Malachi 3:1-5 (NRSV):
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
- In verse 1 we see someone speaking in the first person ("See, I am sending [...]"). That's one person.
- We also read "my messenger", which is evidently another person, so we have at least 2 persons so far.
- And then we get to "the Lord whom you seek" and "his temple". And here is where ambiguities begin to puzzle my mind: is the Lord whom you seek the same person who was speaking in first person at the beginning of the verse (I am sending [...])? Or is it the messenger? Or is it someone else (a third person)?
- And what about his temple? Whose temple is it?
- And to make matters even more complicated, then we have "the messenger of the covenant", who I've got no clue whether is the same person as the first messenger, or another messenger, or the same person as the Lord whom you seek.
- And so on and so forth. I highlighted in bold several words and phrases of the passage where there is a reference to a person. (Of course, I omitted mentions such as sorcerers, workers, widow, orphan, etc. which are irrelevant to the question.)
So, how many distinct relevant persons are present in this passage of Malachi? Who are they? Can we identify (and justify) prophetic links between them and persons from the New Testament?