“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all. Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives.” – Malachi 3:2; 4:1,5
The verse above describes the coming judgment and that day was known as, ‘The Day of the Lord’.
The judgment would be particularly severe on Israel and its leaders because of specific sins which are denounced — sham and hypocrisy in worship services; social injustice; Pagan religious practices; divorce; and withholding the tithe. But above all, the prophet Malachi declares God’s patience is coming to an end and because the people who were supposed to exalt Yahweh and cause Him to be reverenced and worshiped among the nations of the world have failed to do so. Instead, they have profaned His name and caused Him to be dishonoured. But God’s purpose will not be defeated, for from east to west, all over the world, His name is to be exalted among the nations, and in every place prayers and worship are to be offered to Him.
The keynote is in Malachi 1:10 —
“How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.”
But God will first send a messenger to prepare the way for Him. Then He will come Himself, as the messenger of the covenant, who will inaugurate the time of judgment. The forerunner will be an ‘Elijah’, a fiery prophet of doom. If he is not heeded, then fierce judgment and destruction will be certain.
All of these elements of Malachi are reflected in the third chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. John the Baptist came preaching —
“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” – Matthew 3:2
This is the equivalent of ‘the Day of the Lord’ in Malachi. The time of God’s judgment is fast approaching!
“But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath?” – Matthew 3:7
John uses the same figures of speech which are found in Malachi — the wheat and chaff are to be separated. To emphasize that the judgment is to be upon the Israelites, and not just the Gentiles, as some of the Jews believed, John declared —
“Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.” – Matthew 3:9
Jesus identified John the Baptist as the Elijah whom Malachi had promised. Just after John’s imprisonment, Jesus declared —
For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” – Matthew 11:13-15
One of the last prophets sent to give final warning before judgment came upon Israel. Some months later, after the death of John the Baptist, He again identified John as the Elijah foretold by Malachi —
But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.” Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist.” Matthew 17:12-13
During His last week in Jerusalem as He taught in the temple, Jesus was consciously fulfilling what’s written in Malachi 3:1-2 —
“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes.” – Malachi 3:1-2