As you may or may not know, Hanukkah has just passed. It began at sundown on December 2, and ended the evening of December 10. Each night of Hanukkah, a branch of the Menorah, (or Hanukkiah) is lit. There are nine branches total on the Hanukkiah, but only eight nights of Hanukkah. The ninth branch is called the Shamash, and this branch lights all the other branches/candles. It is also known as the servant candle because it serves the other candles by lighting them. The Hanukkiah Menorah differs from the original Temple Menorah because the Temple Menorah has seven branches, instead of nine.
For many years I didn’t pay much attention to the feast of
Hanukkah. I figured it was a feast (holiday) only for Jewish people and not something I could understand or relate to. Boy was I wrong! Over the past few years I have taken a close look at the origins and traditions of this feast and I am astounded at how much it ties to biblical prophecy. There are other “feasts” or appointed times listed in the Bible such as The Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost. There’s also the feast of Purim. Every single feast foreshadows Christ himself. Every single one is prophetic. So why am I surprised that Hanukkah is prophetic????
Actually, in the Bible you will not see the name Hanukkah. Instead, you will see The Feast of Dedication. They mean the same thing because Hanukkah is the Hebrew word for dedication. Hanukkah is a holiday or feast where the Jewish people celebrate the re-dedication of the Temple of God. Jesus attended this special Feast of Dedication and it’s at this feast he declared he was the Son of God.
John 10 describes this:
“Then came the Festival of Dedication (Hanukkah) in Jerusalem. It was winter and Jesus was in the Temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews were gathered around him saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe………………My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish…………..I and the Father are one.”
When you read the verses above it is easy to see Jesus was publicly announcing he is the Son of God and that he is the Messiah sent by God! He says he gives his sheep eternal life and that his works point to his Father! Jesus is putting a giant spotlight on who he is by saying it loud and clear and he is saying this at the Festival of Lights (another name for Hanukkah). This is amazing because keep in mind the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, involves the use of a Menorah, also known as a Hanukkiah at Hanukkah. The Hanukkiah consists of nine total branches- eight branches lit by a ninth branch. On each night of Hanukkah, a branch is lit. During Hanukkah, it is all about light. Who is the light of the world? Jesus of course. God is also described as being full of light. There is no darkness in him. Jesus also said this about himself.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
“This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)
So, here was Jesus at a festival revolving around lit branches of a golden lamp stand ( the Menorah/Hanukkiah). Amazingly enough, Jesus is also called the Branch in the Bible.
I have told you just a few things that tie Jesus to this feast, but now I want to share how the feast foreshadows end times.
To understand how this feast, holiday or appointed time relates to end times, I will need to tell you the story of how Hanukkah began. We must go all the way back to the Greek Empire. In that day Alexander the Great conquered land at an unprecedented rate. He became successful wherever he went, and was able to take over kingdoms and nations. As he and his soldiers went into these conquered lands, his goal became to “hellenize” the people. To “hellenize” means to impose the Greek culture and lifestyle onto a person, group of people, or nation. The Greeks believed they were the most educated, cultured people in the world and it was their job to enlighten the “barbaric” nations they invaded. As a result, the Greek culture and lifestyle spread at a rapid rate.
At some point the Greeks did invade Israel, and this included Jerusalem. Interestingly enough, Alexander the Great did not do much to this area. The Jewish nation who lived there did not have to do much in the way of “change”. They were still able to worship and offer sacrifices at their Temple. But that all changed after Alexander the Great died suddenly. His vast empire was split between two rulers: Selucius of Mesopotamia, and Ptolemy of Egypt. The area of land Israel occupied at that time fell within the jurisdiction of both these rulers.
In 198 BC a ruler by the name of Antiochus III became ruler of the Seleucid Empire. He was very proactive when it came to hellenizing the nations. He was passionate about forcing everyone to follow Greek culture and beliefs. The Jews of Israel were not happy about this and many refused to assimilate into Greek culture.
There were many reasons why the Jews did not want to follow Greek culture. First of all, the Greek lifestyle involved some practices that were completely against their beliefs, and violated the Torah (the laws God gave them to follow). For example, the Greeks participated in activities such as naked wrestling, and also made sensuality a daily practice. They bathed together in public baths and had no problems having open sexual relations with multiple partners. If that weren’t enough, they worshiped dozens or more pagan Gods and worshiped in pagan temples. They ate food sacrificed to these idols and built their lives around these fake Gods. These are just SOME of the practices of the Greeks at that time. The Jews knew God did not want them participating in these kinds of activities. They were to be a people “set apart”- not a people assimilating into a pagan lifestyle.
Antiochus III eventually died and his son Antiochus IV ascended to the throne. Antiochus IV was even more zealous about Greek culture than his father. He also had a very inflated sense of self. He added the word Epiphanes to his name so it became Antiochus Epiphanes. This word Epiphanes means God Manifest- so he was saying he was God! Because he thought he was God, he acted like he was one. He began by outlawing the practice of Judaism. He would not allow the Jews to worship on the Sabbath, or to use the Temple for sacrifices, priestly duties, etc. He set up a statue of Zeus in the Temple. By doing this he was mocking the God of Israel and sending a message that Zeus was more powerful. Antiochus also destroyed every copy of the scriptures he could get his hands on. He even killed Jews who were caught with scrolls in their possession. In addition, Jewish Brides were forced to have sex with Greek officers before they could marry their husbands! Can you imagine?????
The Jews were horrified about this and they did show their disapproval in various ways by leading revolts and voicing their grievances. But that just drove Antiochus to even more cruel behavior. He put down revolts and maintained his cruel and unfair stance against the God of the Jewish nation.
Antiochus decided to put one more giant nail in the coffin. He allowed pigs to be slaughtered on the altar in the Temple! He defiled the Temple in a way the Jews could not have foreseen. Their Temple was now unusable and desecrated.
For many years the Temple lay in this defiled state. The Jews could not worship God or offer sacrifices in the Temple. They could not have communion with their God at his Holy Place. But, hope was not lost.
In 167 BC a Greek official tried to force a priest to make a sacrifice to a pagan Greek God. This particular priest was not about to give into this brazen request! The priest’s name was Mattathias, and he came from a faithful Jewish family. Instead of giving into the Greek official’s request, he killed him! This, of course, caused the Greeks to seek revenge. Mattathias eventually died, but his son Judah continued the fight. Judah and his brothers, along with other Jews, fought hard and tirelessly against the Greeks. They earned the name Maccabee– which means hammer. They came down like a hammer on the Greeks.
Eventually, this small group of fighters were able to defeat the Greeks and take their Temple back. Unfortunately, the Temple was desecrated and much had to be done to cleanse and purify it. A new altar, for instance, had to be built. The old stones had to be removed completely, and replaced.
An important aspect of purifying the Temple involved the lighting of the menorah, or golden lamp stand. When the Jews searched the Temple they found a day’s worth of oil hidden on the Temple grounds. Even the seal to the oil was undamaged. There was not time to prepare enough oil to keep the lamp stand burning continuously, but the lamp stand was lit anyway. Miraculously, the oil in the lamp stand lasted for eight days!!! Even though there was only enough oil for one day/night, the menorah stayed lit for eight days and nights! This is why Hanukkah is called the Miracle of Lights. Keep in mind the original lamp stand has seven branches. This lamp stand would provide light for the Tabernacle and Temple on a constant basis. The reason we now see a nine-branched Menorah or Hanukkiah( eight branches and a ninth to light the others) is because of the miracle of the oil. (The Story of Hanukkah, or re-dedication of the Temple after it was desecrated)
The original lamp stand that contained seven branches clearly points to God. After all, God is light and there is no darkness in him. He created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh. Throughout the Bible we see the number seven pointing to God’s perfection and order. But, what about the eight? The miracle of the oil lasted for eight days. That’s even more amazing. Why? Because the number eight points to new beginnings. In scripture we see that on Noah’s Ark, eight people were saved and allowed to begin again in a new world- a new beginning. Circumcision also occurred on the eighth day. Circumcision signifies a new heart given to us by God- a new beginning. The old is “cut away” and the new comes to pass. For new believers in Christ, this means the darkness of our hearts is replaced by the new heart given to us by Jesus. In addition, the most joyful feast of the year on the biblical calendar is called the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast foreshadows the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ as the King of Kings on earth. It pictures a time when the earth will be ruled by a fair and just ruler, and peace will finally be a reality because Jesus will be in charge. He will reign from Jerusalem. The last day of this feast occurs on the eighth day and it is called the Last Great Day! This feast has been celebrated for over 1500 years and it foreshadows the new beginning we will have with our King! God created the world in seven days but the new beginning will be the Eighth Great Day.
So here comes the prophetic aspect of Hanukkah. Now that you know the history and some symbolism, let’s delve into End Times.
If you know anything about the book of Revelation you know it mentions a mysterious but deceitful, evil ruler called the Antichrist. This ruler has not been revealed to the world yet. But, the Bible states that he will one day be revealed to the world. He will present himself as a “Savior” to the world. He will be charismatic, and with the help of his false prophet, he will do “miraculous things.” He will be convincing enough to deceive huge populations of people. His false gospel will be contagious to those who are ripe to his deception.
The Antichrist will come in as a man of peace and mighty wonders. He will offer the world his own brand of religion and culture. Like Antiochus IV, he will expect everyone to follow his ideas and ways. Just like the ancient Greeks, who felt their culture was superior to the rest of the world, the Antichrist will see himself and his “lifestyle”as superior. He will find it so superior that he will eventually require everyone on earth to receive his mark. Anyone who receives this mark will be forever associated with him and his culture.
“This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of man. That number is 666.” Revelation 13:18
“It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast, or number of its name.” Revelation 13:16-17
As you can see from the verse above, the Antichrist will force people to take his mark. If they do not take it, they will not be able to purchase anything such as food, water, clothes or whatever they would need to survive. The verses before this say the Antichrist will kill anyone who speaks out against him, and anyone who refuses to worship him.
“The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” Revelation 13:15
Like Antiochus Epiphanes, the Antichrist will be brutal, and kill all those who refuse to follow his pagan, devilish lifestyle. The Antichrist will also have an inflated view of himself. Remember that Antiochus Epiphanes added the title Epiphanes to his name in order compare himself to God. He saw himself as “God manifested.” The Antichrist will also see himself as a God and after 3 1/2 years in power, he will make this idea known to the whole world, especially the Jews. Before this three and half years, the Antichrist will have instituted a peace treaty with Israel. He will have brokered some sort of peace agreement, guaranteeing Israel’s safety. But, that will all change after the 3 1/2 years passes. He will then reveal his true intentions to the world. He will demand to be worshiped as a God. At this point the Third Temple will likely have been built- possibly as part of the peace treaty made previously with Israel. Like Antiochus, the Antichrist will go into the Temple and defile it. He will cause “the abomination which causes desolation” mentioned in the book of Daniel.
“He will confirm a covenant (treaty) with many for one seven (seven years). In the middle of the seven (3 1/2 years) he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27
The Antichrist will desecrate the Temple and put a stop to all Temple worship. Like the Jews during the time of the Maccabbees (the Hanukkah story), the Jews of this time will be horrified. Many will revolt and be killed. Others will flee to the mountains or wherever they can hide. Like during the times of the Greeks, the persecution will be great, but truthfully, it will be EVEN GREATER at this time.
“Alas! For that day is great, so that NONE is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s Trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” Jeremiah 30:7 (Keep in mind the word Jacob is referring to the nation of Israel. The tribulation will be a time of great tribulation, especially for the the nation of Israel. Just like the story of Hanukkah involved great tribulation for the nation of Israel, so too will the Tribulation, because it will be a time of great persecution.)
Like the story of Hanukkah, it will seem like all hope is lost. The Temple will be desecrated and a horrible, disgusting ruler will be on a rampage. He will not only be killing Jews, but anyone who stands with the one Holy God- Jesus Christ! But, do you remember how in the story of Hanukkah the oil in the lamp stand (menorah) miraculously lasted for eight days instead of one? Well…………… we know Jesus is the light of the world. In fact, we know he declared he was this light of the world, the son of God, at The Feast of Dedication- also known as Hanukkah. Guess what! Jesus, the Light of the World, will come back at just the right moment and save the day. The Light of the World will return and bring a new beginning to the earth and to its people. (eight means new beginnings! Remember- the oil in the menorah lasted for eight days!) Also, keep in mind that it is only the purest, holy olive oil that is put into the menorah (lamp stand). Olive oil represents the holy spirit. The holy spirit is Jesus within us! When we receive Christ we receive part of him- his spirit. So, even though the world will be at its darkest during the Tribulation years, this darkness will be defeated by the light. After seven years of Hell on earth with a dark, deceitful ruler known as the Antichrist, Jesus Christ will return at the Second Coming and his light will permeate the earth. Like the Maccabees, whose name means hammer, Jesus will hammer evil and banish it. What’s neat to realize is that a menorah or lamp stand is made of pure gold and guess what????? It is hammered!!!! The menorah is made by a single piece of gold that is hammered into its shape. Jesus, the light of the world, is the physical and spiritual representation of the Menorah!
The Menorah also has a servant candle called the Shamash. This candle lights all the other candles. Jesus, the Light of the World, came to earth as a servant. He lived on the earth as a humble Savior, serving the poor, sick and even those who were demon possessed. He ate with lepers, the deaf, the blind and all sorts of sinners. He didn’t come in clothes laden with jewels and velvet. He came as a carpenter from a humble town. He served all people- and as he served he became the living shamash to all those who needed to be lit within.
For many years I never knew much about these amazing Feasts and appointed times God has listed in the Bible. Sure, I celebrate Christmas and Easter, but I never celebrated The Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Purim or Hanukkah. These feasts are specifically listed in the Bible and God tells his people they are appointments with him. They are HIS HOLY FEASTS! So, why aren’t we celebrating them, or at least studying them? Some people would say, “That’s the law, or an old tradition.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth. These feasts are PROPHETIC and point to Jesus! Celebrating them, studying them or at least acknowledging them will open your eyes to what has already come and what is to come! It will give you a peek into end times prophecy, and give you HOPE because all of these feasts tell us what Jesus has done and WILL DO someday in the future.
I’m not saying you HAVE to celebrate Hanukkah. But, I tell you what- this feast sure gives you a renewed sense of hope, faith and joy. Every time I light the menorah I’m reminded that the Light of the World is not finished. Yes, he finished his work on the cross. But, the end time plan is yet to come. The Light of the World will make all things new. Darkness will be banished and all you will have is the light of the ONE TRUE LAMP STAND- JESUS CHRIST, LIGHT OF THE WORLD. I think that’s something worth celebrating!!!!
Holy Bible: NIV version