“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
“So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.
“I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ (Malachi 3:1-7)
God can never fall out of love with us. So God has judged us completely, pouring out final judgment on every human being. In the Gospels, Jesus applies the opening line of this passage in Malachi to John the Baptist (see Matthew 11:10, Luke 7:27), who announced the coming of Jesus as the Messiah.
But who could actually face the Messiah, since he was coming as judge? He would be a “witness” against the wicked. The ancient Greek translation of the Bible known as the Septuagint, the Bible that the apostles used, translated that word with a word that later became part of the English language: “martyr.” The Messiah brought judgment on the wicked, but not quite the way everyone expected. The Messiah brought the judgment of the wicked upon himself. He became sin for them. He took their place—as God had intended all along.
Because God remains the same God that loved his people and rescued them from Egypt—he doesn’t destroy them. In fact, he offers them redemption: they can return to him. The judgment has been served—he served it against himself in their place—and therefore mercy is offered.