The final chapter of the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi 4 describes in sharp contrast two potential outcomes the Jews could expect in a time period identified as “the coming day of the LORD.” The prophet Isaiah discussed at length the coming day of the LORD, but the context for this event was much different because the destruction of Jerusalem and exile of God’s people had not yet occurred. When Malachi addressed the topic, the Jews had returned from captivity and were clearly focused on the arrival of their Messiah. Even though the birth of Jesus was still some 400 years away, it was the only event left on God’s prophetic calendar with regards to salvation and deliverance of his people. What may still have been unknown at that time, or at least misunderstood, was that God’s chosen people would reject their Messiah and miss the opportunity to have his kingdom established on earth immediately.
Some of the Jews did accept Jesus as their Savior and were essential in the establishment of his church, but God’s ultimate goal of establishing a kingdom on earth over which his Messiah would rule and reign forever was delayed in a physical sense. Jesus currently sits on a throne in heaven and has been given all authority over mankind, but Satan is still active in his pursuit of evil and is able to disrupt the lives of God’s children. The appointed day of the LORD is when Satan’s work will be brought to an end and God’s judgment of the world will begin. At that time, it will be evident who is a follower of Satan and who is a follower of Jesus Christ. Malachi said of those that choose Satan as their master, “For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1).
Although God’s chosen people were and still are downtrodden and afflicted in this world, news of the coming day of the LORD was intended to bring them hope and inspiration about their future. Unlike those that had forsaken God’s law and determined it was unnecessary to obey his instructions, the faithful Jews were promised a final victory. God told them, “but unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 4:2-3). This prophecy was only partially fulfilled during Jesus’ ministry. The treading down of the wicked won’t be fully accomplished until Jesus’ returns in the coming day of the LORD.