Elijah in view

MALACHI -Fifteenth and final in a series

Assurance of salvation is promised to the servants of the Lord in the third chapter of Malachi; now in this final chapter, we see what is in store for the unrighteousness.
Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

Judgment Day brings total annihilation of the wicked and the prideful. We expect to see criminals judged, but God states that the proud, as well, will be sentenced to death. Those who lived apart from God will meet a common fate in the unquenchable fire (Mat 3:12). There is no remnant here, no branch, no root.

Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
Like calves in the stall, God's friends can look forward to days of protection and loving care.

Who said that Malachi was not poetic? It was noted in the second post that he lived in the decline of Hebrew poetry, yet we see in this and other verses that poetry lived in and through Malachi.

Malachi 4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
This Sun with lovely wings has feet of steel hardened in a fiery furnace, and he will trample down our enemies. We who follow in his steps will walk upon their ashes. His victory is ours.

An exhortation to the faithful:
Malachi 4:4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
By obeying the Law the Jews could do valiantly even with no prophet throughout the 400 years that loomed ahead before the Messiah would come.

Malachi 4:5-6 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Much has been written about these last verses of Malachi by theologians over the ages.

Some say they reference John the Baptist who came in the power and spirit of Elijah (Luke 1:17); that Malachi is warning the Jews to look for that one who would cry out for the people to repent, for he would prepare the way for the Messiah.

Some say the language would be more accurately translated that the heart of the fathers would turn to God along with the children and vice versa, meaning that the Baptist's call would be inclusive for each member of the nation, young and old. Each would need to repent, no matter their station or child's heart.

Others state that these final verses refer to Elijah himself who will appear again on the earth before the second coming of Jesus (Rev 11:3), which will be the "great and dreadful day" of the Lord. Yet, if that Final Day is in view, why would God threaten that, should there be no repentance, then He will smite the earth with a curse? Isn't Judgment Day that time when God assuredly does destroy the earth?

This is the argument against such an interpretation, and those making it point out that Malachi was trying to warn the Jews they could escape the doom of Jerusalem that would follow the rejection of Christ by the Hebrews. In AD 70, the temple was burned, the city was razed, and more than one million people were killed.

Yet, it is rejoined that up to the 1600s and the time of the Reformers, the language of the passage was accepted as a reference to Elijah himself, and was not associated with John the Baptist.

After all, John was already referenced in Malachi 3:1— "Behold I will send my messenger"… Is there a need to repeat that promise? No, we should see a reference to the second coming, not to the first.

Of course, repeating a Bible promise is not uncommon. So, do these verses point to John and the first coming of Christ, or to the Second Coming and Elijah, who did not die but was taken up from the earth in a whirlwind (2 Ki 2:11)?

We know that a final time of repentance is prophesied for the Jews (Zech 12:10) and they will be received by God, restored to their roots (Rom 11:15). This is why some state the the proper interpretation of these verses is that the fathers are the Jews and the children are the Christians, who are united as brothers in the final days.

Yet Malachi seems to be saying that such repentance by the Jews would prevent God from cursing the earth, and we know that he finally does destroy it.

Could we say that the final destruction by fire is not a curse but a cleansing? This seems to stretch the truth; after all, judgment is no different from being cursed by God.

Thus, we would need to see that, in fact, when Elijah appears at the end of time, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord, though some repent, fathers to or with children, not all do, and like Sodom, on balance there are not enough repentant to spare the earth, which is the plain language of Scripture (Rev 11:10).

In other words, God through Malachi reveals there is hope for the repentant, yet knowing an end is in view when Elijah prophesies with the second witness. Likewise, Isaiah did not expect to succeed when told to call Israel to repentance (Is 6:8-11).

Many will not admit this interpretation, since a literal reading seems too far fetched. Can we really believe that Elijah and Enoch, who also did not die but was taken up (Gen 5:24), will actually preach in Jerusalem for 1,260 days, then be killed by the Beast, then after three and a half days rise and ascend to heaven? Improbable.

So there we have a summary of the historic commentaries over the centuries, many written before the reestablishment of Israel in the 20th century.

It is also interesting to note that if John the Baptist is not in view, then why did Jesus permit the reference? (Mat 17:11-12) Was he not encouraging a view of Scripture as symbolic rather than literal, a dangerous thing? Yet, he knew that the human mind is capable of understanding a reference in a symbolic way while accepting it as literal as well. The Bible draws us into seeing both the first and second coming of Christ.

We have arrived at the end of a Bible study on Malachi for Today's Christian. How do you view his final prophecy? Is the Second Coming in view? Maranatha! (1 Cor 16:22). Come Lord Jesus.

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