The book of Malachi is an interesting book that concerns itself with the last times, and its themes are mentioned throughout the New Testament. Malachi is concerned with election, judgment, the calling of the gentiles, the change of Temple worship, a change of the priesthood and a number of other matters that the New Testament writers expand upon. It also has something to say about the ministry of John the Baptist and even the coming (parousia) of the Lord. Notice how Malachi begins his prophecy:
I have loved you, says Jehovah. But you say, In what have You loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? says Jehovah; yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau and made his mountains a desolation, and his inheritance to be for the jackals of the wilderness. (Malachi 1:2-3)
Herein we find the premise upon which the New Testament’s doctrine of election is founded. God loved Jacob but hated Esau. That is, God chose Jacob and rejected his brother Esau. What began long ago with God choosing one person over another to be his people had expanded into a corporate matter. God says he ‘loved’ Israel and says his love for them was expressed in the fact that he had not destroyed Israel like he did Esau (Edom). The Lord claimed Edom would not be rebuilt (Malachi 1:4).
Centuries later, when Paul wrote about God’s elect, he drew upon the words of Malachi, saying that, even while Jacob and Esau were yet in Rebecca’s womb, the Lord said “the elder would serve the younger” (Romans 9:10-13). However, Paul used the Lord’s choice of Jacob over Esau to make a much broader point with regard to God’s elect.
Paul paints a bleak picture for Israel in his letter to the Romans, saying he could wish that he were cut off from Christ, if only Israel wouldn’t be, even though the promises and adoption etc. belonged to them (Romans 9:1-5). Paul then goes on to show that it was not the children of the flesh in Abraham’s lineage, who are the children of God. He does this by showing that Sarah, who was beyond childbearing age, miraculously gave birth to Isaac. Thus, Isaac was a miracle child, who could not have been born without the work of God being involved. Therefore, the election belongs to the children of the ‘promise’ of God, not the desire or the labor of man. Abraham had many children, but the election went through Isaac, the son, whom Abraham could never have had without his birth being the work of God (Romans 9:6-10).
Paul then shows how those, whom the Lord has called out from among the Diaspora, namely, the ten tribes of the House of Israel (Romans 9:26-27), are the remnant from the kingdom of Israel, whom through the Gospel God reunites with the remnant from the kingdom of Judah (cf. Ezekiel 37:11, 15-24). In other words, it is not the whole nation of Israel that God chooses, but a remnant or the elect out of that nation. It is not the children of the flesh who will be saved but the children of faith, i.e. the children of the promise—those whom could not have been born as children of God without the miracle of God working out the process.
Nevertheless, the election, according to Paul, doesn’t stop with the remnant of the whole House of Israel. He tells us in Romans 11:11-24 that, just as Esau was cast away so Jacob could be chosen, so, now, Jacob (excluding the remnant) is cast away that the gentiles could be received into the family of God. Here, we have in the election the reunification of Israel in the remnant that believed the Gospel, plus they are then united with the believing gentiles to form the church, the new Israel of God (cf. Galatians 6:15-16), which seems to be the opposite of what the Lord had done in Genesis 11:1-9.
So, what does this have to do with the last days in the New Testament? Notice what Malachi prophesies later in chapter one:
For from the rising of the sun even to its going in, My name shall be great among the nations; and everywhere incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure food offering. For My name shall be great among the nations, says Jehovah of Hosts. (Malachi 1:11)
The name of the Lord will be great among the gentiles, writes the prophet, but notice what is claimed next: “everywhere incense shall be offered to my name and a pure food offering…” Under the Law of Moses only the Levitical priesthood could offer sacrifices or burn incense before the altar of God, and then only at Jerusalem. However, Malachi says this will be done everywhere! This not only calls for a change of the priesthood, but, no doubt, points to the 70 AD destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, because as long as the Old Covenant was valid, what Malachi prophesies in Malachi 1:11 couldn’t be legally done. Yet, it is done under the New Covenant.
Jesus also pointed to such a time in John 4:21-24, saying that the hour would come and was even then present when men would no longer worship God from Jerusalem but would worship him in truth and in spirit. Peter would later say that his readers in Asia Minor were being built up to be a spiritual House, a royal priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ (1Peter 2:5). In other words, the elect of Malachi, had become the remnant of the whole House of Israel together with the believing gentiles through Paul’s ministry. These are then described by Peter as the spiritual House of God, and the royal priesthood, who offer spiritual sacrifices to him throughout the world. Thus, pointing to the judgment upon Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD (Malachi 3:5; 4:5-6).