The first passage proposed for consideration is that in Mal. iii. 1, “Behold I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.”
There are two messengers mentioned in this text. The one is called my messenger, or the messenger of the Lord, to prepare his way before him; the other is the messenger of the covenant, &c. The former undoubtedly refers to John the Baptist, and the latter to our Lord Jesus Christ. The exact fulfillment of this prediction is found in the coming of John, and the advent of Christ, in the order of time signified in the text. As a messenger of the Lord, John is again spoken of in chapter iv. 5 and 6, under the name of Elijah the prophet; because he should come in the spirit of Elijah, and the work of preparing the way of the Lord, by turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and of the children to the fathers, is signified; and as to its application to John, our Lord has settled the point, Matt. xi. 13 and 14, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if ye will receive it, this is Elias (or Elijah) which was for to come.” In further testimony that John was intended by the prophet, we refer brother loge to Luke i. 76-79. The words of Zacharias, who being filled with the Holy Ghost, after his mouth was opened, prophesied and said, “And thou, child,” addressing the infant John, “shall be called the prophet of the highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people, by the remission of sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,” &c. To go into the whole ministry of John, as the appointed harbinger of Christ, and notice all his works in preparing the way of the Lord by turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, the voice of his crying in the wilderness, his preaching and saying unto the people that they should believe on him that was to come after him, that is on Christ, and his baptizing such as professed faith in Christ, and thus making ready a people prepared of God, would swell this article to an extravagant length. It is perhaps sufficient for brother Roge’s purpose that we have established the point of John the Baptist being intended as the first messenger in the order of time, and referred him to the New Testament record of the ministry of the Baptist, for a clear illustration of that wherein he was appointed to prepare the way of the advent of Jesus Christ our Lord.
“And the Lord, whom ye seek, even the messenger of the covenant,” &c. This second messenger is called the Lord, and the messenger of the covenant, and the work assigned him and the titles given to him, as well as the time specified for his coming, abundantly prove that this messenger is none other than the Lord from heaven, the Messiah which was to come. First, he was the Lord whom Israel sought. The apostle Peter says that the prophets sought diligently what, or what manner of time the spirit of Christ, which was in them, did signify, when it spake beforehand of his sufferings, and of the glory that should follow. And Christ himself said to his disciples, Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which ye see, and have riot seen them. – Matt xiii. 17 The family of Israel, carnal in then general views concerning him, were looking for his coming, so that he was very properly designated “the Lord whom ye seek.” But his identity is further qualified, thus: “Even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in.” Two proper subjects of inquiry present themselves in this clause of the text, viz.: how is Christ to be regarded as the Messenger of the covenant? and, in what sense are we to understand that as such they delight in him? And first we may inquire, Of what covenant is he the Messenger? There were several covenants made with the people of Israel. First, the covenant which God made with Abraham, commonly called the covenant of circumcision; second, the covenant made with Moses and all the people in the wilderness, commonly called the Decalogue, or Sinai covenant; the covenant also which was made with David, which was ordered in all things and sure. But the covenant intended in our text, of which Christ is the Messenger, is emphatically called the covenant, and which, by reference to the context, chapter ii. 4 and 5, we find to refer to the covenant that was with Levi. There is much said in modern times about the covenant stipulations made between the Father and the Son, in which proposals were made and accepted, contract sealed, and ratified, &c, but as we have not been able to find the record of any such transactions in the scriptures, we shall be under the necessity of referring our readers for such information to those who are better able to expound.
Moses, in blessing Levi, says, “Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribab; who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children; for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant. They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar. Bless, Lord, his substance, and accept the work of his hands: smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that Irate him, that they rise not again.” – Deut. xxxiii. 8-11. Compare this. prophetic blessing with Mal. ii. 4-6, and in. 3, 4, and it will not be difficult to perceive that Levi, at the head of the old covenant priesthood, pointed figuratively to him who is at the head of the new covenant priesthood; or in other words, that Levi was a type of Christ, and that the covenant of life and peace, over which Levi presided in his priesthood, was typical of the new testament or covenant of which Jesus Christ is the. Mediator, the Apostle (or sent Messenger) and High Priest of our profession. That life and peace, belonging to the Levitical priesthood, was only temporal. The provision of that covenant to which the Levitical priesthood belonged, was that a man that obeyed should live; that the sinner should be cut off from Israel, and should die; and for obedience, God would also give them peace, by fighting their battles, and smiting through the loins of them that opposed them; and with Levi was this covenant of life and peace, because that the provisions of the covenant were such, that when the delinquent Israelite had sinned, and fallen under the sentence of death, offerings were to be made by the sons of Levi, in the priesthood, for atonement, whereby the offender was permitted to live, and peace was obtained through the shedding of blood by that priesthood. But all that belonged to Levi and to his priesthood was to be done away, and his covenant and priesthood to be superceded by the priesthood of Christ, which priesthood is after the order of Melchisedec, and not after the order of Aaron; not by the law of a fleshly or carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life, and the new and better covenant, which shall endure as the days of heaven. This new and everlasting covenant is anti-typical of the covenant made with Noah, with Abraham, Moses and David, and unites all the excellencies which were prefigured by them all. Like that with Noah, it assures the saints of abolished wrath, and presents the sure pledge of the rainbow, encircling the Mediatorial throne of Christ. Like that with Abraham, it embraces all the seed of Christ. Like that with Moses and the whole house. of Israel, its provisions are love to God and good will to man, and a spiritual Sabbath of unremitting rest to all the spiritual seed. Like that with David, it is ordered in all things and sure. It is, in a spiritual sense, a “covenant of life and peace,” and it is ordained, in the hands of Christ, who is our spiritual Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. He is the Levi of the chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation and peculiar people, that shall show forth his praise.
Christ we understand to be the Messenger of this covenant. All its provisions, promises, oaths and securities were brought by Jesus Christ. Not a syllable of its contents is ever known to man, until Christ, the Messenger, is received. None but the Lamb can look upon the book or open the seals thereof. For all the promises of God are in him, yea, and in him, amen, to the glory of God by us.
In what sense the children of Israel, as a people, delighted in him, may be a matter of some doubt. But it is certain that the spiritual people of our God, under the old as well as new dispensation, did, and still do delight in him as the Messenger of the everlasting covenant. Abraham rejoiced to see his day, and he saw it and was glad. And all Old Testament saints prayed that the salvation of Israel might come out of Zion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
“Shall suddenly come to his temple.” There is more than one sense in which Christ has come to his temple. First, that body in which he became incarnate was his temple. (See John ii. 19, 21.) “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” “But he spake of the temple of his body.” Secondly, the temple at Jerusalem may be considered his, for all that the Father hath is his; and he called it his Father’s house, and charged the Jews with making it a den of thieves. But in a more direct spiritual sense, his church is his temple. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man shall defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” – l Cor. iii. 16, 17. “What! Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” – 2 Cor. vi. 19, 20. In regard to each of these temples, Christ came suddenly. The coming of Christ in the flesh was sudden; at a moment unlooked for by the Jews. To the temple at Jerusalem, when he came, in fulfillment of Zech. ix. 9, it was sudden and unlooked for by the buyers and sellers of merchandise, and the changers of money; and when the Jews and Romans had destroyed the temple of his body, in his resurrection of it on the third day he came suddenly, unexpectedly, and to the surprise and confusion of his enemies. But to us it seems more in harmony with the connection. of the text, to understand his coming suddenly to his temple, as applicable to his coming after his ascension to glory, when he came at the day of pentecost to reign, by his Spirit, as Head of his church, and as the King of saints. We are the more strongly inclined to this view of the subject from the following considerations: first, his coming on the day of pentecost was sudden. Suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing, mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” – Acts ii. 2. Second, the connection of the prophecy, “But who may abide the (lay of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and as silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” – Mal. iii. 2, 3. This looks like the Mediatorial government of Christ in his kingdom in its gospel organization. Third, another striking expression of this prophet, in the connection of the subject, is, “Behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all that are proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name, shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall.” This prediction was not, we presume, fulfilled until the destruction of Jerusalem; and in the preaching of Peter, on the day of pentecost, he asserted that the wonderful events which then transpired, according to the words of Joel the prophet, must be fulfilled before the great and notable day of the Lord. The day of his coming must, according to the view we have taken, include his spiritual reign with his saints on the earth, from the day of pentecost to the end of time, and consequently embraces the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, the development of the mystery of iniquity, the overthrow of the mall of sin, and finally, the execution of the last enemy that shall be destroyed. And it is truly a serious inquiry, “Who may abide the day of his coming?” All who defile the temple, the church, shall be destroyed.
What we have written above, we submit to the consideration of brother loge, and to all who may read it; if in any point we have differed from the views of our brethren, we have not designed to invite controversy, nor to set forth our views as a standard of orthodoxy. We have simply given our views by request, and in the hope that at least some may be edified.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
November 15, 1846
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 701 – 708