Tonight we light the second candle of Hanukkah. It is also Christmas Day today. Merry Christmas! Let us learn more about the Hanukkah-Christmas connection. Hanukkah has great historical and spiritual importance, but its prophetic importance is even greater. Daniel’s prophecy was not only fulfilled in the days of Antiochus Ephiphanes and the Maccabees. It also has a future fulfillment. It points to events preceding the second coming of the Messiah. Jesus said, “When you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11) - let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains... Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened... all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:15, 29, 30). Part of Jesus' prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome. The Jewish believers in Jesus, about 60,000, fled to Pella in the Judean mountains. They heeded Jesus' admonition, and they were saved. Prophecies in the Bible can have multi-level fulfillments. This prophecy in Matthew 24 has many elements that clearly indicate the end times and are yet to be fulfilled.
“The abomination that causes desolation” that Daniel originally referred to was the statue of Zeus that Antiochus Ephiphanes placed in the temple, demanding that the people worship it. However, at the time Jesus quoted Daniel, he was referring to the anti-Christ that is to come, of which Antiochus was a type. Most of the Jews under Antiochus’ rule committed apostasy, forsaking the true God and worshiping idols. Only a remnant resisted this evil ruler, but God brought deliverance through them for the nation of Israel. As mentioned in Part One, these valiant warriors are referred to in Hebrews 11:36-40 - “persecuted and mistreated - the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”
Jesus warned of a similar time of apostasy in the future: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:9-13).
A revival like the world has never known will come forth out of these future troubled times. Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). The very next statement (vs. 15) is the warning about the “abomination of desolation” (anti-Christ) standing in the temple. Evidently, world-wide revival will be the grace of God poured out prior to the revealing of the anti-Christ.
Paul adds his warning about the “abomination of desolation” in the temple, saying, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion (apostasy) occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (II Thess. 2:3-4).
The historical events that Hanukkah pictures indeed have meaning for the Christian today. That troubled time when God’s people were persecuted is a foreshadowing of the persecution of God’s people to come. In the days of the Maccabees, God wrought a mighty deliverance through a small band of faithful Jews. The temple was regained and dedicated, and the true worship of God was revived. As Christians celebrate Christmas, the first coming of the Messiah, may they also celebrate Hanukkah and prepare for the testing of their faith prior to the second coming of the Messiah, when their faith will be rewarded. There is a connection between Christmas and Hanukkah.
1. From Bondage to Freedom (A Survey of Jewish History from the Babylonian Captivity to the Coming of the Messiah) by Daniel Fuchs and Harold A. Sevener (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1995 by Chosen People Ministries).
2. The Feasts of the Lord by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal (Orlando: Zion's Hope, Inc., 1997), pp. 163-164.