We have an allusion to the Two Witnesses in Mal 4.4-6, We have Moses mentioned in v 4, and then Elijah the Prophet in verses 5-6. He will come before the the “great and terrible day of the Lord.” The word “terrible” is “nora” and this is an allusion to the “Yamim Noraim” or the “Days of Awe” which is another name for the Birth-pains. It is also an allusion to Yom Kippur.
Mal 3.1 says, “Behold, I am going to send my messenger (Hebrew “malaki”= my angel), and he will clear the way before me (the “breaker” of Micah 2.12-13, Isa 40.3, 62.1-11). And the Lord whom you seek, will suddenly come to his Temple and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts (armies).” This messenger will prepare the way before the Lord as the “breach-maker” or “poretz” as we have mentioned. He is assigned to the bridegroom (Messiah) and he is the one who brought the bridegroom to the bride, as one of the Two Witnesses. Moses was assigned to the bride, which means he brought the bride to the bridegroom. Elijah “appears” in a lot of Jewish ritual. He is mentioned at the end of the Sabbath, Passover, at circumcisions and at weddings.
We know that Elijah comes before the Day of the Lord. Isa 62.10 says, “Go through the gates” and this is linked to Rosh Ha Shannah (the “gates are open” is an idiom for Rosh Ha Shannah, and closed on Yom Kippur. Psalm 24 is read on Rosh Ha Shannah and it says, “Lift up your heads, O gates.” The gates are open on Rosh Ha Shannah for repentance, and are closed to repentance on Yom Kippur. The days in between are called the Yamim Noraim, the “Days of Awe.” Isa 26.2 says, “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the one that remains faithful.” This is a Rosh Ha Shannah passage. Isa 26.1 through Isa 27.13 is a chiastic structure that deals with Rosh Ha Shannah, the Birth-pains, the false messiah and ends with Yom Kippur, when Israel is being gathered from the nations and coming to Jerusalem. Rosh Ha Shannah and Yom Kippur are called a “Yom Ha Din” or “Day of Judgment.” So you can see the parallels between Mal 3.1 and these other passages.
Let’s look at the term “remove the stones” found in Isa 62.10. In Micah 2.12-13 we see the “poretz” or “breach-maker” (Elijah/ John) who goes before the shepherd (Messiah) and removes the stones in the pen to make a gate for the sheep to exit from. The sheep have been penned up for the night and they will go through this breach in the wall to the shepherd, and he leads the sheep to pasture (the Kingdom). A deeper explanation of this can be found in the book “Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus” written by Roy Blizzard and David Bivin. In this book, they are commenting on what Yeshua said in Matt 11.12, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.” That doesn’t even make sense. The following is a quote from “Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus” on pages 84-87, “This saying (Matthew 11.12) is certainly hard to understand. It is not just ordinary Christians who have been stumped by it. There seems to be no satisfactory explanation of this verse even in scholarly literature. Apparently, a great deal of violence is connected with the Kingdom of Heaven. However, that does not agree very well with the rest of the teaching of Jesus. Many and varied have been the attempts on the part of ministers and scholars alike to explain this passage.
“The key to its understanding turns out to be an old rabbinic interpretation (midrash) of Micah 2.13 discovered by Professor David Flusser. Micah 2.12-13 reads: ‘I will gather all of you, Jacob; I will collect the remnant of Israel. I will put them all together like sheep in a fold, like a flock inside it’s pen. It will be noisy and crowded with people. The breach-maker (poretz) goes through before them. Then they break out. Passing through the gates, they leave by it. Their king passes through before them, their Lord at their head.’ These verses are full of imagery. It is a picture of a shepherd penning up his sheep for the night. He quickly builds a fold by throwing up a makeshift rock fence against the side of a hill. The next morning, to let the sheep out, he makes a hole or breach in the fence by tossing some of the stones aside. He steps through his “gate” with the sheep following close behind. They have been penned up all night and can hardly wait to get out of their cramped quarters. Of course they push and shove, several trying to get through at once, literally breaking through, further breaching the little gate in their eagerness to get out and into the green pasture. Finally they burst out into the open space, rushing headlong after the shepherd.
“In Micah 2.13 the “breach-maker” and the king are, of course, the same person, but in the rabbinic interpretation discovered by Professor Flusser, they are two different persons: the breach-maker is interpreted as being Elijah, and “their king” as the Messiah, the Branch of the Son of David.
“Now we can begin to understand what Jesus is saying. He is not only hinting at Micah 2.13, but also at a well-known rabbinic interpretation of it. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven,’ he says, ‘is breaking forth (not suffering violence), and every person in it is breaking forth (literally, “those who are breaking out in it, or by means of it,” not “the violent take it by force.”).’ (Compare Luke 16.16, the parallel to Matt 11.12). Two tremendous things are now happening simultaneously: the Kingdom is bursting forth into the world (like water from a broken dam), and individuals within the Kingdom are finding liberty and freedom.
“In Matthew 11.12, as in the midrash, Elijah, or John the Baptist, is the breach-maker, the Poretz. He makes the breach in the rock fence and goes through first. He has opened the way. He is the Elijah of Malachi 3.1 and 4.5-6, who goes before the Lord to prepare his way. As in the midrash, Jesus, the King, follows John. Jesus is the Lord himself, who leads the sheep through the gate. It is a powerful image.
“Jesus is again teaching his disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven, his movement. It started when Jesus began calling disciples, during John’s active ministry, ‘the days of John the Baptist.’ Since then, the Kingdom of Heaven has been “breaking out.’ Notice that this is further proof that the Kingdom is not futuristic. The Kingdom is something that has been in existence since the time of John the Baptist.
“The Kingdom is breaking out, and members of the Kingdom are breaking out. In Micah and also in the midrash, it is the Lord and his sheep who are breaking out. Jesus alters that figure slightly so that it is the Kingdom and its sheep who are breaking out. Though Jesus does not refer directly to his own role as the shepherd leading the sheep out, no listener could possibly misunderstand Jesus’ stunning assertion-I am the Lord. Elijah had come and opened the way, and the Lord himself was leading a noisy multitude out to freedom.”
Now, back in Isa 62.10. It says, “lift up a standard over the peoples” and the word “standard” is “nes” in Hebrew and this is lifted up so the people know where to go. In John 3.14-15 Yeshua says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up (as a “nes” meaning standard, banner, ensign so the people know where to go).” Then the people will be gathered to him (Isa 13.2-3). 2 Thes 2.1 says, “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Yeshua Ha Mashiach, and our gathering together to him.”
Isa 62.11-12 says, “Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth, say to the daughter of Zion (the little towns around Jerusalem), “Lo, your salvation (Yeshua) comes; Behold his reward is with him, and his recompense is before him” (Rev 22.12 quotes this, along with Isa 40.10 and 49.4 in John’s mind). And they will call them, ‘The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord.’ And you will be called, ‘Sought out, a city not forsaken.'” This helps us interpret what the city “New Jerusalem” means in Rev 21.2-9, the “Bride” with the Shekinah (21.9). The Olam Haba and the Kingdom of God are synonymous (Dan 2.35), with the Shekinah dwelling with the Bride. Everything Adam lost (the Shekinah, Kivod and Ruach Ha Kodesh) is being restored.
In Part 17, we will pick up with talking about Yochanon Ha Matvil (John the Immerser). This will be quite extensive and we will be teaching about many concepts that are necessary if we are going to understand the redemption in its fullness.