Christians - Dancing on the Ashes of the Wicked? 

Malachi, Chapters 3 & 4

  Lorraine Day, M.D.

Christians frequently quote a passage in Malachi, Chapter 4, to prove that God will, indeed, destroy the wicked in burning hellfire, and apparently the Christians will be very happy about it, they will dance on the ashes of the wicked.

“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 fat like stall-fed calves.

“And ye shall trample (tread as in a winepress) down the wicked; for they shall be ashes (scattered) under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 4:1-3

If those who are righteous have the heart of Jesus Christ, will they enjoy dancing on the ashes of the wicked?  Hardly!

Then what does this passage mean?

As we have learned, the Bible was not written in chapters and texts.  Those were added hundreds of years after God inspired the Bible writers.  So we must read the book of Malachi as a whole. 

The preceding chapter, Chapter 3, gives us enlightenment on the above passage in Malachi 4.

“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.  

“But 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 a fullers’ (washerman’s) soap. 

“And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge (refine) them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Malachi 3:1-3 

Now it becomes clear.  The “fire” that “burns as an oven” in Malachi 4:1-3 is not a physical fire, but the purifying “fire” of Christ as he refines the sinner by purifying him of his sin.  God’s “washes” the sinner on the outside (by baptism) as a washerman washes clothes, and then God purifies the sinner on the inside by divine fire – His “fiery law” (Deut 33:2): 

“. . . that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”

Mal 3:3 

Throughout Malachi, God repeatedly rebukes Israel, including the priests and prophets, for their “whoredoms” with other gods – their totally heathen practices.  They had turned their back on God over and over again.  But each time, God exhorts them to reject their false gods, confess their sins, and turn back to God who will “arise with healing in His wings.” 

“For I am the Lord, I change not: therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”  Malachi 3:6 

God is merciful and will always take us back. 

“When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9 

In Malachi 4, the day that “burn’s as an oven” in Malachi 4:1 refers to the day that Christ will appear as a “refiner’s fire” in Malachi 3:2, and shall “sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, purifying the sons of Levi and purging them as gold and silver. . .” in Malachi 3:3. 

The “fire” is spiritual fire – not literal fire.  It is God’s “fiery law” that burns the sin out of our life. 

“And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.”  Deut 33:2 

When God purifies the wicked with His “fiery law” and purifies them like silver and gold, purging the sin out of their life, the “stubble” or “chaff” will be purged from them, their sin will be “burned up” and their old man of sin will be as “ashes under the soles of one’s feet,

“. . . in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.”  Malachi 4:3 

It is trouble – serious trouble - that purifies us.  It makes us realize that our decisions lead to trials and tribulations, and we need God to run our life.  

The last message in the Old Testament that God gives through His servant Malachi is the following: 

“Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb (Mt. Sinai) for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

“Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; 

“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”  Malachi 4:4-6

The Israelites of Malachi’s time had strayed so far from the true God that they believed it was futile to serve God or to keep God’s laws, and that evil was triumphing over good, evil-doers were being “blessed” and praised for their wickedness and got away with their sin, so the Israelites figured they might as well go along with it. 

“Ye have said, It is vain (futile) to serve God, and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners before the Lord of hosts? 

“And now we call the proud blessed; yea, they that work wickedness are raised up: yea, they that tempt God go free.”  Malachi 3:14,15 

On Mt Carmel, Elijah challenged the people of Israel, who had rejected the true God and turned to worshiping pagan idols, to make a choice. 

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, [then] follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”  1 Kings 18:21 

Just before Jesus came to this earth the first time, John the Baptist was the “Elijah” who came before Christ.  He challenged the Israelites of that time, the people who were following the false doctrines of the Pharisees, but thought they were worshiping God, to choose who they would worship: Baal (the false doctrines of the Pharisees) or God.  

After the transfiguration, Peter, James and John asked Jesus: 

“And his disciples asked Him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias (Elijah) must first come? 

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come and restore all things. 

“But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they wished.  Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.

“Then the disciples understood that He spoke unto them of John the Baptist.”  Matthew 17:10-13 

One of the major things Malachi reminds the Israelites they have not been doing is paying their tithes and offerings.

“Will a man rob God?  Yet ye have robbed Me.  But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee?  In tithes and offerings. 

“Ye are cursed with a curse; for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation. 

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in mine house, and test Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open to you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”  Malachi 3:8-10

The same holds true today, if we are faithful in giving back to God a portion of what He has given us, He will “pour out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” 

God even challenges us to “test Me now herewith” to see if His promises are true. 

“Fire” in the Bible

God baptizes us with the spiritual fire of God’s Breath of Holiness (Holy Ghost)

“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire.”  Matt 3:11 

“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?”  Luke 12:49 

As in Malachi, Chapters 3 and 4, God will “burn up the chaff” as He purges us to become silver and gold. 

“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 

Fire is only “unquenchable” until there is nothing more to burn.  When all the “purging” is done and all the “chaff has been burned up” and God has purified His children, then the fire will be quenched because there will be nothing left to “burn.”

“Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 

“If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”  1 Cor 3:13,15 

We are saved – not lost – by “fire” – the purifying “fire” of God’s fiery law.

“Our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:29

 God’s fiery law consumes the sin in our life. 

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 1:7 

Our faith is tested with “fire.” 

“If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat: and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink. 

“For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.”  Proverbs 25:21,22

Many times in the Bible God has shown us that His “fire” is to purify – not to destroy. 

A.    When the Israelite brought the lamb as a sin offering to the temple court, the Israelite put his hands on the head of the lamb and symbolically transferred his sins to the lamb.  What was burned up?  The Israelite – the sinner?  No, the “sin” – the lamb – representing Jesus, the lamb of God who died for the sins of the world. 

B.    Satanic, pagan gods, such as Baal and Molech, required human burning sacrifices to appease them.  God called that an abomination. 

“And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.  Jeremiah 32:35

C.    When Jesus was passing through Samaria and the Samaritans wanted him to leave their country because “his face was set to journey to Jerusalem,” Jesus’ disciples, James and John, wanted to destroy these Samaritans who were insulting Christ. 

“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias (Elijah) did? 

“But He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 

“For the Son of man has not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”  Luke 9:54-56                       

Jesus told His disciples that their attitude was of the Devil.  Jesus said, 

“Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you.”  Matt 5:44

God’s fire destroys the sin in a person’s life, but does not destroy the sinner.

Conclusion:  God’s fiery law consumes the sin out of the sinner’s life – through trouble - until the sinner will be “as though he has never been” because now he will have become righteous.