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Hanukkah Harbinger: When the Light of the World Goes Out

It's official. Christmas is in full-swing here in America. Yes, our shopping malls are full of the trappings of materialism, but at least you can still find a church or two with a nativity scene, a pastor proclaiming the gospel, and people singing songs of Christ's advent. Ironically, with Christendom's extreme focus on the Incarnation this time of year, songs such as "Joy to the World" have taken on new meaning: The hymn writer's original intent behind verses like "Let earth receive her King" was the Second Coming, but I digress...

Christmas is a season of joy, hope, and gathering together. It's also a season when Jewish communities across the world remember God's faithfulness during a time of great distress. When darkness descended upon Jerusalem in the late 2nd-century B.C., the LORD granted Israel yet another victory against all odds and capped it off with an eight-day miracle (according to Jewish tradition: see "The Miracle").

This legend of the oil burning for eight days in a re-dedicated temple is forever etched into the public consciousness of the Jewish people. It is a reminder that when all hope seems lost, there is always the light of God's covenant promises to His people, even if only a remnant should survive the fires of judgment (c.f. Isa. 1:9; 6:11-13; Zech. 13:9). 

The original Hanukkah is also a harbinger of an even greater time of distress for Jacob (Jer. 30:7; Matt. 24:21-22)—a time that is fast approaching and near upon us. The ruthless "king of the North," Antiochus IV, is a textbook prototype of the coming Antichrist, right down to his self-deification and desecration of the temple in Jerusalem (c.f. Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:5-7, 13-14). This ancient Greco-Syrian tyrant provides us with a template for the future "abomination of desolation" spoken of by the prophet Daniel and reiterated by the Lord Jesus (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15).

In addition to the inter-testimental works of 1 and 2 Maccabees, the Jewish historian, Josephus, writing in the late 1st-century AD, records key details about the re-dedication of the temple in 164 BC [Hanukkah], including how long the daily sacrifices had ceased:

He [Antiochus IV] also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months" (The Wars of the Jews, 1.1.1., source: Perseus Digital Library).

The citation above is a remarkable confirmation of the veracity of Scripture. Daniel 9:27 reveals the "abomination of desolation" as the key event which divides the future 70th week into two periods of three years and six months. This is also the period of duration that the apostle John emphasizes in the book of Revelation (Rev. 11:3; 12:6).

Josephus himself also highlights how Antiochus' act of desolation fulfills biblical prophecy:

And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given four hundred and eight years before; for he declared that the Macedonians would dissolve that worship..." (Antiquities of the Jews, 12.7.6, source).

Echoing Greg in an earlier post here at Unsealed (here), if you want to dig deeper into the Antiochus/Antichrist connection, see Thomas Constable's commentary on these specific prophecies in the book of Daniel (here). My aim in this post will be to cover the major Hanukkah-themes of light in darkness, the desolation/judgment of Jerusalem, and restoration of true worship when Christ, the Light of the World, returns at the end of the age.

Before we turn our attention to John's gospel, there is another quote from Josephus that will help explain the origin of the prominent theme of "light" during Hanukkah. It's interesting that Josephus does not mention the miracle of oil; instead, he provides another reason as to why Hanukkah is also called "The Festival of Lights." He writes:

...they [the Jews] were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission [three and half years], they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival" (Antiquities of the Jews, 12.7.7., source).

Josephus affirms why subsequent generations of Jews celebrate Hanukkah, especially during the long years of exile: When the light of the nation looks like it is about to be snuffed out, Israel must remember God's merciful acts of deliverance throughout her past. Ultimately, she must realize that the lampstand [menorah] in the temple is a shadow representing the true Light that has already come into the world and is coming again.

Today, Israel's darkest hour looms before us. This year we've already seen the great sign of Revelation 12:1-2 fulfilled in the sky overhead; a sure-fire sign indicating the extreme nearness of the 70th week. Jerusalem has also filled the headlines yet again with Trump's announcement back on December 6th. We are nearing the end of Fall and the start of winter (Dec. 21)—always the darkest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

As the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah 2017 comes to a close and winter commences, there is a verse that has been standing out to me lately:

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5, HCSB).

The Son of God incarnate said these words when he was physically present in the land of Israel. However, I believe this verse also profoundly speaks of a time when Christ, the light of the world, will depart from the earth a second time. Though present now on earth in His body, the Church, there will come a time when the light of this world will go out again (2 Thess. 2:7; Rev. 3:10; 12:5). At a turning point in John's gospel, Jesus, the true light [YHWH's shekinah glory - Jn. 1:14], departs and Jerusalem falls under God's judgment.

Prophetically speaking, this pattern will repeat when the Church is removed and Jacob's trouble begins. Could John 10:22 be a subtle clue revealing the timeframe of the Church's departure? The inspired authors of Scripture were often unaware of the full implications of what they were prophesying, and this could be another example and an intriguing possibility (c.f. 1 Pet. 1:10-12).

In preview, here's the Hanukkah Harbinger: The final judgment of Jerusalem will begin when the light of the world departs again...


John's Inclusion of Hanukkah in Jesus' Public Ministry: Incidental Detail, or Major Clue?

Some may approach John 10:22 rather glibly and assume its only there as an incidental time-marker that moves the narrative along. Having larger theological fish to fry, they may gloss over this verse and never think of it again. After all, what does Hanukkah have to do with Christianity anyway?

Well, if you're like me and you assume that every single inspired word of God is important and integral to the whole, then how about taking a different approach?

For discerning eyes and ears, there are several highlights in the surrounding context that further illuminate the only explicit mention of Hanukkah in the New Testament. Also, the setting of chapter 10 is especially meaningful in light of what Jesus has been saying and doing during His public ministry to Israel.

Notice how many times the apostle John refers to Jesus as the light of the world in the first half of the book; for example: Jn. 1:4-5, 9; 3:19-21; 8:12; 9:5; 11:9-10; 12:35-36, 46, etc. The contrast is clear then: You either believe in Jesus [who is the light/life] and become a child of light (Jn. 12:36), or you don't believe [which is darkness/death] and remain in darkness and under judgment (Jn. 3:19; 12:35).

Before we arrive at chapter 10, we discover that Jesus has been speaking to the same group of people, the Jewish religious leaders, who remain in darkness because of their unbelief (Jn. 8:3, 12-13; 9:40-41). They've had ample opportunity to respond in faith, and Jesus has been clear about his identity despite their claims to the contrary. It reaches a climactic point during Hanukkah, when they encircle the King [Grk. kuklo] and confront him with a question chock-full of irony:

Then the Jews surrounded [kuklo] Him and asked, 'How long are You going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly" (Jn. 10:24, HCSB).

Most English versions translate the Jewish leaders' question as a paraphrase rather than what is literally written in the Greek. Check your footnotes, because their question is written as, "How long will you take away our life?" Wow. And this coming from the mouth of those who are plotting to take away the life of true Messiah (Jn. 10:31). The Jewish leaders of Jerusalem are seeking to snuff out the light of the world, who is ironically their only hope of national and spiritual survival...on the Festival of Lights, no less!

Who is the force behind this irrational hatred of the Messiah? Jesus told them plainly not too long ago that their father is the Devil, the blood-thirsty dragon of old (Jn. 8:38, 44; c.f. Rev. 12:9).

I made note of the Greek word kuklo in John 10:24, because I saw yet another fitting twist of irony; namely, the antagonists encircling the King in Jerusalem would get one last opportunity to be in the King's court. Their brief reign in Jerusalem was going to come to an end, much like their father's reign will come to an abrupt end. Furthermore, the current ruling class of fallen angels will be soon replaced with a new heavenly council who will encircle and surround the risen King (Ps. 82:6-7; Rev. 4:4; 12:5, 7-9).

This future redeemed heavenly council from all the nations of men [a.k.a. the Church], Jesus also affectionately refers to as "His sheep" (Jn. 10:3-5, 27-29). There are subtle hints in John's gospel of a major shift from national Israel to a new body of believers. For example:

1. John 1:11-13, "He came to His own, and His own people [Israel] did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to become children of God..."

2. John 10:16, "...I have other sheep that are not of this fold [Israel]; I must bring them in also..."

3. John 11:51-52, "...he [Caiaphas] prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation [Israel], and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God."

Chapters 10–11 mark the significant shift from Jesus' public ministry to His private ministry, when He prepares the apostles for their upcoming role in building up a new body of believers, the aforementioned "scattered children of God" who will be united. This is a similar transition that is also found in Matthew's gospel (see chapters 12–13).

Is it really a happy accident that the Greek verb harpazo is used three times in chapter 10? It's only found a total of 17 times in the New Testament (see here), and in two other instances, the context is the sudden snatching away of the Church (1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 12:5).

Like many of you, I just find it very intriguing that John would use this particular verb in 10:12, 28, and 29. And when does Jesus tell the religious leaders that the enemy wouldn't be seizing any of His sheep, but rather He and His father would do the seizing? On Hanukkah, in the wintertime, and during the last major festival of the year.


Judgment on Jerusalem after the Light Departs

Hanukkah in John's gospel becomes the richly layered backdrop for Jesus' comforting words to His sheep—those whom He will call by name and lead out (Jn. 10:3; 11:43). However, His words are also a condemnation for those who are not His sheep (Jn. 10:26).

After the failure of the religious leaders of Israel to respond in faith at Hanukkah, the true light then departs from the temple in Jerusalem "to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and He remained there." (Jn. 10:40). W. Hall Harris III, one of my Greek profs at DTS, comments on this turning point:

The author of the Gospel goes to some length to describe the location as the same one where John was baptizing at the first. These verses deliberately form an inclusion with the opening scene of Jesus' ministry in 1:19-29" ("Exegetical Commentary on John 10," source: NET Bible online series).

Again, a momentous shift is emphasized in chapter 10. That's it for Jerusalem until the final judgment at the end of the age (not merely AD 70). The Light of the world will return, but He will not find a populated nation in joyous celebration. He will come to a purged and refined remnant, lead them back into the promised land, and liberate Jerusalem from the heavy yoke of the Gentiles (c.f. Lk. 21:24; Rev. 11:2, 8, 13).

After the darkness and judgment of the 70th week, there will be another layer of rich tradition added to Hanukkah for the generations born into the Millennium. And at the same time, Isaac Watt's "Joy to the World" can go back to having its original meaning as well ;)

Now, I don't know if the Church will be leaving before 2017 concludes, but after this brief study, I am convinced again of the necessity for the light to depart before judgment begins on the house of Israel. It's a biblical principle I've covered at length in many previous articles here at Unsealed (e.g. "Passing the Torch" and "Birthday Break-away").

As we look around at all the bright lights this season, let's remember the true Light. Let's remember that we are called "children of light," and keep shining bright in this dark world until He calls us by name and leads us out.

Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas!




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36 comments :

  1. Wonderful, enlightening, and encouraging! Jupiter enters the altar/throne of God (Libra) just as Christmas Eve transitions to Christmas Day, btw, just a few short days after Hanukkah.

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    1. I've been wondering about Jupiter entering Libra on the 24th / 25th
      That would seem pretty symbolic since Jupiter represents the body of Christ or the male child from the sign entering the throne room of God
      Maranatha

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    2. Venus the morning star also conjucts with Satan himself, Saturn, on the 25th. It is time to wake up those who Has been called. Bless you all.

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  2. Thank you for this post! Grace and Shalom Peace be multiplied to you!
    Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

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  3. Good stuff Jeff. Thanks and Merry Christmas to you as well!

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  4. Excellent insights!! I thoroughly enjoyed. It has also running through my mind this past week how interesting it would be to be raptured after the last menorah candle's light goes out. Just a neat thing to speculate. Heard anything about the U.N. calling an emergency meeting this Thursday, the 21st? Thus happens to be the Winter Solstice date. Maybe we'll be hearing "peace and safety"? This is to take place to symbolically disregard the United States veto action that took place yesterday.I've also been hearing thoughts on the last day of Hanukkah truly being on the 21st, according to the moon. Blessings!

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    1. Wow, so much going on. Thanks for sharing.

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    2. From NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/21/572565091/u-n-votes-overwhelmingly-to-condemn-trumps-jerusalem-decision

      There are no teeth behind this vote, unlike a vote in the Security Council. Unless it's the teeth of the US checkbook. Those that voted for this could miss out on their next million dollar paycheck from 'Merica.

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  5. ... and 12/21 marking the 'midnight hour' of the year, as well, hmmm. Wonderful article bringing together a lot of the recent buzz surrounding this exchange among Solomon's Columns. Well done, thank you. Maranatha!

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    1. Thanks, Jimboni! Love that phrase "this exchange among Solomon's Columns." Nice!

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  6. Thank you Jeff. Very informative and enjoyable article. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

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    1. I appreciate it. Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah to you!

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  7. Great job, Jeff. May He come for us soon. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

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  8. Excellent, Jeff. Thank you for this powerful study.

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  9. Beautiful, beautiful work and what an encouraging Word! Blessings - Sherry

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  10. Hi Jeff,

    Thankyou for your thoughts on John.

    I want to point something curious in John's testimony. It Will take courage to face it. The curious thing i refer to is the capturing of 153 fish. It is curious because 450 years earlier Pythagoras became famous for calculating a catch of 153 fish by way of his theorem of displacement. John gives us a clue to understand the meaning of 666. You see Jeff 153 is the sum of a minor pythagorean triangle and 666 is the sum of another.
    Traditionally until modern times there was a n understanding that there was a link between the Gospel of John and the Revelations. We are told these days these two works are by different hands but what if authorship was never the link intended...what if the link was always the use of two pythagorean numbers ?
    666 therefore means triangle. As aredoes 153.
    What mans name means triangle, a horn, and the evidence of murder Jeff.? Surely that mans name would be Gore. And is not his schtick that no man may buy or sell save he who hath the signifier of all reforms.? No none Jeff Will be able to buy or sell except by way of a currency based on carbon (not gold) because carbon is the mark of every beast.
    But Jeff what of it on forehead and right hand.? Does that hark back to the old prophet declaring he will write his name on his forehead and right hand so that every thought and every deed is in obeisance to God.? Is that not what is coming Jeff.? A carbon currencies world.? A carbon based religion.! A carbon based value system.?

    Mark my words Jeff the carbon dollar is coming and every deed and thought will be directed to its purposes.

    I will write again.

    :)

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  11. Very good article Jeff. Your comment "After the failure of the religious leaders of Israel to respond in faith at Hanukkah, the true light then departs from the temple in Jerusalem to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and He remained there." was of interest, as it was the place where Jesus 'received the holy spirit' in the form of a dove. The beginning of the journey for the church (so to speak) was the receipt of the holy spirit, not at pentecost, but at the baptism of Jesus. As Christ received the Spirit of God (down from heaven) at the beginning of his blessed ministry of our grace period, the removal of the holy spirit (in the form of the 'restrainer'..back up to heaven) will be the completion of it.

    Ryan

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    1. Thank you, Ryan. Yes, great additional point about Jesus returning to the place where the Holy Spirit descended upon Him.

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  12. "Well, if you're like me and you assume that every single inspired word of God is important and integral to the whole..."

    I *do* try to be like you, because I know that's the only way to approach Scripture--and the only approach that uncovers worthwhile insights like these.

    Good work, Jeff. =:)

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  13. Wow, somebody got banned just as I was posting that, and for a second I thought it was me! =8O

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    1. Lol. We're getting trigger happy over here! Watch out! ;)

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  14. Thank you dear brother Jeff for this true "meat" to further chew on (if we're not raptured before...)! We discussed this John 10:22 topic as well on rev12daily recently.

    You made an interesting discovery on the John 10:12 use of 'harpazo' which I wasn't aware of yet. So I then looked up the original word for "scatter" [them, the sheep] too. Now this is interesting: The Greek word is 'SCORPIZO' (G4650) which comes from the idea to 'pierce' them and make them cause to flee (like from a scorpion sting). Ring a bell? Revelation 9:5 = persecution of tribulation saints that do not take the MARK of the beast! (G4651 scorpios) Blessings, brother - seeya soon with Christ, MARANATHA!

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    1. Awesome, Annabel. Now there's a strong Greek word with a nice ring (or 'sting') to it like 'harpazo' — SCORPIZO!

      Blessings to you, sister! Maranatha!

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  15. What an encouraging article - all of the comments as well! Thank you so much!

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  16. Does the menorah always have 9 candles? I thought it had 7.

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    1. Dear Barb, there is a difference between the 7fold Menorah and the 9fold (8+1) "Chanukkiah" lampstand. A Menorah is never lit at home, only in the temple. A Chanukkiah is only lit at Hannukah. Blessings! :)

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  17. Just a quick note, month 9 started a day late so in fact Hanukkah day eight is 21-22 so we've just entered the seventh day now. The Torah calendar is off, maybe I'm wrong but surely God goes by His new moon sightings? So I wouldn't write off Hanukkah for a rapture just yet. Also 21st there is a UN meeting to divide Israel...I just so want the rapture to happen already!

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  18. Dear Jeff my brother, I just wanted to add some thoughts on John 10:40 which I have pondered in the meantime. I think it may also have some connection to the disciples of John in Acts 19:2-4 and the tribulation gospel of Revelation 14:6-12 . It might be an allusion to the days "without baptism in the Spirit" but by being saved through repentance and works again (before the church age). Thoughts anyone?

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