The Day That ‘Burns Like a Furnace’
“Look! the day is coming that is burning like the furnace.”—MALACHI 4:1.
1. What questions arise in connection with Malachi 4:1?
DURING these last days, happy are those whose name Jehovah chooses to write in his book of remembrance. But what of those who fail to qualify for that privilege? Whether they are rulers or simply common people, how will they fare if they treat the proclaimers of God’s Kingdom and their message with disdain? Malachi speaks of a day of accounting. At Mal chapter 4, verse 1, we read: “‘For, look! the day is coming that is burning like the furnace, and all the presumptuous ones and all those doing wickedness must become as stubble. And the day that is coming will certainly devour them,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘so that it will not leave to them either root or bough.’”
2. What graphic description of Jehovah’s judgment is given by Ezekiel?
2 Other prophets also compare Jehovah’s judging of the nations to the torrid heat of a furnace. How aptly Ezekiel 22:19-22 applies to God’s judging the sects of apostate Christendom! It reads: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘For the reason that all of you have become as much scummy dross, therefore here I am collecting you together . . . As in collecting silver and copper and iron and lead and tin into the midst of a furnace, in order to blow upon it with fire to cause a liquefying, so I shall collect them together in my anger and in my rage, and I will blow and cause you people to liquefy. And I will bring you together and blow upon you with the fire of my fury, and you must be liquefied in the midst of her. As in the liquefying of silver in the midst of a furnace, so you people will be liquefied in the midst of her; and you will have to know that I myself, Jehovah, have poured out my rage upon you.’”
3, 4. (a) What hypocritical claim have the clergy made? (b) What is religion’s sordid record?
3 A powerful illustration indeed! The clergy who have begged off from using Jehovah’s name, even blaspheming that holy name, must meet up with that day of reckoning. Presumptuously, they claim that they and their political allies will establish the Kingdom of God on earth, or at least make the earth a fit place for the Kingdom.
4 Apostate Christendom has joined with political rulers in fighting terrible wars. History records the Crusades of medieval times, the forced conversions of the Spanish Inquisition, the Thirty Years’ War that decimated Europe in the 17th century, and the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s, fought to make Spain safe for Catholicism. The greatest bloodletting came with the two world wars of our century, when Catholics and Protestants engaged in a free-for-all, indiscriminately slaughtering fellow believers as well as those of other religions. More recently, there has been murderous fighting between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, between religious factions in India, and between the religious groups of the former Yugoslavia. The pages of religious history are also bloodied by the martyrdom of thousands of faithful witnesses of Jehovah.—Revelation 6:9, 10.
5. What judgment awaits false religion?
5 We cannot but appreciate the justice of Jehovah’s approaching execution of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, together with its supporters. This execution is described at Revelation 18:21, 24: “A strong angel lifted up a stone like a great millstone and hurled it into the sea, saying: ‘Thus with a swift pitch will Babylon the great city be hurled down, and she will never be found again. Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.’”
6. (a) Who must become as stubble, and why? (b) What assurance is there for those who fear Jehovah?
6 In time, all enemies of righteousness, and those who adhere to them, “must become as stubble.” Jehovah’s day will burn among them like a furnace. “It will not leave to them either root or bough.” In that day of accounting, young children, or boughs, will be dealt with justly according to Jehovah’s assessment of their roots, their parents, who have oversight of these children. Wicked parents will have no posterity to perpetuate their wicked ways. But those who exercise faith in God’s Kingdom promises will not be shaken. Hebrews 12:28, 29 therefore exhorts: “Let us continue to have undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably render God sacred service with godly fear and awe. For our God is also a consuming fire.”
Is Jehovah a Cruel God?
7. How does Jehovah’s love enter into his judgment?
7 Does this mean that Jehovah is a cruel, vindictive God? Far from it! At 1 John 4:8, the apostle states a fundamental truth: “God is love.” Then, in 1Jo 4 verse 16 he adds emphasis, saying: “God is love, and he that remains in love remains in union with God and God remains in union with him.” It is because of his love for mankind that Jehovah purposes to cleanse this earth of all wickedness. Our loving, merciful God declares: “As I am alive, . . . I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living. Turn back, turn back from your bad ways, for why is it that you should die?”—Ezekiel 33:11.
8. How did John emphasize love, yet also show himself to be a Son of Thunder?
8 John refers to a·gaʹpe, principled love, more often than the other three Gospel writers combined, yet at Mark 3:17, John himself is described as a ‘Son of Thunder.’ It was by inspiration from Jehovah that this Son of Thunder penned the apocalyptic messages of the Bible’s final book, Revelation, which portrays Jehovah as the God who executes justice. This book is full of judgmental expressions, such as “the great winepress of the anger of God,” “the seven bowls of the anger of God,” and “the wrath of God the Almighty.”—Revelation 14:19; 16:1; 19:15.
9. What expressions did Jesus make on Jehovah’s judgments, and how were his prophecies fulfilled?
9 Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is “the image of the invisible God,” boldly declared Jehovah’s judgments while here on earth. (Colossians 1:15) For example, there are the seven woes of Matthew chapter 23 that he forthrightly proclaimed against the religious hypocrites of his day. He concluded that condemnatory judgment with these words: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” Thirty-seven years later, judgment was executed by the Roman army under General Titus. It was a fearful day, prophetic of what will prove to be the most fear-inspiring day in all human experience—Jehovah’s day, soon to break forth.
“The Sun” Shines Forth
10. How does “the sun of righteousness” bring joy to God’s people?
10 Jehovah makes known that there will be survivors of his day. He refers to these at Malachi 4:2, saying: “To you who are in fear of my name the sun of righteousness will certainly shine forth, with healing in its wings.” That sun of righteousness is none other than Jesus Christ himself. He is the spiritual “light of the world.” (John 8:12) How does he shine forth? He rises with healing in his wings—first spiritual healing, which we can experience even today, and then, in the new world to come, physical curing of people out of all the nations. (Matthew 4:23; Revelation 22:1, 2) Figuratively, as Malachi said, the healed ones will “go forth and paw the ground like fattened calves” just released from the stall. What joy will also be experienced by resurrected ones who are raised with the prospect of attaining to human perfection!
11, 12. (a) What fate awaits the wicked? (b) How do God’s people “tread down the wicked ones”?
11 However, what of the wicked? At Malachi 4:3, we read: “‘You people will certainly tread down the wicked ones, for they will become as powder under the soles of your feet in the day on which I am acting,’ Jehovah of armies has said.” While guarding those loving him, our Warrior-God will have swept the earth clean of those tyrannical enemies, annihilating them. Satan and his demons will have been restrained.—Psalm 145:20; Revelation 20:1-3.
12 God’s people take no part in destroying the wicked. How, then, do they “tread down the wicked ones”? This they do figuratively by sharing in a great victory celebration. Exodus 15:1-21 describes such a celebration. It followed the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts in the Red Sea. In fulfillment of Isaiah 25:3-9, the removal of “the tyrannical ones” is to be followed by a victory banquet linked with God’s promise: “He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces. And the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for Jehovah himself has spoken it. And in that day one will certainly say: ‘Look! This is our God. . . . This is Jehovah. We have hoped in him. Let us be joyful and rejoice in the salvation by him.’” There is in this joy, not vindictiveness or gloating, but exultation at seeing Jehovah’s name sanctified and the earth cleansed for peaceful habitation by a united mankind.
A Grand Educational Program
13. What education will take place in the “new earth”?
13 At Malachi 4:4, the Jews were admonished to “remember . . . the law of Moses.” So today we need to follow “the law of the Christ,” as mentioned at Galatians 6:2. Armageddon survivors will no doubt be provided with further instructions based on this, and these may well be written in “the scrolls” of Revelation 20:12 that will be opened at the time of the resurrection. What a grand day that will be as the resurrected dead are educated to follow the life-style of the “new earth”!—Revelation 21:1.
14, 15. (a) How is the modern-day Elijah identified? (b) What responsibility does the Elijah class fulfill?
14 That will be an extension of the educational work referred to by Jehovah, as recorded at Malachi 4:5: “Look! I am sending to you people Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.” Who is that modern-day Elijah? As shown at Matthew 16:27, 28, in referring to his “coming in his kingdom,” Jesus said: “The Son of man is destined to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will recompense each one according to his behavior.” Six days later, on a mountain with Peter, James, and John, “he was transfigured before them, and his face shone as the sun, and his outer garments became brilliant as the light.” Was he alone in this vision? No, for “look! there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, conversing with him.”—Matthew 17:2, 3.
15 What could this mean? It pointed to Jesus as the prophesied Greater Moses at the time of his coming for judgment. (Deuteronomy 18:18, 19; Acts 3:19-23) He would be associated then with a modern-day Elijah in order to accomplish a vital work, that of preaching this good news of the Kingdom in all the earth before the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah strikes. Describing the work of this “Elijah,” Malachi 4:6 states: “He must turn the heart of fathers back toward sons, and the heart of sons back toward fathers; in order that I may not come and actually strike the earth with a devoting of it to destruction.” Thus “Elijah” is identified as the faithful and discreet slave class of anointed Christians on earth, to whom the Master, Jesus, has entrusted all His belongings. This includes providing the household of faith with needed spiritual “food at the proper time.”—Matthew 24:45, 46.
16. What happy results have attended the work of the Elijah class?
16 Worldwide today, we can see the happy results of that feeding program. The Watchtower magazine, with a printing of 16,100,000 each issue in 120 languages, 97 of these published simultaneously, is flooding the earth with “this good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14) Other publications in many languages are used in various facets of the preaching and teaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Elijah class, the faithful and discreet slave, is alert to providing bountifully for all “those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) Moreover, those who accept this Kingdom hope and act upon it are bound into a marvelous worldwide unity. It embraces the great crowd “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 7:9) When this work has been accomplished to the extent that Jehovah requires, then the end will come in his great and fear-inspiring day.
17. When will Jehovah’s fear-inspiring day break forth?
17 Just when will that fear-inspiring day break upon us? The apostle Paul answers: “Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying [perhaps in a unique way]: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.”—1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3.
18, 19. (a) How is “peace and security” declared? (b) When will Jehovah’s people find relief?
18 Who are “they” in this prophecy? They are political leaders who claim that they can build a united new order out of the fragmented elements of this violent world. Their grandiose products, the League of Nations and the United Nations, have failed in this. As Jehovah’s prophet foretold, they are even now “saying, ‘There is peace! There is peace!’ when there is no peace.”—Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11; 14:13-16.
19 In the meantime, Jehovah’s people endure the pressures and persecutions of this godless world. But soon, as stated at 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8, they will find relief “at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.”
20. (a) What do Zephaniah and Habakkuk prophesy about the day that ‘burns like a furnace’? (b) What counsel and encouragement do these prophecies give?
20 How soon will that be? Many of us have been waiting a long time. Meanwhile, great numbers of meek ones who will survive are answering the call found at Zephaniah 2:2, 3: “Seek Jehovah . . . Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” Then, Zephaniah 3:8 contains the exhortation: “‘Therefore keep yourselves in expectation of me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘till the day of my rising up to the booty, for my judicial decision is to gather nations, for me to collect together kingdoms, in order to pour out upon them my denunciation, all my burning anger; for by the fire of my zeal all the earth will be devoured.’” The end is close! Jehovah knows that day and hour and will not change his timetable. Let us endure patiently. “For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it keeps panting on to the end, and it will not tell a lie. Even if it should delay, keep in expectation of it; for it will without fail come true. It will not be late.” (Habakkuk 2:3) Jehovah’s fear-inspiring day hastens ever closer. Remember, that day will not be late!
By Way of Review:
◻ How will rulers and the ruled fare in Jehovah’s fear-inspiring day?
◻ What kind of God is Jehovah?
◻ What sort of education is described for God’s people?
◻ How do God’s prophets exhort us in view of the closeness of the end?
[Picture on page 21]
During the Spanish Inquisition many were forced to convert to Catholicism
The Complete Encyclopedia of Illustration/J. G. Heck