We continue this verse-by-verse study of Mal. 2:17-4:6 here in Part 7, starting in the middle of the discussion under Mal. 3:1.
This fits perfectly with the prophecy of the coming of "My messenger/Elijah" of Malachi chapters 3, 4. The Lord Jesus Christ will return and the day of judgment will begin in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. The ministry of the two prophets, including the warning judgments that will flow through their ministry, which will powerfully warn mankind that the day of judgment is at hand ((I had a two-paragraph footnote: I have already mentioned part of what Rev. 11:5, 6 say about the attention-getting power that will flow through the ministry of the two prophets. I'll quote the rest of Rev. 11:6, "and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood [reminiscent of Moses in the days preceding the exodus from Egypt], and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire [also reminiscent of Moses in the days preceding the exodus from Egypt]." I consider it probable that the two prophets will announce the sounding of each of the first six trumpets (or maybe all seven trumpets) of the book of Revelation (even as Moses announced the coming of each of the ten plagues in Egypt before the exodus), which will make the sounding of the trumpets much more effective in getting the attention of Israel/Judah and the world, warning with persuasive power that the day of judgment is DEFINITELY close at hand. The seven trumpets will announce the coming of the Lord Jesus and His day of judgment (including the mid-week rapture); He will return and the day of judgment will begin, I believe, at the time of the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week.
Revelation 11:4 says of the two prophets, "These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth." This verse builds on Zechariah chapter 4 (which is discussed verse-by-verse in this paper on Zechariah and Malachi). These two prophets give much (spiritual) "light" from God and minister powerfully by the Holy Spirit. The olive trees give olive oil (a symbol of the Holy Spirit); this oil was burned in ancient lamps. [The footnote ends here.])), will help put the fear of God in the hearts of many Israelites (and many Gentiles too) and will help wake them up and motivate them to repent and prepare their hearts to be ready to receive the Lord Jesus when He comes to them in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (cf., e.g., Zech. 12:10; Mic. 5:3; and Rev. 11:13). ((I had a footnote: See my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" on these verses (in the chapter on Zechariah chapters 12-14, the chapter on Mic. 4:9-5:6, and the chapter on Revelation chapter 11). I believe we can see the (mid-week) conversion of the repentant end-time remnant of Israel/Judah in all three verses cited, but that remnant will not be converted in time to be taken in the mid-week rapture.))
"The notion that the great day of the Lord will be preceded by a 'forerunner' is found only here [Mal. 3:1] and in 3:23, 24 (Mal. 4:5, 6 in the English version). In a somewhat different context the idea of the preparation of the way of the Lord is also found in Isa. 40:3 (cf. Isa. 57:14; 62:10). The notion rests upon an eastern custom of sending messengers ahead of a visiting king to inform the inhabitants of his coming and to pave the way, to make it passable, literally to remove all the obstacles. ..." (Peter A. Verhoef, "Books of Haggai and Malachi" [Eerdmans, 1987], page 287).]] And ["Then"; the NIV has, "Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple."] the Lord [Hebrew "adon"], whom you seek [These words build on the complaint of the Jews in Mal. 2:17; they were criticizing Yahweh for not establishing and maintaining justice and "seeking" for Him to come and make things right (establish justice) for them.], will suddenly come to His temple; and [In the margin the NASB says, "Or 'even,' " instead of "and." I believe the translation "even" communicates the right idea. We will get into the details as we continue.] the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,' says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts. [[There is widespread agreement that "the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight" is the same Person as "the Lord whom you seek," that is, Yahweh (here, God the Son). It would probably be better to translate "the Angel of the covenant" (instead of "the messenger of the covenant"). The same Hebrew noun "malak" is used here that was used earlier in this verse; as I noted, this noun is frequently translated angel.
The Angel of the covenant is the Angel of Yahweh, who appears quite often in the Old Testament. He is God the Son in His preincarnate state, who is called "Yahweh" quite a few times in the Old Testament. ((I had a footnote: This glorious Person, the Angel of Yahweh, is discussed in some detail in my verse-by-verse discussion of Zechariah chapters 1-3 (earlier in this paper). Start with Zech. 1:8. There is a reference there to my lengthy discussion of the Angel of Yahweh in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." Also see my paper, "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son" on my internet site and on this Christian article site. In that the Angel of Yahweh is deity with God the Father and is sometimes called "Yahweh" ("the LORD" in the NASB and many other translations of the Hebrew Old Testament) or "Yahweh of hosts" ("the LORD of hosts" [cf. Zech. 2:8]), and in that He was so involved with the covenant with Israel, it fits perfectly for Him to be called "the Angel of the COVENANT" here in Mal. 3:1. In Jud. 2:1 "the Angel of the LORD [Yahweh]" said to Israel, "I will never break My covenant with you." Malachi chapters 3 and 4 look forward to new-covenant salvation.))
In agreement with the NKJV and the translations given in several commentaries, I believe we should have a period after the word "delight" and start a new sentence with the word "Behold." The NKJV, however, follows the period with the words, "Behold He is coming...." I don't believe we should have a capital "H" for the word "He" in that I believe this "he" refers to "My messenger" (a prophet) sent by Yahweh (the Angel of Yahweh) to clear the way for His coming.
There is some symmetry here, "BEHOLD [my emphasis], I am going to send My messenger..." (the words at the beginning of Mal. 3:1) and "BEHOLD [my emphasis], he ["My messenger"] is coming, says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts." (I believe God the Son is the speaker throughout Mal. 3:1-6 and 4:1-6, as He is throughout the rest of the verses in chapter 3, with the exception of verse 16.) Malachi 4:5 (this is Mal. 3:23 in the Hebrew ) goes on to say, "BEHOLD [my emphasis], I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD [Yahweh]." All three of these sentences that begin with the word "Behold" speak, I believe, of the sending of "My messenger/Elijah" before the first and second comings of the Lord Jesus Christ, with the emphasis on His second coming. (I had a footnote: The word "behold" is used two other places in the book of Malachi [2:3; 4:1].)
This translation and understanding of Mal. 3:1 flows perfectly if "he" (of "Behold he is coming") refers to "My messenger," where "the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts," God the Son, is speaking. I am quite confident that this is the meaning intended by God, but most commentators disagree with this view; they understand the words "He [he] is coming" near the end of 3:1 to refer to the coming of "the messenger [Angel] of the covenant" (God the Son), not the "messenger" of the Angel of Yahweh/Yahweh.
I should point out that the content of this study of Mal. 2:17-4:6 would not change very much if the one who comes at the end of 3:1 were "the messenger [Angel] of the covenant," instead of "My messenger." We cannot avoid the fact, however, that the book of Malachi makes it very clear that "My messenger/Elijah" is going to come BEFORE the Lord comes to judge. In agreement with a large number of commentators, I believe "My messenger/Elijah" comes BEFORE the first and second comings of the Lord Jesus Christ. He comes to help prepare the way for those comings.
I agree, of course, that the coming of the Lord Jesus Himself is the most important coming by far ((I had a footnote: I also agree that much purifying/refining of the repentant end-time remnant of Israel/Judah will take place during the second half of Daniel's 70th week, after the Lord Jesus has returned in the middle of that seven-year period (cf., e.g., Dan. 12:10; Zech. 13:1-6, 9; and Rom. 11:25-27).)), BUT THERE IS A VERY STRONG EMPHASIS IN THE BOOK OF MALACHI ON THE FACT THAT YAHWEH/THE ANGEL OF YAHWEH SENDS HIS MESSENGER/ELIJAH TO PREPARE THE WAY FOR HIS COMING BEFORE HE COMES TO JUDGE. ((I had a footnote: It must be understood, of course, that the ministry of God's faithful prophets (very much including "My messenger/Elijah" of Malachi chapters 3, 4) is accomplished in accordance with His plan, by His anointing/power, and for His glory. All the repentance, purifying, etc that is accomplished through such ministers is accomplished by God. Many prophets have had very significant ministries. Moses, for example, or consider the words that God spoke to Jeremiah when He called him to be a prophet (Jer. 1:4-10). I'll quote Jer. 1:10, "See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, To pluck up and to break down, To destroy and to overthrow, To build and to plant." An important feature of the ministry of most of the prophets that God sent to Israel/Judah was to call the people to repent.)) In Matt. 17:11 Jesus spoke in exalted terms (even over-stated terms) regarding what is accomplished through the ministry of Elijah (which clearly includes the ministry of John the Baptist, but could also include the ministry of the Elijah who will come just before His second coming) when He said, "Elijah is coming and WILL RESTORE ALL THINGS [I'll continue the quotation with Matt. 17:12, 13], (12) but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of man is going to suffer at their hands (13) Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist." ((I had a footnote: Quite a few commentators on the book of Malachi (and some on the book of Matthew) believe that Matt. 17:11 includes a reference to the Elijah who is to come before the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. See the excerpt from E. B. Pusey at the end of this study of Mal. 2:17-4:6.))
In His mercy God warns Israel/Judah of impending judgment through these messengers, so that all who have a heart that can be persuaded to repent will repent and get ready for His coming. Malachi the prophet fits into this category as a forerunner (and there were many other Old Testament prophets with this kind of ministry). Then John the Baptist ("My messenger/Elijah") helps prepare/clear the way for the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, finally, "My messenger/Elijah" will come at the end of the age to help prepare/clear the way for the all-important second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He comes to save His own and to judge the world.
Significantly, the coming of the Lord for judgment (at both His first and second comings) takes place AFTER the ministry of "My messenger/Elijah." In Mal. 3:1 we read of the coming of "My messenger/Elijah," then of the coming of the Lord to His temple (to Israel/Judah [I had a footnote: For one thing, His coming to the temple fits the emphasis in the book of Malachi on His dealing with the priests.]); it is understood that He is coming to judge and make things right (to establish justice, for one thing). Then, starting with the last few words of Mal. 3:1 on through verse 4, we read of the same coming of "My messenger/Elijah" (but with some details about his coming supplied) to get the people of Israel/Judah ready for His coming (not that all the people will repent). In the following verse (3:5) we read that the Lord then comes to judge His people. (This is the same coming as His suddenly coming to His temple spoken of in Mal. 3:1.)
This same sequence of comings (the coming of Elijah BEFORE the coming of the Lord to judge) is also clear in Mal. 4:5, 6. The first and second comings of the Lord Jesus Christ are included in His coming mentioned in Mal. 3:1, 5; and 4:5, 6. Malachi 4:5 does not specifically mention the coming of Yahweh, but it mentions "the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD [Yahweh]"; it is to be understood that the day of Yahweh begins when Yahweh comes. (I'll list some passages that confirm that John the Baptist is included in Mal. 3:1 and 4:5, 6: Matt. 11:10-14; Mark 1:2; 9:11-13; and Luke 1:17, 76; 7:27, 28.)]] (2) 'But who can endure the day of His [[Since I believe these words speak of the coming of "My messenger/Elijah," I would translate "his," not "His." The NIV has "his," but such words are never capitalized for deity in that translation.]] coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He [he] is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap ["a launderer's soap" NIV]. (3) He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He [he] will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD [Yahweh] offerings in righteousness. [[It is true, of course, that the Lord Jesus Christ has been purifying believers (Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles) from the time of His first coming. But Mal. 3:2-4 (in context with Mal. 3:1-6; 4:1-6) are dealing, in large part, with "My messenger/Elijah's" getting the people of Israel/Judah ready for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (those who will respond to that ministry with true repentance). Those who do respond will be ready for the coming of the Lord, and His coming will mean salvation for them, instead of being removed by judgment.
Romans 11:25-27 show that Israel/Judah as a nation (the end-time remnant of the nation) will not be ready to receive the Lord Jesus Christ until the time of His (mid-week) second coming. As I have discussed in my eschatological writings, I believe the end-time remnant of Israel will be ready to receive Christ when He comes, but not in time to be taken in the (mid-week) rapture.
Malachi 4:5, 6 show that God will use the ministry of "My messenger/Elijah" to help purify the sons of Israel/Judah (those who will respond to that ministry) to prepare them for the second coming of the Lord, so they will not be removed by God's judgment along with the unrepentant who will be found living in sin when the day of judgment comes (cf. Mal. 3:5).
((I had a five-paragraph footnote: Israel/Judah will experience intense shaking (a shaking that will, for one thing, help bring about the repentance of many Jews) in the days preceding the mid-week return of the Lord to judge Israel/Judah and the world. Most of the end-time shaking that will help separate the repentant, end-time remnant of Israel/Judah from the unrepentant Jews will take place in the one-month period (during which the short great tribulation will take place) that will begin with the abomination of desolation. Daniel 12:1 is a key verse on the short great tribulation. On that verse, see chapter 10 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." Daniel 12:11 is the key verse to show that the abomination of desolation will be initiated by Antichrist one month before the middle of Daniel's 70th week (see pages 182-184 of "The Mid-Week Rapture").
Zechariah 13:8 seems to indicate that some two-thirds of the people of Israel/Judah will be cut off in the last days and perish. Zechariah 14:1, 2 are verses of key importance. The shaking of Jerusalem (Israel/Judah) that these verses speak of will begin about the time of the abomination of desolation. Jerusalem will be taken by the nations; "half of the city [will be] exiled, but the rest [the remnant] will not be cut off from the city" (Zech 14:2). That repentant (elect) remnant left in Jerusalem will be ready to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes to them in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (cf. Zech. 12:10; Mic. 5:3; Matt. 23:39; and Rev. 11:13). Zechariah 14:3-5 prophesy regarding the (mid-week) coming of the Lord Jesus to Israel/Judah (He will be accompanied by the saints who were just raptured from the earth); His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives; the day of judgment will begin when He comes in the clouds of heaven and the rapture takes place right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. Zechariah 14:6, 7 speak of the end-time day of judgment. Zechariah 14:8 speaks of what it will be like when the day of judgment is over, when the millennial kingdom begins. All the verses mentioned in this paragraph are discussed in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture."
Isaiah 66:6 prophesies of great shaking coming to Israel/Judah in the last days, centering in the temple; that shaking/judgment will start about the time of the abomination of desolation, which will be initiated in the temple. Isaiah 66:7 goes on to prophesy of the (mid-week) birth into the fullness of eternal life for all the members of God's true Israel who will have been converted before that time and are ready for His coming (see Rev. 12:5, which is discussed in substantial detail in chapter 21 of my book), and Isa. 66:8 prophesies of the glorification of the end-time remnant of Israel/Judah, which will apparently take place about the time the millennial kingdom begins. 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4 are key verses on the abomination of desolation. (These verses are discussed in the chapters on Isaiah 66:1-8 and on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 in "The Mid-Week Rapture.")
This scenario fits perfectly with Matthew chapter 24, where we read of the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15), which is followed by the short great tribulation that will be centered in that part of the world that includes Israel (Matt. 24:16-28). (Significantly, the judgments associated with the short great tribulation are to be equated with the judgments associated with the sixth trumpet of the book of Revelation [Rev. 9:12-21].) Israel/Judah will experience intense shaking that will result in a separation between the repentant (the elect) and the unrepentant during the time of the short great TRIBULATION, which will last about one month. Then, Matt. 24:29 says, "Immediately after the TRIBULATION of those days," and verses 30, 31 go on to speak of the (mid-week) return of Christ, the rapture, the beginning of the gathering and saving of the end-time remnant of Israel on the earth, and the beginning of the day of judgment, at the sounding of a "great trumpet" (Matt. 24:31), which is to be equated with the "great trumpet" of Isa. 27:13 (Isaiah 27:12, 13 prophesy about the Lord's gathering the end-time remnant of Israel/Judah on the earth); with the "LAST trumpet" of 1 Cor. 15:52; the "trumpet of God" of 1 Thess 4:16; and the seventh and LAST trumpet of Rev. 11:15. These verses (with the exception of Isa. 27:12, 13) are discussed in "The Mid-Week Rapture," and many of them are discussed further in my subsequent eschatological writings. Isaiah 27:12, 13 are discussed in my paper dealing with selected eschatological passages from Isaiah on my internet site.
Romans 9:27-29 are key verses dealing with the end-time shaking of Israel/Judah that will lead to a repentant remnant. Those verses are discussed in my verse-by-verse study of Romans chapters 9-11 that is located on my internet site and on this Christian article site. Romans 11:25-27 are discussed there too. [The five paragraph footnote ends here.]))
I'll quote Mal. 4:5, 6, "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD [Yahweh]. (6) He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse ["smite the land with a ban (i.e. utterly destroy it)"]." Malachi 4:5, 6 with 4:1-4 (and Malachi chapter 3) make it clear that the primary judgment in view here is God's end-time judgment of the world, in which the unrepentant wicked will be removed by judgment. It is clear that the ministry of "My messenger/Elijah" will help bring about the repentance of the end-time remnant of Israel/Judah BEFORE the Lord Jesus is sent by God the Father to judge those who don't repent.
Malachi 3:2-4, in a way that is typical for the Old Testament prophets, speak in terms of the religious rituals and worship of the old covenant. (Verses 3, 4 mention presenting old-covenant ritual offerings.) The last part of verse 3 and verse 4 speak of the end result (after the purifying/refining work of "My messenger/Elijah" is accomplished) of Israel/Judah's presenting offerings in righteousness that will be acceptable to God, and pleasing to Him. From our perspective, we know that old-covenant ritual offerings are not appropriate now that the new covenant has been ratified in the blood of Christ. The ministry of "My messenger/Elijah" will help bring about a genuine repentance that will, for one thing, help prepare their hearts to be ready to submit in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness when He comes to them. ((I had a footnote: "...we must not infer from vers. 3 and 4, that Malachi imagined that the Old Testament worship would be continued during the Messianic times [I don't believe we know how much Malachi knew or imagined about worship in Messianic times; the important thing is that God knew, and He eventually revealed that many forms of worship under the old covenant are superseded by better forms under the new covenant]; but his words are to be explained from the custom of the prophets, of using the forms of the Old Testament worship to depict the reverence for God which would characterize the new covenant" (C. F. Keil, "Commentary on the Old Testament" by Keil and Delitzsch, Vol. 10 [Eerdmans 1978 reprint], pages 460, 461).))
The sons of Levi (especially the priests) are the only ones mentioned in verse 3 (they played a key role as the representatives of the people of Israel/Judah before God, and as spiritual leaders and teachers, and as the ones who presented the ritual offerings to God; furthermore, the book of Malachi deals at length with the priests, especially dealing with their sinful state in the days of Malachi), but there can be no doubting that "My messenger/Elijah" will be sent to the entire nation (and to the world), powerfully calling those with ears to hear of their great need to fear God and repent, and all the more so, and with great haste, in the light of the fact that the day of judgment will be super imminent at that time.]] (4) Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD [Yahweh] as in the days of old and as in former years. (5) Then I will draw near [There is no difference in meaning between the Lord's "drawing near" for judgment and His "coming" to judge. (I had a footnote: Douglas Stuart discusses this point ("Minor Prophets," Vol. 3 [Baker Books, 1998], pages 1355, 1356).] to you for judgment [[The first word of this sentence (verse 5) could be translated other ways than "Then" (the NKJV translates "And," for example, and the NIV has "So"), but I believe the translation "Then" communicates the intended meaning. (The RSV; NRSV both translate "Then.") God, in His mercy, sends "My messenger/Elijah" to help those with hearts that can be persuaded to repent and get ready for His second coming BEFORE He comes to judge. This sequence of God's sending "My messenger/Elijah" BEFORE He comes to judge is of crucial significance in the book of Malachi.]]; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me [[Those who do not fear God (they do not fear sinning against Him/breaking His commandments; they do not fear His judgment, at least they do not fear to an extent sufficient to bring about genuine repentance) and who remain in that category in the face of "God's messenger/Elijah" will be removed by the judgment of God (when He comes to judge).]],' says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts. [[The "I" and "Me" here in verse 5 (and other verses) refer to the same Person as the "I" in verse 1, namely "the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts"; the "LORD [Yahweh] of hosts" is specifically mentioned in verses 1 and 5 (and other verses of Malachi). (As we discussed under verse 1, the "LORD [Yahweh] of hosts" here apparently refers to God the Son, who is also called the "the Lord" and "the messenger/Angel of the covenant" in verse 1. He will suddenly come to Israel/Judah.) Verse 1 starts with the prophetic message that the Lord will send "My messenger [Elijah]" to clear the way and prepare the sons of Israel/Judah (all those who will repent) BEFORE He comes to judge (referring, as chapter 4 shows, to His judging them in His end-time judgment of the world). (I had a footnote: As we have discussed, this prophecy also includes the coming of John the Baptist to help clear/prepare the way for the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Intense judgment came to Israel/Judah at that time too.) Then it mentions that the Lord will suddenly come to His temple (to Israel/Judah).
At the end of verse 1 on through verse 4 we read of the same coming (having been sent by the Lord) of "My messenger/Elijah," but giving more detail about his coming. Then, in verse 5, after "My messenger/Elijah" has fulfilled his ministry, the Lord comes to judge the unrepentant wicked in Israel/Judah. In Mal. 4:5, 6, we read of the Lord sending Elijah the prophet to bring about the repentance of those who can be persuaded to repent BEFORE He comes to judge Israel/Judah (and the world) in the great and terrible day of the Lord.]]
We will finish this verse-by-verse study of Zechariah chapters 1-8 and Malachi 2:17-4:6 in Part 8, starting with Zech. 3:6, which is a very important verse.