Reading Malachi 4
Perhaps at the outset it is worth emphasizing that Malachi declares the certainly of the day of the Lord, “Behold, the day cometh!” That day must remain uppermost in our minds.
- It is the day of judgment. A dreadful day for the unrepentant wicked, when their hopelessness, guilt and doom will be made manifest and settled, ushering in their eternal destruction (perdition i.e. loss of everything, especially the soul). A day when God’s wrath will burn as fire. Psalm 50, Isaiah 13:9, 34:10, John 15:16, Heb.6:8. It is a day of indignation and vengeance and the end of the created universe as we know it. The judgment of the high and mighty proud on earth is also emphasized. However we recognise that those who do wickedly and never repent and obey the gospel are all the proud who do not believe God’s word in the gospel and ignore or despise the Son of God (Isaiah 2:12-21, Obadiah 15-17, Zech. 14). The unity of the scriptures is exhibited in the fact that the second coming is a theme running right through them. The fire will refine and purify the creation (II Peter 3:7-14) just as God in affliction purifies his people (Zechariah 13:9). We believe the only thing God actually consumes and annihilates is SIN! (Hebrews 12:29).
- Fire, we really do not know if it is literal or not, does not destroy the wicked (Rev.19:10, 20:10, 18. Isaiah 66:24 quoted in Mark 9:44, 45).
- For God’s people, who must all be brought in by then, this day brings rest, from labour and suffering, great joy in God (I Peter 4:13, I Thess.2:19), excitement, peace and the absence of fear because we are perfectly loved and go to meet our beloved Saviour if we are still on earth.
Elijah who is to come is John the Baptist who came in the bold spirit and power of Elijah. They were both prophets, dressed alike, lived in the wilderness, were “loners” and admonished kings. They preached repentance and God granted it to many through them (Matt.3:1-11).
We believe the ministry of John is carried on by all God’s people and true preachers who point people to Christ and call them to repentance before the great day comes.
In answering the difficult question of why Luke in 1:17 changes the quotation from Mal.4:6, we postulated that Malachi wrote with the Jews (of Judea) in mind (fathers and children) and God’s curse did come on them in A.D.70 whereas Luke with Jew and Gentile in mind, speaks in more general terms of the conversion of all kinds of people, at a later date, as the end of the world approaches. In considering the hearts of fathers turned to the children and vice versa, we see this fulfilled in fathers loving, caring for, nurturing, teaching and admonishing (and not provoking) their covenant seed in line with God’s word. In like manner the children obey and reverence their parents. This comes about by:
- The conviction that this is a parental priority and giving their children time.
- The church teaching through preaching, catechism etc.
- Family devotions/prayer.
As we return to consider God’s people on this day we read of Christ coming as the great light, the source of our righteousness and the one who will heal us and all creation from the corrupting effects of the fall. This is pictured figuratively as the calves released from the stall who like us, will be freed from the miserable constraints of sin.
Furthermore, we will judge the wicked angels and people (in Christ) and this will be a great encouragement because it means justice and retribution.
Malachi, seeing the day of the Lord as one, including his birth and his return teaches us how God, in eternity, views time. A thousand years are as a day!
We also remembered that Christ is always coming in the salvation of his people in the incarnation, his baptism, his transfiguration, his cross, Pentecost, the effectual call through the preaching, the saint’s death and ultimately on the last day.
As we wait we must be characterised by purity and obedience.