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Zechariah Chapters 1-8 and Malachi 2:17-4:6, Part 8

by Karl Kemp  
4/08/2013 / Bible Studies

We finish this verse-by-verse study of Zechariah chapters 1-8 and Malachi 2:17-4:6 here in Part 8, starting with Mal. 3:6, which is a very important verse.

(6) 'For I, the LORD [Yahweh], do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. [[This verse is a very important; the message of this verse is a dominant theme of the book of Malachi, and it teaches us a lot about God. The fact that God hates sin and has committed Himself to judge and remove all unrepentant sinners from His kingdom is one way that God doesn't change. That fact is understood in this verse, but that isn't the dominant idea here. The dominant idea here is that God loves Israel/Jacob/Judah (true Israel), and He is faithful to His covenant promises. He, in His mercy, often mitigated the extent to which He judged them throughout their history, but the emphasis here regards the point that He will send "My messenger/Elijah the prophet" BEFORE the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to call His people to repent and submit to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, and His salvation, and, even more importantly, that He will send "My messenger/Elijah the prophet" to help bring about the repentance of those who can be persuaded to repent BEFORE His intense end-time judgment falls on them.

Also included is the idea that God frequently sent prophets in Old Testament days to exhort Israel/Judah to repent. Malachi was one of those prophets. Much of the content of the book of Malachi consists of God's exhorting (through Malachi) the people of Israel/Judah of that day to repent. As the book of Malachi (and much other scripture) shows, God strongly desired the repentance of Israel/Judah, so that He would not have to pour out judgment on them. He always knew, of course, the hearts of all the people of Israel/Judah and the rest of mankind.

Being a Gentile, I am thankful that I can say that God is also quite generous with Gentiles and wanting their repentance too, rather than having to remove them by His judgments (cf., e.g., 1 Tim. 2:4-6; Titus 2:11-3:8; and Act 17:30, 31).]] (7) From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me [Repent!], and I will return to you,' says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts. [[I'll quote Jer. 7:25, 26, "Since the day your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them. (26) Yet they [speaking of the majority] did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers." Compare Zech. 1:3.]] But you say, "How shall we return?" [These verses, like so many of the verses in the book of Malachi, deal with sins that were taking place in the days of Malachi. This verse (7) shows that that generation was sinful, just like most of the other generations were sinful.] (8) [Verses 8-12 deal with one of the many sins that were common in the days of Malachi.] 'Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, "How have we robbed You?" In tithes and offerings. [[For one thing, according to the Mosaic Law, the tithes and offerings went to support the priests and Levites and their families. When the Israelites failed to bring the whole tithe and required offerings to God, and that was a common problem throughout much of the history of Israel/Judah (cf., e.g., Neh. 13:11, 12), it greatly affected the proper functioning of the priesthood and the temple, which was the center of the worship of God in Old Testament days.]] (9) You are cursed with a curse [cf. Mal. 2:2], for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! [[They were "cursed with a curse"; they were experiencing some judgments from God, but it is clear that He had been lenient with them. As we discussed under 2:17, He doesn't have to make things balance out with perfect justice until the end. If He had judged them in full accordance with their sin and the Mosaic Law, the nation would have pretty much disappeared (cf., e.g., Mal. 3:1-6; 4:5, 6; and Luke 13:1-5).]] (10) Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house [Cf. Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:21-24; Deut. 12:5-7; 14:22-29; and Neh. 13:12.], and test Me now in this,' says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, 'if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (11) Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,' says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts. (12) 'All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,' says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts. [[From our new-covenant perspective, we know that the nations will not call Israel/Judah blessed in any substantial way until after Israel/Judah is saved (the remnant of the nation) in the last days through repenting and submitting to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in faith.]] (13) 'Your words have been arrogant against Me,' says the LORD [Yahweh]. 'Yet you say, "What have we spoken against You?" (14) You have said, "It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts? [[These complaining words of verses 14, 15 cover much of the same ground as the words of 2:17. One problem was, as it so often happened with the people of Israel/Judah (and as it has so often has happened with Christians), much of this serving God was limited to external things, without really loving and serving Him from the heart and repenting of their sinful state (cf., e.g., Isa. 1:1-31; 58:1-14; and Mal. 2:10-16).]] (15) So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape." ' (16) Then those who feared the LORD [Yahweh] spoke to one another, and the LORD [Yahweh] gave attention and heard it and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD [Yahweh] and who esteem His name. [Their names will be found written in God's (the Lamb's) book of life.] (17) 'They will be Mine [cf. Isa. 43:1],' says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, 'on the day that I prepare My own possession [cf. Deut. 7:6; 1 Pet. 2:9], and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.' [The word "then" (Hebrew "az") at the beginning of verse 16 helps demonstrate that "those who feared the LORD [Yahweh]" were responding (including responding with repentance where repentance was required) to the ministry of Malachi (to the word of God spoken through Malachi). (I had a footnote: "As a result of the Lord's rebuke, a faithful remnant were drawn together in Israel..." [Paul R. Fink, "Liberty Bible Commentary," Vol. 1 (Old-Time Gospel Hour, 1982), page 1861].) This same truth applies to the faithful remnant in the days of many other prophets, very much including John the Baptist and the days of the end-time Elijah(s). ((I had a footnote: Undoubtedly there were individual Israelites who did not need to do much repenting in the days of Malachi, but such people would have been the first to respond to God's message through Malachi. Similarly, in the days of John the Baptist, the most righteous Jews came running when John, and then Jesus, called them to repentance. They knew that they needed all the saving grace that God makes available. Such people were typically quick to see their need for the Lamb of God, to whom John the Baptist pointed them. The "righteous" knew that they needed the "Righteousness" of God in Christ.)) In line with the theme of Malachi chapters 3 and 4, the ones who fear God and repent will be spared being removed in God's end-time judgment of the world: They will inherit a place in God's eternal kingdom, whereas the unrepentant will be removed by judgment.]] (18) So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.' " [[Some of the Jews of Malachi's day were accusing God of not distinguishing between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves Him and the one who does not serve Him (see Mal. 2:17; 3:13-15). As I mentioned, I'm sure that God hated such blasphemous charges. Here in verse 18, God makes it known that when He has completed His work of saving and judging it will be obvious that He always did (cf. Gen. 18:25), and always will, distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. (You never really get by with sin.) The unrepentant wicked will find their eternal destiny to be quite different from the glorious destiny of those who fear God and repent and submit to Him in faith, to whom God (through the Lamb of God) imparts His righteousness and full salvation. God always did, and He always will, require His people to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. Such distinctions are part of the moral, righteous character of God.]]


[This is 3:19-24 in the Hebrew. These verses are very closely connected with those that went before.] " 'For behold, the day is coming [This is the often-spoken-of day of God's judgment of the world at the end of this age. That judgment will be worldwide, but the spotlight here in Malachi chapter 4 is on God's end-time judgment of Israel/Judah.], burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer [those who do not repent, not even in response to the powerful ministry of God's end-time minister(s) "My messenger/Elijah"] will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,' says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, 'so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.' [[The unrepentant will be removed by God's judgment; they will not have a place in His eternal kingdom. Compare, for example, Mal. 3:5; Psalm 21:8-10; Nah. 1:5, 6; Matt. 3:12; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; 2 Pet. 3:7; and Rev. 20:11-15.]] (2) But for you who fear My name [See Mal. 3:16-18.], the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings [[Compare Isa. 30:26; Jer. 30:17; 33:6; Luke 1:78, 79; and Rev. 7:2. (Revelation 7:2 is discussed on pages 178, 179 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." As discussed there, it is quite possible that the "sun of righteousness" represents the Lord Jesus Christ.) The "wings" refer to the rays (the glory rays) coming from the "sun of righteousness." The rays from this sun will have the power, through Christ Jesus, to bring full salvation to those who fear God - the repentant will be ready for His coming. Those glorious rays will make them fully righteous with the Righteousness of God (in and through Christ Jesus), and it will make all things righteous (with all the attendant blessings) for those who will have a place in God's kingdom. ((I had a footnote: For those Jews (and Gentiles) who will have become Christians (I mean true Christians, Christians who are faithful to God and the new covenant) in the days before Christ's (mid-week) second coming, His second coming will mean glorification and the rapture.))]]; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. (3) You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,' says the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts. [[Quite a few prophetic verses speak of the people of (true) Israel having a role in the overthrow of the wicked at the end of this age. The most important such verses speak of the glorified and raptured saints reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ as He judges the world, including the devil and his hosts in the spiritual dimension. We will begin to reign with Him at the time of the mid-week resurrection, glorification, and rapture (cf., e.g., Psalms 2; 110:3; Rom. 16:20; Rev. 2:26, 27; 12:5; 17:14; 19:8, 14, 19). (These verses are discussed, most of them in some detail, in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." Also see 1 Cor. 6:2, 3.)) Verses like Zech. 12:6-9; 14:12 show that the saved (but not yet glorified) end-time remnant of Israel/Judah will also be involved to some extent in subduing God's enemies during the second half of Daniel's 70th week. (Zechariah chapters 12 and 14 are discussed in a verse-by-verse manner in "The Mid-Week Rapture," chapter 15.)

What I said in the preceding paragraph is important and biblical, and many commentators understand Mal. 4:3 that way, but I believe the idea intended here is that God will have already overthrown the unrepentant wicked and turned them to "ashes" (cf. Ezek. 28:18) before the end-time remnant of Israel/Judah tread on those ashes. (This picture of the righteous treading on the ashes of the wicked effectively demonstrates that God will distinguish between the righteous and the wicked.) Malachi 4:1 has already informed us that the evildoers/wicked "will be chaff" and that "the day that is coming will set them ablaze." ((I had a footnote: The wicked being set ablaze like chaff and their being ashes under the soles of the feet of the righteous is figurative language, powerful figurative language. The Bible doesn't teach the annihilation of the wicked (cf., e.g., Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:15; 21:8; 22:15).))]] (4) 'Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb [Mt. Sinai] for all Israel [very much including the Jews of Malachi's generation]. [[God, through Malachi, called Israel/Judah to be faithful to the Mosaic Law, which was the foundation of the covenant He had made with them at Mt. Sinai. That covenant, according to promise (e.g., Jer. 31:31-34), has now been superseded by the new covenant in the blood of Christ.]] (5) Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD [see Joel 2:31; cf. Joel 2:11]. [[The last two verses of the book of Malachi cover the same ground as Mal. 3:1-6. As I mentioned, the fact that God sends prophets before He sends judgment, and especially before He sends His end-time judgment of Israel/Judah (and the world), is a dominant theme of the book of Malachi, with Malachi himself fulfilling this same role as a forerunner for "My messenger/Elijah." As I mentioned, the name "Malachi" means "My messenger."

Verses like the following confirm that the ministry of John the Baptist must be included as a preliminary, partial fulfillment of this prophecy: MATTHEW 11:14, "And if you are willing to accept it, John [the Baptist] himself is Elijah who was to come"; Matt. 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; and LUKE 1:16, 17, "And he [John the Baptist] will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. (17) It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN [cf. Mal. 4:6], and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." The words of Luke 1:16, 17 were part of the words that the angel Gabriel spoke to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, when he announced John's birth and ministry.

We can see John the Baptist here in Mal. 4:5, 6, but the emphasis here (because of the emphasis throughout Malachi chapter 4 on "the great and terrible day of the LORD [Yahweh]") is on Elijah the prophet who will minister at the end of the age, just before the Lord Jesus Christ returns and the end-time day of judgment begins. (See under Mal. 3:1.)]] (6) And he will restore ["or, turn"] the hearts of the fathers to their [The word "their" is italics in the NASB] children [[See Luke 1:16, 17 (quoted above on this page). The Hebrew noun "ben" (the plural is used here in verse 6) that is translated "children" here and later in this verse is the noun normally translated "son(s)." ((I had a footnote: The NASB translates "ben" as "son" 1,876 times and the plural as "sons" 2,369 times, but this noun can also be translated "children," including boys and girls); the NASB translates this noun as "children" 111 times.)) The KJV; NKJV; and NIV all have "children" here.]], and the children to their fathers [[There is much difference of opinion regarding the meaning of these words at the beginning of verse 6. Fortunately, however, the overall meaning of the verse is quite clear: The ministry of Elijah the prophet (which includes the ministry of John the Baptist and the ministry of the two prophets of the book of Revelation, or at least one of the two prophets) will result in the serious repentance of many of the sons of Israel/Judah before the Lord comes to judge Israel/Judah. The first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is included, but the emphasis in Malachi chapter 4 is on His second coming.

The most common view on the meaning of the words at the beginning of verse 6 is that the "fathers" refer to the fathers of old, men like Moses, who had been faithful to God and the covenant. Elijah the prophet (mentioned in Mal. 4:6), by bringing about the repentance of many of the Israelites to God, will cause the restoration of the hearts of the faithful fathers to their backsliden offspring, that is, to that part of their backsliden offspring who now become faithful to God. And the repentant children will now have been changed in their hearts and have come back to the faithful fathers of Israel/Judah. (The primary issue, of course, is that they have repented in their hearts and come back to God Himself.)

Several verses in the book of Malachi specifically contrast the Jews of Malachi's generation (the sons/children) with the faithful fathers (see Mal. 2:4-9; 3:4, 7; cf. 4:4). ((I had a footnote: Malachi 3:3 speaks of purifying the "sons of Levi"; Mal. 3:6 mentions the "sons of Jacob." The Hebrew noun translated "children" here in Mal. 4:6 is the same noun (ben) translated "sons" in 3:3, 5. (See the footnote above, under verse 6.) If "ben" were translated "sons" here in Mal. 4:6, it would be easier to see a possible connection between the faithful "fathers" of old and the unfaithful "sons" who need to repent here in 4:6.)) Compare ISAIAH 63:16, "For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us And Israel does not recognize us. You, O LORD [Yahweh] are our Father, Our Redeemer of old is Your name."

Another common view is that these words speak of a reconciliation of the fathers with their children who live in the days in which Elijah the prophet ministers (cf. Luke 1:17, which is quoted above), and the children with their fathers. The fathers and their children are reconciled to one another as both repent and submit their hearts to God. This view is possible, but there was no specific mention of the sin of strife between the fathers and the children earlier in this book, and this sin, though serious, can hardly be considered a root sin. It would be totally irrelevant, of course, if the fathers and children fully accepted one another in their hearts if their hearts were not first and foremost given to God. Sinners are often united in their sin.

Another view is that it would be better to translate something like, "He will turn the hearts of the fathers TOGETHER WITH the hearts of the children and the hearts of the children TOGETHER WITH their fathers. With this view their hearts would be turned to God.]], lest I come and smite the land with a curse ["or 'ban of destruction' " (margin of NASB)].' " [[The BDB Hebrew Lexicon (under "cherem," the noun translated "curse" by the NASB) says that the meaning here is " 'smite the land with a ban,' i.e. utterly destroy it," and quite a few commentators make this same point. I believe that is the intended meaning here; that is, if God didn't send Elijah the prophet (who will help bring about the repentance of many of the Israelites, the repentant [elect] remnant) in the last days before He comes to judge Israel/Judah, He would have to remove the entire nation by judgment when He comes (cf., e.g., Luke 13:1-5).

In accordance with God's merciful plan, the end-time ministry of Elijah the prophet, along with the other things that God will do in the last days to warn Israel/Judah (and the entire world) that the day of judgment is super imminent (including the sounding of the seven trumpets of the book of Revelation, which will announce the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the day of judgment) will bring about the repentance of many in Israel/Judah (and will have a major impact on the entire world). As I mentioned, the two prophets will probably announce the sounding of the first six trumpets (or maybe all seven trumpets) of the book of Revelation before they sound. It won't be possible for Israel (or the rest of the world) to ignore the ministry of the two witnesses/prophets of Rev. 11:3-12.]]

Excerpt from E. B. Pusey under Malachi 4:5 ("The Minor Prophets," Vol. 1 [Baker Book House, 1985 reprint of the 1885 edition], pages 499-502).

"... When [Jesus] says, 'Elias shall truly first come and restore all things (Matt. 17:11), He implies a coming of Elias, other than that of St. John Baptist, since he was already martyred, and 'all things' were not yet 'restored.' [It is important to see that all things will not be restored in the full sense BEFORE the Lord Jesus returns. It is His work of judging, saving, etc. that He will do after He returns that will "restore all things," at least He will restore all things that can be restored. The rest will be removed from God's kingdom by judgment.] This [the end-time coming of Elijah] must also be the fullest fulfillment. For 'the great and terrible Day of the Lord' [Mal. 4:5] is the Day of judgment, of which all earthly judgments, however desolating, (as the destruction of Jerusalem [in AD 70]) are but shadows and earnests. ...

Our Lord's words, 'Elias truly shall first come and restore all things,' seem to me to leave no question, that, as St. John Baptist came, in the spirit and power of Elias, before His First Coming, so, before the Second Coming, Elias should come in person, as Jews and Christians have alike expected. This has been the Christian expectation from the first. ...."

Quite a few commentators on Malachi (and some commentators on Matthew, including Henry Alford) agree with Pusey's interpretation of Matt. 17:11. Pusey goes on for some four pages with small type quoting from early Christian writers (starting with Justin Martyr) showing that they believed that, even though John the Baptist fulfilled in part the prophecy of Elijah of Malachi chapters 3 and 4, Elijah the prophet must yet come before the second coming of Christ. They often referred the words of Christ about Elijah's coming to restore all things (Matt. 17:11) to Elijah's still future coming at the end of this age. They typically held the view that Elijah the prophet of Old Testament days will be one of the two prophets of Revelation chapter 11.

I don't believe it is very probable that Elijah, the prophet of old, will minister on the earth at the end of this age. I believe it is much more probable that Christian prophets who are living on the earth at that time will fulfill the role of the two prophets of Rev. 11:3-12).

May the will of God be fully accomplished through this paper, and His people be edified!

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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