We’ve spent the last couple of programs learning about Hanukkah, also known as the Feast of Dedication and the Festival of Lights. It’s a celebration mentioned in John 10.
We learned that after the Jews returned to Israel after the Babylonian exile, that the temple was rebuilt in a humble fashion, but later on it was completely rebuilt by Herod the Great in a truly splendid manner. Both temples were dedicated when they were complete, one in the Autumn and one in the Spring, however, the Feast of Dedication mentioned in John 10 took place in the winter, so it’s referring to another temple dedication.
We learned that the dedication mentioned in John 10 was regarding the rededication of the Temple after the Maccabean Revolt in 164 BC, on the 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. The rededication was a result of Antiochus Epiphanes, ruler of the Seleucid Empire, defiling the Temple after slaughtering a pig on the altar and placing a statue to Zeus in the Holy of Holies. This revolting act was the final straw for the Jews, who were suffering terribly at the hands of this madman, they fought for 3 years and finally won. When they did, they set out cleaning up the Temple and rededicating it to the Lord. However, the lighting of the 7 branched menorah required specially prepared olive oil – a week-long process to make – and they only had one day’s worth of oil. The miracle of Hanukkah, is that one day’s portion of oil, lasted a full 8 days until the next batch of oil was ready. The menorah burned brightly, providing light for the Temple, that’s why this celebration is also known as the Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah is also pointing toward the future as well and it’s also very important to all of us.
The Jewish people had been celebrating the Feast of Dedication for more than 180 years when it was mentioned in John and they knew exactly what it was all about and what led up to the rededication; they knew who Antiochus Epiphanes was and the vile cruelty he’d meted out on their forebears and the blasphemy he’d committed in their Temple. So when Jesus was asked by His disciples in Matthew 24 what signs would take place before His return, amongst other things He said this to them:
Matthew 24:14-15, “This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore, when you see the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ which was spoken of through Daniel the Prophet, standing in the Holy Place let the reader understand…”
Understand that an event that had taken place in their past history that they knew about very, very well and that they remembered annually in a special festival holiday, would happen again at the end of all things just prior to His return. The ‘Abomination of Desolation’ was a description given for the placement of a blasphemous false god installed in the Holy Place in the Temple of God. That lets us know that there will be another Temple built in Jerusalem at some point in the future, and that another despotic dictator akin to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, will desecrate it in the same way.
We also know that Jesus wasn’t saying that Herod’s Temple would be the temple to be defiled, because He prophesied that Herod’s Temple would be destroyed without one stone being left upon another, by invading armies that would lay siege to Jerusalem and that’s exactly what happened in 70 AD by Titus Vespasian. So Jesus was in fact prophesying that yet another temple…the third Temple, would be built at a time yet future, shortly before His return, and that it would be desecrated in the same way the first one was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes. (Luke 21, Mar 13, Matt 24)
When will this take place? We have no idea and today the Temple Mount is the most contentiously fought over piece of real estate on planet earth, but since we know God’s Word has never and will never fail, we simply watch and wait while recognising that we are 2000 years closer to this coming to pass.
The Temple Institute in Israel, located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, has already produced all the necessary furniture for the next Temple as well as all the vessels, clothing and instruments required for worship and most recently, they’ve begun production of the olive oil necessary for lighting the Menorah. The crowns and garments of the priests and the High Priest, including the Breastplate, are ready and training of priests is already underway.
Only God knows when these things will take place and our confidence is not in a temple or a building or in the production of olive oil, rather it’s in God’s Word that we place our confidence. God’s Word is the final authority not only on our lives but over history past, history present and history future.
Sometimes Christians get caught up in debates about whether or not another Temple is even necessary, but that’s not where our focus should be. Jesus Himself told us that there would be another Temple and it will be desecrated. That’s not what we focus on, we focus on His imminent return and hold tenaciously to His unfailing Word and to the fact that it will never, ever fail.
He is the Light of the World, and even though Hanukkah is not a mandatory feast, it still points to Jesus. In fact Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me won’t walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12) As the world gets darker and we see future events drawing closer and becoming every day events, we need to ensure we have the ‘Light of life’ living in and guiding us.