Doctor Feelgood had a mega-practice. Everyone came to see him because he always made them feel good about their health. People with heart problems, cancer, tumors, and other extreme illnesses flocked to him. He pledged to his patients, “I will never mention the “C” word or anything that will make you feel uncomfortable. You will never hear me say, ‘You are about to die.’” People with terminal illnesses always left his practice feeling good about their future. However, reality set in for these sick folk and eventually the medical association shut him down for malpractice.
Too bad we do not have a monitoring board for churches, seminaries, and preachers. A board which could revoke the ordination of preachers who always make their members feel good about themselves. They never mention sin, hell, or anything which would make people feel uncomfortable. Therefore, they would never preach from a passage like Malachi 4. This passage warns of future judgment, but also gives a future hope, so that men will miss the judgment.
Malachi has proclaimed God’s displeasure with the leaders and the general population of Israel. The Lord rebuked His people for their offering blemished sacrifices, for marrying foreign women, divorcing their covenant wives, not giving to the Lord, and envying the evildoer. We look at this final section of Malachi and see three directives which warn men and give hope also.
I. ADMONITION FOR THE DAY OF THE LORD v. 1-3
In this section the Lord describes judgment for the sinner and hope for the saint.
A. Judgment for the Sinner v. 1
Malachi classifies the sinner in two categories, the “arrogant and evildoer.” The “arrogant” man is “insolent, presumptuous, proud, haughty, or self-willed.” “Evildoer” is actually “doer,” but both words compare to 3:15, the “arrogant and the doers of wickedness.” These two groups become the target on the day of the Lord.
What will that day be like? Here it states that it will come “burning like a furnace.” The arrogant and doer of evil will be like chaff consumed by this fire. The description is that this day will “set them ablaze.” This fire will be so consuming that there will be neither branch nor root left. These are hardly words of hope and encouragement. The purpose of messages like this in God’s word is simple— the Lord wants to warn people of coming judgment.
The “day of the Lord” mainly refers to a coming judgment which will impact all those who, as Revelation calls them, are “earth dwellers.” These people live on earth at the beginning of the tribulation period and especially those who are left at the Lord’s Second Coming. Included in this would be those who rebel at the end of the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
This warning was for those sons of Israel who thought they were okay just because of their heritage. This warning carries great relevance for us today. We must carefully allow the Lord to convict us, so that we do not assume because of how we were raised that we are automatically excluded from this warning. I am not Dr. Feelgood! The truth is that if you have not trusted Christ, you are destined for this fiery day. Furthermore, this fire only burns the body. Hell will be a burning which never ceases and is somehow bringing torment to the soul forever. We are all headed for this fire without trusting Christ.
B. Encouragement for the Saint v. 2-3
In contrast, God offers encouragement for those who revere the Lord’s name. In 1:6 the priests despised the name of the Lord, which stands in contrast to those who revere His name. These are people who have trusted Christ and held His name in high regard. The name of God represents His attributes, His ability, or activity. It makes sense that one who has experienced the saving ability of Jesus, will revere His name.
For the saint, the day of fire for the wicked is a day compared to the sun of righteousness shining upon them. This phrase, based on context, refers to the day. However, that day the Son will come and so indirectly this refers to Christ. This day will arise “with healing in its wings.” This will be a new day for the saint, with complete healing in every way. The verse goes on with the picture of the calves skipping about from their stalls. This pictures freedom for the saint. As the saint skips about like the freed calf he walks on the ashes of the burned up sinner.
Thus the saint who sat in envy of the sinner, will one day see that the sinner got his just reward. Herein is the encouragement for the saint. All of the trouble of this life, including watching evil people prosper, will vanish in the day of the Lord. The saint will see God’s judgment enforced upon the sinner, and he will experience the blessing of healing, of freedom, of joy and victory.
II. INJUNCTION FOR THE DAY OF THE LORD v. 4
After the scary and hopeful warning God interjects, “Remember the law of Moses My servant….” After this warning, God commands obedience to His Law. Moses is mentioned as being God’s servant. Moses always means the Law, both in terms of his association with God giving them to him, and also in type. As stated in John 1:17, “For the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”
Remembering the Law would not be an injunction for law keeping, except that God wanted them to see their sin and need for Christ. This was the ultimate purpose for the Law. God used it to show Israel their need for the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Yet, the Law also revealed Christ in the types of the sacrifices, the tabernacle itself, and in many of the Laws. Luke 24:27 states, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Verse 5 must be included when thinking of the prophets, for Elijah will prepare for this day of the Lord. Malachi includes the prophet of prophets from the Old Testament. This day of the Lord is not just revelation of God’s judgment, but also the manifestation of the Son of God in great power.
Thus the injunction is not about remembering laws, but the prophecies and pictures of the coming Messiah.
III. PREPARATION FOR THE DAY OF THE LORD v. 5-6
Before us is a double prophecy, one fulfilled partially at the first coming of Christ, and the other completely fulfilled at the Second coming of Christ.
Obviously, we find Scripture confirming that this prophecy was partially fulfilled in John the Baptist. First, this would correspond with Malachi 3:1, where God will send forth His messenger. Secondly, Luke 1:8-17 records Malachi’s words in relation to the birth of John. These words were spoken by the angel to Zacharias, promising that John would be born. The job of restoring the sons of Israel to the Lord would fall upon John. He would prepare the day of the Lord, in the sense of preparing the way for Christ. John would minister to families turning the hearts of fathers to their sons. Thirdly, Jesus declared that Elijah had come and Matthew interprets this as John the Baptist (Matthew 17:11-13; Mark 9:12-13).
However, there is more to this prophecy. We must realize that there remains a future fulfillment. There are several reasons for believing this. First, the day of the Lord, in this context, refers to judgment. Secondly, John denied that he was Elijah (John 1:21-23). A third reason again comes from Matthew 17:11, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things.” Jesus then explained that Elijah had come “and they did not recognize him” (Luke 17:18). The rejection of John obviously prevented “Elijah” restoring all things. Revelation 11:1-13 speaks of two witnesses during the tribulation who will have prophetic powers. It seems plausible that one of these two is Elijah. We know that on the Mount of Transfiguration Elijah and Moses appeared with Christ. Is it possible that since Malachi mentions both in this passage that these are the two witnesses of Revelations 11?
What is clear, is that God sets forth a warning. He warns the people of Malachi of the day of the Lord which will burn up the sinner and heal the saint. He points the people to the Law and Elijah as ones who prophetically set forth the coming of Messiah. Messiah is the One who will save, and must be the object of a person’s faith for them to escape judgment.