For more than a decade I’ve been fascinated by angels—those mysterious, unseen spiritual messengers. Compared to humans, Peter says that angels are greater in might and power (2 Pet. 2:11), which is why Psalm 8 describes us as “a little lower than the angels.” I’ve long been curious: What do angels do? What are they like? What would we hear them talking about if we could listen in on their conversation?
For me, this fascination began when I first read C. S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet. The epiphany I had reading it is directly connected to a phrase in 1 Peter 1:12, a phrase Lewis puts into the mouth of one of his fictional “eldil” (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 Pet. 1:10–11). 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 Deep Heaven like in Lewis’s story 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 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?”
Your salvation is like a book they can’t put down, because they can’t wait to see what happens next.
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. Atop that mercy seat were two carved cherubim looking down, as Spurgeon put it, “intently gazing into the marvel of propitiation by blood” (Ex. 25:20). 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 is provincial and 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, 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.
What Angels Can’t Sing
When I was a church kid, we used to sing a song about heaven called “Ten Thousand Years.” And there was a line in that song that said,
We will just begin to sing love’s sweet story
It’s a song that the angels cannot sing:
I’m redeemed by the blood of my Savior
And ten thousand years or more I’ll praise his name.
Angels may be greater in power, but saints are greater in privilege. Because you have something they don’t. Jesus did something for you that he never did for them. If you could somehow talk to an angel and ask, “What’s got you so curious? Why are you so interested in my little life?” He would say, “It’s because I have a Creator, but you have a Redeemer.”
That’s how much God loves you. 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.”
Angels may be greater in power, but saints are greater in privilege.
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 Jesus, who . . . was made lower than the angels . . . so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. . . . Since the children share in the flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, so that through death, he might destroy the one who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver 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.
Michael and his angels didn’t need a Redeemer, and the Devil and his angels didn’t get one. Think about that. In Matthew 25:41 Jesus says that there’s an eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. And that’s it. No second chance, no atonement made, no salvation offered. The Devil and his angels are a standing reminder that God doesn’t owe salvation to anyone. It’s by grace. God didn’t lift a finger to save any of the fallen angels, and he remained totally righteous.
As a Christian, you may think your life is provincial and 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.
But when it comes to the fallen sons of Adam, his 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,” you’re being given a uniquely human privilege (Isa. 55:1). It’s an invitation no angel has ever received. It’d be a shame to waste it.
Where Angels Love to Look
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 (Rev. 4–5). And we’d hear them telling us, “We are your fellow servants. Worship God” (Rev. 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.