When Jesus came to be born as a man, live the sinless life, die, and rise again, it was the pivot point of human history. Salvation had come, the Mystery had been revealed. Though Peter was not necessarily speaking of the Christmas story, he points to this fact as he explains the salvation we have been given through Christ.
After pointing to the results of believing in Jesus, he begins to describe “the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you” (1 Peter 1:10). The Old Testament prophets pointed forward to Jesus, and they were moved of the Spirit to tell of the coming Messiah. However, they didn’t understand everything about it. Peter says “they made careful searches and inquiries” into these things (v. 10). Still, they were faithful to speak as God led them.
But what kind of things did the prophets foresee about Jesus? Mostly, they spoke of “the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow” (v. 11). Think of passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, or even Zechariah 9. This is the emphasis of Peter’s flow of thought, for it is these prophecies that describe “salvation” (1 Peter 1:10).
But if we can use this concept as a jumping off point, let’s look at some other prophecies about the Messiah which were given to us (v. 12). Perhaps one of the most well-known is Isaiah 9:2-7, which says:
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; they will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”
Now if you’re like me, You’re hearing Handel’s Messiah every time you read that passage. What glorious promises. But notice that Isaiah seems to speak of a single event, as if the restoration of Israel and everlasting peace would come when the Messiah was born. Certain mysteries of the Messiah’s reign (such as the church age) were hidden from them. This is why Peter says “the prophets…made careful searches and inquiries,” since they knew they didn’t understand everything they were speaking of (1 Peter 1:10).
But back to what they did say. Micah records:
“‘But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His times of coming forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.’ Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth. Then the remainder of His kinsmen will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.”Micah 5:2-4
The prophecy goes on, but this provides a good glimpse. Here, not only do we have the exact birthplace of the Messiah (given hundreds of years before Jesus was born), but also an acknowledgement that the Messiah is eternal.
There are many other predictions of Jesus’ birth, but many more of His life and death. However, these two alone show the great expectation the Jews would have had as they looked forward to the Messiah’s coming. Again, they may not have understood all the details, but they knew enough to recognize that the Messiah would radically change their lives and bring the salvation they needed.
And that is Peter’s point in his epistle. The prophets looked forward to Jesus’ life, and we look back on it. We have the benefit of clearly understanding who Jesus was, what He did, and what has happened because of it. Some of the prophecies are unfulfilled at this time, but we know they will come to pass. “The Holy Spirit” was the One who “moved” the prophets to speak “these things which now have been announced to you” (1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:21). These truths are so marvelous, they are “things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12). The holy angels who stand before the presence of the almighty God cannot understand the gospel, not fully anyway.
But the message has been told to us. It was told to the prophets, it was told to the shepherds, and it is told to us now. Because of this and how marvelous these truths are, there is a certain response we ought to have, Peter says. The first thing he points out is that we must “prepare [our] minds for action” (v. 13). We are in a war, and we cannot grow slack. We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent or apathetic. This is why he also says, “Keep sober in spirit,” and, “Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v. 13). There is coming a day when Jesus will return, and we ought to look forward to that with great and eager expectation.
But did you notice the theme Peter brings out that he’s been emphasizing over and over again? This world is not our home. Jesus did not come so that we would be happy and content with the way things are. No, He came to provide salvation so that we can live with Him forever, first in the Millennial Kingdom, then in the New Heavens and Earth. We often forget that and get near-sighted, becoming anxious and discouraged by the trials around us. Peter’s audience was facing great difficulty too. This reminder to them is the same encouragement offered to us. Jesus came once, and He is coming again. When He does, we will receive our promised “inheritance” and live with Him in perfect peace (v. 4).
So this Christmas season, we should look back on the birth of Jesus and rejoice. Praise God Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But we should praise God just as much for what Jesus will do when He returns. This world is not our home. For now, we are in a war. A spiritual war, but a war none the less. We must live for Him even in the face of difficulties, knowing that the prize is coming. When He receives His Kingdom and takes us home, I know there will not be a single doubt of whether it was worth it. We will finally be in the place we were made for. We will finally be home.