So a couple weeks ago I preached a sermon called “the FIRST Gospel Sermon,” and we examined Peter’s Pentecost address in Acts 2. Alex followed that up last week with “the LAST Gospel Sermon,” taking us through the final words of Revelation and the great encouragement we find therein. We’ve had the first, we’ve had the last.
Does the Bible have a “middle” Gospel sermon?
In the last book of the Old Testament (not exactly the middle of the Bible, but let’s pretend), the prophet Malachi writes about the coming of the Messiah. He writes the “good news” (Gospel) that the Savior of humanity was soon to arrive…
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the 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.
The promise of the prophet is of a day of reckoning, a time when the wicked and the good will be separated. Typically we hear language like that and our mind goes to the final day, the “judgment day,” but really this is a prediction of the era of the Messiah. This is about the present day. Today, in the era of the Messiah, righteous people are in Jesus’ Kingdom and unrighteous people are outside it: The wicked and the good are spiritually separated, as opposed to how it was in the Old Testament, where Israel could only physically separate itself (through what kind of food it could and couldn’t eat, and other customs).
So in the era of the Messiah, the wicked and the proud will be like stubble, easily consumed by the fire of God’s vengeance. Again, that sounds very “final day,” but you have to remember the way OT prophets talked. They frequently used big, “judgment” language in their writings in order to convey the idea of victory. The best way to describe a person winning is by describing their enemy losing, and that’s what’s going on here.
But what about the people of God?
Malachi also says that those who fear the name of the Lord will witness a sunrise unlike any other. The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. That’s a promise of the Messiah-to-come: A new day will dawn, a new era will begin, a new life will be open to you. Jesus, the “son” of God, is depicted here as the “sun” rising in the morning, bringing an end to a dark and dreary night. Fittingly, after Malachi pens those words, inspiration would enter a three-hundred and fifty year quiet period, the longest stretch of time without God inspiring a writing since Moses penned Genesis.
Things got very quiet after Malachi, very dark, while people waited for the sunrise to come.
And then, as the first hints of light started to glow over the hills, out came John the baptizer, telling us the day was soon to dawn. And then, bursting from the east, the sun of righteousness arose with healing in His wings: Good news, the Messiah is here!