter wants his readers to see, and it was a lesson that he himself struggled to learned. Just consider how Peter initially opposed Christ’s sufferings (Matt. 16:21–23). Yet, for Peter and for us and for all who look forward to beholding the glory of Christ, we must see how Scripture speaks of Christ’s glory and the cross that led to his crown.
To that end let us continue to read the whole of Scripture, so that like the angels, we might behold the wondrous mystery of Christ promised in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New Testament, and now bringing saving grace to all those for whom he died and rose again. This is truly glorious and worth our eternal praise and our everlasting gaze!
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
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