Rev. Haak is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Lynden, Washington.

Chapter 4 of Malachi’s prophecy flows naturally from the thoughts of the last part of chapter 3. Chapter 3:17, 18 spoke of that day when God would at last make up His church in which the remnant of Malachi’s day would be included. We were also told that that day would be the day of vindication of God’s righteous judgments, when the difference between the righteous and wicked would be clearly shown. Now the prophet declares the certainty of that day (Behold, the day cometh!) and unfolds the events of that day: a day of judgment for all who do wickedly and salvation for all who fear God’s name.

It should impress us that this is a very significant chapter. Not only is it the conclusion of Malachi’s prophecy, it is the end of the entire Old Testament. The next Word from God would be when the angel Gabriel is sent to Zacharias in the temple. We could not think of a more fitting and sober conclusion to both Malachi’s prophecy and the Old Testament. The certainty of Christ’s coming is announced, the warning of final judgment, the announcement of the arrival of Elijah to prepare God’s people for that day, and the encouragement on account of the great good that shall belong to God’s people – all these are found in this chapter.

Dividing the thoughts of the chapter, we see that the day Malachi foretells as surely coming will be a day of:

1. Judgment. The prophet speaks of the day as “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (vs. 5). Further, it is the day of destruction and fiery indignation of God against the wicked, which shall leave them nothing (vs. 1). And finally, it will be the day when Jehovah shall smite the earth with a curse. Plainly, the prophet sees to the last day ushered in by the appearing of Christ, resulting in the final judgment and damnation of the wicked.

2. Renewal. Before that day comes (and remember that Malachi sees the day of the Lord as one whole, including Christ’s birth and His return in judgment), Elijah shall come. His work will be to “turn the hearts” of God’s people. Specifically, there will be a renewal of the family and of the covenant, as the heart of fathers shall be turned to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. God’s people will be prepared and made ready for that day by the ministry of Elijah, which will result in a people made ready for Christ’s return. Thus the prophet calls us to remember the “law of Moses my servant” (vs. 4).

3. Salvation. Once again we see the truth that that which brings judgment to the wicked world, at the same time brings salvation to those who fear the Lord. Indeed, the purpose for the day is the glory of God seen in the salvation of His church. That salvation is beautifully described. Christ will come as the Sun of Righteousness to give light and healing. We shall share in His victory and tread down the wicked. (See I Cor. 6:2 and Heidelberg Catechism, L.D. 12, Q&A 32.) Matthew Henry says it so well: “The great and terrible day of the Lord, like the pillar of cloud and fire, shall have a dark side turned towards the Egyptians that fight against God, and a bright side towards the faithful Israelites that follow him.” We are taught to look forward to that day, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world as we wait, and to be faithful in our own homes until He appears in power and great glory (II Thess. 1:7-10).

Memory Work

Malachi 4:2, 5, 6 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

Behold; I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: 

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Questions for Study

1. The Day of the Lord: Judgment

a. From verses 1, 5, 6 write down what Malachi says about the Day of the Lord. Then answer this question: What will be the overall impression left upon the wicked?

b. Look up the following passages and state what they teach about the Day of the Lord: Isaiah 34:1-10Revelation 6:12-17II Thessalonians 1:7-10II Peter 3:7-14. Any others?

c. What will happen to this physical creation? What is the idea of “fire” in Scripture? What is implied in the earth and wicked being burned up? Will they be annihilated?

d. This judgment comes upon “the proud and all that do wickedly.” From this prophecy explain who is meant by “proud” and by those who “do wickedly.” Also, put this in today’s terms.

2. The Day of the Lord: Renewal

a. Verse 5 tells us that before the day of the Lord comes, Elijah will be sent.

1) Who is Elijah? See Matthew 11:13, 14Matt. 17:10-13Luke 16:16Mark 9:12, 13Luke 1:15-17.

2) What are the similarities between Elijah and John? Give illustrations from their lives.

3) Is the ministry of Elijah (John the Baptist) finished or is it still present, and, if so, where? Explain and give proof from the Bible.

b. The result of the sending of Elijah the prophet (vs. 6).

1) When Gabriel quotes this passage to Zacharias he changes part of it (see Luke 1:17 and Malachi 4:6). What is changed? What is the significance of this change?

2) What does it mean that the hearts of fathers are turned to their children (see Isaiah 38:19Ephesians 6:4;Colossians 3:21)? What does it mean for the hearts of children to be turned to their fathers (see Luke 2:51;Ephesians 6:1-3Colossians 3:20)?

3) The result of the faithful ministry performed in the spirit of Elijah is found first and primarily in the home and parent-child relationship. We may call it a covenant renewal. Give some of the traits of a home where the hearts of parents are turned to their children, and children to their parents. How is this cultivated or nurtured?

3. The Day of the Lord: Salvation

a. Verse 2 is one of the great Old Testament prophecies of our Lord and the salvation He brings. Explain what it means that:

1) He is the Sun of Righteousness.

2) He has healing in His wings.

b. The effect of His coming upon us is said to be this, that “ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” A very expressive and beautiful figure is used of releasing to the field calves which have been tied up all winter. Explain what this means. What spiritual emotions are worked in us at the coming of Christ?

c. Verse 3 shows that we will share in the victory of Christ over the wicked (see I Cor. 6:1, 2). Why is this important and an encouragement to us?

d. Malachi sees the day of the Lord as one, including His birth and return. What does this teach us?

e. What will characterize the church (us) as we await the coming of Christ? (See verse 4.)

4. Can you write from memory those beautiful and expressive verses, Malachi 4:2, 5, 6?