Black Friday – Shopping Malls – Christmas Lights – Parties and gift exchanges. To many, this is what Christmas is all about. Each year around this time many prepare to celebrate Christmas while our Jewish friends and TORAH observant believers celebrate Chanukah. (The Feast of Dedication)

This year Chanukah falls on December 8th and continues for eight days through December 16th. Sadly, in many homes Chanukah has become as commercialized and secular as Christmas. Playing Dreidel, giving out gelt, (chocolate coins) and exchanging gifts for eight days  has as much to do with the real reason for Chanukah as Christmas trees and mistletoe have to do with the birth of Jesus.

It may come as a surprise to many Christians that Chanukah is mentioned in the New Testament whereas Christmas is not. The observation of Christmas began in 354 A.D. from an adaptation of an established pagan holiday. While there are several estimates regarding the birthday of Messiah, we know it was not in winter because the flocks were in an open field, indicating sometime prior to November. (The cold rainy season in Israel) In fact, Chanukah highlights a historical event that Jesus himself pointed to as the key to understanding the prophecies concerning His return!

Many Christians refer to John Chapter 10 as the Good Shepherd verse. However, in verse 22 there seems to be a strange inclusion: right in the middle of this chapter the writer notes the following: “And it was at Jerusalem the Feast of Dedication, and it was winter.” (John 10:22) Why is this reference here?

The Bible is a very integrated system with 66 books written by over 40 authors over thousands of years, and yet it all comes together as a whole. Every word, every number, every place and every name appear to be the result of supernatural engineering. The rabbis say that we won’t really understand the Scriptures until the Messiah comes. But when He comes, He will not only interpret the passages for us; He will interpret the very words; He will interpret the very letters; He will even interpret the spaces between the letters!

This is not just a colorful exaggeration. Jesus himself said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one yot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

A “yot” and “tittle” are Hebraisms: a “yot” is one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet that we might mistake for an apostrophe. A “tittle” is a tiny notation that distinguishes some of the letters. The phrase that Jesus used is equivalent to our dotting of an ‘i’ or the crossing of a ‘t’. These words, from our Lord Himself; seem to verify what may seem to be the rather extreme view of the rabbis. Thus we discover that every detail of the Bible is there by design. Since we have concluded that nothing in Scripture is accidental or trivial, why does this detail in John 10:22 exist? What is the “Feast of Dedication”? The dedication is of the Temple, of course. But let’s explore this further.

A Historical Reference

There have been only two Temples: the original one built by Solomon, which was ultimately destroyed by the Babylonians; and Nehemiah’s, which was built when the captives returned after the Babylonian Captivity. (This “Second Temple” was used by Herod and was the Temple that was in place during the time that Jesus lived on Earth) Solomon’s Temple was dedicated in the month of Tishri. (The seventh month of the Jewish year)  So this can’t be the reference we’re looking for since this was in the autumn. John 10:22 alludes specifically to a feast of dedication in winter. Nehemiah’s Temple was dedicated in the month of Adar. (The 6th month of the Jewish calendar) So this can’t be it either since Adar is in the spring. Now before you get too confused, the key to this riddle requires some important historical background.

A century earlier, in 168 B.C., the ruler Antiochus IV (“Epiphanes”) son of Antiochus the Great became the successor of his brother, Seleucus IV, who had been murdered by his minister, Heliodorus, as king of Syria. (175-164 B.C.) Antiochus was a cruel and tyrannical ruler. He purposed to eradicate the Jewish religion and replace it with Greek polytheism. The observance of all Jewish laws, especially those relating to the Sabbath and to circumcision, were forbidden under penalty of death. Representatives of Antiochus IV enforced the edict. They would search the land and whoever had a copy of TORAH, had observed Sabbath or the rite of circumcision was condemned to death. He pillaged the city of Jerusalem, took 10,000 captives, stripped the Temple of its treasures, and built a pagan altar on the Great Altar of Burnt Sacrifices.

On the 25th of Kislev (The ninth month of the Jewish calendar and Antiochus’ birthday), a pagan sacrifice was brought on this altar for the first time. He required a pig to be offered in every village. He also erected an idol of Zeus in the Holy of Holies. This desecrating sacrilege has a technical name: “the abomination of desolation.” (I think it’s interesting that many Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter with a holiday dinner that includes serving ham)

Maccabean Revolt

In the village, an aged priest named Mattathias lived with his five sons. When officers arrived to carry out Antiochus’ decrees, Mattathias killed both the first Jew who approached the pagan altar to offer sacrifice and the royal official who presided, and Mattathias and his sons fled to the hills. This spontaneous revolt grew into a full-scale uprising: Mattathias and his five sons became the nucleus of a growing band of rebels against Antiochus.

Mattathias died soon after, leaving leadership in the hands of his son Judas, whose nickname “Maccabeus” (“the hammer”) became the source of the popular name given to the family and its followers. Under Judas’ brilliant leadership, what had begun as a guerrilla war turned into full-scale military engagements in which the smaller Jewish forces managed to defeat the much more powerful Syrian armies, and they succeeded in throwing off the yoke of the Syrian Empire.

On the third anniversary of the desecration of the Temple, on the 25th of Kislev, 164 B.C., the Temple worship was reestablished. The altar and all of the vessels used in the earlier sacrilege were destroyed and replaced with new ones, and the Temple was rededicated. It is this re-dedication that is still celebrated among Jews and TORAH observant believers to this very day as Chanukah.

A Key Technical Term

The desecration of the Temple in 167 B.C. included the definitive event known as the “abomination of desolation.” The term “abomination” in the Bible is a common term for idol worship. The “abomination of desolation” refers to the ultimate extreme form of idol worship: placing an idol on the most sacred spot on Earth: in Jerusalem, inside the Temple in the Holy of Holies. So why did John highlight Chanukah by alluding to it in the New Testament? Because Jesus Himself pointed to this specific historical detail as the key to understanding prophecy concerning the Last Days.

When will the end come?

Four disciples came to Jesus privately, asking Him about His “Second Coming.” He answered with a series of “non-signs”: certain things that will occur “but the end is not yet.” Then He highlighted a critical event as the key to the prophecy: “When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whosoever readeth, let him understand), then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains; Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house; Neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes.” (Matthew 24:15-18)

In other words, when this event happens, it will be essential for them to get out of town immediately!   Jesus also saved each of us many hours of tedious research by referring us to the Book of Daniel. (By the way,we are also under His orders to understand)  Jesus’ reference to the “abomination of desolation” was, of course, was not speaking of the Maccabean Revolt, but a similar event yet in the future.

The Destruction of the Second Temple

Just as Jesus had predicted, in 69 A.D. the Roman Legions, under Titus Vespasian, laid siege to Jerusalem. Over a million men, women and children were slaughtered in that terrible war! Finally, on the 9th of Av, 70 A.D. the Temple was destroyed. (Av is the fifth month in the Jewish calendar and is traditionally regarded as the most tragic) It was this event that the Gospel writers’ account focuses on. Both Luke and Matthew highlight a group of signs, which Matthew dubs as “the beginning of sorrows”:

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:6-8)

Matthew’s account focuses on what follows this group of signs while Luke focuses on what precedes these signs. Jesus warned his disciples that when Jerusalem is surrounded by armies, they were to get out of town and don’t go back! Luke wrote that “this generation will not pass until all be fulfilled,” and 38 years later in 70 A.D. (The same length of the generation that died in the wilderness) Jerusalem fell.

A Misleading View

There are those who view the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. as the “abomination of desolation.” There are several problems with this view.

First, there was a war going on. There was no opportunity for the Romans to install false worship of any kind inside the Temple. The Temple was inadvertently set on fire, and the interior, which was wood overlaid with gold, burned thus melting the gold. The soldiers were ordered to take it apart stone by stone to recover the gold, just as Jesus had predicted. All of this was well documented by an eyewitness, Flavius Josephus, whose classic works are readily available.

The view that the abomination of desolation has already occurred, in addition to being historically inaccurate, also requires the bizarre allegorization of the rest of Jesus’ presentation. Matthew 24:29-31 hasn’t happened yet.

The abomination of desolation didn’t happen in 70 A.D., and it couldn’t have happened over the subsequent 1900 years because there has been no Temple in Jerusalem to be thus defiled. It remains the key milestone to trigger the exodus of those believers remaining in Jerusalem at that time. Every year at the celebration of Chanukah we need to recall this background and reflect on its prophetic significance!

A Third Temple Needed

When will it happen? When there is, once again  a Temple in Jerusalem. Three times in the New Testament there is reference to the rebuilding of the Temple prior to the Second Coming of Messiah. Despite the shaky political climate in Israel, there are preparations underway in anticipation of a rebuilt Temple. In Yeshivas in Jerusalem, priests are presently in training. Almost all of the required implements have been fabricated by the Temple Institute. And it is rumored that ground-penetrating radar and infrared recordings are being used to find the precise foundations of the original Temple.

The Holiday Message

John 10:22 highlights Daniel’s famous prophecy and focuses our attention on this key milestone in the end-time scenario. So as we celebrate the holidays this year, let us also  remember Chanukah and be reminded that preparations are presently underway to set the stage for the final countdown. What an exciting time to be alive!

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

Happy Holidays!

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