Question: "What is the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2)?"
Answer: The phrase “the sun of righteousness” appears in Malachi 4:2: “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” This blessing is promised to those who fear the Lord and are ready for His return.
“Sun of righteousness” can also be translated “son of vindication.” The context concerns the Day of the Lord, the time when God vindicates His people and judges sin. This vindication will be clear to all, like the bright light of the sunrise.
The One described as the “sun of righteousness” can be no other than Jesus Christ Himself. The Lord is called “the LORD your righteousness” in Jeremiah 33:16. And the coming of the Messiah is pictured as a sunrise in several passages. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). See also 2 Samuel 23:4; Habakkuk 3:4; and Luke 1:78-79.
The fact that the sun of righteousness rises with “healing in its wings” invokes the picture of the wings of a bird stretched across the sky, offering healing to those below. A healing effect will infuse the earth during this time, removing the negative impact of past sins (Isaiah 30:26; 53:5). When Christ returns, God’s righteousness and peace will flood the earth (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14).
God’s desire has always been to provide righteousness to those who trust Him (e.g., Genesis 15:6). On some occasions, God’s people were said to be “clothed in righteousness” (Job 29:14; Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 61:10), and here in Malachi 4:2 God’s people will see the Sun of Righteousness Himself rising over the world. It’s a picture of the future millennial reign of Jesus Christ. The darkness of the Antichrist’s reign will vanish, and the light of God will take its place. It’s a new day dawning; God’s people will revel in their freedom like gamboling calves leaping from their stalls (Isaiah 65:17-25; Hosea 14:4-7; Amos 9:13-15; Zephaniah 3:19-20).