1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”
When we read this passage we imagine the “end of the age,” when Jesus returns for the second time to judge the world. We don’t think of a little baby in a manger and probably not even Jesus hanging on the cross. We think of God’s once and for all judgment of evildoers while those of us who think we have made it into the book of life stand watching and nodding our heads. We imagine the image of Jesus as depicted in Revelation of a robe of white light and the tongue of a sword cutting down the sinners of the world. This very well may happen, but this what we read in Malachi 4 has already happened. Detach yourself from the physical imagery and implications of the prophecy and think about it in a more spiritual way. In John 16, Jesus was in the midst of His final instructions for His disciples before He was arrested. He explained to them the wonder of the Holy Spirit, which would only come if Jesus goes away:
7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
The ruler of this world, Satan, has already been judged! The king of sinfulness has been overthrown. Evil has been overcome! What if, instead of imagining the judgment as it is described in Malachi not as one that will consume and destroy us, but cleanse us? The judgment of sin in the world is not for the sinner but for the sin that enslaves them. God’s holy burning fire destroys the power of sin over our lives so we can live a new life free from it. We can be born again, from above, in communion with God and free from evil. In Romans 12, Paul encourages us to put this into practice in our daily lives:
17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Jesus conquered evil with good. The burning coals metaphor relates to refining metal, not destruction. When we treat others with love and kindness who treat us wickedly, we become part of the refining process for their lives. We, motivated by the Holy Spirit, reveal the wickedness inside others by exposing them to the Light of God that we possess and therefore the Spirit convicts their hearts.
Jesus came so that neither root nor branch of evil would dwell within us. He won back our holy lives for us. He gave us another shot at living in communion with our Heavenly Father. He overcame the world so that while we still live in it, we no longer have to be subject to its ruler, our spiritual enemy. Keep this in mind as the celebration of Jesus’ birth approaches. This is why kings came from afar to give Him gifts. This is why angels proclaimed His arrival, because He is the symbol of our freedom!