Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse ~ Malachi 4:6, KJV.
My wife likes the word “smite”. Don’t ask me why. I think she likes it when it refers to other people who get the smite and not her. Malachi 4 is a very short chapter. This also is the last word from the LORD until the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. Take a look at how it ends. Here it is in the ESV.
“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. 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.”
From our New Testament perspective, we understand that Christ identified John the Baptist as Elijah, Matthew 11:12-14, but only in part. He also taught that Elijah was yet to come in some sense, Matthew 17:11. Since all things had not been restored as Jesus was speaking in this passage, it is clear that “Elijah does come and he will restore all things” refers to something in the future. The point that Jesus made to His disciples is that while Elijah will come in the future, John the Baptist’s Elijah-ministry went without effecting repentance in the very people that pointed out the requirement of his coming, namely the scribes, Matthew 17:10.
What I would like to draw your attention to in this Malachi 4 passage is the idea of smiting the earth with a curse. The ministry of Elijah will prevent the LORD from smiting the earth with a curse. In the context of this passage, the repentance that will be prompted by this ministry is focused on the nation of Israel. Notice the adherence to the Mosaic Covenant in relation to the nation of Israel in verse 4. But let’s back up even more.
Beginning in verse 1, there is this universal judgment by fire which is coming to burn up the wicked. Those that fear the LORD during this time will have a hope and healing in the Sun of Righteousness, verse 2. They will actually have a part in the judgment of the wicked, verse 3. So now when we get to verses 4-6, we understand that this repentance on the part of the nation of Israel will exempt them from this fiery judgment.
Examining the passage in this light shows that while Israel will be spared the smiting, there are others who will not be spared. The earth will be smitten with a curse, just not those that repent at the ministry of Elijah thereby finding healing in the Sun of Righteousness. In this way we can reconcile passages like Isaiah 34 with Isaiah 35. There will be devastation and destruction with lasting effects at the “indignation of the LORD upon all nations”, Isaiah 34:2. Certain portions of the earth will be transformed into wasteland type places being practically uninhabitable, Isaiah 34:9-10. But at this same time, the earth will also blossom and become fruitful, Isaiah 35:1-2. Within the confines of these blessed places there will be healing for the physically afflicted as well, Isaiah 35:5-6. Notice that this passage ties these blessings to the coming of the LORD in vengeance, Isaiah 35:4.
PreMillennialists seem united on the idea of a literal 1000 year period during which Christ will reign here on the earth. However, many times there is no exploration of exactly what will take place during that 1000 year period. Passages like this should be brought to the front to show that the Messianic Reign will be about extending God’s blessings to those that repent and come under the rule of Messiah’s earthly reign. Currently, individuals may repent and experience individual blessings. During the Millennium, nations may repent on a national level and experience national blessings. These blessings will include restoration of the earth to Eden-like conditions, Isaiah 51:3, Ezekiel 36:35, and healing to those who participate, Isaiah 61. The reverse will be true for those nations who continue in their stubbornness, Zechariah 14:17-19. In reading a passage like Isaiah 66, it is impossible to understand this capstone for the whole vision of Isaiah 40-66 without understanding this basic principle. Here in this chapter is contained the new heavens and new earth – with Israel as the centerpiece – God’s glory declared among the Gentiles – comfort for Jerusalem – destruction for the wicked – all flesh coming to worship the LORD – and yet visible areas of devastation here on the earth. The Millennium reconciles all of this. The purpose of the millennium is to save, not just humans, but humanity. Society itself will be redeemed by the ongoing judgment and administrative reign of Jesus Christ Himself here on earth. Post-Millennialists have it right, they just put it on the wrong side of Christ’s physical return.
As the day of the LORD draws near, I expect a return to preaching like that of John the Baptist. Repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand. The axe is laid at the root of the tree. Every tree that does not bear fruits of repentance will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. The One who comes will thoroughly purge His threshing floor. No one is exempt. Either you will be gathered into the barn as wheat, or blown away and burned up like chaff.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman