“I am the light of the world”
CHANUKKAH: It’s Prophetic Implications
The Light Was Here
The Jewish holiday of Chanukkah originated in the year 165 B.C. It commemorates the victorious struggle of the Jewish people against Syrian oppression for national survival and religious freedom. In its inception, the holiday focus was on the cleansing and rededication of the Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem which had been desecrated by the soldiers of Antiochus Epiphanes in his unsuccessful attempt to supplant the worship of Jehovah with the worship of his god and thereby assimilate the Jewish people into Syria. About two hundred years later, shortly after the life of Christ, the focal point of Chanukkah changed from rededication of the Temple to an emphasis on light at the Temple. And the holiday itself became known, in the words of Josephus Flavius, as the “festival of lights.”
The Talmud suggests that this change of emphasis was a result of a single flask of oil, bearing the seal of the high priest, which was found at the Temple. The oil should have given light for one day but miraculously lasted eight days, making possible the cleansing of the Temple. Almost certainly this story concerning the flask of oil was invented by men who wanted to explain away the real reason why “light” supplanted “dedication” as the central and dominant theme of the holiday. What then was the real reason?
In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, it is recorded that Jesus forgave a woman who was caught in adultery – in the very act. He challenged her accusers, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7). Jesus had stooped down and written in the sand. Doubtless it was something that indicated He knew all their secret sins. The men withdrew from the eldest to the youngest. And Jesus reminded all men everywhere, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12). In chapter 9, a blind man was brought to Jesus – he was born blind. Jesus healed the man and then instructed His contemporaries, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn. 9:5). In the eleventh chapter, Jesus was informed that Lazarus, his beloved friend, was dead – his body was decaying. Jesus, who is Himself the resurrection and the life, stood before the tomb and commanded, “Lazarus, come forth”’ (Jn. 11:43). And he did. This raising of the dead followed the Lord’s statement, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night he stumbleth, because there is no light in him” (Jn. 11:9-10).
Clearly, the divinely intended motif of John chapters 8, 9 and 11 revolves around light: In John chapter 8, a woman caught in adultery – the very act – having her sin forgiven; in John chapter 9, a blind man – born blind – having his sight restored; in John chapter 11, a dead man – his body decaying – raised to life. Power over sin: an adulteress is forgiven. Power over physical infirmity: a blind man is given sight. Power over death itself: a dead man is raised. And all of this through the One who is the light of the world.
The context of these mighty miracles is paramount. “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of dedication [Chanukkah], and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch” (Jn. 10:22-23). The month was December; the city was Jerusalem; the place was the Temple; the occasion was Chanukkah. The Jewish leadership inquired of Jesus, “How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ [Messiah], tell us plainly” (Jn. 10:24). Never was a question more inappropriate. He had recently forgiven sin and restored sight, and He would soon raise the dead. No wonder He responded, “. . . the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me” (Jn. 10:25). The evidence was overwhelming, conclusive, irrefutable. But the blind leadership, in the darkness of sin, did not believe because they were not His sheep (Jn. 10:26). But “many [other Jews] believed on him there” (Jn. 10:42). It was this latter group of believing Jews who, understanding that Jesus was the light of the world and that He uniquely manifested that light through miracles in the context of Chanukkah, changed the focal point of the holiday from “rededication,” as it had been observed for almost 200 years, to the “festival of lights.” And because Christmas patterned Chanukkah, the same date was chosen (Kislev 25th – December 25th), and light became the dominant theme in portraying the incarnation of the One who is the light of the world.
The Light Is Coming Again
Jesus was nearing the end of His earthly life. The die was cast. It had been decided in eternity past. He was, in divine sovereignty, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). But now unregenerate men were fulfilling their part. Human responsibility was coming into play. The Jewish leadership, because of its own corrupt practices, had rejected the Lord’s unassailable messianic claim. As a result, Calvary was now imminent.
Had the nation repented of its sin, had it rightly seen in the face of Jesus the One of whom Moses and the prophets wrote – then the glory of God would have returned to the Temple. The divine presence and blessing would have been theirs, but it was not to be. There was no repentance. National sin, which had driven the glory of God from the Temple in the days immediately prior to the Babylonian captivity (Ezek. 9-11), was still present (Mt. 21). Nothing had changed. As a result, Jesus declared, “Behold, your house [Temple] is left unto you desolate [they had a Temple built as a house for their God, but He would not live in the midst of a sinful nation]. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt 23:38-39).
His disciples were crushed. They had followed Him for three years. They thought He was going to restore the throne and kingdom of David. But now a chasm existed between Jesus and the Jewish leadership.The nation would not see Him until it repented of its sin. That will await a future day and the national declaration, “. . . Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 23:39b).
Since Jesus was leaving, the disciples had a pressing question: “. . . what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3). And in one quick statement of response, the Lord conjured up all of the historical events surrounding Chanukkah; for what had occurred on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev in 168 B.C. is the essential ingredient and only precedent for understanding the Lord’s response. He said, “When ye, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand[ing] in the holy place (whosoever readeth, let him understand)” (Mt 24:15). Daniel the prophet referred to the abomination that made the Temple desolate when, under Antiochus Epiphanes, the altar was polluted by the killing of a pig, the Jewish sacrifices were taken away, and in their place a statue of the pagan deity Zeus Olympius was introduced into the holy of holies (Dan. 8:11-14, 21-35). History records that a bloodbath followed. As many as 80,000 Jews who refused to worship this heathen image were slain. These events occurred under Greece, the third great empire referred to in Daniel chapters 2 and 7.
This past historical event allows understanding of the future abomination of the Temple under Rome, the fourth and final world power during the times of the Gentiles. Daniel refers to the still-future event in chapter 9, verse 27. It is this future abomination of the Temple which the Lord Jesus identifies as the sign of the end of the age (Mt. 24:15).
The Antichrist, ruler of a western ten-nation confederation (the revived Roman Empire), will have a statue of himself placed in the rebuilt Temple on Mount Moriah at Jerusalem (cp. 2 Th. 2:3-12 and Rev. 13:11-18). His purpose will be the same as that of Antiochus Epiphanes – assimilation through religion to strengthen and unify his empire. It will be the ultimate religion, humanism – the deification of man by men – thus, the Antichrist will erect an image of himself, the image of a man. Humanism can be traced all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Satan, the father of lies, said to Adam and Eve,”. . . in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). It is the same lie that Paul had in mind when, writing to the church at Thessalonica, he said, “. . . God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” (2 Th. 2:11) – that man is God. Once again, as in the days of Antiochus, a remnant of Jews will not bow to any deity other than Jehovah. Many will flee the Antichrist, and some will be martyred (Mt 24:16-22; Rev. 12:6, 13-17).
To sum up succinctly, King Solomon built a Temple (house) for the God of Israel to dwell in, and God was pleased to take up residence within (2 Ki. 8:10-11; 2 Chr. 5:14). Because of grievous, ongoing, unprecedented sin, the glory of God left that house prior to the Babylonian captivity (Ezek. 11). The children of Israel returned from Babylon and rebuilt the Temple – later it was expanded and beautified under Herod. But nowhere in the Bible is it ever recorded that the glory returned to the Temple. On Palm Sunday (Mt. 21), Jesus descended the Mount of Olives, crossed the Kidron Valley, climbed Mount Moriah, entered the city through the Eastern Gate and made His way to the Temple. In relationship to the Father, Jesus was “. . . the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. . .” (Heb. 1:3). That is, He was equal with the Father in glory. And had Israel repented of her sin, the glory of God would have filled that house on that Palm Sunday. That’s why Jesus said concerning that day, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hidden from thine eyes . . . because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Lk. 19:42, 44). Repentance of sin by the nation had not occurred, as evidenced by the “money-changers, and . . . them that sold doves” (Mt. 21:12). So Jesus was leaving, and the nation would not see Him again until it was ready to say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Well, what will be the sign of the end of the age? Antiochus prefigured exactly what Antichrist will do and gave the precedent to understand the sign of the end of the age. False glory – the glory of man empowered by Satan – will inhabit the house built for God’s glory. That is the abomination of desolation. God has decreed, “. . . my glory will I not give to another. . .” (Isa. 42:8), and when man tries to usurp God’s glory, an unprecedented time of great Tribulation will begin (Mt 24:21). But the disciples also asked, “. . . what shall be the sign of thy coming?” (Mt. 24:3). The sign of the end of the age is a false glory in the house built for God’s glory. The sign of Christ’s return will be when the true glory (deity) returns to dwell in God’s house. Hear the Lord himself, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Mt 24:30).
Child of God, rejoice.
The Light Is Coming Again.