"I am the vine, you are the branches"
Malachi vs Revelation, Part 3
In the past year we have been looking at the Book of Malachi and the message to the seven churches in Revelation. Comparing the two books, we have seen that there was nothing new between the end of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the end of the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament). Both were dealing with idolatry and a lack of zeal in serving the Lord. We are going to look at the last few verses of Malachi and Revelation to see what will be the outcome of such behavior on the part of God's people in both of these two books.
The Coming Day of Judgment
The book of Malachi 4 opens with, "The Lord Almighty says, 'The day of Judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. The arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw on that day. They will be consumed like a tree, roots and all.'" Malachi warns the people once again in Malachi chapter 3 that if they continue in their rebellion against God with their idolatry and going their own way that their path would lead to destruction, a judgment from God that would destroy them like a tree, root and all. We must remember that God is a jealous God and He is jealous for His people (Exodus 20:5).
Malachi goes on in verse 2 of chapter 4, "But for you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. On the day that I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet." The reward of the righteous has always been that they would see judgment come to the wicked, the very thing that the people were complaining about when they said that God favored the evildoers because He does not punish them (Malachi 2:17). He goes on to warn the people to remember to obey the instructions of Moses and all the laws and regulations that were given on Mount Sinai for all of Israel. There needed to be a restoration of God's people and it could only start with the keeping of God's Word. The worship had broken down, the covenant had been broken, and their moral fiber had been torn away. So God tells the people, "Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of children to their parents. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse." And with that warning, the Book of Malachi ends.
Sun of Righteousness
Malachi 4:2 makes a Messianic reference to the Messiah as the "Sun of Righteousness." The Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in His wings seems like a strange passage. This was not a misinterpretation when he referred to Him as the sun instead of the son, for the Messiah was often referred to as the sun since He was to be the "Light of the World" and the Light of life (John 8:12, Judges 5:31, Psalm 84:11). This light is the light of His glory (Isaiah 60:19-20, Revelation 21:23). Even at the transfiguration, we see this great light shining around Moses, Elijah, and Yeshua. The word "wings" in Hebrew is kenafim which also means "corners." This is a reference to Numbers 15:38, when Moses tells the men to place tassels on the corners of their garments. We see this playing out in the story of the woman with the issue of blood who grabs hold of the bottom of Yeshua's garment (Luke 8:45). The new JPS version (Jerusalem Publishing Society) translates the passage like this: "But for you who revere My Name a sun of victory shall rise to bring healing." The coming Messiah would bring healing to the people not only physically, but also spiritually, for the sun of victory did arise because of His victory on the cross; the Sun of Righteousness brought healing to all the righteous who believed in Him. So why is God sending Elijah before the coming of the Messiah? Let's take a close look.
First we must understand who Elijah was so we can understand why God was sending him before the coming of Messiah. Elijah's Hebrew name is Eliyahu which means "My God is the Lord." Elijah's constant goal was to have the people return to the one true God and His teachings which are found in the Mosaic Law. Jezebel was into a variety of idol worship. One of her idols was Mithra, the sun god; Abraham's family was also into sun worship and, of course, that is why God told Abraham to leave his family. Mithra the sun god is part of the ancient religion that goes back to Babylon. Mithra was the god of light. He was a king and shepherd and was to give life and healing to the sick and even raise the dead. He would loose the bonds of the captives and put an end to wickedness and destroy his enemies. Looking like the true Messiah, the sun god was, and still is, a counterfeit, a false messiah; yet he has been worshiped by people all throughout the ages. After King Ahab allowed his wife Jezebel to establish her Phoenician worship with her 450 prophets of Baal and her 400 prophets of Asherah, which truly was a counterfeit religion, Elijah challenged the people of the Northern Kingdom to reject Baal worship and all of the other false idols of Queen Jezebel. So Elijah challenged her false religion and as we know, Elijah exposed her worthless idols on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40).
Elijah was a man of faith and he put his faith to action as we saw in his demonstration on Mt. Carmel. He was a man of prayer. He prayed and it did not rain for 3 1/2 years until he prayed again for it to rain (1 Kings 17:1-18:42, James 5:17-18). He was a man who loved God and His Word (1 Kings 21:9-16). He also was a man of signs and wonders (1 Kings 17:17-24). Elijah was a champion of restoring the people back to God's teachings, the teachings given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the very teachings that Malachi warned the people to remember to keep. Elijah was that light in the darkness.
So what does it mean that Elijah will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the children's hearts to the fathers? The word "restore" in Hebrew also means "repent" (shuv). Elijah's mission was to turn the hearts of the people to repentance and thus return to the teachings of Moses, thus preparing the nation for the coming of Messiah, the Sun of Righteousness who will rise with healing in His wings. When Yeshua did come, He told His disciples that Elijah did come before Him fulfilling the prophecy, and he was John the Baptist.
John the Forerunner
In the annunciation of John, the angel refers to the prophecy about Elijah: "It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people for the Lord" (Luke 1:16-17). Throughout the Scriptures, we see that God used His prophets to call the children of Israel to repent and return to covenant faithfulness. This meant condemnation of idolatry, apostasy, corruption, and moral decay, and John was no exception. He was a voice in the wilderness preparing the way of the Lord. He warned the people that there would be consequences to their rebellious ways. He would say to those who came to be baptized (a Jewish custom which was an outward sign of spiritual renewal), "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee God's coming judgment? Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God. Don't just say, ‘We're safe - we're the descendents of Abraham.' That proves nothing. God can change these stones here into children of Abraham. Even now, the axe of God's judgment is poised, ready to severe your roots. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire" (Luke 3:7-9, John 15:5-6). Remember Malachi's warning in Chapter 4: if the people continued in their rebellion against God with their idolatry and going their own way, the path would lead to destruction and God's judgment would destroy the tree, root and all. Well, now we hear the same words from John and basically the same from Yeshua in His John 15 dialogue. Because of John‘s preaching, many people did repent and return, but many did not.
Luke 13:1-9 records a parable about the coming destruction. Some Galileans died at the hand of Pilate as they were sacrificing at the temple and the disciples asked Yeshua if they died because they were worse sinners than others. Yeshua replied by saying that they were not worse sinners, but that they too would perish unless they turned from their evil ways and turn to God and He repeated Himself and said, "I tell you again that unless you repent, you will also perish." Then He tells a parable about a man who wanted to cut down a fig tree because there were not any figs on the tree, but the gardener tells the man to allow it to live for another year and that he would fertilize it and give it extra attention to see if then it would bear fruit and if not, then he could cut it down. Yeshua was giving Israel an extra chance to change its ways, knowing that after His death His disciples would be preaching and teaching them and that the Holy Spirit would come down upon them.
So what judgment was John warning the people about?
The Coming Destruction
In Matthew 23:37-38, Yeshua laments over Jerusalem and He says, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate." In Matthew 24:1-2, Yeshua alludes to the coming destruction. "Yeshua came out of the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He answered and said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly, I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.'" In verses 15-20 He tells them, "The time will come when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about: The abomination of desolation in the Holy Place - pay attention! Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person outside the house must not go inside to pack. A person in the field must not return even for his coat." And again He says, "But pray that your flight may not be in winter, or on the Sabbath." Again in verse 23, He says, "See to it that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,' and will mislead many." These verses were not just a reference to His second coming, but they were also in correspondence with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. The believers who followed Yeshua heard His warnings and when they saw these things happening, they did just what He told them to do and they headed for the hills and so they lived. There were several Jewish revolts against Rome and thousands of Jews died. There are pages and pages of history recorded on the revolts and the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, but for the sake of this newsletter, we will just say that judgment came and it did consume the tree, root and all!
So what about now? We know that Yeshua is coming back a second time and surely today people are into idolatry and we have been moving further and further away from God. So is Elijah coming back again? Let's take a close look.
The Book of Revelation
In the letters to the churches, Yeshua addresses several churches at the time of the apostle John. This was during the time Yeshua spoke of in His Matthew 24 dialogue. Not only Jews were persecuted and put to death, but believers in Yeshua. The message to these churches was "Repent!" As we saw in past newsletters, Yeshua's message addresses idolatry, immorality, and a general falling away. We see this with His reference to Jezebel, the doctrine of Balaam, and the Nicolaitans. So what can we say about the church today? We know that there will be much tribulation and persecution before the second coming of Messiah; Revelation tells us so. But the church believes that God will rapture them before the Day of Judgment. But is this true? We want to take a second look at the message to the churches in the Book of Revelation and see what Messiah told them and then see if this is true for the church today. If we look at the message that was given through all of the prophets, including John the Baptist, it was always, "Repent." But in the days of John, he was able to add to his message, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!" Yeshua had the same message; in fact, His disciples had that same message even after Yeshua died, rose, and went back to the Father. So if the Kingdom of God was at hand and the message to the church was to repent and Elijah is coming again before the second coming of Messiah and His message for God's people is "Repent" and "Come back to the teachings of Moses," then we have to surmise that this is the message to the church today as well.
We are going to take a closer look at this in our next newsletter and we not only want to look at the message, but the messenger to the church of the Messianic Age.
Celebrating 20 Years
Come and join us this year as we celebrate our 20 years of our non-profit on March 10th, 2013 and in November, our 25th year in ministry by visiting us on Facebook to see all the pictures that we will be posting throughout the year and don't forget to like our page, if you do. And THANK YOU for being a part of this ministry these last 20 years!