Unless you celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, most Christians have finished their traditions concerning the birth of our Savior, Jesus. However, our Jewish friends are celebrating the festival of Hanukkah which began December 24, 2016 and ends January 1, 2017. Since the New Testament teaches that we Christians have been “grafted into” the olive tree of Israel — it would be fitting for us, who name the Name of Christ, to understand Hanukkah.
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” – Ephesians 2:11-13
“that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” – Ephesians 3:6
The Feast of Hanukkah is not found in the Old Testament because the events that led to it happened between the time of the Old and New Testaments. In fact, it is only celebrated in the New Testament –
“Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.” – John 10:22
The word ‘dedication’ is the word Hanukkah in Hebrew, so Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Hanukkah, which was in the winter time. The events that inspired the Hanukkah holiday took place during a particularly turbulent phase of Jewish history. Around 200 B.C., Judea—also known as the Land of Israel—came under the control of Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, who allowed the Jews who lived there to continue practicing their religion. However, his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, proved less benevolent: Ancient sources recount that he outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C., his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the city’s holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls. (This act is referred to by Daniel and Jesus as the Abomination of desolation)
Led by the Jewish priest Matthias and his five sons, a large-scale rebellion broke out against Antiochus and the Seleucid monarchy. When Matthathias died in 166 B.C., his son Judah, known as Judah Maccabee (“the Hammer”), took the helm; within two years the Jews had successfully driven the Syrians out of Jerusalem, relying largely on guerilla warfare tactics. Judah called on his followers to cleanse the Second Temple, rebuild its altar and light its menorah—the gold candelabrum whose seven branches represented knowledge and creation and were meant to be kept burning every night. They re-dedicated the Temple to God and this dedication is what Hanukkah celebrates.
“According to the Talmud, one of Judaism’s most central texts, Judah Maccabee and the other Jews who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued flickering for eight nights, leaving them time to find a fresh supply. This wondrous event inspired the Jewish sages to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival. (The first Book of the Maccabees tells another version of the story, describing an eight-day celebration that followed the rededication but making no reference to the miracle of the oil.)” – history.com/hanukkah
Antiochus Epiphanes tried to wipe out the Jewish religion and those who practiced it; first by enticing them to desert their customs and then by outright persecution. He burned scrolls of the Old Testament, outlawed prayer, sacrificing in the Temple, desecrated the Temple by worshiping Zeus and practicing sexual rites on the Altar. He was a fore-type of the Antichrist.
If Antiochus had been successful in wiping out the Jewish people and their faith, there would have been no birth of Jesus and thus no Christmas for us to celebrate. It is frightening to understand how close he came: many Jewish people had embraced Greek culture and their gods, even the High Priest had forsaken the Hebrew faith. But, the story shows us that God always has a remnant who are faithful. Matthias and his family lived in an obscure village in the mountains of Israel. They had no weapons, no experience leading a revolt, but they refused to give up their belief in God and to deny His Name. From that, God brought victory!
In future articles, I will show how Hanukkah teaches about the coming Antichrist and how to resist and defeat him. Hanukkah also reveals the coming apostasy of the nation of Israel and the Church. Also, in Hanukkah we first see the mystery of end times and the 31/2 years of the tribulation foreshadowed.
I pray these articles will be instructive and revealing to you of your Christian heritage and the future you are likely to face.