If I had lived during the centuries leading up to the coming of Christ and been given a glimpse of the 21st century world, I might well have been filled with a sense of déjà vu.
The people of that time had witnessed the great expansion of empires – the Babylonians followed by the Medes and Persians, and then, the all-consuming Greek empire of Alexander the Great, established with brute force and precision-like efficiency in almost no time. Alexander was only 33 when he died, having virtually conquered the known world in little more than a decade.
In due course an even fiercer figure arose in the form of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian-Greek tyrant who claimed to be the incarnation of the god Zeus and was determined to enforce Hellenism (Greek culture in all its forms) on everyone else including the Jews.
What he had in mind was a homogenised, unified world system which is a bit too close for comfort to the New World Order proposed by the likes of the World Economic Forum, who talk openly of a ‘Great Reset’ in which a one-world government would rule the nations in supposed fairness and justice, perhaps using the Covid crisis to justify its introduction.
It’s a going back to square one scenario allowing a messy world to start all over again, with resources equally shared and the poor consigned to history. Sounds ideal.
In a similar way, the ancient Greek empire succeeded in spreading their language, which was to be a great help in preaching the Gospel. But with more than a common language in mind, everyone was also forced to worship the multiplicity of Greek gods.
A uniform culture in which all are persuaded to sing from the same hymn-sheet, and worship at the same altar, is already upon us in Britain and much of the West, where to be a radical Christian is becoming increasingly dangerous as you risk arrest by quoting from certain Bible texts.
Anyway, it was in attempting to impose false deities on the Jewish people that Antiochus came unstuck, though not initially. He erected shrines and altars throughout the land, and the people were forced to offer sacrifices as tokens of their acceptance of the new religion. Those who disobeyed were either tortured or killed, or both. Their bodies were mutilated, and they were crucified alive with the dead bodies of their children hung around their necks.1
An Old Testament type of the Antichrist, he then desecrated the temple of God, even sacrificing a pig there and spilling its blood on the Torah scrolls in what Jesus referred to as “the abomination that causes desolation” (Matt 24:15).
Daniel had prophesied about this dictator several centuries earlier and Jesus suggested it would all happen again in the days immediately preceding his return.
Many of the Jews, out of fear no doubt, opted for political correctness by embracing Hellenism, just as happens today with the apostasy of leading clerics and the wholesale acceptance of secularism by the ruling class.
It took extreme bravery, borne of passionate commitment to the God of Israel, to challenge the Greek incursion. A small band led by the Maccabee family rose up and defeated the mighty Greek army – a warning shot to modern nations who were to find themselves similarly routed in latter-day David v Goliath battles.
The temple was duly rededicated, paving the way for the coming of Christ some 160 years later, with the help of further divine intervention which enabled the menorah to burn continuously for eight days, despite having only enough sacred oil for a day.
Those who compromised with Greek efforts to Hellenise them are lost and forgotten in the ashes of history. But the Maccabees are remembered with great affection every year at Hanukkah. Today’s Christian compromisers should take note. Genuflecting to woke liberalism will not win any converts worth their salt.
Better instead to nail Gospel colours to the mast – in red and white – representing sins like scarlet that have become as white as snow (Isa 1:18) thanks to Jesus, the Messiah.
According to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, we have just witnessed another Hanukkah miracle in the form of a delegation from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain attending a candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall on Monday night2.
The peace on earth that Christmas promises (Luke 2:14) has already brought unprecedented diplomatic agreements between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, and even a deal with Morocco is now being brokered.
This despite a pronouncement from Hamas spokesman Fathi Hamad that all the world’s ills would magically disappear by destroying the Jewish state.3 Where have we heard that before?
Christmas ultimately celebrates the wonder of God coming to live with his people, which is also what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about – rejoicing over divine protection in the wilderness and a foretaste of Christ’s millennial reign of peace and prosperity.
Man-made empires have come and gone as their utopian visions of a perfect world without God have successfully collapsed in a heap of ruins amid great devastation. They were always a poisonous substitute for the real thing.
While our politicians set impossible targets in a bid to establish their green credentials, the Bible promises a new heaven and a new earth when God will truly dwell among his people and “he will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain…” — Rev 21:3f
Eco-warriors won’t bring this about. Nor will a ‘great reset’. But modern-day Maccabees, refusing to take the mark of a godless culture, will help us prepare for this glorious future by proclaiming the Gospel of hope in Jesus, the only Saviour of the world.
1Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts by Dr Richard Booker, published by Destiny Image, p170
2United with Israel, 15th December 20203United with Israel, 16th December 2020
3United with Israel, 16th December 2020