Summary: The big day of the Lord's return is coming which will be either a day of horror or a day of unbridled joy. All depends on our relationship to Jesus Christ.
The big day is coming! What day? You may be thinking of your 50th class reunion. Or you may be thinking of your wedding. Or maybe your birthday. You may be thinking of that dreaded appointment at the doctor or the dentist. Maybe that big day is Tuesday, November 6th – election day. But the big day is either a day of celebration or a day of dread.
And so also is the Big Day when the Lord returns. And Malachi ends his prophesy with the second coming: “For behold, the day is coming.” What will that day be like for you? Have you thought about it? Malachi paints two pictures of that day – one of darkness, and another of light. Your relationship with God will determine which it will be for you.
I. Day of judgment (1)
First, the day of judgment will be one of utter horror as we read in 4:1 “For 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.”
It would be very easy to pull some punches and lighten up the message that Malachi talks about here. Once again, we discover that the Bible is not a G rated book. It’s not an easy read! We’d rather close our eyes at moments like this. Why don’t we just go on to verse 2? But no! There is a reason why God wanted us to read and understand this first verse – it is a warning! Judgment is real and Hell is real. And that day will be one of fiery judgment.
And we read this in Isaiah 66:24 “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” And also in Revelation 20:10 “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
The Bible talks about fire, and describes it as a place of burning like a furnace. In Luke 16:23-24 Jesus told the parable of Lazarus and a rich man who died and was condemned to hell. It says of him, “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. [in heaven] So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'”
Here the Bible is using pictures to help us understand what this rich man was experiencing in hell. It isn’t meant to be a literal picture of hell with fire and heat, but God uses the picture of fire so we can understand the intense pain and suffering that this man is experiencing. In Matt 13 Jesus describes the last judgment: “The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”(Mat 13:49-50). For there will be pain only continually without release and without hope. Only weeping and crying. Only suffering! Horrible.
Hell is a place from which God’s mercy and goodness have been withdrawn. God’s wrath is revealed as a terrible judgment. Separation from God is part of this terrible suffering as well. I tell you, there will be no atheists in hell, for they will all fully experience the reality of the righteous judgment of God. He will be real to them but they will realize it too late! No possibility to change because they will be separated from Him. [alone in Warsaw but not alone from God]
Imagine never finding mercy. Never finding comfort. Never finding a moment of peace. All these things come only from the mercy of God. When someone is cut off completely from God’s mercy, he has absolutely nothing! Utterly alone – as Malachi writes: The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” They will have no mercy - not even for the smallest root or branch.
Who is this judgment against? Malachi says “For all arrogant and evildoers.” Whew…that leaves me and all of us here out doesn’t it? No it doesn’t! When we commit a crime, we must pay for that crime. When we do any evil against God’s Law, we have broken it and God must punish crime because he is righteous. The scripture says: “The one who sins shall die.” (Ezek. 18:20) Whether you cheated in school, lied to your husband, cursed God, or broke some insignificant law. The one who sins must die and face judgment. Little sins, little judgment. Big sins…big judgment. But to God – one sin = death. He cannot allow one sin into his presence. And you say: “That’s not fair!”