(Dan 11:31-32) And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary . . . then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. 32 . . . but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. (John 10:22)
When I was a boy I remember riding my bike with my friend Levi. I was talking about how excited I was because Christmas was coming and all the presents I was going to receive. He said that he was going to celebrate Hanukkah and that he was going to open up gifts every day for eight days. I thought that was so cool! Later in life I would learn the significance of this special holiday for the Jews and the connection it has with the coming Messiah.
Hanukkah (meaning “dedication”) celebrates two miracles: a) The 2nd century BC victory of a small, greatly outnumbered and out-armed army of Jews, known as the “Maccabees,” over the powerful Greek army that occupied the Holy Land. The rebellion was in response to an attempt to force their godless Greek lifestyle on the Jewish inhabitants of Israel and the defiling of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes. b) When the Maccabees liberated the Temple from the hands of the Greek aggressors, they found only a small cruse of pure and undefiled olive oil fit for fueling the Menorah. The problem was, it was sufficient to light the Menorah only for one day, and it would take eight days to produce new pure oil. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days and nights. (The story is recorded in the apocryphal books of First and Second Maccabees.)
Hanukkah is observed by the kindling of the lights of the nine-branched Menorah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. It is traditional to eat foods fried in oil (latkes) commemorating the miracle which occurred with oil. There are also certain passages that are added to the daily prayers and grace after meals. It is also customary to give small gifts to children, and to play dreidel games.
Hanukkah speaks prophetically of what will happen in the future. Jesus spoke of the coming abomination of desolation during the middle of the Tribulation where the image of Antichrist will be placed in the rebuilt Jewish temple. The Jews will flee Jerusalem under this persecution to the wilderness where God will protect them. Then towards the end of the Tribulation the Jews will turn to the Lord after the ministry of the two witnesses and the outreach of the 144,000. The Jews will see Jesus coming and mourn that they did not accept Him in His first coming. Paul would state that all Israel would turn to the Lord be saved and the Jews would then enter Messiah’s kingdom on earth. (Mat 24:15-22; Rev 13:11-15; 12:13-17; 11:1-13; 7:1-8; Zech 12:10; Rom 11:26; Isa 11:1-9).
Don’t forget to wish your Jewish friends Happy Hanukkah and remind them that Jesus is coming soon and to dedicate their lives to the Lord now and so be a light to the entire world!