We finish the verse-by-verse study of Zechariah chapters 1-8 here in Part 6, starting with Zech. 8:18; then we start the verse-by-verse study of Mal. 2:17-4:6.
(18) Then the word of the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts came to me, saying, (19) 'Thus says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, "The fast of the fourth [See under Zechariah 7:5 in this paper; cf. 2 Kings 25:2-7; Jer. 39:2.], the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months [cf. 2 Kings 25:1; Jer. 39:1; 52:4.] will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace." [[This verse builds on the question regarding the fast of the "fifth month" in Zech. 7:3 and the mention of the fast of the "fifth" and "seventh months" in Zech. 7:5. Those fasts and the other two fasts mentioned here in verse 19 relate to the time when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and carried Judah into exile in 587/586 BC. (The Babylonian captivity began in 605 BC. They carried some Jews into Babylonian captivity at that early date, including Daniel and his three friends.)
In Zechariah chapter 7 God didn't answer the question as to whether the Jews should continue to mourn and fast because of the destruction of the temple in the fifth month. Instead He dealt with problems with their attitudes, priorities, motives, and perceptions. Here in verse 19 He didn't tell them to stop these fasts (He had never told them to start these fasts in the first place), but He did inform them that the time will come (when they have received full salvation through faith in Christ Jesus in the last days) that they will be rejoicing - not mourning and fasting - on these days, and every day, forever (cf., e.g., Isa. 12:1-6; 65:17-25; and Jer. 31:10-25).
The people of God of every generation (including those who lived under the old covenant and those who live under the new covenant) must "love truth and peace." Those who do not make truth and peace a top priority are in serious danger of forfeiting the right to be people of God.]] (20) Thus says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, "It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. (21) The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, 'Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD [Yahweh], and to seek the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts; I will also go [The last four words ("I will also go") apparently give the response of the city (cities) that is invited to go at once to entreat the favor of Yahweh, and to seek Yahweh of hosts. "I" is used for (the people of) the town/city of Bethel in Zech. 7:3.].' [[These words of 8:20, 21 apparently build on the words of Zech. 7:1, 2, where the town/city of Bethel sent a delegation to Jerusalem "to seek the favor of the LORD [Yahweh]." The Hebrew behind "to seek the favor of the LORD [Yahweh]" is exactly the same as the Hebrew behind the words "to entreat the favor of the LORD [Yahweh]" here in 8:21, and the same words are used again at the end of 8:22.
If not for the following verses (verses 22, 23), we might have thought that verses 20, 21 were speaking only about Jews coming to Jerusalem to entreat the favor of God, but verses 22, 23 make it clear that the Gentiles will be coming too. The fact that the remnant of the peoples of the nations left after God's end-time judgment of the world will come to Jerusalem to worship God is a common prophetic theme (cf., e.g., Zech. 2:11; 6:15; 9:10; 14:16-21; Isa. 2:2-4; and Jer. 16:19-21).]] (22) So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD [Yahweh]." (23) Thus says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, "In those days ten men from all the nations ["Lit. 'languages of the nations' " (margin of NASB). Compare Isa. 66:18; the Hebrew noun for "tongues/languages" used here is also used there.] will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.' " ' " [[Verse 23 doesn't force the idea on you, but it fits well with the common prophetic theme that the people of Judah/Israel - in the fullest sense this embraces all the people of God's true Israel - will have a privileged position vis-a-vis the saved remnant of the peoples of the nations. Compare, for example, Zech. 2:8-12; Isa. 14:1, 2; 49:22, 23; 60:1-61:11; Amos 9:11, 12; Rev. 20:3, 4, 6; and Rev. 21:1-4; and 21:24-22:5. ((I had a footnote: True Israel includes all the believers from the days of the Old Testament and all true Christians. Revelation chapter 12 is an important reference for God's true Israel; the woman and her offspring of that chapter represent (are a symbol for) true Israel. That important chapter is discussed in some detail in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture."))
It is clear that true Israel will reign over the peoples of the nations in the millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:6). The last two chapters of the Bible (Revelation chapters 21, 22) prophesy of the eternal state that follows the millennial kingdom. In those chapters, the people of true Israel (God's "bond-servants" [Rev. 22:3]) are distinct from (the saved remnant of) the peoples of the nations. The people of true Israel are reigning, which apparently includes reigning over the peoples of the nations, and Rev. 22:5 says "they will reign forever and ever."
The fact that the people of true Israel will be reigning certainly will not detract from the fact that the peoples of the nations will be glorified and enjoy a spectacular full salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, according to God's eternal plans. No one will have any complaints. Everyone who has a place in God's eternal kingdom will stand in awe of His glory and the glory of His salvation, and they will know that they have been saved by grace. There won't be any complaining, whining, superiority complexes, inferiority complexes, or anything else that would disrupt God's being glorified, or His divine order. The former things will have all passed away (Rev. 21:4). Thanks be to God! God the Father; God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.]]
I'll quote the paragraph that Craig A. Blaising has regarding the date when the prophet Malachi wrote this book ("Bible Knowledge Commentary - Old Testament" [Cook Communication Ministries, 1985], page 1573). "Malachi's reference to a Persian governor (Mal. 1:8) shows that the book was written after 538 B.C. Most scholars agree that the Book of Malachi was written around 450-430 B.C., for these reasons: (1) Malachi's rebuke of the priests' malpractice in the temple shows that the temple had been rebuilt and the priesthood reestablished. (2) The moral and spiritual conditions Malachi addressed were similar to those encountered by Ezra, who returned in 458, and Nehemiah, who returned in 444. These included intermarriages with Gentiles (2:10-11; cf. Ezra 9:1-2; Neh. 13:1-3, 23-28), lack of the people's support for the Levites (Mal. 3:10; cf. Neh. 13:10), and oppression of the poor (Mal. 3:5; cf. Neh. 5:4-5). Either Malachi was addressing the same generation that Ezra and Nehemiah spoke to, or Malachi spoke to a later generation some time after Ezra's and Nehemiah's corrections."
A few comments regarding Malachi chapters 1, 2. I'm not including chapters 1, 2 in this paper, with the exception of the last verse of chapter 2, which is closely associated with the first verses of chapter 3. For one thing, chapters 1, 2 (unlike chapters 3, 4) do not have much eschatological content. Malachi 1:11 is a notable exception (Also see Mal. 1:14). I'll quote Mal. 1:11, " 'For from the rising of the sun even to its setting [These words mean worldwide], My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,' says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts." God's name being glorified by the peoples of the nations in the future was contrasted with His name being profaned by the people of Israel/Judah in Malachi's day, which is spoken of, for example, in the following verse, Mal. 1:12, "But you are profaning it [God's name]...."
The sins of Israel/Judah profaned God's name. (The sins of Christians profane God's name too, and God expects more from born-again Christians.) Malachi lists quite a few of those sins in this book, including their bringing unacceptable offerings to God (like bringing "what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick" [Mal. 1:13]). Malachi 2:13, in context, shows that even when the offerings themselves would have been acceptable, God does not accept offerings from those living in sin, not without genuine repentance. Many other passages make this same point, including Isaiah chapter 1.
Malachi chapters 3, 4 (and many other passages of scripture) show that the end-time remnant of Israel/Judah will glorify God's name after He purifies them (and fully saves them through the Lord Jesus Christ) in the last days. The remnant of the peoples of the nations will repent and glorify God's name after His end-time judgment of the world. Many prophetic passages show that true Israel will reign over the saved remnant of the peoples of the nations after God's end-time judgment of the world.
Malachi Chapter 3 with 2:17.
(2:17) "You have wearied the LORD [Hebrew "Yahweh"] with your words. Yet you say, 'How have we wearied Him?' In that you say, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD [Yahweh], and He delights in them [cf., e.g., Prov. 17:15],' or, 'Where is the God of justice?' [[I am sure that God hated these blasphemous charges. Compare, for example, Rom. 3:8, where the apostle Paul lamented the fact that some blasphemously accused him of teaching "Let us do evil that good may come." Those making charges like "Where is the God of justice?" were (and are) typically far from being ready to stand before Him in judgment, even if they thought they were ready. Amos 5:18 shows that many of the Israelites of Amos' day were "longing for the day of the LORD [Yahweh]," thinking that He would come and destroy all their sinful enemies and exalt them, not realizing that they themselves (speaking of the great majority) were quite sinful and not nearly ready to stand before Him in judgment. Amos 5:18 shows that for all such people the day will bring darkness (and curses), not light (and blessings).
In Luke 13:1-5, for a powerful illustration, the Lord Jesus Christ said to the Jews of His day that they would all perish in God's judgments if they did not repent. His countrymen (speaking of the majority) did not see themselves in that light. Most people, very much including the people of God (very much including Christians), are slow to see their sin and the seriousness of their sin. It wasn't enough to be a son of Israel, even if they had Abraham as their father, the Law, the temple and the sacrificial offerings, circumcision, etc. In fact, the more light and blessings people receive from God, the more He expects of them, and the more serious He considers their sin.
It was true though, as the Bible frequently acknowledges, that God did not typically fully enforce His reign in Old Testament days (including Malachi's day and most other generations), including His not fully judging where judgment was called for to make things right on the earth, whether among the people of Israel, or among the peoples of the nations. For one thing, He knew that (at the right time) He was going to send His Son into the world, which would solve the sin problem for those who would submit to Him (cf., e.g., Rom. 3:25). For another thing, He knew that there was no need to make things fully balance out with justice during this age in that He will have the opportunity to make all things right in His end-time judgment of the world. (I had a footnote: That judgment will begin when Jesus returns in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. God's end-time judgment of the world will not be completed until after the great-white-throne judgment at the end of the millennial kingdom.) God, in His mercy, often delays judgment (He typically calls His people to repent, including through His prophets, and He typically gives much time for repentance [cf., e.g., 2 Pet. 3:9]), but He will ultimately judge and deal with all sin that hasn't been dealt with through repentance, forgiveness, and salvation.
A primary point that I want to emphasize in this study of Mal. 2:17-4:6 is that God typically sends prophets to His people before He sends intense judgment to them, and that this principle applies in a major way before His end-time judgment of the world. God's merciful generosity in delaying judgment and holding back the full intensity of His wrath was often misinterpreted by many Israelites (cf. Rom. 2:4). They came up with ideas like you could not believe prophets like Jeremiah, who kept prophesying year after year that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians if Israel/Judah did not repent (even including the destruction of the temple), or like God never will judge and make things right.]] (3:1) 'Behold, I [[As the words at the end of this verse demonstrate, Yahweh is speaking here. The name "Yahweh" (or "Yahweh of hosts") is typically used of God the Father in the Old Testament, but the name is appropriate for God the Son (who became the Messiah/Christ) too, and the name is used for Him several times in the Old Testament. (See my papers "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son"; "More on the Trinity"; "Who Do We Worship?"; and "Who Do We Pray to?" They are available on my internet site and on this Christian article site.) God the Son seems to be the One speaking here (and on through the rest of the book of Malachi, with the exception of 3:16). We will see more regarding this glorious Speaker as we continue with this verse.]] am going to send My messenger [[The Hebrew word behind "My messenger" is "malaki." The "i" ending means "my." This same Hebrew word is used for Malachi (the prophet who wrote the book of Malachi) in Mal. 1:1. ((I had a footnote: Malachi 2:7 also uses this same Hebrew noun for "messenger," but without the "my" ending. The noun was used there for the priests; the priest "is the messenger of the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts" (Mal. 2:7), at least he was supposed to be. The priests were supposed to teach the ways of God to Israel, including calling the people to repent where repentance was required, and warning them of the curses/penalties for sinning against God and His covenant. Many of the priests of Malachi's day (as with many other generations) needed to repent themselves.)) Malachi wasn't "My messenger" spoken of here in 3:1, but he was a forerunner for that messenger (along with many other prophets) in that he was used by God to call Israel/Judah to a proper, necessary fear of God and repentance (though not with the intensity, power, or effectiveness of the end-time "messenger(s)" yet to come). This Hebrew noun "malak" is also frequently translated "angel/Angel." (The NASB translated "malak" the following ways in the Old Testament: ambassadors (2), angel (101), angels (9), envoys (1), messenger (24), messengers (76).]], and he will clear the way before Me. [[I'll quote what Jesus said in Matt. 11:10, 13 (cf. Mark 1:2; Luke 1:76; and 7:27). "This is the one about whom it is written, 'BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.' (14) And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who is to come." Jesus was "quoting" Mal. 3:1, and (in the context of Matt. 11:2-15) it is clear that He was referring to John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 17:9-13; Mark 9:9-13; and John 1:21 [In John 1:21 John the Baptist, when questioned by the Jews, denied that he was Elijah. It is possible that it had not been revealed to him that he was to fulfill that role. Even if John the Baptist did not know it, Jesus did. It is also possible that John was denying that he literally was Elijah the prophet who had returned; it was (and still is) a common view among the Jews that that ancient prophet will return in the last days.]).
Note that Jesus called him "Elijah." There is widespread agreement that "My messenger" of Mal. 3:1 is to be equated with "Elijah the prophet" of Mal. 4:5. (Luke 1:16, 17, which I'll quote under Mal. 4:5, help confirm that the prophecy of Mal. 4:5, 6 regarding "Elijah the prophet" includes the ministry of John the Baptist.) I'll quote Mal. 4:5, "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD [Yahweh]." Malachi chapter 4 deals with God's end-time day of judgment of the world (including Israel/Judah), and the salvation of those who fear Him and repent where repentance is required.
Malachi chapter 4 (and other scripture) helps confirm that " My messenger" of Mal. 3:1 cannot be limited to John the Baptist, who helped clear/prepare the way for the "first" coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. As the book of Malachi (and other scripture) shows, a big part of what it meant for the messenger to clear/prepare the way for the coming of the Lord was for him to call the people to repent before the Lord comes and judgment falls. As significant as John the Baptist's ministry was, it was not as significant as the prophetic ministry that will clear/prepare the way for the "second" coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Malachi chapters 3, 4 show that a primary function of the ministry of "My messenger/Elijah" will be to call Israel/Judah to repentance before the Lord comes to judge them (and the entire world) at the end of the age. Intense judgment of Israel/Judah followed the "first" coming of the Lord Jesus Christ - including the destruction of Jerusalem, including the temple, at the hands of the Romans; and the Jewish nation that rejected Christ was (in some ways and to some extent) temporarily rejected and set aside (cf., e.g., Matt. 21:33-46; 22:1-14; 23:37-39; and Rom. 11:1-36) - but it is clear (from our new-covenant perspective) that intense judgment of Israel/Judah (but also the salvation of the end-time remnant of that nation) is yet to come at the end of this age (cf., e.g., Matt. 23:39; Rom. 9:27-29; 11:25-32; Rev. 7:4-8; 11:19; 12:1-17; 14:20; and 16:19 [Romans chapters 9-11 are discussed verse-by-verse in a paper on my internet site and on this Christian article site. These verses from the book of Revelation are all discussed in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," and most of them are discussed in my papers on the book of Revelation that are available both places.).
Isaiah 40:3-5 are an important prophecy that deals with the prophetic ministry that will prepare/clear the way for the coming of the Lord. This prophecy (or parts of this prophecy) is quoted in the New Testament and applied to John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1-3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; and John 1:23). However, as the prophecies concerning "My messenger/Elijah" in Malachi chapters 3, 4 are only partially fulfilled by the ministry of John the Baptist, so too for the prophetic ministry spoken of in Isa. 40:3-5. The primary fulfillment is yet to come at the end of this age, before the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I'll quote Isa. 40:3-5, "A voice is calling, 'Clear the way for the LORD [Yahweh] in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. (4) Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain; and the rugged terrain a broad valley; (5) Then the glory of the LORD [Yahweh] will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD [Yahweh] has spoken.' " The "glory of the LORD [Yahweh]" was revealed/manifested in the "first" coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it will be manifested in a much more spectacular way in His "second" coming (cf., e.g., Isa. 66:18; Matt. 16:27; and 2 Thess. 1:6-10). His glory will be manifested, for one thing, in His end-time work of saving and judging.
It was not at all clear in the Old Testament that there would be two totally different comings of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world (the Old Testament prophets would often combine the two comings without seeming to recognize that there would be two very different comings), and the people of Israel/Judah were not looking for two comings. Nevertheless, it is quite clear from our New Testament perspective that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again at the end of the age to save His own and to judge the world. And it is also clear, I believe, that just like God used "My messenger/Elijah" (John the Baptist) to help clear/prepare the way for His first coming, He is going to send another "My messenger/Elijah" to help clear/prepare the way for His second coming.
I believe the book of Revelation is of crucial significance to understand the last days (many details regarding the last days were not revealed until the book of Revelation was given by God the Father [Rev. 1:1]; the book of Revelation, which was written about AD 95, was God's last word on eschatology contained in the Bible). I consider Revelation chapters 11-13 to be three of the most important chapters in the book of Revelation. Those three chapters are discussed in some detail in chapters 20-22 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." Also see my paper, "Twenty-Four Articles on the Mid-Week Rapture" on those chapters. That paper serves as a good introduction for the book. That paper is on my internet site, and the articles are available individually on this Christian article site,
Revelation 11:3-13, which deal with the ministry of the two end-time prophets of the book of Revelation, build on the prophecy regarding the coming of "My messenger/Elijah" of Malachi chapters 3, 4. With great power these witnesses/prophets will warn Israel/Judah (and the entire world) that the day of judgment is super imminent and that the time to repent is now (if not sooner). These verses in the book of Revelation do not mention the name "Elijah" (or "My messenger"), but some of the things that these two prophets do build on things that the prophet Elijah did when he ministered before God in Old Testament days:
Revelation 11:5 says, "And if anyone wants to harm them [and many will want to harm them], fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way." (Regarding Elijah the prophet of Old Testament days, see 2 Kings 1:9-16, cf. Jer. 5:14.) Revelation 11:6a says, "These [the two prophets] have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying...." Revelation 11:3 mentions that "they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days [which is THREE YEARS AND SIX MONTHS]...." (Regarding Elijah of Old Testament days, see 1 Kings 17:1; 18:1; Luke 4:25 ["But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for THREE YEARS AND SIX MONTHS [my emphasis], when a great famine came over all the land."]; and James 5:17 [which also mentions "THREE YEARS AND SIX MONTHS"].)
Many Christians believe that Elijah the prophet of Old Testament days, who was taken up into heaven in a flaming chariot, will return (along with Moses or Enoch) to minister in the last days. That would prove to be an attention-getter (assuming that God would establish the identity of those men), but I believe it is far more probable that the two prophets will be Christian prophets who live on the earth in the last days. These two prophets (or possibly just one of these prophets) will fulfill the prophecy of Malachi chapters 3, 4 in a fuller way and in a much more dramatic way than John the Baptist did. Revelation chapter 11 shows that the ministry of these two prophets will have a worldwide scope, but also that it will be focused, at least to some extent, on Israel/Judah. For one thing, "their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city [Jerusalem, where presumably they will be killed]..." (Rev. 11:7, 8). After three and a half days they will be resurrected and caught up "into heaven in the cloud" while their enemies watch (Rev. 11:12).
The resurrection and rapture of the two prophets will be part of the resurrection and rapture of God's people (believers of Old Testament days and Christians) that will take place when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to save His people and to judge the world in the middle of the seven-year period known as Daniel's 70th week. ((I had a footnote: Revelation 12:5 is a key verse dealing with the resurrection and rapture of the believers/saints. It is the most important verse in the Bible to show "when" the resurrection and rapture will take place (right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, at the time of the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet of the book of Revelation). This verse is discussed in some detail in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture.")) It is quite possible though that they will be resurrected and raptured shortly before (maybe a few hours before) the resurrection and rapture of the rest of the believers/saints. The "three year and six month" ministry of the two prophets will cover the first half of the seven-year period. (The three year and six month periods mentioned in Rev. 11:2 and 3 refer to the first half of the seven-year period. [See "The Mid-Week Rapture" for the details.] The three year and six month periods mentioned in Rev. 12:6, 14; and 13:5 refer to the second half of the seven-year period.)
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of Mal. 2:17-4:6 in Part 7, starting in the middle of this discussion under Mal. 3:1.