Pastors Report - 30 Nov 2018
hanukkah

Hanukkah:

"...it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple ..." (John 10:22-23) — so should WE also be keeping Hanukkah?

What is it?

Also called the Festival of Lights, the Jews keep the eight days of Hanukkah by lighting a special nine-branched candlestick or menorah. In the majority of cases, one candle is lit on the first night - which is Sunday 2 December this year - and then each night an additional light is kindled, progressing to all eight by the final night. The typical Hanukkah menorah consists of eight branches with an additional, somewhat different branch in the middle. The purpose of this ninth, extra light — called the "attendant" in Hebrew — is to always have light to see by, as opposed to the more ceremonial function of the other lights.

The focus on light from the candlestick at this time of year almost certainly comes from a Jewish legend firmly associated with these days. This event in 164 BC — and regarded as a miracle — is expounded in a non-canonised Hebrew text called: The Scroll (or Megillat) of Antiochus which concludes with the following words:

...After this, the sons of Israel went up to the Temple and rebuilt its gates and purified the Temple from the dead bodies and from the defilement. And they sought after pure olive oil to light the lamps therewith, but could not find any, except one bowl that was sealed with the signet ring of the High Priest from the days of Samuel the prophet and they knew that it was pure.

There was in it [enough oil] to light [the lamps therewith] for one day, but the God of heaven whose name dwells there put therein his blessing and they were able to light from it eight days. Therefore, the sons of Ḥashmonai made this covenant and took upon themselves a solemn vow, they and the sons of Israel, all of them, to publish amongst the sons of Israel, [to the end] that they might observe these eight days of joy and honour, as the days of the feasts written in [the book of] the Law; [even] to light in them so as to make known to those who come after them that their God wrought for them salvation from heaven. In them, it is not permitted to mourn, neither to decree a fast [on those days], and anyone who has a vow to perform, let him perform it. ( Megillat Antiochus)

Why Dedication?

In John chapter 10, Hanukkah or Chanukah is referred to by its other name, "the feast of the dedication". This name is derived directly from its founding in 164 BC – as does the time of year in which it is observed: eight days in midwinter beginning with the 25th day of the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar — the month of Kislev. For it was then that Judas Maccabeus rededicated the altar of the temple so that the regular evening and morning sacrifices – and other offerings – could be made there once again.

  • Then they took whole stones according to the law, and built a new altar according to the former;....
  • And offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar of burnt offerings, which they had made.....
  • And so they kept the dedication of the altar eight days and offered burnt offerings with gladness, and sacrificed the sacrifice of deliverance and praise.....
  • Thus was there very great gladness among the people, for that the reproach of the heathen was put away.
  • Moreover Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness. (1 Maccabees 4:47,53,56,58-59 — quoted as a historical reference only; NOT as scripture)
Why We Don't Keep:

But the question still remains, if the apostle John refers to it as a feast day on which Christ was in the temple when He was alive here on earth, why don't we in God's Church also celebrate it today? After all, isn't He our example, and we need to walk and live the way He did?

The reason lies in the fact that Jesus Christ was born of the tribe of Judah – and being Jewish He may certainly have observed the uniquely Jewish feast days such as Purim and Hanukkah. Such days were memorials of unique events in the history of the Jews exclusively – just as in the USA today they observe a day of Thanksgiving each year on the fourth Thursday in November. Although church members within the USA celebrate Thanksgiving, those in the rest of the world tend not to do so. The same is true of Hanukkah. This is a feast day specific to the Jewish race – just as is brought out in the book of Esther regarding Purim. In addition, neither Purim nor Hanukkah picture God's Plan in any way – unlike the Holy Days of Leviticus 23, which specifically reveal that Plan:

  • Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur [Persian for a "lot"]. Therefore for all the words of this letter, and of that which they had seen concerning this matter, and which had come unto them,
  • The Jews ordained, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all such as joined themselves unto them, so as it should not fail, that they would keep these two days according to their writing, and according to their appointed time every year;
  • And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed. (Esther 9:26-28)
The Background:

However, even though most in God's Church do not celebrate Hanukkah, the historical events that led up to its observance have a huge relevance to God's people. This is because they intimately involve an historic type destined to manifest its corresponding anti-type in the fulfilment of some pivotal end-time prophecies. That historic type was the individual known as "Antiochus Epiphanes" and the anti-type is the individual referred to in the book of Revelation as "the Beast" (Revelation 19:20) and in the book of Daniel as the end-time "king of the north" (Daniel 11:40,45)

On the death of Alexander the Great, the Greek empire was split into 4 separate kingdoms overseen by each of his generals (Daniel 11:4). From this point forward, the prophecy of Daniel 11 then focuses on just two of these individuals: "the king of the north" and "the king of the south" — that is, the successive leaders overseeing kingdoms north and south of Jerusalem. In 175 BC Antiochus Epiphanes took the throne of Greece and thereby became the biblical "king of the north" during his reign. The historic events that led directly to the need to rededicate the altar – celebrated by Hanukkah – were given to Daniel as part of the Chapter 11 "Middle East" prophecy:

  • At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before..
  • Ships of the western coastlands [Rome] will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favour to those who forsake the holy covenant.
  • His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice [and set] the abomination that causes desolation. (Daniel 11:29- 31 NIV)
Fury of Antiochus:

Ironically, the event that caused the fury of Antiochus to be vented on the Jews was a literal "line in the sand" (the possible origin of this phrase) that the Roman ambassador drew around him in demanding an answer to his withdrawal from Egypt, or be at war with Rome. This totally unrelated event led to his violently disproportionate response to reinstate the apostate high priest Menelaus who he had previously appointed in Jerusalem, and the eventual desecration of the Temple:

  • Now when this that was done he thought that Judea had revolted: whereupon removing out of Egypt in a furious mind, he took the city by force of arms,
  • And commanded his men of war not to spare such as they met, and to slay such as went up upon the houses.
  • Thus there was killing of young and old, making away of men, women, and children, slaying of virgins and infants.
  • And there were destroyed within the space of three whole days fourscore thousand, whereof forty thousand were slain in the conflict; and no fewer sold than slain.
  • Yet was he not content with this, but presumed to go into the most holy temple of all the world; Menelaus, that traitor to the laws, and to his own country, being his guide:
  • And taking the holy vessels with polluted hands, and with profane hands pulling down the things that were dedicated by other kings to the augmentation and glory and honour of the place, he gave them away. ( II Maccabees 5:11-16 — quoted as a historical reference only; NOT as scripture)

It was against this backdrop that the Jewish Maccabean wars were fought — leading eventually to the rededication of the altar by Judas Maccabeus and the proclamation for all Jews to subsequently observe Hanukkah as the memorial "feast of the dedication".

End-time fulfilment:

Several aspects of what took place in the second century BC may prove to be of pivotal importance in the correct understanding of the end time "anti-type" fulfilment — or fulfilments. For example, the aim of Antiochus in banning the uniquely Jewish practices – including circumcision, the Sabbath, and the evening and morning sacrifices – was that he was working toward a single, universal (or catholic) religion for all within his realm. The Temple Mount therefore, was polluted by idols of all kinds - not simply to undermine Judaism and the temple area itself - but more as an attempt to universalise its function and so further promote this "catholic" ideal and world-view. In addition Antiochus gave himself the name "Epiphanes" – from which we get the word epiphany – the primary meaning being "God Manifest" (or a Christ-like individual) and we have certainly seen an apostate pseudo-concept of that promoted in recent years!

Such aspects of what took place under the oversight of Antiochus Epiphanes, would almost certainly have been in the mind of the apostle Paul as he dictated the passage found today in second Thessalonians:

  • Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
  • Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
  • Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
  • And now ye know what withholdeth [restrains] that he might be revealed in his time.
  • For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [restrains] will let, until he be taken out of the way.
  • And then shall that Wicked [One] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
  • Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, (II Thessalonians 2: 3-9)
Mr Armstrong's Legacy:

When reading the above passage in an end-time context it is important to also do so in the light of what God led Mr Herbert Armstrong to comprehend. Though he never publicly applied his understanding to these specific verses before he died, he made very clear indeed that the end-time "temple of God" to which Christ returns is a spiritual, and not a physical, edifice. It is therefore in God's Church, rather than a physical temple where this "Christ-like individual" – who acts as if God, labelled "the man of sin" – sits.

"And you, brethren – and I’d like to include myself with you – are that temple to which Christ is coming. Some people think the Jews are going to build a new temple for Christ. The Jews reject Christ. They’re not going to build the temple for Him to come to. But GOD IS BUILDING THAT TEMPLE! And you and me – we, individually – each are the temple of the Holy Spirit; and as a collective body we are the temple of God in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. We are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus Christ the ROCK is the chief corner stone, or the foundation on which we are built." ( Sermon - Foundation of a New World – 31 Dec 1983 )

It is also vital to understand that you cannot "fall away" from error. Any "falling away" or apostasy therefore must be from the truth of God – specifically revealed by God's Spirit – not merely some form of "goodness" in a worldly sense. With these two planks in place – and within the context of the recent apostasy – it becomes clear that two separate individual anti-types to Antiochus Epiphanes are indicated within the above verses in II Thessalonians: One individual (the man of sin) who rises within the church and brings about the apostasy within God's spiritual temple, and another (that wicked one) at a later date who rises within the world — a false miracle worker who Christ will ultimately destroy at His coming.

Interfaith Conference:

It is therefore interesting to note that during Hanukkah this year an event is due to take place that appears particularly important when we recognise the Hanukkah ceremony's former role in the dedication of the polluted altar of the Maccabees. Knowing that end-time events – including Christ's return – revolve around the day on which the evening and morning sacrifices are eventually stopped, then anything that may be pointing the Jews in the direction of starting regular sacrifices again, at or near the Temple Mount, is intensely significant. With the title: "Unprecedented Interfaith Conference Tackles Temple Mount Controversy" the following article from a few days ago announces an interfaith conference set to be held in Jerusalem – in the middle of the Hanukkah celebrations:

ISRAEL - The Temple Mount Jerusalem Convention 18 (TMCJ), organized by Cry for Zion, an Israel-based organization that advocates for Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount, will take place on December 5 at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Doron Keidar, one of the organizers and the executive director of Cry for Zion, explained the motivation for the conference.

“The conference is our attempt to kick-start the conversation among Christians about the Temple Mount,” Keidar told Breaking Israel News. Indeed, among all the remarkable events bringing Jews and Christians together, this is the first that focuses on Judaism’s holiest site.

“Jews and Christians approach the Temple Mount from vastly different traditions but we can come together on a House of Prayer for All Nations,” Enarson said, citing the Prophet Isaiah. “I will bring them to My sacred mount And let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices Shall be welcome on My mizbayach [altar]; For My House shall be called A house of prayer for all peoples.” Isaiah 56:7 ( breakingisraelnews.com - 22/11/2018)

Oil is now Ready:

... For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, experts have reproduced the pure olive oil precisely as it was used in the Temple to light the Menorah. This "real-life Hanukkah miracle" comes courtesy of the Temple Institute, an organization dedicated to educating and raising awareness about the importance of the Temple Mount and the holy Temple itself, and preparing for its eventual rebuilding .... The oil's "purity" is not just physical; among the many complex laws surrounding the Menorah's olive oil is a critical requirement that it remain ritually pure ...

... the Maccabees, too, were ritually impure at the time they liberated the Temple from Hellenistic control (having been fighting a bloody war against the Hellenists). In fact, the "Hanukkah miracle" commemorated via the lighting of the hanukkiah is the very fact that the Jewish freedom-fighters were able to locate a pure jug of olive oil despite the defilement of the Temple - a jug which miraculously burned for eight full days despite only containing enough for a single day. "This is unprecedented... really in the entire recorded history since the Temple's destruction it hasn't happened. We are resurrecting the ancient laws of ritual purity," Rabbi Richman told Arutz Sheva. ( israelnationalnews.com - 17/12/2014)

Haggai Prophecy:

If someone were looking for a specific time of the year on which to begin the evening and morning sacrifices, then the first day of Hanukkah – the 25th day of the ninth month – would be a strong contender for the very top spot in Jewish circles because of its profoundly significant historical background at the time of the Maccabees. This top position is made even more prominent when you also take into account a prophecy in Haggai:

  • In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying ...
  • And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD:
  • Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it.... from this day will I bless you.
  • And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying,
  • Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;
  • And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. (Haggai 2:10,15,18-22)

Remember that the primary end-time focus of this passage in Haggai is on God's spiritual temple, not a physical edifice constructed by the Jews, for God says plainly: "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace." (Haggai 2:9) But the date that is highlighted in Haggai – 24th of the ninth month – also happens to be the day before the beginning of Hanukkah so these verses may also appear significant physically as well.

Could it be that at the same time the spiritual temple construction is finally blessed by God, bringing to a close the present shattering of the Church - ready for the days of Daniel to begin (Daniel 12:7) - that the physical assembly of the altar and other prefabricated preparations by the Jews would finally make their sacrificial intent clearly and internationally evident. And could this be just before Hanukkah?

The answer has to be, we simply don't know! But it is clearly an area that we would all do well to at least be aware of — and remain alert to.

Context of John 10:

Going back to the account in John 10, we can now understand more clearly why, in verse 24, the Jews demanded.. "..."How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ (Messiah), tell us plainly". (John 10:24 RSV) At this feast of the dedication their minds were focused on physical deliverance from the Romans, as they had been from Hellenistic control at the time of the Maccabees. With their minds being blinded, they could not comprehend in any way the depth of what Christ was telling us in the preceding verses.

  • All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
  • I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
  • The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
  • I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
  • But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
  • The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
  • I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
  • As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
  • And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10: 8-16)

The True Saviour, Rescuer, Deliverer and Temple Dedicator — was right there in front of them at that time! Yet the Jews were totally oblivious as they were not yet part of His flock. Their thinking had not yet been converted, but remained entirely physical, carnal, with a blinkered perspective entirely from this world, this age.

Our Responsibility:

Don't let us make a similar mistake! As we watch happenings in Europe, the Middle East and Jerusalem, we must always place such physical things in their clear spiritual context — ever more vigilant in remaining plugged into the spiritual vine, drawing pure oil from God's spiritual olive tree. We must not become so overly-involved with watching world news and the physical world events that we too get sidetracked or overcome with those worldly cares and anxieties ourselves, but rather remain with our lights burning and our spiritual oil containers brim full — as we wait for the true dedication — our dedication — of God's Spiritual Temple:

  • Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
  • Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.
  • For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning;
  • and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.
  • Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.
  • And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
  • But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
  • Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (Luke 12:32-40 NKJV)