A messenger would prepare the way for the Messiah during a time when Jerusalem still had a Temple

Bible passage: Malachi 3:1
Prophet: Malachi
Written: About 2,400 years ago

This article is contributed by Ray Konig, the author of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Prophet, Jesus the Miracle Worker, and 100 Fulfilled Bible Prophecies.

By Ray Konig
Published: June 29, 2020
Updated: May 1, 2024

Malachi was the last of the prophets of the Old Testament and he gave a prediction about the first thing that people would see when the Messiah arrived -- a messenger preparing the way.

Malachi lived about 2,400 years ago and his book of prophecy is the last and most recent among the 39 books of the Old Testament.

His prophecy about a forerunner, in Malachi 3:1, is similar to one that Isaiah had given about 2,700 years ago, in Isaiah 40:1-9. Malachi, however, adds an additional detail as to the timing of the Messiah’s arrival -- he notes that the Messiah would arrive during a time when there was a Temple in Jerusalem:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, behold, he comes!” says Yahweh of Armies. (Malachi 3:1, WEB)

The Messiah is referenced here as the Lord, whom you seek.

The messenger that Malachi predicts in the first part of Malachi 3:1 would be John the Baptist, who began a ministry in about AD 25, preparing the way for Jesus. John preached a message of repentance, announced that the Kingdom of God was near, and prophesied that someone greater than him would soon arrive -- the Messiah.

John was the last of a long line of pre-Messiah prophets who predicted the first arrival of the promised Messiah (Matthew 3:11, John 1:29-34).

In about AD 26, after preparing people for the public ministry of Jesus, John meets Jesus, baptizes him in the Jordan River, and announces that Jesus is the Messiah, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world:

29 The next day, he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.’ 31 I didn’t know him, but for this reason I came baptizing in water: that he would be revealed to Israel.” 32 John testified, saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him. 33 I didn’t recognize him, but he who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘On whomever you will see the Spirit descending and remaining on him is he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34, WEB)

After this event, Jesus begins his public ministry, preaching about the Kingdom of God and performing miracles throughout the land of Israel. It is estimated that Jesus’ public ministry lasted three-and-a-half years, ending in about AD 30.

The Temple that existed during the time of Malachi, as well as during the time of John the Baptist and Jesus, was known as the Second Temple. It was consecrated in about 516 BC to replace the first Temple, which had been destroyed 70 years earlier, in about 586 BC, by the Babylonians.

The Second Temple stood for about 586 years before it was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Since then, the Temple has never been rebuilt; there has not been a Temple in Jerusalem for nearly 2,000 years.

Malachi’s prophecy allows for the understanding that the Messiah was to appear sometime after his prophecy, which was given about 2,400 years ago, and before the Romans destroyed the Temple, which was about 2,000 years ago.

While that is a broad window, it is one that has remained closed since the time of the Romans. And, Jesus did arrive as the Messiah shortly before that window closed.

The Gospels depict John the Baptist as being successful in preparing people for the public ministry of Jesus. They record that vast numbers of people from Jerusalem and the surrounding area were drawn to John the Baptist and were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

John’s success made him a public figure. After he spoke out against a controversial marriage involving Herod Antipas, who ruled over parts of Israel, John was imprisoned and executed.

His death is recorded in Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-29, Luke 9:1-9.

Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, also records his death:

“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; . . .” - Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter 5.

The army of Herod Antipas was obliterated around AD 34-36, during a battle against the Nabataeans.

More details about John the Baptist can be found in the discussion of Isaiah 40:1-9.

The prophecy in Malachi 3:1 is one of several in the Old Testament that speak to the timing of the Messiah’s arrival. Others include Isaiah 11:1-10, 40:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5, Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel’s prophecy is the most specific, predicting that the Messiah would arrive 483 years after a command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.

These timing prophecies are discussed in more detail in Jesus the Messiah, by Ray Konig.

© Ray Konig.

Ray Konig is the author of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Prophet, Jesus the Miracle Worker, and 100 Fulfilled Bible Prophecies.