Mal 4:1-6. GOD'S COMING JUDGMENT: TRIUMPH OF THE GODLY: RETURN TO THE LAW THE BEST PREPARATION FOR JEHOVAH'S COMING: ELIJAH'S PREPARATORY MISSION OF REFORMATION.
1. the day cometh . . . burn--
Primarily is meant the judgment coming on Jerusalem; but as this will
not exhaust the meaning, without supposing what is inadmissible in
Scripture--exaggeration--the final and full accomplishment, of which
the former was the earnest, is the day of general judgment. This
principle of interpretation is not double, but successive
fulfilment. The language is abrupt, "Behold, the day cometh! It
burns like a furnace." The abruptness imparts terrible reality to the
picture, as if it suddenly burst on the prophet's view.
all the proud--in opposition to the cavil above (Mal 3:15), "now we call the proud (haughty despisers of God) happy."
stubble-- (Ob 18; Mt 3:12). As Canaan, the inheritance of the Israelites, was prepared for their possession by purging out the heathen, so judgment on the apostates shall usher in the entrance of the saints upon the Lord's inheritance, of which Canaan is the type--not heaven, but earth to its utmost bounds (Ps 2:8) purged of all things that offend (Mt 13:41), which are to be "gathered out of His kingdom," the scene of the judgment being that also of the kingdom. The present dispensation is a spiritual kingdom, parenthetical between the Jews' literal kingdom and its antitype, the coming literal kingdom of the Lord Jesus.
neither root nor branch--proverbial for utter destruction (Am 2:9).
2. The effect of the judgment on the righteous, as contrasted with
its effect on the wicked
To the wicked it shall be as an oven that consumes the stubble
to the righteous it shall be the advent of the gladdening Sun, not of
condemnation, but "of righteousness"; not destroying, but "healing"
you that fear my name--The same as those in Mal 3:16, who confessed God amidst abounding blasphemy (Isa 66:5; Mt 10:32). The spiritual blessings brought by Him are summed up in the two, "righteousness" (1Co 1:30) and spiritual "healing" (Ps 103:3; Isa 57:19). Those who walk in the dark now may take comfort in the certainty that they shall walk hereafter in eternal light (Isa 50:10).
in his wings--implying the winged swiftness with which He shall appear (compare "suddenly," Mal 3:1) for the relief of His people. The beams of the Sun are His "wings." Compare "wings of the morning," Ps 139:9. The "Sun" gladdening the righteous is suggested by the previous "day" of terror consuming the wicked. Compare as to Christ, 2Sa 23:4; Ps 84:11; Lu 1:78; Joh 1:9; 8:12; Eph 5:14; and in His second coming, 2Pe 1:19. The Church is the moon reflecting His light (Re 12:1). The righteous shall by His righteousness "shine as the Sun in the kingdom of the Father" (Mt 13:43).
ye shall go forth--from the straits in which you were, as it were, held captive. An earnest of this was given in the escape of the Christians to Pella before the destruction of Jerusalem.
grow up--rather, "leap" as frisking calves [CALVIN]; literally, "spread," "take a wide range."
as calves of the stall--which when set free from the stall disport with joy (Ac 8:8; 13:52; 20:24; Ro 14:17; Ga 5:22; Php 1:4; 1Pe 1:8). Especially the godly shall rejoice at their final deliverance at Christ's second coming (Isa 61:10).
3. Solving the difficulty
that the wicked often now prosper. Their prosperity and the adversity
of the godly shall soon be reversed. Yea, the righteous shall be the
army attending Christ in His final destruction of the ungodly
Ps 49:14; 47:3;
Re 2:26, 27; 19:14, 15).
ashes--after having been burnt with the fire of judgment (Mal 4:1).
4. Remember . . . law--"The law and all the prophets"
were to be in force until John
no prophet intervening after Malachi; therefore they are told,
"Remember the law," for in the absence of living prophets, they were
likely to forget it. The office of Christ's forerunner was to bring
them back to the law, which they had too much forgotten, and so "to
make ready a people prepared for the Lord" at His coming
God withheld prophets for a time that men might seek after Christ with
the greater desire [CALVIN]. The history of human
advancement is marked by periods of rest, and again progress. So in
Revelation: it is given for a time; then during its suspension men live
on the memories of the past. After Malachi there was a silence of four
hundred years; then a harbinger of light in the wilderness, ushering in
the brightest of all the lights that had been manifested, but
short-lived; then eighteen centuries during which we have been guided
by the light which shone in that last manifestation. The silence has
been longer than before, and will be succeeded by a more glorious and
awful revelation than ever. John the Baptist was to "restore" the
defaced image of "the law," so that the original might be recognized
when it appeared among men [HINDS]. Just as
"Moses" and "Elias" are here connected with the Lord's coming, so at
the transfiguration they converse with Him, implying that the law and
prophets which had prepared His way were now fulfilled in Him.
statutes . . . judgments--ceremonial "statutes": "judgments" in civil questions at issue. "The law" refers to morals and religion.
5. I send you Elijah--as a means towards your "remembering the law"
the prophet--emphatical; not "the Tishbite"; for it is in his official, not his personal capacity, that his coming is here predicted. In this sense, John the Baptist was an Elijah in spirit (Lu 1:16, 17), but not the literal Elijah; whence when asked, "Art thou Elias?" (Joh 1:21), He answered, "I am not." "Art thou that prophet?" "No." This implies that John, though knowing from the angel's announcement to his father that he was referred to by Mal 4:5 (Lu 1:17), whence he wore the costume of Elijah, yet knew by inspiration that he did not exhaustively fulfil all that is included in this prophecy: that there is a further fulfilment (compare Note, see on Mal 3:1). As Moses in Mal 4:4 represents the law, so Elijah represents the prophets. The Jews always understood it of the literal Elijah. Their saying is, "Messiah must be anointed by Elijah." As there is another consummating advent of Messiah Himself, so also of His forerunner Elijah; perhaps in person, as at the transfiguration (Mt 17:3; compare Mt 17:11). He in his appearance at the transfiguration in that body on which death had never passed is the forerunner of the saints who shall be found alive at the Lord's second coming. Re 11:3 may refer to the same witnesses as at the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah; Re 11:6 identifies the latter (compare 1Ki 17:1; Jas 5:17). Even after the transfiguration Jesus (Mt 17:11) speaks of Elijah's coming "to restore all things" as still future, though He adds that Elijah (in the person of John the Baptist) is come already in a sense (compare Ac 3:21). However, the future forerunner of Messiah at His second coming may be a prophet or number of prophets clothed with Elijah's power, who, with zealous upholders of "the law" clothed in the spirit of "Moses," may be the forerunning witnesses alluded to here and in Re 11:2-12. The words "before the . . . dreadful day of the Lord," show that John cannot be exclusively meant; for he came before the day of Christ's coming in grace, not before His coming in terror, of which last the destruction of Jerusalem was the earnest (Mal 4:1; Joe 2:31).