Today: [Malachi 4] The Concluding Chapter of the Old Testament. In Malachi 4 the final prophet of the Old Testament era concludes his message, after which God falls silent for over 400 years, known as the inter-testamental period. In summing up his message, Malachi speaks of the eternality of hell for the wicked, and reward for those who seek out a life of faithfulness to God. Both of these teachings are under major assault in contemporary Christianity, in which hell is often believed not to exist, and that standards of righteousness and holiness are exchanged for a nebulous, subjective religious lifestyle that makes no certain demand upon men and women other than a general sincerity and just doing your best as you see fit and all will go to heaven.
[Mal 4:1-6 KJV] 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. 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. 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. 4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, [with] the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 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.
Chapter 4 of Malachi opens with continuation from the previous chapter describing a time when the righteous and the wicked will be distinguished one from another and brought to judgment. Malachi describes this as a day that will burn like an oven with the wicked will perish as stubble in a cooking fire. Throughout the scripture, depictions are common of a coming judgment when God will deal with the proud and the godless in a manner that is not only temporal but including eternal consequences.
This is important to note, because over the last few decades there has been a general de-emphasis on the subject of eternal damnation. When you take this theme out of the popular view, of necessity you create a consensus that everyone ultimately goes to heaven and that after death there is no punishment for wrong doing. Over the years well known evangelical leaders such as Carlton Pearson and Donny Paul, the son of fallen minister Earl Paulk have embraced these views openly, that there is no hell, no judgment and therefore no basis for presenting the claims of Christ as the basis of a heaven to gain or a hell to shun. Parallel to this has been the nebulous generality suggestive by many main line denominations and ministries that if there is a hell, it is not likely to be eternal in nature because “God is a loving God and would not leave people in eternal punishment forever without reprieve…” While this thought has a certain logical appeal, and is in fact one of the central doctrines of Catholicism, there is no basis for it in the scriptural narrative. The stark reality is this – every man, woman, boy and girl born in the history of man will spend eternity in one state or another, and the truth of the matter is that those who do not accept Christ as their savior in a new birth experience will spend an eternity without God in a place of unimaginable torment. To suggest otherwise is to reject one of the undeniable, universal tenets of scriptural emphasis.
While verse 1 speaks of the judgment of the wicked, verse 2 by comparison speaks of the favor of God upon those that believe upon His name, who will not only be spared in eternity, but also benefit from the temporal grace of God extended to them for healing and blessing in life while here upon the earth. This is another theme, found through the scripture that is generally de-emphasized in popular Christian thought. While Isa. 1:19 states if we are willing and obedient we will eat the fat of the land, the general consensus of teaching in the church is that God does indeed randomly bless for allegedly obscure reasons, that God also inflicts suffering for His own presumably ineffable reasons.
The suggestion is that God may choose to suspend His promise of healing for instance, if there is some lofty or mysterious reason why He wants His will to be worked out in your life through illness, sorrow, impoverishment or pain. This thinking arises from the cowardice of leaders who are unwilling to teach that Jesus came that we might have life and life more abundantly for fear of offending those who are experiencing the opposite.
In verse 4 the call of Malachi by the Spirit of the Lord is for the people to remember the law of Moses and all his commandments and statutes. This is emphasized, because of the people who returned from Babylonian captivity, to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, the majority of this restored community marginalized and neglected the law of God for the same reasons that their forefathers went in chains to Babylon in the first place. In Israel’s history from Moses’ time right down to the day that Malachi pens what becomes the final message of the Old Testament, the Jews never kept the Jubilee, they never allowed the land to lie fallow every 7 years, they seldom allowed indentured servants to go free every 7 years as well, and generally ignored the more inconvenient parts of the law for their own selfish reasons. While we can look at this and bemoan how wrong it is, yet in our own faith we often take the more uncomfortable aspects of the world of God and say “well that doesn’t apply to the day we live in, that was under the Old Covenant…” or perhaps we read the epistles of Paul and some of the very controversial apostolic edicts he lays down and say “well that was in an ancient city with a pagan culture which is why Paul said such things, God doesn’t expect us to observe those commandments today…” This dismissive approach to the word of God consigns us to a very individualistic approach to scripture, with each person given the liberty to construct a boutique version of the scriptures comprised of only those principles and teachings that affirm our chosen lifestyle and personal principles, rendering the Christian faith inert, and incapable of being salt and light in the culture in which we live.
In verse 5 Malachi speaks of the coming of Elijah the prophet again into the earth, before the final judgment for the purpose of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers, in hopes of averting an end time curse upon humanity from the hand of God. There are those who believe this is justification for believing in a form of reincarnation. However, we would point out that reincarnation is a belief concerning those that have died and come back, whereas scripture contends that Elijah went to heaven without going by way of the grave. There are also some who believe that Elijah will return as one of the two witnesses, along with Enoch in the book of Revelation, which despite strongly held belief, there is no scriptural grounds for believing this. There are also those throughout Christian history who have believed they were the return of Elijah in their personal ministries, most notably John Alexander Dowie who build Zion, Illinois. Many believed that William Branham was Elijah the Restorer as well, although Branham never encouraged that opinion about himself. The fact of the matter is that Jesus quoted this passage in Matt. 11:7-14 pointing to John the Baptist, who moved in the spirit of Elijah, or in a like anointing as the forerunner of Christ and herald of the Messiah.
The one great truth of Mal. 4:5-6 is that of a deep shift in spiritual thinking from the Old Covenant to the New is that there would come a day that men and women who would follow after God would see and relate to Him not just as Jehovah, the covenantal Creator revealed in the Pentateuch, but as a loving heavenly Father. While this may not be a great revelation to us, for the Old Testament saint this was a massive pivot in their thinking that they would have had a hard time wrapping their minds around, because they were taught in the law that they related to God not as children but as servants, bound to His commandments, laws and statutes. For us however, we look to the declaration of the gospel John that opens with the promise not only of service to Christ, but to become sons and daughters of our heavenly Father:
[Jhn 1:12 KJV] 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name.
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