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What is the significance of the refinerís fire and laundererís soap in Malachi 3:2?

refinerís fire

Question: "What is the significance of the refinerís fire and laundererís soap in Malachi 3:2?"

Answer:
Malachi 3:2 has been a popular verse in Western society for centuries due to its use in Handelís famous oratorio Messiah. The verse reads, ďBut who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refinerís fire or a laundererís soap.Ē Letís take a look at the prophetís similes.

Malachi says that, when the Lord returns, no one will be able to stand before Him. This speaks of the Lordís holiness and the fact that He will come in judgment. The idea of ďstandingĒ before the Lord is associated with ďwithstandingĒ or ďstanding up toĒ; sinful human flesh will not have the strength, the right, or the desire to resist the Lord in His glory (cf. Psalm 76:7; Revelation 6:17).

The two figures help clarify why no one will be able to stand in the Day of the Lord. First, verse 2 says the Messiah will be like a refinerís fire, an allusion to the process of purifying metal. A refiner uses a fire to heat metal to a molten state; then he skims the dross that floats to the top. All judgment has been entrusted to the Son (John 5:22). Upon Christís return, the intense flame of Godís judgment will purify the earth, removing the dross of sin.

Second, the Messiah will be like a laundererís soap. This type of soap was bright white and, of course, cleaned clothing. When Christ returns, He will cleanse the world of all impurity. No stain of sin will remain. Jesusí transfiguration contains a reference to His purity, using language similar to Malachiís: ďHe was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach themĒ (Mark 9:2-3).

The Messiah Jesus will also purify those around Him: ďHe will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousnessĒ (Malachi 3:3). Like fire, He will burn away the impurities of the priests. Like soap, He will wash away their uncleanness (Deuteronomy 4:29; Isaiah 1:25; Jeremiah 6:29-30; Ezekiel 22:17-22; Zechariah 3:5). The priests will then be able to offer sacrifices from a pure heart. The sacrifices in the latter days will be similar to those when the temple was first built: ďThe offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former yearsĒ (Malachi 3:4).

The refinerís fire and laundererís soap indicate the holiness and burning judgment of the Messiah Jesus when He returns to reign in Jerusalem at His second coming. His brightness and cleanliness will extend to those who serve Him, creating a cleansed temple and purified priesthood. ďSee, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies himĒ (Isaiah 40:10).

Recommended Resources: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller and Logos Bible Software.


Related Topics:

Book of Malachi - Bible Survey

Does the teaching on tithing in Malachi 3:9-10 apply to us today?

How do we bring blemished offerings to God (Malachi 1:8)?

Who is the promised messenger of Malachi 3:1?

What does it mean to profane the covenant (Malachi 2:10)?



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What is the significance of the refinerís fire and laundererís soap in Malachi 3:2?