Malachi 4:4-6 Explained!
“Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto 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. 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”
Objective: There are basically three ideas that are common to explain the meaning of these verses and it is certain that only one is correct. Here are the three commonly used explanations;
First: is one which suggests the “fathers are the Patriarchs of old who we find in the books of the old testament – that we are to learn from, respect, and follow their example returning to the law of GOD and live according to their teachings.
I believe the premise of this has value but specifically – though we may indeed turn our heart to them in this way and learn from their example it is not possible for them to “turn their hearts back to us” as they are dead and are in the grave. So this explanation, I believe, is easy to discount.
Second: is the more commonly held view that this is speaking of “family relationships” and more specifically about the relationship of children to their fathers or male parents. Certainly, this touches on the fifth commandment and, again, it is easy to see some value in this approach.
HOWEVER, it is important that we emphasize and establish that the “pronouncement of judgment” for a failure to comply with the directive that this “Work of Elijah” (whether a person or a spirit) must be accomplished is that the Entire Earth pays a huge penalty. Here the words are “smite the earth with a curse”. The word “curse” is CHEREM = a doomed object, or utter destruction. We can all agree that whatever is going on here is of grave importance with serious ramifications for the entire earth. We can also know from the text that the time frame is just before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD at the very end times. So – this is a “big deal” – whatever is being asked here has dire consequences for failure.
If we postulate that this is a directive that “families” (that is “children and Fathers”) turn their heart toward one another, I find the explanation wanting for a number of reasons.
- I know of several congregations where there are no “children” but the group is comprised only of adults. The message is very clearly one given toward a “parent and child” relationship. Certainly every adult is a child of someone and one could hold to the view that it is saying that as church families we must “get along” and have the proper love toward one another. But if the intent were that “people” do this turning of the heart -- the message would not define the relationship as being directed toward parents (specifically Fathers) and children. I would contend that “families” and specifically “church families” that have this kind of proper love can only have it in the first place when their hearts are already “turned to and are right with GOD”. It seems to me that if this huge penalty is decreed it would not be decreed because Parents and children “have their struggles”. It is clear the 5th Commandment already addresses this need on the highest plane possible – namely – the Law of GOD. There is no need to make a new decree to “trump” the 5th commandment unless one is suggesting that this decree is the 5th commandment “in reverse” and now GOD is saying it must be the Parents who turn their hearts back to their children.
- There are many people who are members of the church and are the sole member of a physical family. It is not all that uncommon to find that individuals attend church and hail from relatively dysfunctional families finding themselves estranged from their physical families for one reason or another. Sometimes, the reason for the estrangement is because they are following the truth in the first place and are being “shunned” as a heretic. The church, for them, then becomes a special place of refuge. So they find themself in a congregation without relatives of any kind with only their personal example as a light to them. There many people like this in the Churches of GOD and I seriously doubt, this decree in Malachi “leaves them out” of the equation.
- In this verse, there is GREAT SPECIFICITY that the message is CLEARLY intended for a Father and Child relationship. Why would this judgment of destruction be based solely on the relationship of parents (Fathers) and children and totally leave out the relationship of adult to adult, brother to brother, sister to sister, and even husband to wife and so on. This then becomes the best clue that this is something much “Higher” in that it indeed DOES mention ONY the relationship of the Father to HIS Children for a very good reason. Are we to believe that these other categories of relationships are somehow less important to GOD when HE reaches HIS final judgment upon the entire earth?
Remaining true to the text, I will primarily use ONLY MALCHI as the “context” to support my teaching that the message in these verses is about the people of GOD “getting right” with HIM and that HE is the FATHER mentioned here and we (his church) are His Children. OK – as for the context of Malachi – one only needs to go back to the 3rd chapter to see that the message is CLEARLY to the church and/or the “people of GOD”. Here are a few excerpts I shall present as examples:
Mal 3:7 “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances and have not kept them. RETURN UNTO ME AND I WILL RETURN UNTO YOU saith the LORD of Hosts . . .”
This then – right in Malachi – is most definitely the best example that the relationship spoken of in verse 6 is about the relationship between THE FATHER and His People – who are HIS children.
I would like to go out of Malachi for a moment (if you will permit me) where Paul writes to the Thessalonians in 1Thes5:4-5 “But ye, BRETHREN, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. YE ARE THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT, and the CHILDREN of the day; we are not of the night nor of darkness.”
Back to Malachi:
Malachi 3:8—18 These verses are ENTIRELY GOD speaking to HIS people telling them they need to get their “act together” – This) is the context of Verse 6 which comes is the context.
V8 “will A MAN rob GOD? . . .
V9 “YE are cursed with a curse . . .
V10 “Bring YE all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat IN MY HOUSE . . .
V11 “ I will rebuke the devourer for YOUR sakes . . .
V12 “All nations shall call you (Who is he talking about) blessed . . .
V16 “Then they THAT FEARED THE LORD . . . (the children of light)
V17 “And THEY shall be mine says the LORD of hosts in that day when I make up MY jewels . . .
V18 (And this is the key) “ Then SHALL YE RETURN and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that SERVES GOD and him that serves HIM not” James 4:7-8 shows what Malachi is saying needs to happen – we need to flee from the influence of sin in our lives and move toward GOD and when we do that HE (The Father) moves toward us. Verse 10 says that the LORD shall “lift us up”—HE lifts us up “to the FATHER” – these two verses perfectly describe the same thing Malachi is speaking about – reconciliation of repentance between the people of GOD and GOD Himself – a “coming together” as it were.
THIRD: So now we come to what I believe is the correct Explanation of Malachi 4:6
The word Fathers in the verse is the very first word in Strong’ s Exhaustive Concordance and is AB. Here is the exact meaning given there; “father” in literal and in figurative use. (Fore-) father, patrimony. It is very clear that the usage is SINGULAR and the King James translators added the plural form or had in mind that it was a plural possessive use. The Father’s heart rather than many Fathers.
Conclusion: So when we put all these evidences together we MUST CONCLUDE that this verse is saying that the people of GOD – HIS “Children of Light” must turn their hearts back to him in the ways he instructs in the many verses just prior to this verse. There is clearly a mission to the end time church that has two possible outcomes. First; if we succeed – the curse upon the Earth is laid aside. Second; a curse of “utter destruction” is pronounced upon the Earth. This mission and burden falls upon the end-time-remnant-church. GOD wants his people to obey HIM and return to living according to HIS word and teaching. AND, particularly at the end times, this is vital as GOD decides and sets the judgment for the entire earth as part of the Dreadful day of the LORD. Each historical period of the church carries with it different missions and it appears the mission for the church at the very end is to “endure to the end” and remain faithful and Keep the Commandments of God without Adding to or detracting from it. (See Deut 12:32) Christ’s mission was to reveal THE FATHER to us. We see that in John 17:3 “And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true GOD and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” V6 “I have manifested thy name unto the men which you gave me . . .” V25 “O righteous Father, the world has not known thee; but I have known thee, and these have known that you have sent me”
Consequences: We need to BE CLEAR that this mission exists and focus on the importance of it. Recognize that the Church is where we find the “children of light” and that Christ calls us to “buy into HIS saving mission” by doing our part to set aside this final curse of utter destruction. We need to step up and first realize and also perform in this vital role for the church in the end times. Watering down this important message by seeing it as just following the example of the patriarchs (a good thing) or having good family relationships (also a good thing) seriously reduces its vital importance.
There remains this matter of just who is the “Elijah” that is sent before this day. Well, this is something that for now we cannot know for sure. Even the disciples did not know at first that John the Baptist was indeed a “type” of Elijah and Christ had to clarify that for them. We find that in Matthew 17 where it says in verse 11 “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things” and later in verse 13 they understand “Then the disciples understood that he spoke unto them of John the Baptist.” Will Elijah come a third time – or is the “spirit of Elijah” already here. Elijah’s role was to “restore all things” to teach the word of GOD in a pure way and that the Law of God is to be respected and obeyed. The first Elijah did that and the second Elijah (John) did that also preparing the way for the first coming of Christ. It would seem that this “third Elijah” also restores all things and prepares the way for the second coming of Christ. The only place we find a “restoration of the truth of GOD’s word” in our day is right here in the churches of GOD who “worship GOD in Spirit and Truth”. So, it is a “safe assumption” that the “work of Elijah” is indeed actually present in our day. To reject that possibility – I believe is dangerous. Though we cannot rule out that there may appear a personality like John again in our day – It would be dangerous (because of the ramifications of failure in this verse “the curse” ) to ignore the very real possibility that the “spirit of Elijah” is alive and well and is indeed the work of the church of GOD in the latter days.
My conclusion is that we indeed have a role to play in mitigating the judgment of “utter destruction of the earth”. Certainly we realize that Christ gave the greatest effort possible to Save Mankind – we too must accept the role he has given unto us. We are supposed to follow HIM -- and do as HE does -- and become and HE is – totally “buying into” HIS agenda –HIS mission of being the savior of the world – the only begotten Son of GOD given to save us. Do we want to see the “world saved” – as HE does? He wants a “Royal Priesthood” that is “Part of” what HE is doing. HE wants us totally “invested” along with HIM in HIS Mission. But we find that it appears HE is discouraged and we see Him expresses that concern prophetically in Luke 18 in the parable of the unjust judge where he mournfully and seemingly out of context asks “when The Son of Man returns, will I find any faith?”
To me – the message is clear – could not be more clear – that the Children of Light (us) need to turn our hearts back to GOD (Particularly The Father – through the work of Christ in us) or there may be dire consequences which have ramifications for the entire earth. Noah had the same burden placed upon him – If he did not remain faithful (now that he had been chosen to build the ark) – we would not even be here today. Because of the very clear pronouncement of GOD that HE has given us “free moral agency” by HIS sovereign decree -- By HIS Choice – each of us including Noah must “choose whom we will serve” (See Deut 30:19). The outcome was by no means certain. It’s the same burden upon each of us as we build the Church which – much like the Ark of Noah -- “floats as a place of safety in a sea of debauchery”. It is no coincidence that in Matthew 24:37 the end of days is analogized to being “as the days of Noah”.
Edward J. Szalankiewicz
July 20, 2016