How did the birthday of Antiochus Epiphanes result in a celebration that is still honored throughout the entire world today?
December 8th on our calendar is the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, the first day of Hanukkah. Many Christians have no idea why this is also significant for them and that it was even validated by the Holy Spirit by a reference in the New Testament.1 We thought this reminder might bring some additional appreciation over the coming holiday period.
Last month we summarized the first 69 "weeks" of Gabriel's famous prophecy to Daniel, which still remains as one of the most powerful apologetics demonstrating the deity of Jesus Christ and authenticating His identity as the Machiach Nagid of Israel.2 And we also summarized the interval which intervenes between the 69 "weeks" and the final 70th "week."
However, we left off detailing the final - and pivotal - verse that is still future and one we may be approaching more quickly than most people realize. In fact, it was this very verse (Daniel 9:27) that Jesus specifically pointed to in His confidential briefing on His Second Coming to His disciples.3
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
The Personal Identity
The first thing to clearly identify in this remarkable verse is just who is referred to as "he," the one confirming (or enforcing) the covenant. The grammatical antecedent of the pronoun is "the Prince that shall come" in the preceding verse, whose people destroy the city and the sanctuary.4 (Some try to identify him with the Messiah also mentioned earlier in that verse, but that is grammatically incorrect, and also ascribes the abominations to him, etc.)
After the death of Nero, General Galba was recalled to become emperor. A conspiracy had him assassinated. After Galba, Otho was made emperor; but he was unfit and committed suicide. After revolution and political instability, the general-in-command of the Roman- Israeli expedition was recalled to restore order and to become emperor: General Vespasian. His son, Titus, remained the general in charge of the siege in A.D. 70. Just a few days before the final assault on Jerusalem, Vespasian was crowned Emperor of the Roman Empire, thus making Titus, literally, a prince.
Since it was the Roman legions that "destroyed the city and the sanctuary," and thus, the "people of the prince that shall come," scholars have long anticipated that the final world leader would ultimately emerge from the Roman Empire-somehow revived in the end times. It is, however, myopic to assume this necessarily implies that he will emerge from Western Europe. The eastern leg of the Roman Empire outlasted the western leg by 1,000 years; and Micah, Isaiah, and other passages indicate that this final world leader will be an Assyrian .5
We believe that "the Prince that shall come" is one of 33 designations in the Old Testament (and 13 in the New Testament) for the Coming World Leader, commonly called the Antichrist.
The Week Defined
This "70th Week" of this prophecy is defined by the duration of time - seven years - during which this coming world leader commits to confirming (or enforcing) a covenant.6 (He doesn't necessarily "sign a treaty"; he may simply enforce what is commonly called the Palestinian Covenant: Israel's right to the land.
In the middle of that seven-year period he apparently violates that commitment and "causes the sacrifice and oblation to cease," implying that his commitment had included (but was not limited to) Temple worship. (This is one of the several reasons we know that the Temple will have been rebuilt by then: Jesus, John, and Paul all make reference to it in this context.7)
The Pivotal Event
A major event divides the seven-year period into two halves and is the most specifically documented period of time in both the Old and New Testaments. Each half is referred to as a half-week, 3 years,8 42 months, and 1260 days.9
Jesus Himself points to "the Abomination of Desolation" as the key event in His briefing to His disciples.10 This allusion had a specific history two centuries earlier when Antiochus IV ("Epiphanes") desecrated the Temple in 167 B.C. In his zeal to offend the Jews, he made reading the Torah a capital crime and slaughtered a sow on the brazen altar in the Temple. (If you know how the Jews feel about pork, and how they venerate that altar, you can imagine how that went over.) But that was not the coup d'gras. On his birthday he erected an idol in the Holy of Holies .
Any form of idol worship is, in the Bible, referred to as an "abomination." However, the ultimate insult is to erect that idol on the most holy spot the Planet Earth: in Jerusalem, in the sacred Temple, in fact, in the Holy of Holies. That event so incensed the Jews that a priest named Mattathias, and his son Judas "the Macabbe" ("the Hammer"), led a revolt that ultimately threw off the yoke of the Seleucid Empire and ushered in the period of the Hasmoneans.
On the third anniversary of the desecration of the Temple, they destroyed the contaminated vessels and made new ones and then rededicated the Temple. This rededication is celebrated every year on the 25th of Kislev and is also alluded to in the New Testament.11
The Great Tribulation
It is from this background that, two centuries later, Jesus warned His disciples that:
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
There is a technological prediction in this: if the Holy of Holies is a place that only the high priest can enter-and only once a year after great ceremonial preparations-how can "them which be in Judea" see an event going on inside? (On CNN, of course!) This apparently will be a major political event and this remark assumes global television. Paul also alludes to this pivotal event:
that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4
Both Daniel and the Lord Jesus warn that "then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be."12 (Notice that this period is 3 years, not seven. Many assume the "Great Tribulation" is seven years - referring, of course, to the "70th Week" of Daniel. But Jesus Himself labels the last half of the week with this quote from Daniel 12.)
This period is also called "the time of Jacob's trouble,"13 as it is the very focus of their repentance predicted by God in Hosea:
I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me earnestly.
(In order for God to "return to His place," He must have left it!)
There are many who have different views of what we have presented here. We have discovered that a person's views of eschatology (study of the last things) will derive directly from his hermeneutics (theories of interpretation). See the chart.
There are many who don't anticipate a literal rule of Christ on the earth (despite Gabriel's prediction to Mary14 and many clear promises in both the Old and New Testaments). These are known as "amillennialists." There are also many who believe that the church will also go through the Great Tribulation, known as "post-tribulationalists," etc.
However, the more strict your rules of interpretation, the more likely you will be driven toward the "literal" side of the chart. To hold many of these other popular views one has to be quite willing to treat the many texts as only allegorical, or symbolic, rather than literal, etc.
We treat all the texts with profound seriousness and believe that God means what He says and says what He means, and that He expresses it with great precision and attention to detail:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
(A "jot" is one of the 22 Hebrew alphabet characters that you and I might mistake for an apostrophe or a blemish on the paper. A "tittle" is one of the little decorative hooks on some of the Hebrew characters. The phrase Jesus used is the Hebrew equivalent of our saying "the dotting of an 'i' or the crossing of a 't.'" We feel that Jesus' admonition is a call to take the text very seriously and very precisely.)
So these differing views of eschatology should not be a basis of division or lack of fellowship, but it is exciting to see world events clearly heading to the ultimate climax. I believe we are heading into a period of time about which the Bible says more than it does about any other period of time of history - including the Gospel period of the New Testament! To challenge that preposterous statement you must do two things:
1) Find out what the Bible says about these things (not what any popular teacher might happen to believe); and then...
2) Find out what is really going on around the world. (That used to be difficult, because you won't find out on the 10 PM news! But with the resources available today it is a must.)
The more you know about both of these things the more it will become apparent that a climax is coming! What a fabulous time to really study your Bible and do your homework!
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