Are we the first generation to ever grapple with issues of injustice and unequal treatment under the law? The Old Testament book of Malachi tackles that subject with very potent advice—and parallels—for our world today. Watch this episode of Tomorrow’s World as part of your personal Bible study.
[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]
Could an ancient manuscript have prophecies for today?
It’s easy to think in these modern times that history is irrelevant—especially ancient history.
After all, we’re living in a mind-blowing time of technological wonder. From space-bound telescopes that give us a glimpse into the Universe, to the powerful machines we carry in our hands unlocking a window to people and places all over the world.
Our time is truly unique. So, do old books still matter today?
The answer is yes.
Frankly, the past becomes more relevant to our day, because some of those dusty old books tell us about our day and the future.
The book of Malachi is one such book. It’s found in the Old Testament of the Bible. This portion of the Bible is also known as the Hebrew Scriptures. It was written over 400 years before Jesus Christ, and yet has a message for us today. What could that message be?
Welcome to Tomorrow’s World, where we bring an understanding of today’s world, through the prophecies of the Bible.
The prophet Malachi lived and prophesied sometime in the latter part of the 5th century BC. His message was to the Jewish people, who had been resettled in the land of Judah after the Babylonian captivity.
Malachi gave strong medicine to his generation. They had become lax in keeping God’s law, their priests were corrupt and unfair in their judgments, and divorce was ripping that society apart. Some were even wondering whether it mattered if they served God or not.
As we consider the challenges in the modern Western world, it’s fascinating and perhaps a little sobering to look at the warnings that Malachi gave his generation.
The warnings are written in the style of a dialogue between God and His people. Let’s read a few of the passages, to catch a glimpse of what God was saying to that generation.
We might just find there’s a message for ours.
We’ll start in Malachi 2:7:
“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But you have departed from the way; You have caused many to stumble at the law.”
The priest at that time was the one who taught them God’s laws and led in public worship—and yet the priests had become so corrupt that people could not trust what they were teaching anymore. Instead of making God’s ways clear and plain, they had caused the Law to become confused and muddled in the minds of the people.
“You have not kept My ways but have shown partiality in the law” (v. 9).
The law was being applied unfairly, unjustly. Do we think our age is the first to grapple with issues of injustice and unequal treatment under the law? Malachi showed that God was not pleased when judges showed favoritism instead of fairly and consistently applying God’s law.
“And this is the second thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously…. ‘For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 2:13–14, 16).
That generation was noted for its lax attitudes toward marital commitment and faithfulness. And God was not pleased.
How do you think He looks at our generation? Is He pleased that so many marriages end in divorce? What about the conditions that lead to divorce? Some people wrongly accuse the Bible of encouraging hate and disrespect toward women, but nothing could be further from the truth.
What we just read shows that God is very upset when women are not treated fairly and respectfully in marriage. He tells men, don’t abuse, neglect, or hurt your wives in any way. God cares about women, and the Bible upholds the marriage relationship, which was made for the benefit and happiness of men and women.
Notice, there’s more;
“You have wearied the LORD with your words; Yet you say, ‘In what way have we wearied Him?’ In that you say, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them’…” (v. 17).
There were some in that day who were turning God’s law upside down. They were trying to make it look like what God calls good is actually bad. And what God calls bad, well, that’s actually good for you. And they were then trying to say that is somehow behind this upside down approach. Do we see any glimpse of that today, in our society?
In our day today, some push immoral behavior and actually say that God supports it. This is really nothing new.
The prophet Malachi warned against this approach in his generation about 2,400 years ago. And he was telling his people they were in danger of unraveling as a society if they didn’t take a different course.
What about us today? Is our world getting better, or worse? Is real love and care for others growing and spreading, or becoming more rare? Malachi witnessed to a corrupt generation with strong warnings to repent. Frankly, there are strong parallels for our day.
But some will say, “This is Old Testament, what does it have to do with me?” Well, let’s read on and we’ll find out.
In the last segment we read about some of the spiritual conditions of the people in Malachi’s day. That was in chapter 2. Notice what Malachi records in chapter 3:
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.”
What is this talking about? Who is the messenger who is preparing the way? Well, let’s go to Mark 1 to find out.
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophets: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You’” (Mark 1:1–2).
This is the beginning of the book of Mark, in your New Testament. Mark is describing how John the Baptist was the messenger preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus Christ. But in explaining that, he was directly quoting from Malachi. In other words, Malachi prophesied about the Gospel. Specifically, Malachi prophesied about John the Baptist being the one who would prepare the way for Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
So, was this book of Malachi only for the Jews living back in the 400s BC? I think we’re seeing it had a scope far beyond his time and his generation. His preaching and his writings reached way into the future, hundreds of years, and they pointed to the very work of John the Baptist and the Messiah.
Let’s continue in Malachi:
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me” (Malachi 3:1).
O.K., stop again, one more time, and note something else. Who is speaking? It’s Jesus Himself. He uses the pronoun “Me.” The pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, was speaking in this prophecy. He was the One Who was speaking through Malachi, and inspiring Him in what to tell His generation. Think about that for a second, and ask yourself again, does this book have anything to do with New Testament Christians?
Absolutely, because the One who was inspiring its words was Jesus Christ Himself. That alone should cause us to want to open our eyes and see what it says.
What did He say next?
“And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1).
Who is the Lord whom we seek? Well, of course, it’s Jesus Christ. Malachi prophesied that He’d come suddenly. And He did burst onto the scene in 1st century Judea, when He suddenly came to His temple, overturned the tables and threw out the money changers.
John the Baptist would announce His coming and he would prepare the way, and then Jesus Christ would come and preach the message.
But let’s notice something else here. What message did Jesus come to preach? Again, we might say, “well, the gospel message, of course.” That’s right. But there’s another detail we don’t want to miss. Let’s read it again.
“And the LORD, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant…” (Malachi 3:1).
So, not only is Jesus Lord, not only is He the Messiah, our Savior, He also was the Messenger of the covenant. But what does that mean?
Let’s think about this for a moment.
What is a messenger? A messenger is someone who’s been given the task of relaying a communication. We might think of in olden times when hand-written messages would be relayed by a trusted official or king to another. A messenger was one who carried that important communication on behalf of someone else.
But in this passage, Who is Jesus the messenger for?
Well, let’s look at an excerpt from Dr. Meredith, in the booklet Do You Believe the True Gospel? He explains on page 5:
“A messenger bears a message from someone else—and so Jesus did, as He made plain by stating that ‘the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me’” (John 14:24)” (p. 5).
This is an important point to remember: The message of the Gospel is from the Father.
You see, some seem to have the mistaken idea that God the Father is that stern old God of the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ is the loving, kind God of the New Testament who came to do away with the Old. Have you had that impression? Is that your opinion now? And can you see, nothing could be further from the truth?
In fact, reading this book of Malachi is showing us that the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ was speaking through this Old Testament prophet, and speaking of bringing a message from the Father. He and the Father are of one mind, in perfect harmony. They are in total agreement. So, what was the message from the Father?
Going on, from Dr. Meredith in Do You Believe the True Gospel:
“God the Father sent Christ to announce a message from Him. What kind of message was it? The word ‘gospel’ originates from the Old English word godspell, meaning ‘good news’ or ‘announcement of glad tidings.’ The New Testament translators used ‘gospel’ for the Greek noun [“eu-on-GELI-on”] euaggelion.
The English word “evangelism”—preaching the Gospel—is derived from it. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have come to be known as “the four gospels” because they relate four separate accounts of Christ delivering His announcement of Good News!
What was this Good News all about? Let Scripture answer!” (p. 5).
You see, too many people have come to the mistaken conclusion that the gospel is just about believing in Jesus. Yes, believing in Jesus is the starting point. We must believe that He is God, and that He is our Savior. we must accept His love and sacrifice for our sins, to be saved. But was the gospel message only about the Person of Christ and His sacrifice? Or is there more?
When Jesus began to preach the gospel, what did He talk about?
We can read about it again in Mark chapter 1:
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15).
The gospel message is from the Father, and is the good news about His coming Kingdom. It’s about Jesus Christ coming to earth to end the misery and the heartache and the suffering this world is going through.
Thus far in today’s program, we’ve opened the book of Malachi, to see that he preached to a generation that was corrupt and in need of a spiritual renewal. We can see parallels in our day.
We also saw that in the book of Malachi, the Word who became Christ prophesied of the coming of John the Baptist. And we also saw that the pre-incarnate Jesus prophesied of His own coming. We also saw that Jesus brought a message. That message would be a message from His Father, about the good news of a coming Kingdom.
But there’s more.
Let’s pick it up where we left off. After reading of John the Baptist being the messenger of the Messiah, and Jesus Himself being the messenger of the Father, we read of something else. We’re introduced to the idea that Jesus will not just have a first coming, but a Second Coming.
“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 launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…” (Malachi 3:2–3).
A refiner’s fire? A purifier of silver? This could not be referring to His first coming.
When Jesus Christ first came to this earth, He allowed Himself to be arrested and beaten and finally crucified. But this passage tells us of a very different time. It speaks of Jesus’ Second Coming, which will come in a time of great distress on earth. It speaks of a time when people will be purified and tested through great suffering. We read of that same time, referred to as the Great Tribulation, in Matthew 24 verse 21:
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).
Why would Malachi be writing a warning about something that happens many centuries after his generation was dead and gone? Why would he write a warning to the end-time generation, living just before Christ’s return? Does the prophet Malachi have a message for our generation today?
Absolutely. He’s speaking of our day today.
Are we in the last days? Are we living in a time of great corruption, and injustice, and inequity? We see moral values plummeting, and the state of marriage and family at an all-time low in Western societies. We see people trying to convince us that bad behavior is actually righteous and good. We’re living in the days prophesied by Malachi.
Let’s go back to Malachi chapter 3 verse 5:
“‘… I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien—because they do not fear Me,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:5).
This is the returning Jesus Christ speaking. He’s saying our sins will bring judgment on ourselves. What sins is He talking about?
Adultery. Lying. Stealing from and exploiting the poor. Mistreating foreigners. This is a message to the end-time generation. When you think about it, it’s a message for a godless generation that has thrown off all restraint.
Are you beginning to see that in your world today? If so, think about how applicable this message is for today. Let’s go one step further. Malachi 3 verse 13:
“‘Your words have been harsh against Me,’ Says the LORD, ‘Yet you say, “What have we spoken against You?” You have said, “It is useless to serve God…”’” (Malachi 3:13–14).
Would you say we are living in a time when this is the attitude of many people in our Western societies? That the moral fabric upon which our civilization was built—an understanding of a real God and His inspired word—is crumbling beneath us? More and more people are saying, “Biblical Christianity? Why would we need that?” “A God who is revealed in the Bible? Oh, that’s just old, dusty writings of men.” Think about it. These words of Malachi are spot on for our generation today.
Let me show you one more thing. The prophet Malachi closed His book with a powerful, resounding message. And again, remember, this passage was the last warning and challenge of the entire Old Testament. We read in MAlachi again:
“Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Malachi 4:4–5).
This is another message for the generation of the last days, who are living in the time just before the great and dreadful day of the LORD. Isn’t it striking that the prophet gives a warning to the generation alive in the end times, but refers to the law of Moses? He says, “Remember the Law of Moses.” But isn’t the Law of Moses—the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath day—aren’t those all done away?
Not at all. God’s law still stands, and it has deep significance and meaning for New Testament Christians today. And that’s why God inspired Malachi to tell our generation, “Remember the Law of Moses.” It’s not done away. Malachi warns our generation not to forget about it.
In today’s program, we’ve explored the world of Malachi, a prophet of God who lived and preached in the 5th century before Christ. We’ve seen that he warned his generation of the sins of corruption, mistreatment of others, unfaithfulness in marriage, and immorality. We’ve seen that this same prophet had a message about a messenger, John the Baptist, preparing the way for Jesus Christ.
But we also saw that Jesus Himself was a messenger of a covenant from the Father, of forgiveness of sins, of life and peace. We saw that the true gospel is about a Kingdom that’s going to be set up. But before that Kingdom is set up on this earth, we read that there will be great distress on the earth as God judges the world. Ultimately, God’s will is that this will lead all mankind to having an opportunity to enter a covenant relationship with Him.
Let’s read the end of the prophecy, in Malachi 4, verse 5:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5–6).
The question for us is, will there be a change of heart in us? Will OUR hearts to be turned to serving and loving others as ourselves. And especially, will our hearts be turned to our Father in Heaven, and His Son, Jesus Christ? Will we show ourselves faithful to them? Going back to Malachi chapter 3:
“For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob… Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:6–7).
The “sons of Jacob” are just the modern descendants of the patriarch Israel. If we understand who modern Israel is today—and frankly many of us are living in the end-time nations of Israel—we should be grateful for God’s patience and longsuffering, and we should cry out for His help and mercy as we see these things coming. Will God help those who fear Him?
Will He be a refuge to those who serve and obey Him sincerely and faithfully? Let’s read Malachi 3, verse 16:
“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him’” (Malachi 3:16–17).
The book of Malachi prophesies deliverance, comfort, and safety for those who don’t succumb to the godless attitudes of these last days. It’s our hope and prayer that you will seek Him, and obey Him and love Him, with all your heart.
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Thank you for watching! Remember to subscribe so you don’t miss another Tomorrow’s World video, and if you would like a copy of our free study guide, Do You Believe the True Gospel?, go to TWTV.org/Gospel or click the link in the description. See you next time.