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The People Who Know Their God

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The People Who Know Their God

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The People Who Know Their God

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The true story behind an obscure passage of scriptures has implications for the unity and strength of God's Church.

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[Mr. Darris McNeely]: This week, I edited an article about what is called SAD, seasonal affective disorder. Some of us may have had to grapple with that through the years. It’s where people fight depression due to the change in seasons and short, dark, cold days kind of like we have right now. But, you know, today there are a lot of workarounds that people can do to cope with that. Many different ones. But I got to thinking about that in the season of the year that we are in right now, and how the events that are around us right now developed. Because in the ancient world, at this time of year, still very dark like it did but there was no electricity. And the shortened days were cold, and they didn’t have the convenient sources of heat, perhaps, that we do. The ancients would light bonfires to penetrate the darkness in that period of time, and to give warmth. Their workaround then was to do that, but also then it led to the development of religious rights to worship the sun, and the cold, and the other elements that are part of life, and we understand this. The significance of this winter solstice that we are approaching was to become the foundation for today’s Christmas celebrations.

I was looking at our booklet on holidays this week, and a chapter that we have on the origins of Christmas. And it had this one quote I’ll give to you. And, actually, there were several good quotes. I actually read the whole chapter. I hadn’t read it in quite some time. And I recommend, if you haven’t, you might want to do so as well. But here’s one that I thought fit. It says, “The time of the winter solstice has always been an important season in the mythology of all peoples. The sun, the giver of life, is at its lowest ebb. It’s the shortest daylight of the year. The promise of spring is buried in cold and snow. It’s the time when the forces of chaos that stand against the return of light and life must once again be defeated by the gods. At the low point of the solstice, just a few days ahead of us right now, the people must help the gods through the imitative magic and religious ceremonies which includes the building of bonfires and other revelries.” And then it concludes here, “The sun begins to return in triumph. The days lengthen, and the winter remains. Spring is once again conceivable for all people, and it is a time of great festivity.” This is from “The Christmas Almanac,” quoted in our booklet on Christmas in the holidays.

And so, obviously, so much of what we do know, sometimes we may forget about it if we don’t, kind of, give ourselves a bit of a review. We know that what all of this is based on ultimately is the idea of a cosmic battle between forces that are found from culture to culture. And then have worked their way into baptized Christian ordinances and festivals, and have come down to us such as, obviously, in Christmas today at this particular time of year.

I think this is a good time for us to consider the season that this world has created for itself. Or should I say then the response to this season that the world has created for itself? There is a story from Scripture that does point us to lessons that I think we need to remember, for all of us in the Church of God during this time of year, which happens to be the darkest part of the year, and that’s just a part of the cycle of nature that God designed for the seasons. But, obviously, man has corrupted by pagan festivals down through the years and down through the time. But the things that happen at this time of year all can be traced back to many different things. But there’s one tradition that I would like to focus on for a moment to help us understand an even deeper lesson that impacts the church today.

If you will, please turn back to John 10. John 10, and let’s begin reading in verse 22. The setting is right now, this time of year. Actually, just maybe a few days past us now as it happened this year. But John 10:22 John 10:22And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
American King James Version×
says,

John 10:22 John 10:22And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
American King James Version×
– “It was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem. And it was winter, and Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him, and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ or the Messiah, tell us plainly.’”

So, it was at the time in the winter months, at the time of the Feast of Dedication. Our time of December in the Jewish calendar is the month of Kislev when Jesus was there at the Feast of Dedication. He was not there keeping the Feast of Dedication. John just merely mentions this as a marker of time for, you know, the Jews that would be reading to understand what it was.

What was the Feast of Dedication? The Feast of Dedication was a celebration that had grown out of the time less than 200 years earlier when the Maccabees had revolted against the Greek rule in Judea and Jerusalem at the time. And as they had advanced upon Jerusalem, and liberated the temple, and regained control of their homeland and their capital city, and most importantly, their temple, they created a celebration called the Feast of Dedication. They rededicated the temple because they had, for more than three years or so, not been able to take part in the worship services because of an event that was prophesied to have occurred and did occur called the Abomination of Desolation. And the Maccabees and their soldiers recaptured, and they rededicated the temple. And this is what is the Feast of Dedication at that time.

Now, it was not called Hanukkah. Dedication. Hanukkah, which we call this particular celebration, or the Jews do today as part of their traditional form of worship and their celebrations, the idea of Hanukkah, and light, and all actually came later. Beyond the time of Christ, actually, beyond the time of the fall of Jerusalem in 78 A.D. But Jesus, and the disciples, and the Jews of His time would not have known the word Hanukkah, and they wouldn’t recognize the tradition of Hanukkah as it is today. Which for reasons I’ll tell you about in a minute, but it was called the Feast of Dedication to celebrate that defeat over the Greeks and the recapture of Jerusalem.

Now, it was winter. And it’s interesting when you look into the story of how this dedication had developed. Lights were already associated with forms of Jewish worship during that season. And that, kind of, ties into, you know, the winter this time. In fact, the Jews had been attracted for generations to the various solstice-related holidays that were throughout the pagan world at the time, the Feast of Dionysus and others that connected to the worship of the sun. In fact, when you get into the story of how the Jews had really adopted pagan forms even into their synagogues before the time of Christ is instructive and a fascinating part of the story. But how did this Feast of Dedication come about?

While the Feast of Dedication is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, the events which led to it are. And they are actually a part of a very long prophecy in the book of Daniel 11 that I’d like to take you through just a few verses of this afternoon to help us to understand something that connects to what Jesus was talking about here when the Jews ask Him about His messiahship and a lesson for us today.

Now, a little caveat upfront. This is the first time I have ever turned to Daniel 11 and given a sermon on the topic, all right? In all my years in the ministry, I’d never did that. I have taught Daniel in ABC in recent years. And when I came to Daniel 11, I had to really bone up on Daniel 11 because all I’d done over the years was read a reprint article that we had called “The Middle East and Bible Prophecy” or “The Middle Eastern Prophecy” there. But to teach it, you’ve got to know a little bit more than that. And through the years, I will have to tell you that long chapter of detailed, involved prophecies, the longest in the Bible of many, many predictive events that God gave to Daniel in the last years of his life is one of the most fascinating stories when you really dig into it. And so, to go into it here on a Sabbath afternoon when it’s really dark outside and you probably haven’t had enough caffeine to jack you up, I recognize, is a real challenge here.

So, nonetheless, I’ve never been afraid of a challenge and I’m going to plunge in here and take you through a few verses that I think that deal with history, yeah, and deal with prophecy, yeah. But there is, I guarantee you, a very important lesson for the church today from what we will talk about. And as I’ve told my students through the years, there is a lesson for our young people. And I’m glad that we have a number of young people here in the audience today for the speech club tonight, and visiting, and otherwise. Because our young people look at the church in recent years, and with what we have lived through raises questions in some of the internal conflicts that we have had. And I think that there is a lesson for us to learn to understand why we have had those as I take you through some of these verses today and the stories behind the verses. So I’ll lay that down as a challenge to see if you can find what it might be as we go through this. So, listen carefully, and let’s see what we can come up with.

So, let’s now turn back to Daniel 11. Hold. You can put a marker in Daniel or John 10. We’ll come back to that. But let’s go to Daniel 11, and I will take you through a few verses beginning at verse 21.

Now, let me set the stage for this. We’re at about the year, let’s just call it the year 168 B.C. and it’s a dark time. Roll the credits. It’s a dark time for the rebel force. The Greeks are in control of Jerusalem and Judea, the remnants of the empire of Alexander the Great, and there has arisen a man named Antiochus Epiphanes, who is the Darth Vader of this story. And he likes to make acquisitions and mergers of people, and places, and goods, and services. At this point, he already has Jerusalem and Judea under his control, but he wants more. He wants the lucrative area of the south of Egypt that is ruled by another Greek dynasty, part of the aftermath of Alexander the Great, known as The King of the South. And this Antiochus is known in the story of Daniel 11 as The King of the North. Fascinating material already. I can tell you’re licking your chops for this.

So, let’s look at verse 21. And we’ll read this, and I’ll give you a bit of a commentary on it as we go along and draw some points. But this is the setting, “In his place shall arise a vile person.” That vile person is Antiochus Epiphanes. The name Epiphanes means “God revealed.” He had a big ego. He looked upon himself, this Antiochus, the descendant of a long line of other rulers with the same name of Antiochus. He was the fourth. But he called himself Epiphanes which means “God revealed.” He looked about himself as a deity and acted like people who would put that into their name. That’s why it leads to a lot of the matters that we see. And he gained his title and his role as now king in a less than savory manner.

It goes on to say that, “To whom they will not give the honor of royalty, but he shall come in peaceably and seize the kingdom by intrigue.” He did that, and there’s a lot of intrigue that is a part of the story. But, again, keep in mind, this prophecy was given in the sixth century to Daniel at the time of the Persian period. And this is prophecy or history in advance that causes a lot of skeptics and scholars a problem that that could be done, but it is one of the proofs of the Bible. And the fact that the detail is given here. I’ve always, kind of, said that Daniel 11 is God’s, kind of, His lay down before mankind where He says, “I can do this. Beat this. You listen, I am in control of history. And this, I give in advance through My servant Daniel, and I will tell you how it’s going to be.” And when you look through all the history of these peoples, it did happen that way. It’s an amazing, amazing story, but he came in and he took the kingdom by intrigue.

And so, in verse 22, “With the force of a flood, they shall be swept away before him.” Everyone who opposed him, he was able to just swat away and be broken. “And also the prince of the covenant.” The prince of the covenant is referring to a Jew in Jerusalem who likes things Greek. He likes Greek culture, he likes the pagan culture of the Greek world. And he enters into a league or an agreement with Antiochus. Remember Antiochus Epiphanes and the Greeks have control of Jerusalem at this time.

In verse 23, it says, “After the league,” which is talking about a treaty, an agreement that is made between Antiochus and this renegade Jew who is actually a traitor, his name is Jason, who basically finagles and buys the priesthood, the high priesthood. Antiochus puts his stamp of approval on it. Is made with him. Makes an agreement there. “And he,” - it says in verse 23 – “Shall act deceitfully for he shall come up and be strong with a small number of people.” Antiochus has a small number of Jews in Jerusalem with him. They are enamored by this man, and, again, the pagan culture. And they’re led by this, at this moment, this man named Jason who becomes the high priest by chicanery and actually just buying it. And they want to invite in Antiochus which happens here. Which does. It’s a small number of people. There are still people that are holding to the Word of God, to the faith that they believe. But there are others that are selling out and are traitors. And he has a small number with him, Antiochus does here.

It goes on in verse 24. It says, “He shall enter peaceably into the richest places of the province.” And it’s speaking of Galilee, the Northern part of Israel which is a very lush, rich part of Israel even today. Agriculturally was then, still is today. And so, it goes on to say that, “He shall do what his fathers have not done or his forefathers. He shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil the riches, and he shall devise his plans against the strongholds but only for a time.” There’s a weakness among the Jews, and Antiochus has been able to drive a wedge in there. And he comes in and he begins to curry favor by giving to the poor. Taking from the rich and giving to the poor. That’s what this verse is describing here where he disperses the plunder among the people for a short time. Let’s pause for a moment.

As I said, the Jews in Jerusalem were divided. These were the descendants of the Jews that had returned after the Babylonian captivity when Cyrus the Great had issued a decree allowing them to go back. We know that story from the book of Ezra and Nehemiah. They had rebuilt first the temple, then they rebuilt the city of Jerusalem. And they had been there for several generations at this point in the story. And as is the story of Israel and the Jews specifically at this point, through the generations, they’ve lost their fervor for God in some cases while others have maintained their fervor. But enough have been able to want to sell out that the Greeks under Antiochus have come in and influenced.

And so, this minority of traitors begins to grow. And as you have in a situation like this where you have a conflict of worldview and of cultures, and especially when it comes to the true religion, some holding to the faith while others are wanting to compromise and make good with the world, you have conflict. You have a situation that is ripe, and this is what Antiochus Epiphanes is able to leverage in this backstory that is going on here.

They had the same cultural battles going on then that we have today in our world. And we’ll go into all the details of that. The Greeks had an idea that they thought that beauty was holy. You go to a museum today and you look at a Greek sculpture, or Greek art, or Greek architecture. You know, the nudes, and the bodies, the discus throwers, and all that, the statuary that we see of the Greek culture today, that was, to them, beauty and they exalted in that in their art. When they built their temples and their public buildings, they were works of art and they were beautiful. And that’s come down to us today. We have all of our public buildings in America, in many ways, modeled after Greek architecture and it is beautiful. But to the Greek mind, that beauty that they were able to create with their hands, that was holiness. They looked upon that as holy.

But the Jews? Well, they had more of a Bible-centered, law-centered approach. The Jews thought holiness was beautiful, righteousness was beautiful. Isn’t that what we think today and are to be taught as a holy people, a holy priesthood? Yes. To be exhibiting righteous character, that’s the true beauty and that comes from within. And this was the clash then, this was the clash so much today when we peel it down to the basics. Antiochus Epiphanes wanted to turn Jerusalem into a Greek city. In fact, he renamed it, he called it Antiochia. The Antiochenes love their name. They put their name all over cities in the ancient world. And for a time, they renamed Jerusalem. They built buildings after the Greek style, put up even a gymnasium. Which to a pious Jew, was one of the worst things that could have happened. Because at 5:00 in the afternoon, any young Jewish man who wanted to be like a Greek went to the gymnasium, stripped himself down naked, and worked out as the Greeks did. But a pious Jew would never have done that. And so this was the conflict that was setting up, and it pitted the Jews against one another. It was a mess. And this is where Antiochus was able to gain an advantage because of that division. What’s the big lesson for us? It’s important to maintain a unity of spirit in the church among ourselves. If we don’t, Satan can gain an advantage today. That’s a big lesson for us.

As we go back to the story and pick it up at verse 25, we see that Antiochus is now out to acquire. He goes down to Egypt in verse 25. It says, “He, Antiochus, will stir up his power and his courage against the King of the South.” This is the Egyptian-based king and a dynasty that had been created down there. “He stirs up against the King of the South with a great army,” it says, “And the King of the South” - whose name was Ptolemy – “will be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army.” And so, they clash back and forth during this period of time. It goes on, “But he, the King of the South, shall not stand for they shall devise plans against him. Yes, those who eat of the portion of his delicacies shall destroy him. His army shall be swept away. Many shall fall down slain.”

And so, there’s internal problems among the Egyptian faction, and the army, and the leading men which creates some problems there allowing Antiochus to gain a few victories and try to assert himself over Egypt. Egypt was a plum in the ancient world. It was the granary of everybody else. The lush Nile valley produced the wheat and the grains for the bread that everyone lived on throughout the Mediterranean world. And to hold the control of Egypt was to hold a great resource financially, politically, and in every way. And this is why what is going on here. In fact, when you look at the whole chapter and the back and forth of all these kings of the north and the south, you’re really looking at battles in the ancient world over trade routes, and trade, and the economy. That that is a lot that is behind what is taking place here, and this is what’s going on here.

In verse 27, it says, “Both these kings’ hearts shall be bent on evil and they shall speak lies at the same table, but it shall not prosper for the end shall be at the appointed time.” Antiochus’ efforts to annex Egypt fails, and the next few verses here describe the buildup toward a key event that I’ve already mentioned called the Abomination of Desolation.

Antiochus goes back north. And on his way back north, he has to take the exit to Jerusalem and go up there which he does. And verse 28 says, “While returning to his land,” which was in Syria, “With great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant.” Against the Jews and their worship system. Notice the focus is on the covenant. And that entire system of sacrifices, and keeping of the word of God, the Law, the Sabbath, and everything is what he is against. He is against the holy covenant.

There’s always been a hatred for God and for God’s law. The roots of antisemitism, and what we’re seeing here is antisemitism in the ancient world. But as it has come down even into our modern age, at the heart of antisemitism is a hatred for God, and essentially for the commandments of God. The 10. And the Jews have borne the brunt of that historically. And you see here that he has moved against the holy covenant, and the Jews just happened to be in the way. This is a satanic hatred of all things connected with God. And the people who worship God and obey God suffer as a result of this, and this is what is building up. And it says, “He shall do damage.” He did. He looted the temple at that time, killed a few Jews for good measure, and then he returned to his own land.

Now, in verse 29, “At the appointed time, he shall return and go toward the south.” And Antiochus says, “I think I can get Egypt this time. I’m going back down there.” And so, he goes back to Egypt, “But it shall not be like the former or the latter.” Verse 30, “For ships from Cypress...” And if you look at the wording here, what this really is talking about is it’s ships from the west, and it’s really Rome. Roman ships bringing Roman legions come in against him. They come against him, “And therefore, he shall be grieved and return in rage against the holy covenant.” It’s a fascinating story. Antiochus was met by a Roman general who basically said, “Get out of town, you’re not going to take Egypt.”

And the story is... It’s a true story from history. These two, Antiochus and the Roman general named Popilius knew each other from their youth in Rome. Popilius takes his sword out and draws a circle in the sand around Antiochus and says, “Buddy, before you step out of that circle, you decide whether we’re going to fight or you’re going back home.” And Antiochus saw that he was beat, and he tucked his tail and he went back home. That’s the story of what happened here where it says that the ships from Rome came against him.

And then at the latter part of verse 30, “Therefore, he shall be grieved.” He was hurt, he was angry, “returned in rage against the holy covenant.” Notice again against all things God and he’d do damage, “So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.” There were Jews who had forsaken their faith and were siding with the Greeks, and they wanted more things Greek. And so that was building. And so he showed his favor toward them. He vented his fury on the other Jews at this particular point.

In verse 31, it says, “And forces shall be mustered against him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress.” That’s speaking of the temple. “And then they shall take away the daily sacrifices and place there the abomination of desolation.” Verse 31 describes the key event of this whole prophecy that is called the Abomination of Desolation where Antiochus and his forces went in, actually, into the very temple itself, offered a swine, a pig on the altar, set up a statue of the Greek god, Zeus, the chief god, Zeus, and completely defiled, desecrated the temple, forbade any more sacrifices. But he didn’t stop there, he went even further there.

It says in verse 32 that, “Those who do wickedly against the covenant,” that’s the traitor Jews, “He shall corrupt with flattery,” which he was able to do. Many Jews did succumb to that, but many more against were persecuted because of their faith while others were rewarded for their apostasy and forsaking their religion. And this is where it got rough for the Jews. Antiochus forbade them to keep the Sabbath and any other festivals. He forbade the mothers to circumcise their newborn children. He told them, “You no longer are going to just be these people over here that won’t eat pig. You’re going to eat pig like the rest of us good Greeks.” And everything distinctive, everything that marked the people of God and their covenant, he hammered, and he targeted, and he said, “You’re not going to do this any longer.”

And at the point of death, many would not give in to that and they died. The stories are, kind of, gruesome when you look into it, but it was a holocaust that took place in an effort to destroy the people and the faith connected with the God of Abraham. Here was a satanic effort through a human government to destroy the work and the plan of God.

Now, had it succeeded, there would not have been a Jewish presence in the land for the birth of Christ. His goal was to destroy, to kill all the Jews in a holocaust, and wipe out any shred of evidence of their faith and their culture. That’s what was taking place here. Had that happened, there would not have been, less than 200 years later, a place for Christ to be born according to the prophecies, nor would there have been the foundation for the church that Christ began. History, both historically, and politically, and religiously would have been different had that succeeded.

But there’s something else at work here, and that’s God. Back in Daniel 10:21 Daniel 10:21But I will show you that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holds with me in these things, but Michael your prince.
American King James Version×
, the angel who is actually delivering this message to Daniel told him that everything that he was about to tell him in chapter 11 was written in the scripture of truth. All of this was by God’s plan, but God was not going to allow the people that held to his faith to be destroyed. God guides history. God guides history still today. What happened at this point is the entry of the family called the Maccabees.

A cohort of Greek soldiers went out to a village near Jerusalem to enforce the edicts of the decrees, and they ran into a guy named Judas Maccabeus, and his sons, and their followers. And Judas Maccabeus just, you know, met the guy in the town square that day, and the orders were given. He pulled his sword and ran it through the Greek general and said to the rest of his boys, “To the hills.” And he had an insurrection. He had what is called in history then the Maccabean Revolt. And that’s where at the latter part of verse 32, it says, “The people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.” This is pointing to what the Maccabees did. Patriotic followers within this family, and they created a rebellion. And they took to the hills. Skirmishes, battles over the next three years that eventually drove the Greeks out of the land and defeated them. And so it was that on the 25th of Kislev in the year 165, the Maccabean armies came into Jerusalem, liberated it, and rededicated the temple, reinstituted the sacrifices, cleaned everything up. And what they then did was to keep an eight-day festival. This is in December as we look at it this year.

They kept an eight-day festival. A celebration. And this is what then becomes the foundation for what we read about in John 10 called the Feast of Dedication. It refers to that event and the dedication of the temple now back to the worship of God, keeping the Sabbath, keeping the Holy Days. But you know what they were doing by keeping an eight-day festival? Think it through, this is December. What happened about two months ago? Didn’t we keep a seven-day festival with an eighth day added on at the end the last festival? Eight days, were we together?

The Jews at the time of the Maccabees couldn’t have done that. And so, really, what they were doing, they were keeping the Feast of Tabernacles in December. They just took a page out of Numbers 9 where in Numbers 9, God gives provision for keeping the Passover 30 days later if you’ve missed the first Passover. And so they kept it more than 30 days later, they improvised with this occasion, is what they did. And that’s the foundation of this Feast of Dedication that then now today is called the Feast of Hanukkah.

Now, there was no miracle or oil that is part of the Hanukkah celebration today. That was added long after the fall of Jerusalem in the time of Christ. Added by the rabbis into the story plus all the other traditional trappings that have come down it. Now, they even changed the name to Hanukkah. But the original matter here was a dedicatory feast where the temple was re-opened and worship now began.

At this point in the story, as Daniel is receiving this, there is a change in this because it talks about the people who know their God who will be strong and carry out great exploits here. This has a dual application because it begins now to vault us forward in time. In verse 33, it says, “Those of the people who understand shall instruct many, yet for many days, they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering.” This has to be talking about the church, Christians. Those who understand like us today who understand God, His covenants, His Word, His law, they understand and shall instruct many. Daniel is receiving a prophecy of what would begin with the work of the church. And it says that they would fall by sword, and by flame, and by captivity.

We know that the work of the church, as we read about it in the New Testament, has always had its challenges, but God has been with His church. Which is why when we read in verse 34, “When they fall, they shall be aided with a little help.” God’s Spirit gives us tremendous ability to remain steadfast in the face of any type of trial.

But then notice in verse 34, it says that, “Many shall join with them by intrigue.” Again, there’s warning throughout the New Testament. First, with Christ, then with Paul, and then with Peter about false brethren. False prophets that would come in among the church and create problems and seek to change, and in a sense, shift things and the culture within the church.

But these statements about here in verse 32 and 33, “Those who know their God, and those are the people who understand shall instruct many.” That is speaking to us. That is speaking to what we are doing today. In verse 35, it says, “Some of those of understanding shall fall to refine them, to purify them, to make them white until the time of the end because it is still for an appointed time.” This is language that is also repeated in Revelation 6 and 7, and speaking about the people of God. And it is speaking to the whole process of Christ making the bride ready for the marriage to the Lamb, and all the events that are taking place within that. It’s a remarkable story really when you stop and look at what is the history behind these prophecies that are important prophecies because they’re a part of the Word of God.

And as I said, brethren, at the beginning, I recognize the challenge of going through this at any one particular time. It’s not to make an apology or anything, it’s just to help us understand that at times, we have to dig deeper into the Word of God. Ask ourselves, “Why is this here,” at times? And even plow through some of our own objections or lack of ability to understand to get to what is being said. These are stories about people of faith, people who abandon their faith. It’s stories about the people of God that God predicted and gave through Daniel, but transcend our time and our age to come down and teach us some very, very important lessons today. Because we stand as these people who know their God.

But we’re not like the Maccabees drawing a sword and going out and lopping heads off, we’re fighting a spiritual battle. We’re fighting against spiritual wickedness. And we come to a season like this, and it gets dark, and we, you know, hear the music, and see the lights. And, at times, it, kind of, tugs our... You know? And I notice sometimes people get a little bit, you know, not necessarily wobbly, but it’s encroaching. It’s right there. And it’s important that we keep our minds focused and sharp on what are the origins and what’s behind all of this, but also what is it that God is wanting us to do, and how we overcome that and overcome even the slump that can come at a time of year like this as we enter into these winter periods. A bit of history coupled with the sure Word of God and His prophetic promises help us to make our way forward. Helps us to understand so that we can be the people who know their God, and those who have understanding and charged with the ability to preach the gospel or to instruct many. That is our job, that is our calling.

Let’s go back to John 10 now, and let’s look again at a part of what Jesus said in His answer to the Jews who came to Him.

Remember in verse 24 of John 10, the Jews came to Him, surrounded Him. Kind of boxed Him in the area of Solomon’s colony, Solomon’s porch on the temple, “How long do you keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” We’ll just read a part of His answer. Verse 25, “Jesus answered them, ‘I told you and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me but you do not believe.’” The Jews did not.

The Jews were fractious in what had happened in the roughly 200 years or so. From the time of the period of Antiochus to this moment, things hadn’t gotten any better in Judea. And the dynasty that the Maccabees founded just became just as corrupt as anything else, and this is what Christ is fighting against when He deals with the Jews of His age and of His time. He said, “You did not believe Me,” in verse 26, “Because you’re not of My sheep. As I said to you, My sheep hear My voice and I know them.” He had just given a sermon on that, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

Christ is our Messiah. Christ is our leader. We don’t draw the sword of the Maccabees, we draw the sword of the Spirit. We draw the sword of the Word of God, and we fight against the spiritual forces that are arrayed against us in this world today with spiritual truth which we hold very, very high. And is why we are here today, and it’s why we do what we do as we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life. And they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father who’s given them to Me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” And so, He continued to go back and forth with them. They made an effort to stone Him, but that didn’t work. We’ll leave the comment or what Jesus said at that point. What’s He telling us today?

You know, prophetically, we can learn a lot from the account back in Daniel 11 that I just took you through. Because today, there is still a Jewish state in the land, the state of Israel. And it’s there to fulfill key prophetic events which we’ve just read about in their final fulfillment. There is a coming time of intrigue when a political figure that Revelation identifies as the Beast will come into the holy land.

Christ also said here in Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
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that there’ll be an end-time fulfillment of this Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel, the prophet. It will be in the holy place. Christ knew that Daniel’s prophecy was true, and He referenced it in His Olivet Prophecy. So, we know those two things, that there will be a time of intrigue politically involving the land like Antiochus did and there will be a final fulfillment of that abominating act of desolation. But, thirdly, there will also be an attempt to remove the last vestige of the covenant people. Those who hold to the covenant of God. This time, a different covenant from the old, it’s a new covenant, but it’s the Church.

As I said, it’s religious. They’re spiritual in nature. And when we look at the events here that eventually come together and what Revelation 13 describes as the mark of the Beast, it’s religious. It’s spiritual in nature. And, brethren, we need to keep our eyes on that. We need to keep our eyes on what we know from scripture that happened historically and to know what will happen in the future regarding this mark is spiritual. It’s religious in nature as we’ve always understood. The Jews then were forbidden to keep the Sabbath. That’s a part of the same covenant relationship that we have today, that we have to hold to, and we must understand that.

Did you catch the lesson as we’ve come along here? There’s always internal conflict between those who are the covenant people. Sometimes, there’s people motivated by a different spirit while there are others who are wanting to hold to the faith once delivered. And all of this is a process that is meant to purify the church, to prepare the bride for the marriage to Jesus Christ. We always have to keep the big picture on this. The big things are important. You know, it was the Holy Days that the Maccabeans wanted to reestablish when they dedicated the temple. A couple of months late, but their attitude was right at that moment, they wanted to keep the festivals.

Anytime that has ever been attempted to be ripped from us, and my experience in the church, God’s people have always stood strong and stood firm there. It deals with matters of the law of God that these satanic forces want to rip away, and the people of God have to stand strong in that. Those are the big things. Truth is important to us, but truth always has to be married evenly with love. With love. As we work with one another, care for one another, work our way forward, the unity of the Spirit is very important, and truth and love in the right proportions helps us to develop that unity of the Spirit. And we have to work for that, endeavor to maintain that unity as Paul says. That is critically important. If we don’t, Satan will gain the advantage. The lesson is the unity of the Spirit in truth and in love. It’s all important.

The issues that have divided us in the past, that all of us young and old should understand, when we get that truth and love out of balance. But when we keep it in balance and we hold firm to the truth, but we have a love of God within us, then we can follow the voice of Christ, our shepherd, and maintain the unity of faith and the unity of the Spirit knit together so that division doesn’t take us apart. That’s the lesson I take out of Daniel 11, that portion there that I just read to you. That’s how I understand what has happened to us in our time in the church. And all of us young or old have got to step back and look at the Bible to gain that understanding and recognize that it is up to us to maintain the unity of faith, the unity of the Spirit bound together in that.

And if we do, and if we listen to the voice of Christ, to the guidance of Christ, to His spirit leading us, if we seek to understand and not be so quick to categorize, take up factions, or let factions develop among ourselves but can sit and listen to one another. And hear one another without striking up division, we can work together to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the unity of faith and keep division away from us. We have to hear Christ’s voice. And when we do and follow Him with those principles in mind, we’re extracting the main lessons from these prophecies, but also most importantly, from Christ’s teaching to follow Him.

We are, brethren, among those who understand called, chosen, and faithful. We are the people who know their God, and we have to follow that God and live like Him. And when we do, we too can do mighty exploits and a bigger spiritual work with Christ in us.