Malachi 3:1-3. “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.
In Malachi, the last of the prophets speaks into the Apocalyptic Advent with a message of hope. As the nation of Israel awaits their savior they will live through 400 years of silence and the hiddenness of God. They will live through years of oppression at the hands of nation after nation opposed to God. But Malachi has renewed the covenant promise of God. I will send my messenger, he says. And, don’t miss what God says next, he will prepare the way before ME.
The messenger will go before Yahweh himself. God himself is coming – The Lord will come to his temple. As with all the prophets, Malachi paints a picture of impending judgment and doom. It’s not pretty. Who can endure the day of his coming…who can stand when he appears?
So much for our hope. Yes, God will return, but no one can withstand the judgment of God. Can they?
But look at verse 2b and 3. The judgment of God is a refiner’s fire.
There is hope. We can survive. Not only can we survive, we can come out of the judgment better than when we went in. But how? How is this possible?
400 years later, John the Baptist is Malachi’s messenger. Which means Jesus is the Lord God. The one who will suddenly come to his temple. Jesus is the one who brings judgment. You can trace this through John’s gospel. Jesus Christ is God (1:1-3). John the Baptist testifies of Christ (1:6-7); who then cleanses or judges the temple (2:13-22). This is the great plot twist of history, and Malachi foresaw it – God himself is his own Messiah. Jesus the Messiah is human and divine. Man and God. Of course it all makes sense now. No mere human could save us. That is the reality of the Apocalypse, God must break into time and space to save us. We are too full of darkness to save ourselves. God must do it.
The great hope of our Apocalyptic Advent is that our coming judge is God himself. Why? Because God himself is not only our judge, but also our Savior. The One who will judge you and me has already been judged FOR you and me. The one who will judge us lives in us. He has already judged us at the cross. Therefore, we are justified already. There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The one who will judge us has entered into his temple – your heart. Amen! This is our hope. This is the hope of “to live is Christ.”
Who can endure? Who can stand?
We can’t even survive family Christmas, much less the coming of the Lord.
Those who are united to Christ. Those in whom Christ lives. Jesus Christ went to Herod’s Temple, many times. As a baby to be circumcised. As a teacher to proclaim the gospel. As a judge to condemn it. But Herod’s temple was never the true temple of Christ. We are. The Church. Malachi’s prophecy is fulfilled in the church. In each and every Christian’s life. The refining fire and fuller’s soap is at work by the Spirit of Christ in us, to cleanse us of all sin, and to purify us for eternity.
Now what the prophet declared can be said of us:
Malachi 3:16-17. Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name.17 “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
Is your heart the temple of the Lord? Are you a son of God who will be spared? Are you in God’s book of remembrance? How does your union with Christ help you to answer these questions?