A Refiner’s Fire

I It is a terrible time of history, immediately "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Mal 4:5). A line is drawn in the sand. It is a day when men say, "Where is the God of judgment?" (2:17). It is a rebuke, a stern warning to all Christians: "Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts" (3:7). It is a message that "an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord" (2:11-12). It is a message of frightful finality from the LORD of Hosts, "lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (4:6).

Christian, what will you do in the day of a refiner's fire?

by Jerry Gentry

"Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible" (Mal. 1:7).

The warnings of all previous prophets fell on deaf ears. The idolatrous nation of Israel was divorced and carried away captive into the Assyrian wilderness, almost 300 years earlier. A remnant of the nation of Judah has returned from their 70 year Babylonian captivity. The temple and wall around Jerusalem are rebuilt, but in nothing like the former glory.

"Ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy" (Ezra 3:12).

The jubilant voices of those old men are now silent and their tears forgotten. Ezra and Nehemiah, and other prophets, have repeatedly called the remnant of Judah to repentance, and restored temple worship. Decades have passed. Now the God of Israel sends one last trumpet call before the curtain falls on Old Testament history. This ancient call is written primarily for the church of the last days.

The language of Malachi is clear. The message is for all Israel, not just for the remnant of Judah and the "sons of Levi" who tended the temple service of Malachi's day. The message is clearly "to Israel by Malachi" (Mal 1:1), because "The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel" (v. 5). Malachi warns: "Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem" (Mal. 2:11).

The message of Malachi is primarily intended for the church today, because his message was never delivered to ancient Israel who were long before scattered in dispersion. It is the message of a refiner's fire for Israel of the last days.

God's message through Malachi rings clear: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Mal. 4:5). Christian, if you failed to hear the voice of Elijah of old, then how will you be prepared to hear the message of Malachi today? And exactly what is that message? It is a message against idolatrous worship of God, the very same message that Elijah the prophet of old had delivered to Israel.

The message of Malachi is the message of an angry God. It is the message of a refiner's fire. Of Jesus who returns as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Bible says: "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:12).

Christian, hear the message of Elijah, who took the ministers of false worship: "bought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there" (1Ki 18:40).

Hear the message of Malachi, who warns: "And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you" (Mal 2:1).

"If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart" (v. 2).

"Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it" (v. 3). "Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts" (Mal 3:7).

Hear the message of a refiner's fire.

The fire of the LORD is dreadful. Fire is always used for purging, for burning up the dross when gold, silver, and brass are refined. God cleaned up the wickedness of two ancient cities, when "the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven" (Gen. 19:24). He tells us of the last days, that "as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded" (Luke 17:28).

"But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all" (v. 29).

We have many examples of God's use of fire in dealing with His people. It was "through the pillar of fire and of the cloud. . . [that He] troubled the host of the Egyptians" and delivered his people Israel out of bondage. Fifty days later, at Sinai, the mount "was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly" (Exod. 19:18).

Nadab and Abihu illustrate for us a dreadful use of fire, when they "offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD" (Lev. 10:1-2).

Yet there is something even more dreadful, more cleansing, more purging than physical fire. The prophet Jeremiah burned in his bones, at Israel's sins, and: "said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" (Jer. 20:9). God later confirmed to Jeremiah: "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces (Jer. 23:29)?

The apostle Peter tells us: "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (2Pet. 3:7).

In all these verses, we hear the message of a refiner's fire. It is a message to Israel, the church, of the last days. Unless we hear and heed the message, we too "will burn up [like] the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:12).

This message is to the priests of Israel, who make offerings before the Lord. Who are these priests? "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1Pet. 2:5), who "hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Rev. 1:6). It is a truth that all Christians make up a "a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1Pet 2:9).

This fact of our priesthood derives, not from the priesthood of "Levites [who] were appointed unto all manner of service of the tabernacle of the house of God" (1Chr. 6:48). Because, "If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?" (Hebr. 7:11). The historic prelatical priesthood of the church of Rome is modeled after the order of Aaron. The central doctrine of this priesthood is called "the sacrifice of the mass," which is a grossly twisted application of the sacrifice of our passover lamb, who is Jesus Christ. In that Roman system of worship, the priests continually offer up Christ daily, through the false doctrine of transubstantiation of the bread and wine. This is a gross corruption of worship. This is idolatry. Malachi's message condemns all idolatrous worship, wherein God rebukes the priests who "offer polluted bread [sacrifice of the mass, and all related doctrines of works salvation] upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible" (Mal. 1:7-8). That system of worship makes a contempt of justification by faith, and the right use of the passover lamb Jesus Christ, with the bread and wine he instituted as symbols at His Last Supper. The Great Mother Whore church of Rome, and her harlot daughters teach the necessity of taking the "holy eucharist" for salvation, another form of idolatry.

Every Christian should flee that system of false worship like fornication, which it is. Every Christian is individually responsible to protest such manner of false worship. Every Christian must "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1Ths. 5:21). It is too late a time of history to play church any longer and wink at such monstrous idolatries.

Over and over, Malachi lays the truth on the line, even as did Moses, after the great idolatry of the golden calf. Moses drew the line, and said, "Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him" (Exo 32:26). "And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour" (v. 27).

"And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men" (v. 28).

The sons of Levi, Moses family, were appointed unto him by God, for service of the tabernacle. Today, Jesus, who sprang not from Levi, but from the tribe of Judah, is our High Priest, and those "in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1), "who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3), are called "a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices."

Christian, will you gird on your sword of the spirit, the very word of God, and purge your worship of all idolatry? Will you clearly identify what are "spiritual sacrifices" from the word of God, and make your offering? Be not deceived. As part of Christ's "royal priesthood" of the New Covenant, you will be held personally accountable for your worship. The table of the LORD is set out of the pure word of God. You will be held accountable to remove all vestiges of idolatry from your worship. Will you hear the message of Malachi, a refiners fire.

Malachi further identifies the nature of false worship:

"For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts" (Mal 2:7).

"But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts" (v. 8).

"Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law." (v. 9). The Bible says, "One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you" (Exod. 12:49). God will judge those who receive the law of fellowship unequally, based on political pressures.

"Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?" (Mal. 2:17).

Failure to identify and adopt "acceptable words" (Eccl. 12:10) is at the heart of idolatrous worship. Will we offer man's words, or God's words? "Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them" (Jer. 15:19).

This is a message of separation. This is a message that calls every Christian to stop and consider his words, draw the line, and say with Moses, "Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me" (Exod. 32:26). Christian, will you personally remove from idolatry, as Moses, even when it may cost you some dear friendship, some loved one, some precious human relationship? Will you draw the line and "let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them?" Will you trust God to provide you with forms of worship which are acceptable to him? Will you follow God or men?

We must cry, "Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips" (Hosea 14:2). We must cry to God, "Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us" (Jer. 14:21).

Christian, a refiners fire has begun to sweep this earth in judgment of the last days.

"Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it" (Isa. 13:9).

"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" (Mal. 3:1).

"Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments" (Mal. 4:4). "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (v. 5). What will this end time Elijah be speaking?

"And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, 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" (Luke 1:17).

To the priests, once again God says: "Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?" (Mal 3:13).

"Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?" (v. 14).

"And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered" (v. 15).

Yet there is a reprieve of encouragement for His faithful worshippers: "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name" (v. 16).

"And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" (v. 17).

"Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not" (v. 18).

"Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap" (Mal 3:2).

Christian, will you stand in the day of a refiners fire? If so, you will hear and heed the lesson of idolatrous worship. You will purge yourself of all false, idolatrous worship. You will know for sure that when God returns to his holy temple, the very church of God, it will be as a refiners fire. "He will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner" (Matt. 3:12).

Purge yourself today of all idolatrous worship, and you will not be a victim of a refiner's fire.

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