Summary: Christmas condemns all who have rejected Christ, but it offers hope should such people turn in faith to the Son of God.
“Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
“Utter destruction!” I think you would agree that this is an unusual way in which to begin an Advent Message. However, these final words of the Old Testament provide the foundation for our celebration of the coming of the Son of God. However, these shocking words will eventuate in hope and joy. Let’s focus on the concluding words of Malachi’s powerful message.
Some translations end with the warning of a curse on the land. The text I use, the ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION of the Bible, translates this Hebrew term with our English words, utter destruction. I should think that utter destruction would qualify as a curse. This was God’s final Word to Israel for over four hundred years. “Utter destruction.” Indeed, this is a frightful way in which to conclude a prophetic message. In fact, this phrase (or word, in Hebrew) is the final word of the canon of the Old Testament.
We don’t like our literature to end in this manner. We think novels should end with the notation that “they lived happily ever after.” Likewise, we would expect that God’s great plan of creation and redemption should end on a victorious note.
Doctor James Boice writes, “The Masoretes, who have given us most of the copies of the Hebrew Old Testament we have and who added the vowel points to the Hebrew text, were so bothered by this [unhappy ending] that they repeated the next-to-the-last verse of Malachi after the last verse. Similarly, the Septuagint reverses the last two verses so the Old Testament ends, not with a curse, but with a blessing.”
It is appropriate that the Old Covenant should end in this fashion, however. Hidden behind these dreadful words is something which is less apparent—divine love. God did not wish to destroy His beloved people, and therefore He sought to grab their attention by concluding on a dark theme which would arrest them in their mad rush toward certain destruction. Destruction need not come, however, if the appalling words are taken to heart to effect a needed course correction.
Some people suggest that last words are important, if for no other reason then that they point to what is most important in the speaker’s life. If that is so, then surely the final words of the True and Living God must bear grave significance. Consider God’s last Word until the days of Christ as recorded in the New Testament.
THE DAY OF THE LORD — The message which Malachi delivered was an eschatological message. He drew aside the veil which separates the present from the future and revealed what God would yet do in the land. Few people today think of prophecy in conjunction with the Christmas Season, but the Advent of the Son of God did fulfil a great number of prophecies. Furthermore, His coming presaged yet greater prophecies which are yet unfulfilled. It is this Day of the Lord to which Malachi looks as he closes his message.
“The Day of the Lord” will be preceded by the presence of Elijah. Jesus affirmed that Elijah must come [MATTHEW 11:13, 14]. Some concepts must be made clear if we will understand this prophecy. First, the “Day of the Lord” is a term which speaks of a specific period of time. It is a concept which in the Old Testament speaks of that future period of judgement when Messiah shall purify His people, Israel.
The Day of the Lord is in particular related to Israel and not to us who are Christians. This is not to say that Christians should not be informed concerning what is coming, but it does imply that Christians need not be overly concerned that they will experience the pains which will accompany that awesome Day of Judgement.
The Day of the Lord is rooted in Old Testament prophecy. Accordingly, the Day of the Lord signifies the same as “the last tribulation,” which breaks in as “great trouble” [DANIEL 12:1] for Israel [“time of distress for Jacob,” JEREMIAH 30:7] and for the nations. Joel speaks of the Day of the Lord as a time of judgement [JOEL 3:14, 15], and also as a time of blessing [JOEL 3:18]. Therefore, the Day of the Lord speaks of something more than mere judgement. Listen to the Word, then, to learn what is meant.