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For, behold, the day cometh, which shall burn as an oven - He had declared the great severance of the God-fearing and the God-blaspheming, those who served and those who did not serve God; the righteous and the wicked; now he declares the way and time of the severance, the Day of Judgment. Daniel had described the fire of that day, Daniel 7:9-10, “The throne (of the Ancient of days) was a fiery flame; his wheels a burning fire: a fiery stream issued and came forth from Him: the judgment was set and the books were opened.” Fire is ever spoken of, as accompanying the judgment Psalms 50:3. “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence, a fire shall devour before Him Isaiah 66:15-16. Behold the Lord will come with fire: for by fire and by the sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: 1 Corinthians 3:13 every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire: and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is.” Peter tells us that fire will be of this burning world; 2 Peter 3:7-10. “the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of’ ungodly men; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
The oven, or furnace, pictures the intensity of the heat, which is white from its intensity, and darts forth, fiercely, shooting up like a living creature, and destroying life, as the flame of the fire of NebuchadnezzarsDaniel 3:22; Daniel 3:22 “burning fiery furnace slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” The whole world shall be one burning furnace.
And all the proud and all that do wickedly - All those, whom those complainers pronounced “blessed,” Malachi 3:15, yea and all who should thereafter be like them (he insists on the universality of the judgment), “every doer of wickedness,” up to that day and those who should then be, shall be stubble.” The proud and mighty, who in this life were strong as iron and brass, so that no one dared resist them, but they dared to fight with God, these, in the Day of Judgment, shall be most powerless, as stubble cannot resist the fire, in an ever-living death.”
That shall leave them neither root nor branch - “i. e. they shall have no hope of shooting up again to life; that life, I mean, which is worthy of love, and in glory with God, in holiness and bliss. For when the root has not been wholly cut away, nor the shoot torn up as from the depth, some hope is retained, that it may again shoot up. For, as it is written Job 10:4 :7, ‘There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sproul again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.’ But if it be wholly torn up from below and from its very roots, and its shoots be fiercely cut away, all hope, that it can again shoot up to life, will perish also. So, he saith, will all hope of the lovers of sin perish. For so the divine Isaiah clearly announces Isaiah 66:24, “their worm shall not die and their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring to all flesh.”
But (And) unto you, who fear My Name, shall the Sun of Righteousness arise - It is said of God Psalms 84:11, “The Lord God is a sun and a shield, and Isaiah 60:19-20, The Lord shall be to thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory; thy sun shall no more go down, for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light;” and Zacharias, speaking of the office of John the Baptist in the words of Malachi, “thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way, speaks of Luke 1:76, Luke 1:78-79. the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness.” “He who is often called Lord and God, and Angel and Captain of the Lord’s host, and Christ and priest and Word and Wisdom of God and Image, is now called the Sun of Righteousness. He, the Father promises, will arise, not to all, but to those only who fear His Name, giving them the light of the Sun of Righteousness, as the reward of their fear toward Him. This is God the Word Who saith, ‘I am the Light of the world,’ Who was ‘the Light of every one who cometh into the world.”’ Primarily, Malachi speaks of our Lord’s second Coming, when Hebrews 9:28. “to them that look for Him shall He appear, a second time unto salvation.”
For as, in so many places (As Psalms 1:6; Psalms 2:12; Psalms 3:7-8; Psalms 5:10-12; Psalms 6:8-10; Psalms 7:16-17; Psalms 9:17-20; Psalms 10:16-18; Psalms 11:6-7; Psalms 17:13-15; Psalms 20:8; Psalms 26:9-12; Psalms 31:23; Psalms 32:10-11; Psalms 34:21-22; Psalms 35:26-28; Psalms 36:10-12; Psalms 37:38-40; Psalms 40:15-17; Psalms 50:22-23; Psalms 52:5-9; Psalms 55:22-23; Psalms 58:10-11; Psalms 63:10-11; Psalms 64:9-10; Psalms 73:27-28; Psalms 104:33-35; Psalms 112:9-10; Psalms 126:5; Psalms 149:9.) the Old Testament exhibits the opposite lots of the righteous and the wicked, so here the prophet speaks of the Day of Judgment, in reference to the two opposite classes, of which he had before spoken, the proud and evil doers, and the fearers of God. The title, “the Sun of Righteousness,” belongs to both comings , “in the first, lie diffused rays of righteousness, whereby He justified and daily justifies any sinners whatever, who will look to Him, i. e., believe in Him and obey Him, as the sun imparts light; joy and life to all who turn toward it.” In the second, the righteousness which He gave, lie will own and exhibit, cleared from all the misjudgment of the world, before men and Angels. Yet more, healing is, throughout Holy Scripture, used of the removal of sickness or curing of wounds, in the individual or state or Church, and, as to the individual, bodily or spiritual.
So David thanks God, first for the forgiveness Psalms 103:3-5, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities;” then for healing of his soul, “Who healeth all thy diseases;” then for salvation, “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;” then for the crown laid up for him, “Who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies;” then, with the abiding sustenance and satisfying joy, “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things.” Healing then primarily belongs to thin life, in which we are still encompassed with infirmities, and even His elect and His saints have still, whereof to be healed. The full then and complete healing of the soul, the integrity of all its powers will be in the life to come. There, will be “understanding without error, memory without forgetfulness, thought without distraction, love without simulation, sensation without offence, satisfying without satiety, universal health without sickness.” “For through Adam’s sin the soul was wounded in understanding, through obscurity and ignorance; in will, through the leaning to perishing goods; as concupiscent, through infirmity and manifold concupiscence. In heaven Christ will heal all these, giving to the understanding light and knowledge; to the will, constancy in good; to the desire, that it should desire nothing but what is right and good. Then too the healing of the seal will be the light of glory, the vision and fruition of God, and the glorious endowments consequent thereon, overstreaming all the powers of the soul and therefrom to the body.” “God has made the soul of a nature so mighty, that from its most full beatitude, which at the end of time is promised to the saints, there shall overflow to the inferior nature, the body, not bliss, which belongs to the soul as intelligent and capable of fruition, but the fullness of health that is, the vigorousness of incorruption.”
And ye shall go forth - , as from a prison-house, from the miseries of this lifeless life, and grow up, or perhaps more probably, bound as the animal, which has been confined, exults in its regained freedom, itself full of life and exuberance of delight. So the Psalmist Psalms 149:5, “The saints shall exult in glory.” And our Lord uses the like word , as to the way, with which they should greet persecution to the utmost, for His Name’s sake. Swiftness of motion is one of the endowments of the spiritual body, after the resurrection; as the angels, to whom the righteous shall be like, Luke 20:36, Ezekiel 1:14 ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.”
And ye shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet. It shall be a great reversal. He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he, that humbleth himself shall be exalted - Here the wicked often have the pre-eminence. This was the complaint of the murmurers among the Jews; in the morning of the Resurrection Psalms 49:14, “the upright shall have dominion over them.” The wicked, he had said, shall be as stubble, and that day Psalms 4:1, “shall burn them up;” here, then, they are as the ashes, the only remnant of the stubble, as the dust under the feet. “The elect shall rejoice, that they have, in mercy, escaped such misery. Therefore they shall be kindled inconceivably with the divine love, and shall from their inmost heart give thanks unto God.” And being thus of one mind with God, and seeing all things as He seeth, they will rejoice in His judgments, because they are His. For they cannot have one slightest velleity, other than the all-perfect Will of God. So Isaiah closes his prophecy Isaiah 66:24, “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men, that have transgressed against Me, for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring to all flesh. So Psalms 58:10. The righteous shall rejoice, when he seeth the vengeance;” and another Psalmist Psalms 107:42, “The righteous shall see and rejoice; and all wickedness shall stop her mouth; and Job Job 22:19. The righteous see and are glad, and the innocent laugh them to scorn.”
Remember ye the law of Moses, My servant - Galatians 3:24. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” They then who were most faithful to the law, would be most prepared for Christ. But for those of his own day, too, who were negligent both of the ceremonial and moral law, he says “Since the judgment of God will be so fearful, remember now unceasingly and observe the law of God given by Moses.”
Which I commanded - o
Unto him for - (literally upon, incumbent upon) all Israel Not Moses commanded them, but God by His servant Moses; therefore He “would in the day of judgment take strict account of each, whether they had or had not kept them. He would glorify those who obeyed, He would condemn those who disobeyed them.” They had asked, “Where is the God of judgment? What profit, that we have kept the ordinance?” He tells them of the judgment to come, and bids them take heed, that they did indeed keep them, for there was a day of account to be held for all.
The statutes and judgments - Better, “statutes and judgments,” i. e., consisting in them; it seems added as an explanation of the word, law, individualizing them. Duty is fulfilled, not in a general acknowledgment of law, or an arbitrary selection of some favorite commandments, which cost the human will less; as, in our Lord’s time, they minutely observed the law of tithes, but Matthew 23:23 : “omitted weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” It is in obedience to the commandments, one by one, one and all. Moses exhorted to the keeping of the law, under these same words: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, Deuteronomy 4:5, Deuteronomy 4:8, Deuteronomy 4:14, “Now, therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and judgments which I teach you, to do them, that ye may live. Ye shall not add unto the word that I command you, neither shall ye diminish it. Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me. What nation so great, that hath statutes and judgments, righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? The Lord commanded me at that time, to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land, whither ye go to possess it.”
Behold I will send (I send, as a future, proximate in the prophet’s mind) you Elijah the prophet - The Archangel Gabriel interprets this for us, to include the sending of John the Immerser. For he not only says Luke 1:17. that he shall “go before” the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elias,” but describes his mission in the characteristic words of Malachi, “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children:” and those other words also, “and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,” perhaps represent the sequel in Malachi, “and the hearts of the children to the fathers;” for their hearts could only be so turned by conversion to God, whom the fathers, patriarchs and prophets, knew, loved and served; and whom they served in name only. John the Immerser, in denying that he was Elias, John 1:21 denied only, that he was that great prophet himself. Our Lord, in saying Matthew 11:14, “This is Elias, which was for to come Matthew 17:12 that Elias is come already and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed,” met the error of the scribes, that He could not be the Christ, because Elias was not yet come. When He says Matthew 17:11, “Elias truly shall first come and restore all things,” He implies a coming of Elijah, other than that of John the Immerser, since he was already martyred, and all things were not yet restored. This must also be the fullest fulfillment. “For the great and terrible Day of the Lord” is the Day of Judgment, of which all earthly judgments, however desolating, (as the destruction of Jerusalem) are but shadows and earnests. Before our Lord’s coming all things looked on to His first coming, and, since that coming, all looks on to the second, which is the completion of the first and of all things in time.
Our Lord’s words, “Elias truly shall first come and restore all things,” seem to me to leave no question, that, as John the Immerser came, in the spirit and power of Elias, before His first coming, so, before the second coming, Elijah should come in person, as Jews and Christians have alike expected. This has been the Christian expectation from the first. Justin Martyr asked his opponent “Shall we not conceive that the Word of God has proclaimed Elias to be the forerunner of the great and terrible day of His second Coming?” “Certainly,” was Trypho’s reply. Justin continues, “Our Lord Himself taught us in His own teaching that this very thing shall be, when the said that ‘Elias also shall come;’ and we know that this shall be fulfilled, when He is about to come from heaven in glory.” Tertullian says “Elias is to come again, not after a departure from life, but after a translation; not to be restored to the body, from which he was never taken; but to be restored to the world, from which he was translated; not by way of restoration to life, but for the completion of prophecy; one and the same in name and in person.” “Enoch and Elias were translated, and their death is not recorded, as being deferred; but they are reserved as to die, that they may vanquish Antichrist by their blood.”
And, in proof that the end was not yet , “No one has yet received Elias; no one has yet fled from Antichrist.” And the ancient author of the verses against Marcion; , “Elias who has not yet tasted the debt of death, because he is again to come into the world.” Origen says simply in one place, that the Saviour answered the question as to the objection of the Scribes, “not annulling what had been handed down concerning Elias, but affirming that there was another coming of Elias before Christ, unknown to the scribes, according to which, not knowing him, and, being in a manner, accomplices in his being cast into prison by Herod and slain by him, they had done to him what they listed.” Hippolytus has , “As two Comings of our Lord and Saviour were indicated by the Scriptures, the first in the flesh, in dishonor, that He might be set at naught - the second in glory, when He shall come from heaven with the heavenly host and the glory of the Father - so two forerunners were pointed out, the first, John, the son of Zacharias, and again - since He is manifested as Judge at the end of the world, His forerunners must first appear, as He says through Malachi, ‘I will send to you Elias the Tishbite before the great and terrible day of the Lord shall come. ‘“
Hilary , “The Apostles inquire in anxiety about the times of Elias. To whom He answereth, that “Elias will come and restore all things,” that is, will recall to the knowledge of God, what he shall find of Israel; but he signifies that John came “in the spirit and power of Elias,” to whom they had shown all severe and harsh dealings, that, foreannouncing the Coming of the Lord, he might be a forerunner of the Passion also by an example of wrong and harass.” “We understand that those same prophets (Moses and Elias) will come before His Coming, who, the Apocalypse of John says, will be slain by Antichrist, although there are various opinions of very many, as to Enoch or Jeremiah, that one of them is to die, as Elias.”
Hilary the Deacon, 355 a.d., has on the words, “I suppose God hath set forth us the Apostles last;” “He therefore applies these to his own person, because he was always in distress, suffering, beyond the rest, persecutions and distresses, as Enoch and Elias will suffer, who will be Apostles at the last time. For they have to be sent before Christ, to make ready the people of God, and fortify all the Churches to resist Antichrist, of whom the Apocalypse attests, that they will suffer persecutions and be slain.” “When the faithless shall be secure of the kingdom of the devil, the saints, i. e., Enoch and Elias being slain, rejoicing in the victory, and ‘sending gifts, one to another’ as the Apocalypse says Revelation 11:10 sudden destruction shall come upon them. For Christ at His Coming, shall destroy them all.” Gregory of Nyssa quotes the prophecy under the heading, that “before the second Coming of our Lord, Elias should come.”
Ambrose , “Because the Lord was to come down from heaven, and to ascend to heaven, He raised Elias to heaven, to bring him back to the earth at the time He should please.” “The beast, Antichrist, ascends from the abyss to fight against Elias and Enoch and John, who are restored to the earth for the testimony to the Lord Jesus, as we read in the Apocalypse of John.”
Jerome gives here the mystical meaning; “God will send, in Elias (which is interpreted ‘My God’ and wire is of the town Thisbe, which signifies ‘conversion’ or ‘penitence’) the whole choir of the prophets, “to convert the heart of the fathers to the sons,” namely, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the patriarchs, that their posterity may believe in the Lord the Saviour, in whom themselves believed: ‘for Abraham saw the day of the Lord and was glad.’” Here, he speaks of the “coming of Elias before their anointed,” as a supposition of Jews and Judaizing heretics. But in commenting on our Lord’s words in Matthew, he adheres twice to the literal meaning. On Matthew 11:14-15, “Some think that John is therefore called Elias, because, as, according to Malachi, at the second coming of the Saviour. On Matthew 17:11-12, Elias will precede and announce the Judge to come, so did John at His first coming, and each is a messenger, of the first or second coming of the Lord:” and again concisely, On Matthew 17:11-12, “He who is to come in the second Coining of the Saviour in the actual body, now comes through John in spirit and power;” and he speaks of Enoch and Elias as “the two witnesses in the Revelation, since, according to the Apocalypse of John, Enoch and Elias are spoken of, as having to die.”
Chrysostom , “When He saith that Elias “cometh and shall restore all things,” He means Elias himself, and the conversion of the Jews, which shall then be; but when He saith, “which was to come,” He calls John, Elias, according to the manner of his ministry.”
In Augustine’s time it was the universal belief. , “When he (Malachi) had admonished them to remember the law of Moses, because he foresaw, that they would for a long time not receive it spiritually, as it ought, he added immediately; “And I will send you Elias the Thisbite” etc. That when, through this Elias, the great and wonderful prophet, at the last time before the judgment, the law shall have been expounded to them, the Jews shall believe in the true Christ, i. e., in our Christ, is everywhere in the mouths and hearts of the faithful. For not without reason is it hoped, that he shall come before the Coming of the Saviour, as Judge, because not without reason is it believed that he still lives. For he was carried in a chariot of fire from things below; which Scripture most evidently attests. When he shall come then, by expounding the law spiritually, which the Jews now understand carnally, he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children.”
Cyril of Alexandria, his antagonist “Theodoret, and Theodore” of Mopsuestia, who was loose from all tradition, had the same clear belief. Cyril; “It is demonstrative of the gentleness and long-suffering of God, that Elias also the Tishbite shall shine upon us, to foreannounce when the Judge shall come to those in the whole world. For the Son shall come down, as Judge, in the glory of the Father, attended by the angels, and shall ‘sit on the throne of His glory, judging the world in righteousness, and shall reward every man according to his works.’ But since we are in many sins, well is it for us, that the divine prophet goes before Him, bringing all those on earth to one mind; that all, being brought to the unity through the faith, and ceasing from evil intents, may fulfill that which is good, and so be saved when the Judge cometh down. The blessed John the Baptist came before Him “in the spirit and power of Elias.” But, as he preached saying, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight,’ so also the divine Elias proclaims His then being near and all-but-present, that He may ‘judge the world in righteousness.’” Theodoret; , “Malachi teaches us how, when Antichrist shall presume on these things, the great Elias shall appear, preaching to the Jews the coming of Christ: and he shall convert many, for this is the meaning of, “he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children,” i. e., the Jews (for these he calls fathers, as being older in knowledge) to those who believed from the Gentiles. They who shall believe through the preaching of the great Elias, and shall join themselves to the Gentiles who seized the salvation sent to them, shall become one church.
He hints, how when these things are done by Antichrist, Michael the Archangel will set all in motion, that Elias should come and foreannounce the coming of the Lord that the then Jews may obtain salvation.” And on this place, “Knowing well, that they would neither obey the law, nor receive Him when He came, but would deliver Him to be crucified, He promises them, in His unspeakable love for man, that He will again send Elias as a herald of salvation, ‘Lo, I will send you Elias the Tishbite.’ And signifying the time, He added, ‘Before the great and terrible day of the Lord shall come:’ He named the Day of His Second Coming. But He teaches us, what the great Elias shall do, when he comes, ‘Who shall bring back the heart of the father to the son’ etc. And pointing out the end, for which Elias should first come, ‘Lest I come and smite the earth utterly.’ For lest, finding you all in unbelief, I send you all to that endless punishment, Elias will first come, and will persuade you, O Jews, to unite you indissolubly with those, who from the Gentiles believe in Me, and to be united to My one Church.”
Theodore of Mopsuestia paraphrases: “In addition to all which I have said, I give you this last commandment, to remember My law, which I gave to all Israel through Moses, plainly declaring what they ought to do in each thing, and as the first token of obedience, to receive the Lord Christ when He cometh, appearing for the salvation of all men: Who will end the law, but show His own perfection. It had been well, had you immediately believed Him when He came, and known Him, as He whom Moses and all the prophets signified, Who should put an end to the law, and reveal the common salvation of all men, so that it should be manifest to all, that this is the sum and chief good of the whole dispensation of the law, to bring all men to the Lord Christ, Who, for those great goods, should be manifested in His own time. But since, when He manifested Himself, ye manifested your own ungainliness, the blessed Elias shall be sent to you before the second Coming of Christ, when He will come from heaven, to unite those who, for religion, are separated from each other, and, through the knowledge of religion, to bring the fathers to one-mindedness with the children, and in a word, to bring all men to one and the same harmony, when those, then found in ungodliness, shall receive from him the knowledge of the truth in the communion with the godly thence ensuing.”
“The African author of the work on the promises and predictions of God.” (between 450 and 455 a.d.)
, “Against Antichrist shall be sent two witnesses, the prophets Enoch and Elijah, against whom shall arise three false prophets of Antichrist.”
Isidore of Seville 595 a.d.; , “Elias, borne in a chariot of fire, ascended to heaven, to come according to the prophet Malachi at the end of the world, and to precede Christ, to announce His last coming, with great deeds and wondrous signs, so that, on earth too, Antichrist will war against him, be against him, or him who is to come with him, and will slay them; their bodies also will lie unburied in the streets. Then, raised by the Lord, they will smite the kingdom of Antichrist with a great blow. After this, the Lord will come, and will slay Antichrist with the word of His mouth, and those who worshiped him.” , “This will be in the last times, when, on the preaching of Elias, Judah will be converted to Christ.”
To add one more, for his great gifts, Gregory the Great. , “It is promised, that when Elias shall come, he shall bring back the hearts of the sons to their fathers, that the doctrine of the old, which is now taken from the hearts of the Jews, may, in the mercy of God, return, when the sons shall begin to understand of the Lord God, what the fathers taught.” , “Although Elias is related to have been carried to heaven, he deferred, he did not escape, death. For it is said of him by the mouth of the Truth Himself, ‘Elias shall come and restore all things.’ He shall come to ‘restore all things;’ for to this end is he restored to this world, that he may both fulfill the office of preaching, and pay the debt of the flesh.” , “The holy Church, although it now loses many through the shock of temptation, yet, at the end of the world, it receives its own double, when, having received the Gentiles to the full, all Judaea too, which shall then be, agrees to hasten to its faith. For hence it is written, “Until the fullness of the Gentiles shall come, and so all Israel shall be saved.”
Hence, in the Gospel the Truth says, “Elias shall come and shall restore all things.” For now the Church has lost the Israelites, whom it could not convert by preaching; but then, at the preaching of Elias, while it collects all which it shall find, it receives in a manner more fully what it has lost.” , “John is spoken of as to come in the spirit and power of Elias, because, as Elias shall precede the second Coming of the Lord, so John preceded His first. For as Elias will come, as precursor of the Judge, so John was made the precursor of the Redeemer. John then was Elias in spirit; he was not Elias in person. What then the Lord owned as to spirit, that John denies as to the person.”
Whether Elijah is one of the two witnesses spoken of in the Apocalypse, is obviously a distinct question. Of commentators on the Apocalypse, Arethas remarks that as to Elijah, there is clear testimony from Holy Scripture, this of Malachi; but that, with regard to Enoch, we have only the fact of his being freed from death by translation, and the tradition of the Church. John Damascene fixed the belief in the Eastern Church. In the West, Bede e. g., who speaks of the belief that the two witnesses were Elijah and Enoch, as what was said by “some doctors,” takes our Lord’s declaration, that Elijah shall return, in its simple meaning. (on Matthew 17:11; Mark 9:0.) Yet it was no matter of faith. When the belief as to a personal Antichrist was changed by Luther and Calvin, the belief of a personal forerunner of Christ gave way also.
And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children - Now they were unlike, and severed by that unlikeness from each other. Yet not on earth, for on earth parents and children were alike alienated from God, and united between themselves in wickedness or worldliness. The common love of the world or of worldly pursuits, or gain or self-exaltation, or making a fortune or securing it, is, so far, a common bond of interest to those of one family, through a common selfishness, though that selfishness is the parent of general discord, of fraud, violence, and other misdeeds. Nay, conversion of children or parents becomes rather a source of discord, embittering the unconverted. Whence our Lord says, “Think not, that I Mat 10:34-36. am come to send peace on the earth. I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law: and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household;” a prophecy fulfilled continually in the early persecutions, even to the extent of those other words of our Lord Matthew 10:21, “the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.”
It is fulfilled also in the intense hatred of the Jews at this day, to any who are converted to Christ; a hatred which seems to have no parallel in the world. Nor do the words seem to mean that fathers and children should be united in one common conversion to God, as one says Ibn Ezra. The Jews, although mostly agreed, that Elijah will come, are disagreed as to the end of his coming. By some he is spoken of as a Redeemer. Tanchuma (f. 31. 1), “God said to Israel, In this world I sent an angel to east out the nations before you, but in the future (or, in the world to come, Yalkut Shim’oni f. 98-29) myself will lead you and will ‘send you Elijah the prophet.’” Pesikta rabbathi (in Yalkut Shim’oni ii. f. 32. 4)” Both redeemed Israel: Moses in Egypt, and Elias in that which is to come.” (Id. ib. f. 53. 2), “I send you a redeemer.” Midrash Shocher tof Ibid. f. 884, “Israel said, ‘It is written of the first redemption, ‘He sent Moses His servant, Aaron whom He had chosen; send me two like them.’ God answered; ‘I will send you Elijah the prophet: this is one, the other is he, of whom Isaiah spoke Isaiah 42:1. Behold, my servant whom I have chosen.’” “Shemoth Rabba (Sect. 3. col. 108. 2. ad loc.) ‘In the second redemption, ye shall be healed and redeemed by the word I, i. e., I will send.” Or, as a comforter, “I will send you Elias, he shall come and comfort you.” Debarim rabba sect. 3. fin. Or to pronounce some things clean, others unclean. Shir hashirim rabba f. 27. 3. (all the above in Schottgen ad loc.) Others, in different ways, to settle, to Which tribe each belongs. Kimchi on Ezekiel 47:0 and this with differcut explanations as to strictness. (See Edaioth fin. Mishnah T. iv. p. 362. Surenhus.) “Rabbi Simeon says, ‘To remove controversies.’ And the wise and doctors say, To make peace in the world, as is said, “Behold I send.” Rabbi Abraham ben David explains the peace to be “from the nations,” and adds, “to announce to them the coming of the redeemer, and this in one day before the coming of the Messiah;” and to “turn the hearts etc.” he explains “the hearts of the fathers and children (on whom softness had fallen from fear, and they fled, some here, some there, from their distresses) on that day they shall return to their might and to one another and shall comfort each other.” Abarbanel says, that Elijah shall be the instrument of the resurrection, and that, through those who rise, the race of man shall be directed in the recognition of God and the true faith.” Ibn. Ezra, “that he shall come at the collection of the captives, as Moses at the redemption of Egypt, not for the resurrection.” (These are collected by Frischmuth de Elite adventu. Thes. Theol. Phil. V. T. T. i. pp. 1070ff) R. Tanehum, from Maimonides, says, “This is without doubt a promise of the appearance of a prophet in Israel, a little before the coming of the Messiah; and some of the wise think that it is Elias the Tishbite himself, and this is found in most of the Midrashoth, and some think that it is a prophet like him in rank, occupying his place in the knowledge of God and the manifesting His Name and that so he is called Elijah. And so explained the great Gaon, Rab Mosheh ben Matmon, at the end of his great book on jurisprudence, called ‘Mishneh Torah.’ And, perhaps he (the person sent) may be Messiah ben Joseph, as he says again - And the exactness of the matter in these promises will only be known, when they appear: and no one has therein any accredited account, but each of them says what he says, according to what appears to him, and what preponderates in his mind of the explanation of the truth.” “The turning of the heart of the father to the children,” he explains to be, “the restoration of religion, until all should be of one heart in the obedience to God.”) “All shall be one heart to return to the Lord, both fathers and children;” for he speaks primarily of their mutual conversion to one another, not to God.
The form of the expression seems to imply that the effect of the preaching of Elijah shall be, to bring back the children, the Jews then in being, to the faith and love which their fathers, the patriarchs, had; that John 8:56 “as these believed, hoped for, longed exceedingly for, and loved Christ to come, so their sons should believe, hope in, long exceedingly for and love Christ, Who was come, yea is present; and so the heart of fathers, which before was turned from their unbelieving children, he should turn to them, now believing, and cause the patriarchs to own and love the Jews believing in Christ, as indeed their children, for ‘your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; he saw it and was glad, Christ saith. ‘“
Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse - , i. e., with an utter destruction, from which there should be no redemption. In the end, God will so smite the earth, and all, not converted to Him. The prayer and zeal of Elijah will gain a reprieve, in which God will spare the world for the gathering of His own elect, the full conversion of the Jews, which shall fulfill the Apostle’s words Romans 11:26, “So shall all Israel be saved.”
After the glad tidings, Malachi, and the Old Testament in him, ends with words of awe, telling us of the consequence of the final hardening of the heart; the eternal severance, when the unending end of the everlasting Gospel itself shall be accomplished, and its last grain shall be gathered into the garner of the Lord. The Jews, who would be wiser than the prophet, repeat the previous verse , because Malachi closes so awfully. The Maker of the heart of man knew better the hearts which He had made, and taught their authors to end the books of Isaiah and Ecclesiastes with words of awe, from which man’s heart so struggles to escape. To turn to God here, or everlasting destruction from His presence there, is the only choice open to thee.” “Think of this, when lust goads thee, or ambition solicits thee, or anger convulses thee, or the flesh blandishes thee, or the world allures thee, or the devil displays his deceitful pomp and enticement. In thy hand and thy choice are life and death, heaven and hell, salvation and damnation, bliss or misery everlasting. Choose which thou willest. Think, ‘A moment which delighteth, eternity which tortureth;’ on the other hand, ‘a moment which tortureth, eternity which delighteth.’“
“I see that all things come to an end:
Thy commandment is exceeding broad.”
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks,
So panteth my soul after Thee, O God.”
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Malachi 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28