The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord (Malachi 4:1-6)

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Does the return of Christ excite you, terrify you, or could you not possibly care less? The aim of this sermon is to convince you to care and to prepare for the Day of the Lord.

The Terrible Day of the Lord

Malachi concludes his book with a call for the people to get ready for the coming of the Messiah. He wrote: “behold the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble.” This is fulfillment with the first coming of Jesus (His birth and ministry on Earth) and also in His Second Coming. John the Baptist spoke of Jesus’ coming to the Pharisees: “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come…even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt 3:7,10). Of Jesus, he prophesied, “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matt 3:12). Jesus’ coming is a horrible day for the wicked in that they shall be punished for their sin and rebellion.

Malachi describes the wicked as arrogant and evildoers. They are arrogant because they live their life as if God is unnecessary. They give little attention to God and live their own life for themselves according to their own desires. They are evildoers because they persist in rebellion and sin. Christ will punish the wicked and they will recognize their error; though it will be too late for them to repent. The day of the Lord shall be terrible for the wicked. The wicked are compared to stubble (chaff: see Psalm 1). When Jesus first came, He provided salvation, but if salvation is rejected, Jesus will bring eternal damnation at His Second Coming (Matthew 25).

The Great Day of the Lord

On the Day of the Lord, the wicked shall be punished but the righteous shall be blessed. The righteous are those “who fear My name.” Malachi speaks of the righteous being blessed. Specifically, they shall be renewed (rise with healing in their wings), they shall rejoice (like calves leaping from the stall), and shall be victorious (treading down the wicked). When Jesus first came, He brought salvation and set the righteous free from the curse of sin. When Jesus returns, the righteous shall be purified (see Malachi 3:3).

The day of the Lord is a great glorious day that He people should long for. Paul, in His last days, wrote looking forward to the day of the Lord. He wrote, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing” (1 Tim 4:8).

Be Prepared

How were the Israelites to be prepared for the arrival of the Messiah? They were to “remember the law of My servant Moses.” Horeb (also called Sinai) refers to the mountain Moses went up and received the Law from God. It is called the “Mountain of God” in Exodus 3:1 & 1 Kings 19:8. God called the Israelites to remember His law, statutes, and rules. They were not to reinterpret or redefine them, they were to obey them. How are Christians to be prepared for the return of Christ? We do not remember and obey the Law of Moses, but the Law of Christ. The law of Christ is the recognition that Jesus has fulfilled the law (Matt 5:17) and has called us to love the Lord and our neighbor (Mark 12:29-31). Paul reminded us that “love is the fulfilling of the law” in Romans 13:10 and we accomplish this through faith in Jesus Christ.

We must also be watchful. Malachi told the Israelites that the Lord would “send Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” Elijah would “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” The New Testament is clear that the fulfillment of the messenger was John the Baptist. The angel of the Lord told John’s father that John would “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:16-17). In Matthew 11:10-15, Jesus said that John the Baptist is the messenger: the Elijah to come (see also Mal 4:5 & Matt 17:13).

Does the return of Christ excite you, terrify you, or could you not possibly care less? If it excites you, you are blessed because it is a great and magnificent day as you are eagerly awaiting your Savior’s return. If it terrifies you, allow God to turn your fear into repentance and be saved. You are fearful of the great and terrible day as you know the righteous judge will punish you for your sin. If you are apathetic about Christ’s return, you are in a terrible situation. The Lord–whom you disregard–shall come suddenly and you shall be without hope. Turn to Him in repentance and faith today. Remember: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).