Intro: How do you encourage a young person whom you love dearly, to follow in your footsteps if you are sitting in a jail cell awaiting your execution?
- Read 2 Timothy 1:8-10 – 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
- The aged apostle directs the young Timothy to look back. How far back? He tells Timothy to not be ashamed of God’s testimony (the reason Paul was in jail was for preaching God’s testimony), and follow him into suffering for that testimony, because it was “according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us before time began.” The message of the gospel began in the mind of God before anything else that we see around us existed. Paul says that God’s plan to save us (holy calling) had now been revealed to us by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ. Focus on the big picture… You are part of God’s eternal purpose when you preach the gospel.
- Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1: 20… He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. The term manifest means to make evident or visible. The evidence of God’s plan would be made visible for our benefit when the time was right.
- The apostles spoke of this plan as a mystery that would be revealed. Romans 16:25-27 – Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith — 27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
- Eph 1:9-10 – having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him.
- “the fullness of times” refers to a specific time when everything that was supposed to happen before, had happened. It was not too early and not too late. John McArthur says… “The fullness of time refers to the completion of the period of preparation in God’s sovereign timetable of redemption. When the law had fully accomplished its purpose of showing man his utter sinfulness and inability to live up to God’s perfect standard of righteousness, God ushered in a new era of redemption. When He sent forth His Son, He provided the righteousness for man that man could not provide for himself.”
- This morning we will look closer at a few prophecies that announced the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose and promise to save those who would obey Him.
I. Read Malachi 4:1-6 – Malachi is the last of the OT prophets. This prophet writes 450 years before Jesus is born, but the expectation of the Messiah runs throughout His message. In 3:1 he says, “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight; behold he is coming says the Lord of hosts.” And in verse 3:2, “He is like a refiner’s fire.” What was God’s last word to His people? These words paint a powerful picture of what was ahead for Israel. 4 things are pictured. These things were coming in the fulfillment of God’s promise to save His people.
A. Judgment (v. 1) – (from which there is no recovery – burned up – no root or branch will be left). v. 6 – Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” These last words are sandwiched on each side with the prediction of a coming judgment. In Matthew 3, just prior to Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist spoke openly about the judgment against the nation of Israel. He called on them to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance and said, Matt 3:10-12 -… even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Within that generation the city and the nation were destroyed by the Romans.
B. – Light (v. 2) – Malachi paints the image of a sunrise (Sun of righteousness) that will drive away the darkness. The dawning of a new day. This is a powerful, and somewhat familiar image.
1. notice first that the Sun here is S-U-N, not S-O-N. But most see the “Sun of Righteousness” as Jesus. Other see it as describing “the sum and substance of salvation” (Keil). God was promising salvation as the dawning of a new morning… That sunrise would arrive in the incarnation of Jesus, and the preaching of the Gospel.
2. John’s first presentation of Jesus is that He is the Word of God, the Light shining in the darkness; “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9)
• 2 Cor. 4:3-6 – But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
• 2 Peter 1:19 – And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;
C. Healing (v. 2) – The Sun of Righteousness brings healing in its (His) wings. The word for wings is a Hebrew word that means “fringe”, and referred to the outermost feathers on the wings of a bird. When applied to the sun it would seem to refer to the rays of light that first appear in a sunrise, like wing feathers shooting forth from the sun. These “wings” (rays) provide healing: Keil says this… “As the rays of the sun spread light and warmth over the earth for the growth and maturity of the plants and living creatures, so will the sun of righteousness bring the healing of all hurts and wounds which the power of darkness has inflicted upon the righteous. Then will they go forth, sc. from the holes and caves, into which they had withdrawn during the night of suffering and where they had kept themselves concealed, and skip like stalled calves (cf. 1 Sam 28:24), which are driven from the stall to the pasture. (from Keil and Delitzsch Commentary)
1. The time of salvation would be characterized a time of healing. God would come with healing. We might immediately think of Jesus’ many miraculous healings. Certainly these “signs” pointed to the fulfillment of God’s promise. Matthew makes this connection in his gospel, connecting Jesus physical healing power with the promise of Isaiah 53 – by His stripes we are healed (Mt. 8:16-17) But the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to heal pointed to the forgiveness of sins through the death of Jesus on the cross. 1 Peter 2:24 – who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.
D. Joy (v. 2) – “And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall” (NIV) I hope it does not offend you to be compared to a cow, because that is the image here. Have you ever seen a young calf that has been confined in a stall, released to the pasture? He runs and leaps, and frolics in his freedom. So shall God’s people be when they are set free from their sins. Joy is the fruit of salvation.
1. The shepherds who were among the first to know of Jesus’ birth were visited by the angel of the Lord, he said to them… “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
2. The prophet Habakkuk described the coming joy of God’s people, even in the face of His judgment against them. “Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls — 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hill” (Hab 3:17-19) Are you joyful – Are you saved?
E. Obedience (v. 4) – Malachi calls on Israel to remember the law of Moses. This was not to picture salvation as coming through the Law of Moses, but to indicate the importance and necessity of obedience to God. Salvation is made available to those who fear the name of God (v. 2) Men are not saved because God decided to change His mind about law-keeping, or because obeying God was just too hard, so He gave everyone a waiver.
1. In fact we will notice that the announcement of salvation, and the coming of the Kingdom of God began with a clear call for all men to repent, and be obedient. My obedience is not the reason I can be saved, but it is a condition of it. Jesus is the source (author) of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him (Heb 5:9 – He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him)
2. The preaching of the gospel included commands to obey. Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins – Acts 2:38; He that believes and is baptized will be saved – Mk. 16:16
F. Turning (v. 5-6) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet – The coming of God’s day of judgment and salvation would be preceded by the coming of Elijah, the prophet. This prediction was understood by the Rabbis to be literally fulfilled – Elijah reincarnated would return. Even now, during the feast of Purim, the orthodox Jews set a place at the table for Elijah. Some of Jesus’ day believed He was Elijah (Mt. 16:14); Those at the cross assumed Jesus was asking for Elijah in His quotation of the 22nd Psalm.
1. In Matthew 17 Jesus’ disciples were perplexed when Elijah personally appeared at Jesus’ transfiguration. Matt 17:10-13 – His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.
a. They reasoned if Jesus was the Messiah, then why did Elijah appear after Jesus’ ministry, and not before. Jesus reaffirms the words of Malachi, but then explains to them that John the baptist was truly the fulfillment of Malachi’s words. Jesus elsewhere affirmed that John was the Elijah who was to come – Matt 11:13-15– For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
2. The Message: “he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, (4:6) Before salvation would come, the people must turn.
• the hearts of the fathers to the children; hearts of the children to their fathers. – this is not predicting improved family relationships. The fathers are those who had gone before and had by faith looked forward to the coming of the Messiah – Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the prophets. Their children are those who come after them who do not believe. They are alienated in their hearts from their fathers (ancestors) because of their unbelief and disobedience. John will call them to a mutual repentance and faith.
3. The angel Gabriel spoke to John’s father, the priest Zacharias, before he was born… Luke 1:16-17 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
a. Notice that the angel identifies John as the Elijah who was to come, and speaks directly from the words of Malachi 4. He substitutes the phrase… “the disobedient to the wisdom of the just”, for the phrase” hearts of children to their fathers”. Thus the mission was call the people of God in his day to be believing and obedient. John’s work was to prepare the people for Christ by calling them to reform their life and thinking. He called for change.
• Matt 3:1-3 –In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.'” John spoke out against the sins of his day, and rejected those who were unwilling to produce the effects (fruits) of repentance in their lives.
b. When Jesus began His ministry, He also emphasized the essentiality of turning away from sin. “Repent or you shall all perish” (Luke 13:3). People are only prepared for God inasmuch as they are ready to turn from themselves and their sin and turn toward God. We cannot preach the salvation God offers to men without preaching against the practice of sin, in an effort to turn the hearts of the lost to their Savior.
Conclusion: There is more to see concerning God’s promise of salvation. When I started my outline for this sermon I typed on the title line: “God’s promise to Dave” That was a typo – I meant to type “God’s Promise to Save”. But I looked at it a moment before I corrected it. it is His promise to Dave; and to Diane, and to Trudy, and to Lisa, and to Henly, and to all the Charles in the audience, and to those whose names I cannot remember.
- God has promised to save us. This promise began in the mind of God before the creation of the world. It has been reiterated through the Word of God… from the OT prophets to the words of Jesus and His apostles. It is consummated in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. It is revealed to you and me in the gospel of the NT.
- In the first installment of that apostolic revelation in Acts 2, Peter rehearsed to the people the words of the OT prophets concerning God’s promise to bless His people. When they came to realize that the Jesus they had placed on a cross was the Savior they were awaiting, they cried out to Peter… What can we do? (the promise was conditional)
• Acts 2:38-41 – Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
• At the end of Luke’s description of this monumental fulfillment of God’s words, he tells us… “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47)
• He is still adding to the church those who are being saved… Will you repent and be baptized.