As we enter the final chapter, which in turn means the final prophecy given to the Jews in the Old Testament we need to keep a couple of things in mind.
1. The prophecy was to a people whom God had used since the days they were delivered from Egyptian captivity in order to preserve the promises made to the fathers, Genesis 12:1-3.
National Israel was the vehicle through which God would bring into the world the blessing, the Redeemer and the Saviour.
The Old Testament prophets were sent to preserve national Israel as long as possible until the Assyrian, 722/21 B.C. and Babylonian, 586 B.C. captivities. The prophets who came after the return of the captives, beginning in 536 B.C., were sent in order to move Israel to re-establish herself in the land of Palestine.
Israel as God’s people had to be reestablished in order to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah in fulfilment of the prophecies.
2. Once the purpose for which Israel was called as a nation was fulfilled, the purpose would cease and they would cease to be a peculiar people that was in a unique covenant relationship with God.
This happened in A.D. 70 with the end of national Israel in Palestine when the Roman Empire, the fourth kingdom of Daniel’s prophecies, destroyed Jerusalem, Daniel 2 / Daniel 7.
Before the fall of national Israel, God would send forth the Redeemer in order to call out of Israel those who feared God. Once those who feared God were called out of national Israel, then God ended national Israel.
God says, ‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace.’ In the destruction of Jerusalem, those who had rejected Jesus were consumed. All the Jewish genealogical family records were destroyed in the burning of the city and the temple, Matthew 24.
Those of Israel who would be living at the time the Sun of Righteousness would come would be called out of national Israel through the preaching of the Gospel, 1 Thessalonians 2:12 / 2 Thessalonians 2:14.
Jesus was the rising light that brought hope to those who feared God and were living at the time of His coming, John 1:4-9 / John 3:19-21 / John 8:12.
The new spiritual Israel would grow exceedingly as a result of both men and women accepting Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, Mark 16:15-20 / Acts 6:7 / Acts 8:4 and the disciples of Jesus would crush the head of Satan by the preaching of the Gospel, Genesis 3:15 / Romans 16:20.
The statement to remember the law of Moses forces us to remember what Moses told the Israelites, remember, Moses spoke to the Israelites, not Christians. The encouragement here was that Israel will continue to remain in the statues of the Old Testament law in order that Israel is preserved unto the coming of the Messiah at the end of national Israel.
Those who feared God, continued in the law, Ecclesiastes 12:13, but, those who rejected the Word of God by the time of the coming of the Messiah, were consumed in the oven of the destruction of Jerusalem, Mark 13:1-9 / Matthew 24.
God says, ‘He will send the prophet Elijah’, this statement refers to John the Baptist, Matthew 11:14 / Luke 1:17. It clearly identifies the time of the historical fulfilment of this prophecy. John the Baptist, as the forerunner of the Messiah, went forth in the power and spirit of Elijah.
This coming of the Lord in the prophecy was a clear reference to the coming of the incarnate Son of God. His coming was a ‘terrible day’ for those who rejected Him, John 12:48. Those who rejected Him would be burned in the furnace, the great and terrible day of the Lord was the terrible day of the end of national Israel, Matthew 24 / 1 Peter 3.
It wouldn’t be contextually consistent to assume that the period of time between the coming of Elijah and the day of the Lord would be over two thousand years.
The fulfilment of the events of this prophecy must be in the 1st century with the coming of the messenger and forerunner of the Son of God, and the actual coming in the flesh of the Son of God, John 1:1-14. It was a coming of the Lord in time, not at the end of time.
The coming of Jesus at the end of time will not be a coming and call for repentance. It will be a coming of finality and destruction, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9. It will be a coming to call God’s people out of this world, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
However, at the end of the purpose for which God called Israel, Jesus came to call those of Israel unto repentance, Luke 13:3. It was a time in history when God was about to end national Israel, and so, Jesus came to call those who feared God out of Israel.
When Jesus comes in His final coming, He will strike the earth with destruction, but the striking in this context was to be a striking of drought and suffering, as the curse that was delivered to the Jews who had insincerely offered their sacrifices and robbed God during the ministry of Malachi. It was a striking in the destruction of Jerusalem.
The curse that was to come in the history of national Israel was termination. Jesus came to the Jews, but the majority at the time of His coming didn’t accept Him, John 1:11.
God’s blessing was forever taken from them because they rejected the Blessing of all the world that was promised to and came from Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3.
This is the last message the Jews heard from God for 400 years until John the Baptiser stood on the banks of the river Jordan and proclaimed, ‘repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand’. Matthew 3:2.