Why End Times? (45) – Chapter 5 – The beast and the antichrist

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By Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer.. From the book Why End Times? Chapter 5 – The beast and the antichrist

Hanukkah
The Hebrew word ‘Hanukkah’ means ‘consecration’. And this festival commemorates the cleansing and re-consecration of the second Temple in the year 165 BC, after the Maccabees’ rebellion against the Syrian occupiers who had desecrated it. It begins on 25 Kislev (sometime in December) and lasts for 8 days. Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but it is referred to in the New Testament, in John 10:22, where it is called ‘the Festival of Dedication’.

The Lord Jesus celebrated this feast. John 10:22-23: “… Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.”

 

There are no Biblical sources covering the time between the Old and New Testaments. For this period there are only extra-Biblical sources. There were no prophets in Israel after the Minor Prophets, and the writing of Biblical history only begins again around 50 AD, when the New Testament started to be written. This inter-testamentary period lasted for some 400 years, from 350 BC to 50 AD. We find the story behind Hanukkah in the so called Apocryphal books of the Bible, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and in the writings of the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus.

 

In 168 BC the Hellenistic Syrians dominated the Jewish land. They wanted to force Greek – Hellenistic – culture upon all their subjects. This was a mixture of Greek and Eastern cultures and had to become the new world culture. Hellenism achieved great influence, especially in higher circles. Temples for Zeus, the paramount  god, were built throughout the Middle East, as well as grammar schools in the Greek mould. The Greek language was imported. Many chose Greek names and celebrated Hellenistic festivals. This was the instrument used to force the system of the Greek-Hellenistic, a humanist culture, upon the Jews.

 

The Jewish religion was a thorn in the flesh of the Syrian rulers, of course. Their policy therefore aimed at luring the Jews away from their traditions and their belief in God. Zeus, the paramount Greek god (the Sun-god!), not the God of Israel, had to be worshipped. A section of the Jewish people, the elite in particular, went along with all this and to a large extent became assimilated.

 

There was a strong opposition movement, however. This opposition erupted under the new Syrian king Antiochus IV. He called himself ‘Epiphanes’ (the illustrious), but many gave him the nickname ‘Epimanes’, which means ‘destroyer’ or ‘idiot/fool’. A keen Hellenist, he desecrated the Jerusalem Temple by having pigs sacrificed there. He also had an image erected there, for the paramount god, Zeus, in his likeness. He stole everything from the sanctuary that was holy and precious: the altar of incense, the candlestick with the seven lamps, the golden bowls, etc.

 

Antiochus forbade the study of God’s Word, the keeping of the Sabbath and the dietary laws, circumcision and all the other regulations of the Jews. Everyone who was caught observing a Jewish custom was condemned to death. Thousands of Jews died because they remained faithful to the commandments their God had given them. We read about this in 1 Maccabees 1:56-63. This passage says, among other things: ‘Women who had had their children circumcised were put to death, in keeping with the decree. The parents were killed in their houses and the children hanged. But many in Israel were determined and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean; they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food or to profane the holy covenant. And they did die.’

 

Antiochus gave the people the choice: either choose Greek idol worship and Hellenistic thinking and lifestyle, or reject this and die. Some Jews abandoned their faith out of fear, but a very great many Jewish martyrs kept the faith and had to pay for their faithfulness by a terrible death.

But God had not forgotten His people. He sent men who stood in the breach for His sanctity and who were able to lead the people in a rebellion against this cruel ruler. When the king’s envoys came to a small place near Jerusalem called Modein, they tried unsuccessfully to persuade an old priest called Mattathias to offer sacrifices of pigs to Zeus. 1 Maccabees 2:23 recounts how another Jew went to the pagan altar to perform the sacrifice when Mattathias continued to refuse to do so. “When Mattathias saw him, he was filled with zeal. His heart was moved and his just fury was aroused. He sprang forward and killed the other Jew upon the altar.”

 

This act of opposition was the starting gun for guerrilla warfare in 168 BC. Mattathias took the initiative, with his five sons. The first phase of this war against the occupation army lasted for three years. Mattathias was already an old man and he died shortly after the start of the struggle. His five sons took over the leadership. His third son, Judah, was appointed as commander in chief. Judah won one victory after another and so he was given the nickname ‘Maccabeus’, which means ‘hammer blow’.

 

The Maccabees conquered Jerusalem in the year 165 BC, exactly 3 years after the desecration of the Temple. The men were shocked when they saw the decrepit state of the holy city and the Temple. Maccabees 4:38-40: “They found the sanctuary desolate, the altar desecrated, the gates burnt, weeds growing in the courts as in a for- est or on some mountain, and the priests’ chambers demolished. Then they tore their clothes and made great lamentation; they sprinkled their heads with ashes and fell with their faces to the ground. And when the signal was given with trumpets, they cried out to Heaven.” However, these men who mourned for Zion and Jerusalem did not rest on their laurels. Judah selected a few priests, who cleansed the sanctuary, threw down the pagan altar, and built a new altar according to the requirements of the law. They sanctified the forecourts as well and thus made every part of the Temple fit again for God’s service.

 

When everything was ready, it was decided to reconsecrate the Temple and the altar. The day chosen for this was the 25th of the ninth Jewish month, Kislev, which corresponds approximately with our month of December. This was precisely the same day of the year on which the Temple had been desecrated, three years earlier.

The ceremony for this reconsecration lasted eight days. Maccabees 4:56: “For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered holocausts (wholly burnt sacrifices) and sacrifices of deliverance and praise… There was great joy among the people now that the disgrace of the Gentiles was removed.”

 

Flavius Josephus called Hanukkah, the re-consecration of the Temple, the Festival of Light. We read about this in the Antiquities of the Jews 12,325: “Since that time we celebrate this feast, which we call ‘the Festival of Light’, to which we give this name, I think, be- cause we achieved the right to celebrate it at a time when we had not counted upon doing so.”

 

The Festival of Light was not only a military victory; it also has a deep spiritual significance. The Jews celebrate this feast because they are able to serve the true God once again. That is what it is about. He, not the pagan gods, must sit on the throne. We, as Christians, celebrate the Festival of Light, Christmas, because the true light of the world is born. The Lord Jesus has come to save the world. By the sacrifice He made for our sins we may also belong to the true God, the God of Israel. Antiochus Epiphanes was the pre-eminent pagan, and so he is the type of THE antichrist.

 

To be continued.. with: Chapter 5 – The beast and the antichrist – Characteristics of the antichrist.

The book Why End Times? and other books from Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer can be ordered from the webshop of Christians for Israel International.

 


Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer
President Christians for Israel International

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