Alexander conquered the world. But he was not only a general; he was a zealous and brilliant apostle of a new religion, Hellenism. He was completely convinced that the Greek religion, Greek philosophy, and Greek culture were the only way of life. He was the "Apostle Paul" of Hellenism. Alexander died, but his religion still florishes today.
Ancient Israel was a frontier province between Europe, Asia, and Africa. On its Maritime Plain the armies of the nations maneuvered. In its hills and mountains, a people lived who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hellenism and Judaism had to meet head on. Hanukkah is the story of that struggle and confrontation.
We have noted with what intricate detail Daniel, chapter 13, describes Alexander and his kingdom. That detail continues throughout the chapter as the prophet notes the course of history until finally, a century and half later, a wicked despot is described as "a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty" (Daniel 11:21).
This contemptible person was Antiochus Epiphanes. Much of the same "prophetic history" in Daniel 11 is also forecast in Daniel 8:11-14, describing him as follows:
When Antiochus was crowned king, the high priest was Onias III, the leader of the old Orthodox party in Judea. The head of the Hellenist party was Onias's brother, Jason. Jason promised Antiochus huge amounts of money to purchase the office of high priest. he said he would then erect a temple to Phallus [the pagan Greek god of male virility represented by the male organ] in Jerusalem, together with a gymnasium. He also promised to enroll the inhabitants of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch.
Antiochus gladly agreed to everything. Onias was deposed. Jason was appointed as high priest, and the "final solution" was begun. A gymnasium was erected outside the castle; the youths of Jerusalem nakedly performed gymnastics in the sight of the Temple. Priests left their service at the altar to take part in the games. Many Jewish youths surgically removed the traces of circumcision from their bodies. With characteristic liberality, the high priest Jason sent a contribution to the sacrifices in honor of Heracles at the quadrennial festivities in Tyre.
Antiochus felt that the time was ripe to undertake the total eradication of the Jewish religion.
The Abomination of Desolation
In Jerusalem on the fifteenth of Kislev, 168 B.C., Antiochus violated the holy of holies by erecting a pagan altar on the great altar of burnt offerings. Finally, on the twenty-fifth of Kislev, as Solomon Grayzel [in A HISTORY OF THE JEWS, p. 54] describes:
"In the Temple above the altar was placed a statue of Jupiter [pagan chief god in the Greek and Roman hierarchy and pantheon of gods and goddesses] bearing an obvious resemblance to Antiochus. Over such a Temple, Menelaus (who supplanted Jason by a larger bribe) consented to remain as high priest. To that statue was brought as sacrifices the animal most detested by the Jews, the pig. An abominable act had been perpetrated on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev in the year 165 B.C.E. and, to use the descriptive expression of the book of Maccabees, it left the Jewish people desolate."
We see in Antiochus Epiphanes, who placed a statue of Jupiter bearing an obvious resemblance to himself "in the Temple above the altar," a prototype of the coming "man of lawlessness...[who] sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Daniel prophesied of him: "His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolate" (Daniel 11:31)
It looked as if the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was crushed in defeat [same as now when secularism, apostate Christianity, and Islam are allied to silence evangelical voices and the Gospel in Western society!]
But eighteen hundred years previous to that, God had promised Abraham that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:3), and four hundred years previous to this time, God had said, "It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated (Daniel 8:14).
In the town of Modin, a Syrian officer set up a statue of Jupiter and ordered an aged priest named Mattathias to sacrifice a pig on the altar. The priest refused, and when a renegade stepped forward to sacrifice the pig, Mattathias slew him and the Syrian officer and fled to the mountains with his family. Other brave Jews joined him, and resistance grew into a revolution. Antiochus was stunned and sent his ablest general Lysias, to crush the revolt. It looked as if the Jews would be annihilated. Even the faithful were beginning to doubt.
In the Jerusalem hills the Jews prayed, and one of the priests read the book of Daniel. Professor H. Graetz, the prince of Jewish historieans, writes as follows:
The book of Daniel half conceals and half reveals, in a sort of allegory, the destruction of the wicked Syrian Empire, which was the heir to former kingdoms. It foretells that the fourth kingdom on earth, following that of the Babylonians, the Medo-Persians and the Macedonians, would utter foolish words against the Almighty, seek to ddestroy the pious and to turn them away from the festivals and the laws. The pious would fall into its clutches for a 'time, two times, and half a time.' Then dominion would pass into the hands of the people of the Holy One for ever, and all knees would bow down to Him,. In another vision he saw the fourth Syrian Empire extending far away to the south, to the east and to the north, rising to the heavens, and casting down stars unto the earth, and crushing them. It would exalt itself over the King of heavenly hosts, it would abolish the daily sacrifice, and set up an idol in the sanctuary. To the question: 'How long shall be the vision concerning the continual burnt-offering and the transgression that maketh desolate, to give up both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? (Daniel 8:13) a voice answered: Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; when the sanctuary shall be justified (verse 14).
The book of Daniel with its mystical revelations, was undoubtedly read with great interest by the Assidaeans. The apocalyptic form, which gave each line a pecular meaning, and reflected the present conditions, lent it a great attraction. Moreover, it solved the problem of the present calamities, and showed the object of the horrible persecutions; these were intended, on the one hand, to destroy sin, and on the other hand, to ennoble believers. It was evident that the duration of the period of affliction had been determined from the beginning, and that this very duration, took had a secret meaning. The worldly kingdoms would disappear, and at the end time, God's kingdom, the kingdom of the holy ones, would commence, and those who had died or been slain during the persecutions would awake to eternal life. Thus, though no prophet arose, still there existed a prophecy for the present time."
Although we disagree with Professor Graetz on details such as the identity of the fourth empire, he has remarkable insight into the scriptures.
The prophetic Scriptures had their comforting and motivating effect. The Syrian host expected to annihilate the Jews [just as the present anti-Christ forces expect to annihilate the evangelicals and the Gospel and the Bible in Western society] but they themselves were annihilated at Emmaus. The road to Jerusalem and the Temple was open. The Temple was cleansed, and the God of Israel was once again worshiped. Beginning with the twenty-fifth day of Kislev, the Jews now observe their eight-day Feast of Dedication, also known as Hanukkah or the Feast of Lights.
Antiochus began his persecution of the Jews in 171 B.C., and it was twenty-three-hundred days later in December of 165 B.C. that the Temple was cleansed. The Jewish nation was NOT destroyed, and one hundred seventy years later "there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be to all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord'" (Luke 2:8-11)
The "centuries of silence" were over. God, who had in times past spoken to our fathers by the prophets, now spoke by His Son.
Just before the earthly ministry of our Lord, Herod the Great repaired and bebuilt the same Temple that had been cleansed on the first Hanukkah. Herod's temple became one of history's most magnificent structures. Then, the week preceding our Lord's death,
"Jesus left the temple and was walking away when His disciples came up to Him to call His attention to its buildings. 'Do you see all these things?' He asked. 'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.' As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. 'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:1-3)
In the verses immediately following the discussion with His disciples, Jesus answered the question, "What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?" He told them that some of these signs would be wars, international unrest, famines, pestilences, and false messiahs [which are appearing not just in the churches but in the political arena, masquerading oftentimes as Christians!]. These are general signs. There have been few, if any, generations that have not experience them to some degree. But there is one specific sign that identifies the end of the age. "So when you see standing, in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains" (Matthew 24:15-16).
Our Lord told His disciples that there is to be a Hanukkah of the future. The Hanukkah that our Jewish neighbors celebrate commemorates the cleansing of the Temple after it had been defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 B.C. That defilement was so great that it is described by the most disgusting phrase in the Scriptures, "the abomination that causes desolation."
The Hebrew word for abomination is "shiqquts," meaning "filthy."
"When Daniel undertook to specify an abomination so surpassingly disgusting to the sense of of morality and decency, and so aggressively against everything that was godly as to drive all from its presence and leave its abode desolate, he chose this as the strongest among several synonyms, adding the qualification, 'that maketh desolate.'" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. 16)
Our Lord told His disciples that there is to be a Hanukkah of the future. He says that one will arise who is another Antiochus Ephiphanes, the man of sin, or beast (2 Thessalonianis 2:3-8). Just as there was a falling away and Antiochus was a type of the "man of lawlessness" who was to be revealed, so there will be one who "opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God's temple, proclaining himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
It will be the return of our Lord in glory that will result in the overthrow of the man of lawlessness and the establishment of the millennial kingdom. "he who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).
"Some Characteristics of the Anti-Christ, as Evidenced in Forerunners," by Ronald Ginther
The Forerunners are Alexander the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Roman Caesars, Napoleon, Hitler, and others of their ilk
1. megalomania--compulsion to tyrannize over others
2. delusions of grandeur
3. antagonism toward authority other than his own
4. overweening pride, or arrogance
5. self-centeredness and egoism to the extreme
6. amorality, expediency is everything to him
7. self-aggrandizing/adulatory visions
8. extraordinary energy, mental and physical
9. unrestrained cupidity (excessively acquisitive, materially, whether things, or people, or nations)
10. extraordinary will-power
11. reduced life expectancy (psychosomatic illnesses)
12. selfish cunning as contrasted with his altruistic genius
13. surreptitiousness, furtiveness (no transparency), always a mystery to others, an unknown despite high visibility
14. mental myopia, inability to learn from negative examples or experiences
15. ruthlessness and brutality (human life is less than cheap, one life or a million, it is all statistics to him)
16. dispassion, indifference to suffering of others, resulting from his own acts
17. conscienceless lack of shame after perpetrating foul, inhuman, and outright evil deeds
18. uncontrolled fits of rage
19. intolerance toward other points of view, particularly when they cross or question his views or positions or programs
implacable hatred or hostility toward any opposition
20. contempt for anyone or anything regarded as inferior to him
21. seeming invincibility and immortality
22. no sense of humor, that is, he cannot laugh at himself and see himself as less than his exalted public image