And who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? - The implied answer is, "No one;" as in the Psalm Psalms 130:3, "If Thou, Lord, wilt mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" Joel had asked the same , "The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?" "How can the weakness of man endure such might; his blindness, such light; his frailty, such power; his uncleanness, such holiness; the chaff, such a fire? For He is like a refine' s fire. Who would not fail through stupefaction, fear, horror, shrinking reverence, from such majesty?"
Malachi seems to blend, as Joel, the first and second coming of our Lord. The first coming too was a time of sifting and severance, according as those, to whom He came, did or did not receive Him. The severance was not final, because there was yet space for repentance; but it was real, an earnest of the final judgment. John 9:39, "for judgment," our Lord says, "I am come into this world, that they which see not may see, and they which see might be made blind;" and again John 12:31, "Now is the judgment of this world;" and John 3:18, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the Only-Begotten Son of God; John 3:36. He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." As, on the other hand, He saith John 6:54. "whoso eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood hath eternal life;" and John 6:47, "he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life;" "hath," He saith; not, "shall have;" "hath it," in present reality and earnest, though he may forfeit it: so the other class is "condemned already," although the one may repent and be saved, the other may Ezekiel 33:18. "turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity;" and if he persevere in it, "shall die therein."
It is then one ever-present judgment. Every soul of man is in a state of grace or out of it; in God' s favor or under His wrath; and the judgment of the Great Day, in which the secrets of men' s hearts shall be revealed, will be but an outward manifestation of that now hidden judgment. But the words, in their fullest sense, imply a passing of that judgment, in which men do or do not stand, as in those of our Lord Luke 21:35-36. "As a snare shall that day come on all those that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things which shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man;" and Paul Ephesians 6:13. "Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand;" and in the Revelation Revelation 6:16-17. "They said to the mountains and rocks; Fall on us, and hide us from the wrath of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" Asaph says of a temporal, yet for this life, final destruction; Psalms 76:6-7, "At Thy rebuke, O God of, Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a deep sleep. Thou art to be feared, and who may stand in Thy sight, when Thou art angry?"
For He is like a refiner' s fire, and like fuller' s soup - Two sorts of materials for cleansing are mentioned, the one severe, where the baser materials are inworked with the rich ore; the other mild, where the defilement is easily separable. "He shall come like a refining fire; Psalms 50:3-4, ' a fire shall burn before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. Then He shall call the heaven from above, and the earth, that He may judge HIs people;' streams of fire shall sweep before, bearing away all sinners. For the Lord is called a fire, and a Deuteronomy 4:24. consuming fire, so as to burn our I Corinthians 3:12. wood, hay, stubble. And not fire only, but fuller' s soap. To those who sin heavily, He is a refining and consuming fire, but to those who commit light sins, fuller' s soap, to restore cleanness to it, when washed."
Yet, though light in comparison, this too had its severity, for clothes which were washed (of which the word is used) were trampled on by the feet. "The nitrum and the fuller' s soap is penitence." Yet the whiteness and purity so restored, is, at the last, perfected. Inspiration could find no more adequate comparison for us, for the brightness of our Lord' s raiment from the glory of the Transfiguration, than Mark 9:3, "exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them."
Our Lord is, in many ways, as a fire. He says of Himself; Luke 12:49, "I am come to send a fire upon earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled?" John Baptist said of Him Luke 3:16, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." He kindles in the heart "a fire of love," which softens what is hard, the will.
"Wash whate' er of stain is here,
Sprinkle what is dry or sere,
Heal and bind the wounded sprite;
Bend whate' er is stubborn still,
Kindle what is cold and chill,
What hath wandered guide aright."
But as God is "a consuming fire," Who must burn out the dross, unless we be Jeremiah 6:29-30 "reprobate silver" which "the founder melteth in vain," either He must, by His grace, consume the sin within us, or must consume us with it, in hell.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Malachi 3:2:
1 Corinthians 3:13
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