Malachi 4:1 “’Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them.’”
When God describes the punishment that waits for his enemies on and after Judgment Day, there are many unpleasant scenes into which he paints the unbelieving. Perhaps no feature of the day is more consistent throughout Scriptures than the description of burning. Everywhere this day is described as a day in which God’s enemies will face burning and fire.
Malachi also describes what a horrible destruction that fire will bring upon those people. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.” When a fire sweeps through a forest, at least the roots of the trees escape. They are underground. But no part of those who suffer this fire will escape. The destruction will be complete.
That’s not to say that they will be completely annihilated. When something is destroyed, it doesn’t cease to exist. It changes form. The material which is “destroyed” still exists as a pile of rubble. Wood which is burned still exists as a pile of ashes. Those who suffer God’s punishment on Judgment Day may not be what they were in this life, but they won’t cease to exist. Their punishment never ends.
Do you see why it is important for us to take this warning to heart? Malachi calls those who suffer such a day of burning “the arrogant and every evildoer.” We may be inclined to exclude ourselves from such a description. After all, we are the sort of folk who attend church regularly. We live an outwardly decent life. We bring our tithes. We volunteer our time. We know our Bibles. We stand up for the truth. We speak our faith. We have the pure gospel.
All of this is good. But it also has a way of becoming a source of false pride. We can begin to believe that we really are superior people. Our own arrogance becomes harder to see because it hides under such a lovely religious veneer.
That’s what happened to the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. “My, what a fine person I am becoming,” they thought. God wants us to be eager to hear his word and zealous to serve him. But he has no time for those whose religion is all about me and what I have become, who add spiritual blindness to their spiritual rebellion, by putting their hope in themselves. For such people there is a day of burning.
Yet, in the burning Malachi announces we also find a word of comfort. The prophet was speaking to people who knew only too well what it meant to be victims. Some had cried out, “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape” (Micah 3:14-15).
Sound familiar? We have all suffered injustice at some time. It may look like people of this world can sin without restraint. They never seem to pay for it. Their consciences don’t even bother them. They sleep like babies. They get everything they want.
At the same time no one seems to be poorer, more miserable, or unhappier than we Christians. We know what King David meant when he prayed in the psalms, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I…have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2).
On our part, we need to be careful that we don’t turn away from God and share the fate of the wicked. Nor does God doesn’t want us to be vindictive. He does he want us to wish eternal suffering on anyone. We prefer their conversion and salvation above all things.
But here God also promises the day is coming when we will be vindicated. He saved us once long ago when Jesus shouldered our sins and carried them to the cross. He rescued us from sin and delivered us from death. The Day of Judgment is also a day of salvation. God promises to rescue us from the wicked and their fate: “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not” (Malachi 3:18).
A fiery day is coming. We’ve been given fair warning. Let’s listen seriously and be prepared.