What Is the Abomination of Desolation?
What Is the Abomination of Desolation?
In the Scriptures we see that some festivals are appropriate even though they are not God's feasts or Holy Days. On the other hand, there are some festivals that are highly inappropriate for Christians to get involved with. There is a holiday that occurs around this time of the year that God's people, in ancient times, did observe. And that is the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah. Ironically, many people often think of it as the "Jewish Christmas." But, the very existence of the Feast of Dedication, is in effect a rebuttal against Christmas.
[Peter Eddington] You know, it's always difficult to come up with a topic for a sermon, and usually it's Terri, my wife, who says, have you thought about this, or what about that? About 75% of the time, the topic is something that Terri's had gel in her mind, so you can thank her, after this, after the sermon today, for the message. This is an idea that she had, and so I ran with it, and it's actually rather intriguing, and, ah, it fits even with this time of the year.
In the United States and Canada, there's a national holiday that many of us observe: Thanksgiving. It's an appropriate festival for us to be involved in, and one that we look forward to; and in the scriptures we see that some festivals are appropriate, even though they're not God's feasts or God's holy days. Some countries, because they've had a particular blessing, a deliverance or a great victory in their nation, have created a national holiday. And they're appropriate and we see examples of them in the Bible. On the other hand, there are some festivals that are highly inappropriate for Christians to get involved in, and one of them will be coming up on October 31 – Halloween. There's another one coming up on December 25, and it's an attempted blend of paganism with professing Christianity, and it doesn't work. We do not get involved in those festivals.
There's a holiday that occurs around this time of the year that God's people, in ancient times, did accept upon themselves to observe, and that is the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, as it's called. And ironically, many people think of it as kind of like a Jewish Christmas. But the very existence of the Feast of Dedication actually is in effect, a rebuttal against Christmas. Now, Hanukkah's not for the church to observe as a commandment, but you hear about it, you browse the web, you see the news; you might even read about it in the Bible. But have you ever given it some thought? Jesus observed it with His nation, when He walked the earth during His human ministry. And there's some fascinating historical background to this subject. Why? I've titled today's sermon, not Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication; I've titled today's sermon, What is the Abomination of Desolation? And I believe, as we move through the sermon today, you'll have a much greater depth of understanding about biblical prophecies that are yet to occur. And it's because of the Feast of Dedication.
Jesus referred to historical events surrounding the Feast of Dedication in many of His own important prophecies. So I think you need to understand the background so you can see and be more spiritually aware yourself, as we begin to approach the time when certain end-time prophecies are going to be fulfilled. So let's turn to the book of John. John chapter 10, and look at verses 22 and 23. John 10 verse 22, where we read:
John 10:22 – Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. The Feast of Dedication was in the winter time.
John 10:23 – And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. So Jesus was up there at the time when the whole celebration was going on.
The Feast of Dedication, known today as Hanukkah, was once also called, the Feast of the Maccabees. It's a Jewish festival observed for eight days, from the Hebrew month of Kislev, on the 25th of Kislev, for eight days. And it usually falls in December, but due to the Hebrew calendar, and differing months each year, sometimes it's even in November. And we are now approaching, of course, that time of the year.
It was instituted in 165 BC, by Judas Maccabeus, with his brothers and the elders of the Jewish people. And it was in commemoration of the re-consecration of the Jerusalem temple and its altar and the sacrifices. The temple had been desecrated earlier during persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, and that persecution began in 168 BC – three years earlier.
What kind of understanding do you have here with John 10 verse 22? We've got a few weeks yet until this year's observance of that festival. Do you know why the Jews keep these days? Do you know why Jesus thought them appropriate to observe?
There was actually a very good reason why we, too, should be aware of what happened that led to the Jews observing the Feast of Dedication. We don't celebrate them – we're not Jews; we're not commanded – but learning about them helps us understand Bible prophecy in a fascinating way. And you'll see that Hanukkah is in direct opposition – a rebuttal to those people who compromise and celebrate the winter solstice – those who celebrate the sun god, or in today's parlance, those who celebrate Christmas.
This winter festival reminds the Jews from year-to-year how God had intervened, not only to save the nation physically, as at the time of Esther, you remember, but to save the nation spiritually. You've read the book of Esther, and that was, in effect, an attempt at genocide of the Jewish people – kill them all, but Hanukkah commemorates the victory over a spiritual genocide. The idea was to pressure the Jews, to force them to submit and forsake their religion. And if they would have forsaken their way of life, they would've remained alive. It wouldn't have been genocide, but they would have blended into the rest of the world. They would have disappeared as the Old Testament people of God. And all of this was prophesied in advance in their scriptures – in their scrolls that they pulled out each week at the temple. They may not have understood fully what they were doing with this Feast of Dedication, but they were actually fulfilling prophecy. And in retrospect, decades and centuries later, the Jews no doubt looked back and saw certain prophecies, and realized that they had been a part of it.
So let's go to the story in Daniel chapter 8. It's a prophecy of the time of Antiochus, when God's people of that day – you know, the church in the wilderness, as it's called in Acts chapter 7 verse 38 – whose very existence was in jeopardy, especially their religion. In Daniel 8, there's a prophecy of what would be happening between the times of the Old and New Testaments. It's a prophecy of the inter-testamental period, and the various empires would rise and fall, and how God's people would be affected by those empires. You know, the Bible contains a lot of history, but it's only history when it comes to affect the people of God – you know, you don't read about China or Japan in here, but as Israel was affected by the nations around them. You know, you remember that the northern kingdom of Israel had already gone into captivity and disappeared from history. The southern kingdom of Judah had also been exiled to Babylon for their sins, but a remnant had returned to the Promised Land, under Ezra and Nehemiah, and now, under the watchful eye of the Persian Empire.
After the Persian Empire, the prophecies showed that the next empire would be the Hellenistic empire, based in Macedonia. A Greek empire would be next, and in chapter 8, we see a prophecy of Alexander the Great. He represented the Greek empire, and he's featured here as the goat who subdues the Medes and the Persians – you know, brings the Greeks onto the scene. Look at Daniel 8 verse 8:
Daniel 8:8 – Therefore the male goat grew very great... and that as you study history and go through the whole chapter, you realize it was picturing Alexander...but when he became strong, the large horn was broken...you know, he died, actually at an early age...and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven.
So Alexander was replaced by four, ah, rulers. When Alexander's empire divided upon his death, it divided into four major parts. And look at verse 9 of Daniel 8:
Daniel 8:9 – And out of one of them...so out of one of the four...came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.
Here we see an empire that absorbed the heartland of God's people, which is where Jerusalem and the temple existed, right? The very center of Old Testament religion was now occupied by a foreign ruler, and this little horn was based in what is today, Syria. And he is pictured in scripture as the king of the north at that time.
So we have an empire based in Syria, ruling over the land of Canaan, or Palestine; the land of Israel, the Promised Land, or as it's called here, the Glorious Land. And these Syrians have now been Hellenized. They were part of the great empire of their day, when you have the rule of the Greek civilization over God's people. And now notice verse 10:
Daniel 8:10 – And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.
So at some stage in this development, the empire to the north began to take a very negative view of people who had cultural differences with them. And the attempt was made to force the Jewish population to blend – to make them assimilate with the rest of the empire, and, as it said, the Jews were trampled to the ground. They were being Hellenized religiously and culturally. And this was done by force. And it was also done with some collaborators from within, who saw an advantage for themselves.
But most of the pressure eventually came from a king known in history as Antiochus – Antiochus the IV, who took the title of Epiphanes – Antiochus Epiphanes. And Epiphanes, in effect, means god manifest. He thought of himself as a kind of god-incarnate, and evidently he saw himself as the ruler of this great civilization, who should be worshipped as a god. And he didn't want any other gods to interfere with people being completely submissive to him. His enemies called him by a Greek expression that translates, Antiochus, the Mad, rather than Antiochus, god manifest – his enemies called him Antiochus, the Mad. Look at chapter 8 here verse 11:
Daniel 8:11 – He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host - notice that's a capital P. He was equating himself with God – and by him the daily sacrifices – of the temple – were taken away, and the place of – God's – sanctuary was cast down.
Now as you know, at that time, God's work consisted of certain physical activities that were intended to educate the people – certain rituals and sacrifices that were intended to point to Jesus Christ and the truth that we now know in the New Testament. Christ came to fulfill the meaning of those sacrifices. And Antiochus got rid of those by force. And he went beyond that. He tried to stamp out the Jewish religion and the truth of God. And eventually, not only did he stop the sacrifices, he set up his own, and he took unclean animals (very likely he took a pig) and put it right on the altar, where God's sacrifices normally would be offered. And then he had a statute of Zeus, or one of his other Greek gods, placed in the temple.
In the book, The History of the Jews, by historian Solomon Grayzel, there is a section that talks about how Antiochus was celebrating his birthday at this time, which was also likely the birthday of the sun god. In other words, it was a sort of proto-Christmas festival that he was celebrating. He was celebrating a day in honor of himself and the sun god. And he set up a statute of one of the gods of his people and sacrificed a pig to it. And what does the Bible call it? The Bible calls it, the Abomination that makes Desolate, or the Abomination of Desolation. And that's what Antiochus did. It's history. And those events were types of events that are yet to occur.
Who will be the Antiochus of the future that does this? Now we may not understand how those events will play out finally in the end time, but what we read here is typical of what is yet to come also, as we'll see. It's a dual prophecy. In verse 12:
Daniel 8:12 – Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn...so it was done by force...to oppose the daily sacrifices...of the Jews...and he cast truth down to the ground...God's truth...He did all this and prospered.
So this was a period of time when he was trying to stamp out the truth by force, with an army. But God's people rallied – God intervened for them – and they, finally, were victorious. It took about three years of struggle from the time that the abomination first occurred, to when the temple was again cleansed. Read verses 13 and 14 with me, with Daniel here in a vision and a prophecy, he says:
Daniel 8:13-14 – Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking – so this is kind of a conversation going on in heaven, right? How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation – how long is this going to go on? – the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?
Daniel 8:14 – And he said to me, For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.
Days here should be translated as evenings and mornings. If you check out the Hebrew and you check out Bible commentaries, you find that what we're dealing with here is two thousand three hundred evening and morning sacrifices. Every evening there was a sacrifice, and every morning there was a sacrifice, and you can read about this in Leviticus 6 verses 9 and 12. In other words, two thousand three hundred evening and morning sacrifices is actually one thousand one hundred and fifty days. It's half as much. So one thousand one hundred fifty full days, and then the sanctuary will be cleansed, is what the holy ones were discussing here. It's a period of just over three years.
This was a prophecy written by Daniel hundreds of years in advance. A prophecy of a very important period in the history of God's people, which as you go through the history books, you'll find was fulfilled between 168 and 165 BC Roughly December of 168 to December of 165.
Now here's where the story gets interesting. Those Jews in Jerusalem, those at the center of things in Jerusalem, tended to collaborate with Antiochus. But out in the suburbs, out in the rural areas, there was a family of priests who were very zealous for God's law. And this family of priests led the resistance against Antiochus. They were led by Judah Maccabeus, and they became known in history as the Maccabees. The Maccabees revolted successfully against Antiochus and restored the Old Covenant (the word Maccabee means hammer). So these were known as the hammer people.
There is another possibility for where the term Maccabee comes from. There's a common Biblical expression you find throughout the Old Testament – that is, “Who is like unto You O God?” You see it a lot. Who is like unto You O God? And some scholars say that Maccabee is an acronym for that phrase, like we have FOT for Feast of Tabernacles, is a Hebrew acronym that means, Who's like unto You O God? – that is Maccabee – but in any case, a title is given to those priests who opposed Antiochus, and who were finally were successful in getting rid of this evil ruler.
Here's another interesting bit of history that will tie this story together for you. The Maccabee Dynasty then ruled for about a century and it was known as the Hasmonean Dynasty. You may have heard of the Hasmonean dynasty. It ended after the Greeks left the scene – when the Romans then occupied Palestine. We'll hear more about this dynasty in a moment, so keep the Hasmoneans in mind.
This prophecy, or this period, was prophesied in advance in the book of Daniel chapter 8, and it was remarkably accurate. It's also in Daniel chapter 11, which we'll turn to here next. This account of history in Daniel 11 and in Daniel 8 so closely parallels what took place in society and in the Middle East that people say Daniel must have written this afterwards – in fact, Daniel must not have written it at all. Somebody must have written this after all these events happened, and then put his name on it. They just can't believe that it could be so accurate, so they say it's not true. If you go to the end of the chapter, in chapter 8 though, especially verse 23 through 27, you'll find that there's an end-time application, and that's why I said this is a dual prophecy. What happened back then is going to happen again. You find there's an end-time application, where a power akin to the beast, is prophesied. That's in Daniel 8 verses 23 through 27. In type, the events of Daniel, including the transgression of desolation, will take place again in the end. And Daniel chapter 8 may have actually more end-time significance than it even did in the 2nd century BC Yes, we can see that Antiochus fulfilled that, but it actually may even have greater significance in the end time. So in Daniel 11 now – the longest continuous prophecy in the Bible – adds to the information in Daniel 8, about what happened historically from 168 to 165 BC. And then it explains what's going to happen in the end time. Let's read about Antiochus again in Daniel 11 verse 21:
Daniel 11:21 – And in his place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.
Here, again, we read about the rise of Antiochus the IV, Antiochus Epiphanes, and you can prove this for yourself in a thorough study of the whole chapter, alongside historical accounts. I'm not going to try to prove that right now, but eventually, when he first came to power, he wasn't thought of as a mad man. He used flattery and intrigue, as you see here in verse 21. They probably thought of him as quite likeable initially, but then once he took power, something got ahold of him, and he went crazy. And they said, “This is Antiochus, the Mad.”
And like Antiochus, verse 21 here is also a type of the end-time king of the north, the beast, as you'll see. You remember that Revelation tells us that the world will marvel at the beast, then the whole thing goes horribly wrong, right? At first they think it's a great idea, and then it goes horribly wrong.
So here in this story, the people of God were at a critical point in history. The Jews were caught between the empire in Egypt to the south, the Ptolemies, ¼ of Alexander's descendants, or fore-rulers, and the empire in the north, in Syria, the Seleucids. And in many respects, the people of God in the end time will also be caught between opposing political and religious views that are brought on by an end-time beast.
Mediterranean means the center of the earth, and it's where Asia, Europe and Africa come together. And it's a position from which the tribes of Israel and Judah could have influenced the other nations for the best, if they'd done well, but as we know, unfortunately, they sinned and became a doormat in the Middle East. And in the Middle East even today, you have to be very powerful or you're going to become a doormat. And at this point in history, they were a doormat, and armies were marching up and down between Egypt and Syria, right through the Glorious Land, as Daniel said.
So getting back to verse 21, we see how Antiochus ingratiates his way in, and then once in, he changes and becomes a terror. And there's a whole lot more prophecy that's played out in real history in the next dozen verses here about Antiochus, but let's jump down to verse 29 – and we can study more about exactly what Antiochus did, but look at verse 29:
Daniel 11:29 – At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter. It's going to be different this time. Verse 30:
Daniel 11:30 – For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.
So those who forsake the holy covenant he's going to give preference to. But Antiochus, here, is trying to expand his empire, but Rome at this time is now rising in the west – that eventually would take over the Greek empire, right, as you know from history? And Rome had a fleet in the Mediterranean and it stopped Antiochus' westward expansion. So now he turns south from Syria to Palestine to make sure that, at least, he has that securely held. And he's in a rage and he wants to do the Jews damage – that's verses 29 and 30 – about the ships from Cyprus that stop him. That was Rome that was now rising as an empire.
Antiochus' intent was also to show regard for those Jews who forsook the covenant of God – that were on his side – a sort of bribe and pressure for others to forsake the covenant too. But the Maccabees wouldn't do that. They stood up for the truth. Verse 31:
Daniel 11:31 – And forces shall be mustered by him – that's Antiochus – and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.
You see this is a little more information of what we read about in Daniel chapter 8. Note that there are four things that he does here in verse 31. And it's important to recognize because these four things are also going to all be there at the end time, when the duality of this prophecy is fulfilled before Christ returns.
- First, we have military occupation of the temple mount in Jerusalem – forces mustered, right?
- We read about a kind of rampage with things that destroyed and defiled, defiling the sanctuary.
- The next thing is sacrifices are prevented from taking place. And, of course, we'll have to wait and see what the modern equivalent of that may be – the preventing of whatever would be the anti-type of those sacrifices. And then:
- Finally, you have placed there the abomination of desolation. It will be some hideous act of a future ruler who will set himself up as a deity in the end time, to be worshipped in place of the true God.
You see, that's what Antiochus did back in Daniel 8 verse 13, and repeated here in Daniel 11 verse 31 – this is during the time of 168 BC. And it will happen again just before Jesus returns. Look at verse 32:
Daniel 11:32 – Those who do wickedly against the covenant...you know, those who give up on their Jewish faith...he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.
There were people at that time in the 160s BC, who knew who God was – the way of life that was expected of them. They had a commitment to it and they would not compromise. And it was a guerilla war – a small band against a mighty empire – and the only way the Maccabees could have succeeded was with God's intervention. And God intervened, and He worked it out in a very physical way.
For us, as converted sons and daughters in God's family, we'll have to do it in a very spiritual way. In other words, never compromise on our beliefs. You know, I have to ask myself, will I, as a child of God today, have that kind of resolve when the falsehood and abominations arise again?
So let's talk about us, because verse 32 is about the Hasmoneans, but verses 33 through 35 are about those who truly understand. Verse 33:
Daniel 11:33 – And those of the people who understand – these are the people of God – shall instruct many – will teach the truth, preach the gospel – yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. Verse 34 – Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. Verse 35 – And some of those of understanding shall fall – some of God's people will fall – to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time.
The people we're reading about here now know more than simply who God is and what He's commanded. No, they have understanding. And that understanding comes from the ministry of Jesus Christ, through God's Spirit, and through conversion.
We know that ancient Israel wasn't converted. This is a different group of people being talked about now. And this is where the prophecy moves from the Old Testament period into the New Testament period. God's church in the New Testament had periods of time when it was under tremendous pressure, and even martyrdom and persecution in the last 2,000 years – and, unfortunately, from the book of Revelation, we see, at some time in the future, it will again be the case.
At the beginning of the message I said that the Feast of Dedication is, in many respects, a rebuttal of the winter solstice and those festivals. People were celebrating the solstice holiday back then, you know, it was a different version of what became, quite honestly, Christmas today and trying to force God's people, the Jews, to get involved with the orgies and everything else that was part of that observance.
Finally, the Maccabees overthrew the soldiers of Antiochus, and cleansed the temple, during the time of the pagan celebrations, during that week. And then, they declared a Feast of Dedication to God as a rebuttal. They said, if you wanted us to blend in, we're doing the opposite. The anniversary of the very day you attempted to defile the temple is now going to be our feast of rededication to the temple of God. And so, on the 25th day of the ninth month of Kislev, they established an eight-day festival of dedication. And from that point to this, is being celebrated. And, ironically, although people think of it as some kind of Jewish version of Christmas, it's in effect the opposite.
Incidentally, when the Jews celebrated this Feast of Dedication and established it, it was established to be the 25th day of the ninth month, which means it will fall on different days each year, different weeks each year. It means it's kept according to the Hebrew calendar, and it always begins on the 25th day of the ninth month on the Hebrew calendar. Therefore, it rarely ever actually coincides with Christmas today, which is kept on the Roman calendar.
There's a history book called, First and Second Maccabees. It was completed about 100 BC. And it's a story of what the Maccabees endured and them then setting up this Feast of Dedication. It's kept…oh, I was going to say, it's available in some Bibles - Catholic Bibles have Maccabees in there. I think the Church of England may have the Book of Maccabees in their version of the Bible, but we don't see this as canonical ourselves. We see it as a history – a history book – not scripture, but it was written about 100 BC, fifty or sixty years after. It would be like us writing about the Vietnam war now, or the Korean war – here's what the U.S. did in the Korean war, here's what this general did and what that general did, here's, you know, the march on, you know, Hanoi, or whatever, right? This is kind of what the Maccabees did. They wrote it all down. And it's an interesting book of history.
I'm going to read to you - now if you've got a Catholic Bible - you may have it in your Bible - I don't think most of us do, but First Maccabees chapter (it's not scripture), First Maccabees chapter one. I'm going to read verses 57 to 67. But listen to this, here's their account of what took place: On the 15th day of month, Kasleu – or Kislev – in the hundred and forty-fifth year to 145 according to the Jews – it's not exactly the same as BC as we count it today – but in the hundred and forty-fifth year, King Antiochus – so they even identify him as King Antiochus – set up the abominable idol of desolation upon the altar of God and they built altars around all the cities of Judah roundabout. And they burned incense and sacrificed the doors of the houses in the streets. They cut in pieces and burned with fire the books of the law of God. And everyone with whom the books of the testament of the Lord were found – you know, whoever would truly would trying to obey God, the true Jews – whosoever observed the law of the Lord, they put to death, according to the edict of the king. You see, so if you went along with it, your life was spared. If you're on the inside, your life was spared. But if you didn't go along with Antiochus, you were killed. Thus, by their power did they deal with the people of Israel that were found in the cities month after month. And on the 25th day of the month – which is ten days later – they sacrificed upon the altar of the idol, who's over against the altar of God. So now they had an idol altar. Now the women that circumcised their children were slain, according to the commandment of King Antiochus; they hung the children about their necks in all their houses, and those who had circumcised them, they put to death. Now, many of the people of Israel determined with themselves that they would not eat unclean things, and they chose rather to die than to be defiled with unclean meats. They would not break the holy law of God. They were put to death and there was great wrath upon the people.
It took about ten days until Antiochus got his sacrifices going. First, he put up a statue – and some historians like Solomon Grayzel, speculate that the statue looked like him – but could you imagine being a part of what I just read? If you circumcised your boy, they killed the woman who would do such a thing. Then they hung the infants from their mothers' necks.
It's reminiscent of Europe, even in the 1940s, it's the ultimate in anti-semitism. I was just reading two weeks ago on September 12 of this year, Elizabeth Wolff gave her presentation at a breakfast meeting, hosted by Faith McDonnell, at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, in Washington, D.C., and Miss Wolff (her name is Elizabeth Sabaditsch Wolff) said at the meeting that, “in the past ten years or so, anti-semitism has risen to a level not seen in Europe since the fall of the Third Reich. As you probably already know, the new Jew hatred largely originates from European Muslims, the new Swedes, the new Germans, the new Austrians, and so on.” That's the end of the quote.
So that's the account historically; people being martyred for their convictions. And we even see it rising again today. Yet, even in that martyrdom God's people really are the victors, because we understand the truth and we understand the truth of the resurrection. We're not volunteering, but if it comes to that, we have faith that we will live again, just like Job did, and others. We know that we'll be resurrected.
I'm going to jump ahead to First Maccabees, chapter 4, and read to you verses 52 through 56. And here's now where the Maccabees then rose up, this is now the Maccabees' part. The first quote was about what Antiochus did to everybody that wouldn't follow along. Here's then what the Maccabees did:
They arose before the morning on the 25th day of the ninth month – the very same day three years later, that Antiochus first started destroying the temple, which here it says – the month of Kislev in the hundred and forty-eighth year. It was the hundred and forty-fifth a minute ago. Now it's the hundred and forty-eighth year. So it's three years later. And, they offered sacrifices according to the law upon the new altar of Holocaust, which they had made. According to the time and according to the day wherein the heathens had defiled it. So on the very same day three years later, they decided to do this. And the same day was dedicated anew with canticles and harps and lutes and symbols. And all the people fell upon their faces and adored and blessed up to heaven Him that had prospered them, and they kept the dedication of the altar eight days, and they offered holocaust with joy and sacrifices of salvation and of praise.
Now, we don't know why they decided to sanctify the temple on the anniversary of the very day it was first defiled, but in doing so, they were fulfilling a prophecy. Remember the number of days was already predicted: 1150 days from the beginning of the abomination to the end. One thing we do know for certain, that year was certainly not their best Feast of Tabernacles! It was not the best Feast ever, or the best Feast yet. They had been on the run in a guerilla war for three years. So what they did at this time was a kind of a mini post-feast celebration, and it lasted eight days. They didn't build booths or live in temporary dwellings – and you certainly don't do that in December in the Middle East. It's cold out and it's the rainy season. So what they did was they kindled lights. In the time of Christ it was customary in Jerusalem, at the Feast of Tabernacles, to kindle lights and candles. And that was actually a very important part of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jesus' day. It's not commanded in the Bible, but it was a custom that had developed. You know, an FOT custom that they had. So great torches were lit. So this was one custom from the Feast of Tabernacles that the Jews thought was good to keep with this Feast of Dedication. It's too cold out to have temporary dwellings, but they decided to do the candle thing, and so it became known as the Jewish Festival of Lights, the Feast of Dedication.
And also the eight-day celebration was modeled after the dedication of the temple at the time of Hezekiah. II Chronicles 29 verse 17 we read that back then they dedicated the temple for eight days. The Maccabees would have known that, and probably said, we've got to do it for eight days too. So there's a lot of parallels here.
So, I'm going to read to you now from First Maccabees 4 verse 59. It says: And Judas, who was now known as Judas Maccabee, Judas and his brothers and all the Church of Israel decreed that the day of the dedication of the altar should be kept in its season from year to year for eight days. From the five and twentieth day of the month of Kislev, with joy and gladness.
So, Judah, the Maccabee, Judah, the Hammer, was a military commander who is now a legendary figure in the Jewish community because of his military prowess. And he was a very devout man. He and the Rabbis who were with him and their families, would not go along with the paganism. And it was a rebuttal against the paganism of the day, in particular, the observance and celebration of the sun god during the winter. And as you will see now in the coming weeks, it's a festival that remains to this day. They still do – they still do it – they still keep Hanukkah.
In the time of Christ the Jews observed the festival, and Jesus Christ Himself was there at the temple during the Feast of Dedication. It's not commanded on the Church, but it was a day that Christ thought appropriate to observe, like we keep Thanksgiving in November in America. Most of us Church members do the same.
A major lesson we can learn from the Feast of Dedication is that God's people will have the victory if they do not compromise. And sometimes it's the ultimate victory – it'll come later in your life.
We are not to be overcome by the world during this upcoming season, but we are to overcome the world. We don't get involved in the worldly celebrations that are un-Godly and un-Biblical. We have to remain a community of commandment keepers and not compromise.
And this now leads us to the end-time fulfillment of this whole subject. Matthew 24 verses 15 through 18. And here are Jesus' words on this subject. Matthew 24 verse 15. What does Jesus say in this prophecy?
Matthew 24:15 – “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet”...when you see that abomination...”standing in the holy place”...He says you'd better be under, you better be knowing what you're believing, you better understand now.
Matthew 24:16 – “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Matthew 24:17 – “let”...those...”who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of” ...their...”house.”
Matthew 24:18 – “and let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.”
Christ said this is going to be a nasty time. You'll have to flee for your life if you're one that's not compromising.
Now on this subject, we don't have all the answers, but after reading Daniel, which Christ referenced here, and the other historical documents, we have more background to understand and study here. Christ says when you see this event, you have to flee for your life. That's what happened back then. When Antiochus performed that abomination, the next step was for God's people to get out of the city, or they would be murdered. If you didn't go along with it, you were killed – you had your kids hung around your neck.
And there's coming a time again when the Church will literally have to get out of the situation, because it's going to be that dangerous. If you compromise, this end-time ruler will let you live. But if you don't compromise, your life's on the line. Christ says that's the time to get out of the city. That's the time to flee. And Verse 20:
Matthew 24:20 – “And pray” – notice this – ”that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.”
See, those who are listening to Christ would have been very aware of the history of that time. They knew exactly what He was referring to, because in Christ's time, it would have been like us remembering the Civil War. We know quite a bit about the Civil War, and what happened, and the battles that were fought in Gettysburg and other places. So in Christ's time they knew what the Maccabees did. They knew when the Abomination of Desolation was set up. They knew the history and they knew it happened in the winter time. Christ was saying, when this happens again, pray it's not in the winter time. Not a good time to be fleeing – when there's snow on the ground.
The Maccabees defended God's truth against the pagans and Jesus said this scenario is going to repeat itself. He said it could come at a very inopportune time, like on the Sabbath, and He said, they had to flee in the winter back then. You need to pray that it doesn't happen in the winter time.
We also read a parallel account in Mark chapter 13. It's very similar, but let's turn to Luke's version, because Luke adds another detail here. Because remember the four points of what Antiochus did in 168 BC? The first one was military occupation and that's the main point here of Luke 21. Luke 21 verse 20. Here's Jesus talking about this Abomination of Desolation again, He says:
Luke 21:20 – “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.”
Luke 21:21 – “Then let those who are in Judea” – if you're in the city – ”flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.”
So if you're out in the suburbs, if you're out in the rural areas, don't come into town – of course the prophecy of Jerusalem there. But it will be the same for God's people. Don't get involved. Don't go into town to see what's going on. Don't compromise. Flee these abominations – it's spiritually. So those in the rural areas are to stay away. Those who are in the city, get out. And it's preceded by a military occupation of the city, which was the first step of what Antiochus did and the prophecy about him in Daniel 11.
And lest you think, like some people do, that this is only talking about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, read the remainder of the chapter sometime, where it says, this abomination will precede the heavenly signs of the sixth seal and the return of Jesus Christ. It's an end-time warning that Christ is giving here.
Now let's go to II Thessalonians chapter 2, because here's a prophecy in Thessalonians that makes a whole lot more sense if you have all of the historical background. II Thessalonians chapter 2, and as we get closer to these events, God will give His church more understanding and we'll start to see what it all means in greater detail. We don't have to fret over it, but it does give us a good perspective of what is to come at the end of mankind's rule of this world.
II Thessalonians 2:3 – Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come –talking about the end time – unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition. And who is this man of sin? Verse 4:
II Thessalonians 2:4 – who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God – above all that is worshipped – or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God – he's the Antiochus Epiphanes, so to speak – he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Verse 5:
II Thessalonians 2:5 – Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? Verse 7:
II Thessalonians 2:7 – For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
II Thessalonians 2:8 – And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
See, it's an end-time prophecy about the time just before Christ returns. Christ will have to consume this person that sets himself up as God. Verse 9:
II Thessalonians 2:9 -The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders. You see that's where the real battle is, it's a spiritual battle. Verse 10:
II Thessalonians 2:10 - and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Right there's a warning for those who compromise. Verse 10 says, don't compromise if you want to be saved.
Paul is saying an apostasy must precede Christ's coming. And this event, which seems to be tied in with duality with the prophecies of Antiochus, in type – Antiochus opposed God and wanted to be worshipped, saying he was a god. And the Thessalonians reading this account would have probably remembered the history of Antiochus in Daniel 11 in terms of the pattern and its type. But it's going to occur again. The Romans didn't do this fully in 70 AD. Yes, Jerusalem was destroyed, but there was not a full-scale fulfillment like Daniel 11 in 70 AD – not such as will yet occur. This is an end-time prophecy in Thessalonians. In Verse 5 the apostle Paul says:
II Thessalonians 2:5 – Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
See, Paul struggled even then to keep false teachings and false practices out of the Church. Every town and city he visited he said, “When I leave, apostasy is going to creep in.” And it did. And it's continued right down through history to our time – false teachings in the Church. Paul said it's already at work – watch out - and I'm talking about Christianity in general and not God's Church. It happened in type back then in Paul's day. False religious leaders rose up and certain individuals became very powerful in the first few centuries of early Christianity – to the extent that within about 300 years, a very large counterfeit Christianity rose to prominence. And it's the largest Christian church to this day. But it's a counterfeit of the truth.
Let's turn to Revelation chapter 3 – Revelation chapter 3. And as we read a couple of verses in Revelation 3, keep in mind that those who read Revelation are expected to have already read the rest of the Bible. And therefore, if you read Revelation, you're expected to have some familiarity with the writings of Daniel, Zechariah, the Psalms, and the more recent words of Jesus Christ Himself on this subject. Many scholars believe that the Maccabees were the Philadelphians of the Old Testament – the zealous group in the congregation of Israel. They were the ones who had a little strength, but who had a zeal for God's law. And God protected them and gave them the victory. People see a parallel between the Philadelphian church in Revelation and what the Maccabees did. At the time of the Maccabees, there were people to the north who had a counterfeit religion – a combination of paganism and the Old Covenant. They were the Samaritans. But Christ's had dealings with the Samaritan woman at the well and other Samaritans. They were a mixed group of Israelites – Jews and Gentiles – and there were times, as the historian, Josephus, says, when they claimed to be Jews when it was to their advantage, but they were actually a mixed race.
In Revelation 3:12, now in a New Testament context, talking to the church at Philadelphia, which like I said, many scholars believe is anti-typical of the Maccabees, we again find people who claim to be Jews but are not. People who claim to be spiritual Jews or Christians, but are not. They may even think they are, but they aren't. And let's add one more thought here; the Maccabees were a physical people – a physical congregation of God in the Old Testament times. They were not a converted group of people, but they stood up for the truth as they knew it and they were a nation, then, who waged war – who involved themselves in diplomacy at that time in history. In fact, the Maccabees made a deal with the Roman Empire and that's one reason why they were so successful against the Greeks. The interesting thought is that the Maccabees, there in the Middle East, did the same as the unconverted Israelis of today do. They have to wage war for their very survival—in an unconverted sense. Well, the Maccabees had a problem with the Samaritans to the north in the first or second century BC. These were Samaritans who claimed to be faithfully worshipping God, but they were faking it. And they set up their own version of the temple. And they did things very differently. And they ordained their own priests. Finally, in 128 BC, the Hasmonean Dynasty – the descendants of Judah Maccabee – conquered the Samaritans and destroyed their temple to the north. And that was a type in a sense, of what God's people will ultimately do in the end time.
With Jesus Christ, we will eventually do away with false religions and establish God's true religion on this earth. We will be part of destroying all the false temples, the false religions – and that's actually the message of the millennium and the Feast of Tabernacles that we just observed. So the Maccabees did that in their own small way, destroying the false worship setup to the north that the Samaritans had. That's what Revelation 3 is dealing with. The apostle John, no doubt, knew how history and prophecy would was so intertwined in this way.
Revelation 3:9 – “Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.”
…saying, I'm going to show those people where the real truth is. And John was, no doubt, aware of the back-story of what the Hasmoneans did to the Samaritans – those who said they were Jews and were not. Revelation now shows a prophecy of the same type of thing happening again when Christ returns. Those who are the true followers, Jesus Christ tells, through the apostle John, here in this vision, the false Christians of the world will someday know that I loved you, the true people of God, and they will come and worship at your feet. In other words, the rest of the world will become converted. The rest of the world will come to know the truth, and their religious systems will be torn down. Notice verse 12 here of Revelation 3:
Revelation 3:12 – “He who overcomes” – He's talking to the church – “I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.”
See, those who overcome…no more will we have to go out. No more will we have to flee like those people did in those days. God's people had to go into survival mode back then. That will be no more. Jesus Christ will be ruling and the people of God will be permanent pillars in the temple. They won't have to flee and get out of there.
Here's a final scripture to conclude in Revelation 5 verse 10 – Revelation 5 and verse 10. There's actually another parallel to this whole story. The Hasmoneans – you know, those that came from the Maccabees – were a family of priests who took over political rulership as kings, because it was necessary at the time. It wasn't the best setup for the priests to also be the kings and the princes, but they didn't have much choice. There was not much else they could do after surviving the guerilla war. They were waiting for the anointed King of God, who would come – the Messiah – and He would then become their King and their Priest. But until that time, they took upon themselves to be both kings and priests. Unfortunately, when Jesus Christ did come, they didn't recognize Him. They didn't accept Him. You know how that story goes as far as the Jews are concerned. We read in prophecy that they will here in the future.
But the Hasmoneans did the best they could as kings and priests in Palestine. But the Hasmonean Dynasty finally crumbled. The nation descended into civil war. So then, the Romans intervened and took advantage of that by conquering the area. And when Jesus came to the earth the Jews were now a subjugated people under the thumb of the Roman Empire. So the Hasmoneans actually finally disappeared, but they attempted this king- and priest-type rulership.
But God's church is not going to crumble. God's church is not going to disappear like the Hasmoneans did. God's church is going to endure, and look what becomes of it in Revelation 5 verse 10:
Revelation 5:10 – And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth. Psalm 149 verse 9 says:
Psalm 149:9 - ...This honor have all the.saints.
Psalm 149 is about the Kingdom of God and the role the saints have to play in it. Psalm 149 verse 9 says:
Psalm 149:9 - This honor have all the saints. Praise the Lord!
And I pray that this study of the Maccabees and the abomination of desolation, along with its prophetic significance, will encourage you to remain faithful in the days ahead, especially if you happen to live through the end-time fulfillment of these events. Don't compromise. Be a spiritual Maccabee. Stand up for the truth, no matter what. Because if so, you will then have the honor given to the saints of being spiritual kings and priests to our God, and reigning with Christ on this earth.