Life can be described as big circles, a series of cycles, often annual. Such is the festival of Chanukkah; it 'rolls around' every year at the beginning of winter. Other parts of life are linear – we walk down a path that goes only one direction, we do not retrace our steps. It seems the Hebrew world view is circular; the Greek is more linear. One of the wonders of the festival of Chanukkah is that it is both circular and linear.
Chanukkah starts on December 13th this year. This festival celebrates and memorializes the re-dedication of the second temple after it was defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian ruler. It is an eight-day festival also called the “Festival of Lights”, commemorating the miracle in which the menorah stayed lit for eight days even though there was enough ritually pure lamp oil for just one day. The festival also memorializes the miraculous success of the poorly trained and equipped Jewish rebels against one of the mightiest armies on earth.
A description of the brutal takeover of Israel by Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) was prophesied several hundred years earlier in Daniel Ch. 11. In fact, the series of visions Daniel received by divine revelation, recorded in the second half of his book, are so accurate that “higher” critics refuse to accept them as authentic fore-telling.
Although the festival of Chanukkah is not listed in Leviticus 23 with the seven mandatory feasts or 'appointed times', we know Yeshua celebrated it (which tells us to pay attention) because John mentions this fact in his gospel, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.” (Jn 10:22-23). Like the other feasts, it is both a memorial and a rehearsal.
We see it as rehearsal because in Matthew 24 Yeshua predicted a repeat of Antiochus' desolation. “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation (picture a statue of an idol whenever you read 'abomination' and you will get a better understanding of the event) which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.” (Mat 24:15-20) Yeshua was not referring to the terror of Antiochus IV and the Maccabean revolt; He was speaking of an event that had not yet occurred. Notice that John (10:23 above), links 'winter' with Chanukkah just as Yeshua does.
For the linear application the prophecy in Daniel was given around 455 B.C. It is fulfilled in 168 B.C. with the invasion of Antiochus IV, which led to the Chanukkah memorial festival. A second fulfillment happens with the invasion of the Roman general Titus and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. There will be at least one more fulfillment. The evil ruler Antiochus is a prophetic type of the Antichrist who is to come. Like Antiochus, the Antichrist will profane the Jewish Temple (Daniel 9:27). He will seat himself in the Temple and declare himself to be god (2 Thessalonians 2:4). He will then launch a horrendous persecution of the Jewish people (Rev 12:13-17) that will ultimately result in two thirds of them being destroyed (Zechariah 13:8).
Are these prophecies to be taken literally, figuratively, or both? Consider the Apostle Paul's teaching in Ephesians that we, believers in Yeshua, are the Temple, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner (stone), in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy Temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)
Jeremiah prophesies (Jer 23:5-8) of the future restoration when Israel will no longer look way back to God's loving intervention and protection during the Exodus and invasion of Canaan, but rather to the regathering of all the scattered exiles back into the Promised Land. Perhaps the same thing will happen regarding the festival of Chanukkah. Rather than looking way back to the miracles of supernatural provision of oil, military success and a purified Temple, it will be a celebration of the destruction of Antichrist, the worldwide outpouring of the Holy Spirit and of Yeshua taking His throne. Maranatha!