Hanukkah 2001 - Part I
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 8 December 2001
NCCG stopped celebrating Hannukah in 2006. To understand why, please click here.
In a little over 24 hours we once more enter in the spirit of Hanukkah, the 8th of the Festivals of Israel, and which is known in English as the Feast if Dedication. And each year this festival comes along we are given the opportunity both for sober reflection as well as joyous celebration. As you all know, Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights because of the many candles that we light each year and because Yahweh miraculously kept the temple light burning even when the oil had run out. It is a time of brightness and of miracles. It reminds us that Yahweh seeks to miraculously bless us with the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) even when the oil in our lamps has run out. It reminds us not to forget that when darkness threatens to envelop us that God is there, an endless supply, so that the light of life may continue to burn brightly within.
But what does it take for miracles like this to start happenings in our own lives? Why was it that Yahweh blessed the nation of Judah with this supernatural display of His grace and power? And the answer is simple: He revealed His presence to those who would not compromise with the demands of the Greek pagans that they abandon the commandments and imitate the ungodly. Even when forced to break the Sabbath, commit acts of fornication and adultery, worship statues of gods representing demons, sacrifice pigs in the temple, and blaspheme the Name of the Most High God, a core of the faithful refused to compromise. They would not give in. They would not surrender the truth to spare their lives. They stood by what was right no matter the cost. This, brethren and sisters, is what qualifies us to be the recipients of Yahweh's divine presence - steadfastness, faithfulness, and a refusal to compromise with the world system. It is for such that Yahweh makes one day's worth of oil burn for eight. It is for such that the light of hope does not go out.
We know only too well that the kinds of compromises that the tyrant Antiochus IV of Judea demanded of the people are the same that the emerging antichrist and his henchmen is expecting of believers today. Worshipping Yahweh was not banned any more than worshipping Christ today is banned. Christianity is not outlawed. In the antichrist system people will be allowed to worship Yahweh and believe in the Saviour Yah'shua (Jesus). That's how it began with Antiochus IV. He worshipped the Greek gods but said the Judahites could worship Yahweh if they wanted to. Today's rulers of the mightiest nations pay lip service to Christ and claim to be Christians but we know that almost all of them are occultists who worship the pagan gods. When the American public voted Clinton out of the White House and Bush in, they thought they were getting a Christian president. He certainly sounds like one. He claims to be one. But the day following the 11 September disaster when in prayer he referred to the God of the Christians, Yahweh, and the god of Mohammed, Allah, as the same God, true Christians for the first time began to understand that Bush was not a Christian but a religious syncretist - someone who combines religions together, just as Antiochus Epiphanes trued to. And those of us who have been following the secret activities of Bush and other world leaders for many years know only too well that this man is, in actual fact, an occultist. You would be horrified to learn just how many of our Western leaders are raw pagans.
Just as has happened here in the West since the 1960s, so during the reign of Antiochus IV, the Jews began to embrace the Hellenistic, pagan way of life. The same thing happened here as Christians started embracing secularist teachings like Darwinism and then began adding Hindu ideas as well. Just as the Judeans of Antiochus IV's period assisted Antiochus' goal in abolishing the true faith of Yahweh, so have the Christians of the West helped in the destruction of Christianity. And it has taken a mere 40 years - a single generation.
Whenever you compromise the truth by allowing falsehood in, you end up destroying the truth. God and demons cannot live together. One or the other must go. The person, for instance, who learns that Yahweh's true Sabbath is on Saturday and not Sunday but who persistently refuses to repent and align his life with His Law, will reject other truths that are presented to him as well. There is a saying which goes:
When a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth,
he will either quit being mistaken or cease to be honest.
It really is that simple. Because we are fallible, sinful human beings, life is a whole process of repentance - of making changes and adjustments so that we are more carefully aligned to the truth. Every falsehood we accept distorts the whole.
Now I wonder how many of you know how colour pictures are produced in books? It is done by a process called layering. Each primary colour with all its shades is layered one at a time onto the paper. Get one of those layers a fraction of a centimeter out of place and the result is a mess - the whole picture becomes a blur. It's false teachings that reduce the sharpness and clarity of Christianity into a fuzzy haze that make it so unattractive to many people. But then if you get a really bad teaching into the Gospel, it distorts its message completely, as in this trick photograph I am showing you here of an aircraft taking off but which has been bent to make it look as though it is taking off up a 45 degree slope.
Once you compromise with falsehood there is no stopping. In my considerable experience as a minister, those who admit one untruth into their system of values often end up admitting more and more. I have seen strong, robust Christians decline into violent beasts because of this principle of compromise. And this is precisely what happened in Judea as a result of the rule of King Antiochus. Though he allowed the Jews to worship Yahweh in the beginning, his pagan lust was not content with a sharing of religion - he wanted complete and total power. So one day he marched into Jerusalem and took the temple treasures. But even that wasn't enough. He decided to ban the seventh-day Sabbath, made studying the Scriptures illegal, outlawed circumcision, and defiled the temple by sacrificing an unclean pig on the Holy Altar. The Temple of Yahweh was then rededicated to the worship of Zeus Olympus, the pagan Greek god to whom the Olympic games were originally dedicated. Believers were forced to bow down before an altar to Zeus or be executed and as a result many innocent people were murdered. Those who compromised were heavily taxed. Finally, Antiochus, like many vain, stupid and blasphemous men before and after him, had himself proclaimed a god. He renamed himself "Epiphanes", which means "God manifest", calling himself by the name of Antiochus Epiphanes.
This is the infamous man whom we remember every Hanukkah, not because we want to honour him (God forbid) but to remind ourselves that another like him is soon to assume power over the whole world and do similar things to true believers in Yahweh and His Son Yah'shua (Jesus) immediately prior to the Second Coming. The famous historian, Flavius Josephus, who lived during the time of the apostles, describes what happened to those who resisted this Greek antichrist:
"... They every day underwent great miseries and bitter torments. For they were whipped with rods and their bodies torn to pieces, and were crucified while they were still alive and breathed: they also strangled those women and their sons whom they had circumcised, as the king had appointed, hanging their sons about their necks as they were upon the crosses. And if there were any sacred book of the law found, it was destroyed; and those with whom they were found miserably perished also" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 12, ch.5).
One of the things those who compromised did was to change their Hebrew names into Greek ones. You have probably noticed how here in Scandinavia more and more people are abandoning Christian names and are reverting to the old names of pagan deities. Indeed, there was a time which I remember from my youth when first names were called "Christian names" because the culture was at least nominally Christian. Not any more.
There was one man back in the time of Antiochus who was called Joshua, whom you may remember. What most of you will also know is that Joshua is the anglicised form of Jesus, or Yah'shua (Yeshua). This man was a prophetic symbol of our day, for he changed his name Joshua (Yah'shua/Jesus) to JASON. Now some of you may know this name - it was quite popular at one time. Some of you may have heard of Jason and the Argonauts. Anyway, "Jason" bribed King Antiochus into making him the High Priest.
True to his pagan heart, the first thing Jason the High priest did was to build a gymnasium right next to the temple, and encouraged pagan customs and immoral behaviour throughout the kingdom. The result, quite naturally, was to demoralise the Jews. We in our turn are demoralised when we see Christians ministers compromising with Islam, occultism, Catholicism, and all the other abominations which Yahweh has declared unclean.
Well, Jason did not remain High Priest for long. Another Hellenised Jew came along to Antiochus, offered a bigger bribe, and got the job as High Priest himself. A civil war resulted and tens of thousands of civilians were murdered. Seizing the opportunity that chaos always affords him, Satan inspired the antichrist king to start building altars to Greek gods and goddesses all over the city of Jerusalem and in every city and town in Judea. His soldiers forced the civilians to make sacrifices, eat forbidden foods, and to engage in sexual immorality.
Our end-time antichrist, who has yet has not publicly revealed himself but who is working invisibly behind the scenes with politicians and other religious leaders, is a little more subtle ... for now. Satan always tries to appear reasonable at first. The blood and violence he reserves for a later time when spiritual resistance is lowered. One of the most astonishing thing about the 1960s generation and those who have come since is that they talk about "love" and "peace" more than anyone else ever has in the past. And what is so bitterly ironic is that love and peace are two of the most absent conditions in our neo-pagan world. The Bible warns us about people who keep on crying, "Peace, peace". It warns us of people who use the language of goodness but who inside are ravenous wolves. It is a tactic of the devil which he has used in every generation. It happened in Jeremiah's day - listen to what Yahweh said then:
"For I will stretch out My hand against the inhabitants of the land," says the LORD. "Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; And from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, 'Peace, peace!' when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time I punish them, they shall be cast down," says the LORD" (Jer.6:12-15, NKJV).
Notice that those who proclaimed peace "healed the hurt of My people slightly" - it was an illusory peace. It wasn't real. The healing was not genuine. It was false. Later on in the same prophecy, it is says: "We looked for peace, but no good came" (Jer.8:15, NKJV). Do we not keep on hearing of the "Peace Process" in the Middle East? But where has it got us? Only this last week there have been three terrorist outrages in Israel, and the one in Jerusalem is the most bloody ever. They talk of peace, and people feel good about it, but they are missing the point entirely, for no peace can come until their is repentance. For it is written: "For the LORD our God has put us to silence and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD" (Jer.8:14, NKJV). Jews are crying over their dead. Palestinians are crying over their dead. Americans are crying over their dead. Afghans are crying over the dead. Kashmiris, Indians and Pakistanis are crying over their dead. Everyone is blaming everyone else - everyone except those they should be blaming, namely, themselves.
We only have to read the scriptures to find why the world is as it is. It is a story that has been repeated again and again in every generation throughout history. Hanukkah reminds us that we are to blame when we open the door to trouble because of our rebelliousness. It is good to remember the miracle of Hanukkah, but the whole point is this miracle wouldn't have been needed in the first place if the people had obeyed the commandments and walked in the light of Yahweh. If they had done that, God would have taken care of them. But, no, they compromised - they lusted after the ways of the pagans and thought they could mix them in with their own religion.
The formerly Christian world now finds itself in exactly the same situation as existed in the earlier part of Antiochus IV's reign. There has been so much compromise everywhere that the West is, to all intents and purposes, pagan. Crime and lawlessness is on the increase, but the real systematic violence is yet to come. Our pagan rulers are for now being held in check by the moral force of good people, but the latter are getting fewer and fewer, and with increasingly less influence. They are abiding their time before they unleash the end-time terror.
And we know exactly what they're going to do. The Bible tells us, principally in the Book of Revelation, what to expect. The concentration camps have already been built in America and Europe in which to imprison Christians. The technology exists to implant microchips in us so that we can be controlled and monitored. The spy satellites are already watching our every move. We know they're there. The end-time New World Order could be come to full fruition any day. We know that recent events like the bombings in New York, Washington, and Jerusalem were all orchestrated to create fear and panic, and so give the rulers the excuse they have wanted to exercise more control over citizens. We know that many pillars of the New World Order are in place already - another one comes into place in three week's time when the Euro currency replaces the traditional currencies of many European nations. And we know that Western Governments like the USA and UK are trying desperately to get so-called United Nation-sponsored "anti-hate" laws in place so that nobody can criticise other religions without becoming liable to criminal prosecution. Such a law will soon be passed in the European Union (EU) which will create a religious climate almost the same as in the early reign of Antiochus IV and which will eventually degenerate into violent persecution of true Christians. So we need not be surprised. We have been forewarned. All the signs are there.
The question is, what are you going to do about it? Whose side are you going to be on? The side of the compromisers? Or the side of Yahweh? And are you willing to accept the consequences of your choice? When the Jews of Antiochus' day saw what was happening they rose in rebellion and threw the antichrist out. But be advised - that cannot happen this time. There will be no earthly Maccabees to liberate us. For the next antichrist will not be ruling over a tiny strip of land in the Middle East but the whole world. The scale of power of the next Antiochus Epiphanes will be global and he will have absolute military and police power.
If I appear alarmist, it is deliberate. This is no time to mince words. The time of indecision is running out. At this very time the line is being drawn and you have to decide which side you are going to stand on. And although world dictatorship won't happen tomorrow, it won't be very long now. It's only a matter of a few years. More importantly, we have to resolve spiritual issues. This is what this brief period of time is for, namely, to decide whose side you are on? And remember this: that if you compromise with the world, then you are on the enemy's side. Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other" (Matt.6:24, NKJV).
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matt.7:15-23, NKJV).
There really isn't very much time to choose if you have either been sitting on the fence of indecision of if you have been compromising with the world. Today is the day of repentance and of salvation. Repent of unbelief, doubt, laziness, and compromise with sin, for if you do not, the devil will have you for breakfast. Make your confession of faith and commit yourself unreservedly to the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Tomorrow Hanukkah begins. Tomorrow we shall be celebrating its goodness and next Sabbath I shall be talking about the positive, spiritually upbuilding aspect of Hanukkah. But remember, before the blessings come, getting right with God must precede them.
After the Maccabeans captured Jerusalem and the Temple they began the task of purifying it. The defiled altar was torn down and rebuilt. New vessels were crafted and together with the Menorah, altar of incense, and the table, brought into the Temple. Incense was burned on the altar and the lamps on the lamp stand were lit. The front of the temple was decorated with golden wreathes and ornamental shields. When they had put the Bread of the Presence on the table and hung the curtains, all their work was completed. The Temple was then rededicated to Yahweh with festivities and lasted eight days.
But when they cleaned out the temple of idols, they were only able to find enough oil for one day to light the holy lamps, but went ahead and lit the lights on the Menorah anyway. And as we all know, the lights continued to burn for eight days until new oil was available!
The cleansing that took place in the Temple is symbolic of the cleansing that must take place in the New Covenant Temple, our own bodies. All the old has to be thrown out and replaced by that which is new and pure and dedicated to Yah'shua (Jesus). Wrong belief, sinful behaviour, rebelliousness, and every vice must in turn be singled out and dealt a death blow. And in their place, the pure Word of God - the oil of the Menorah - Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself must be brought in. During the course of this coming week we are going to have a deliverance session to do this, something we now do every year in our churches. If anyone would like to be a part if it, please see me afterwards. And may Yahweh bless you all with the hope of a new life in Him. Amen.
Click here for Part 2
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Last updated on 7 December 2001
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