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Malachi chapter 4

What does Malachi chapter 4 mean?

Malachi 4 is a very brief chapter, composed of only 6 verses. These words complete Malachi's plea for Israel to be faithful to God, and give an additional warning about God's impending judgment.

This particular depiction of the end times separates the experience of the wicked and the righteous using two separate metaphors. The furnace, or "oven," where the wicked will be judged is symbolic of powerful, controlled, purposeful flames (Malachi 4:1). This is not a random accident, or a careless revenge. God's justice burns very hot and very particularly. On the other hand, those who honor God will experience healing, as if from sunlight, and freedom, like baby animals released from a pen (Malachi 4:2).

Prior chapters of Malachi have focused on various kinds of unfaithfulness, both in attitude and in actions. The priests (Malachi 1:8), husbands (Malachi 2:14), and people (Malachi 2:11) of Israel have fallen away from God. However, not every single person in Israel is unfaithful, as Malachi 3:16 shows. Those who choose to honor God, or at least to respond to His correction, will be spared from the destruction that is coming (Malachi 4:3).

Malachi's structure is significantly more sophisticated than chapters and verses will show. Each of the three major messages is split into a mirror-image half, with similar themes being explored in back-and-forth order. Likewise, the entire message comes full circle. Malachi opened with a reference to the utter destruction of Edom (Malachi 1:2–5). Those who rejected God were annihilated. Israel, though unfaithful, was spared only because of the faithfulness of God (Malachi 3:6). Here, at the end of Malachi, comes a warning about judgment. This one, however, will not spare any people who reject Him.

One last promise made in this book is the appearance of Elijah, in order to bring some of the people back to repentance (Malachi 4:5–6). This is the last time God's voice will be heard for the next four centuries. Until the arrival of John the Baptist (Malachi 3:1), Israel will have to wait.
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