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The Arm of Antiochus

In the days of the Maccabees, God's people fought and died to preserve customs outlawed by the antichrist-like tyrant Antiochus IV. In this article, I discuss how the church today chooses to neglect Bible study, change the Sabbath, disdain the Feasts of the Lord, and ignore dietary laws; all customs the Maccabees fought for and gave their lives to preserve.

by William L. Nowell

Introduction

Antiochus IV Epiphanes was a desperately wicked man. As king of the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus IV fiercely persecuted the Jewish People. Under his reign of terror (175-164 B.C.), Jews either had to reject everything that made them uniquely Jewish, including worshiping God, and assimilate into the surrounding pagan culture, or be executed.

Antiochus IV would've successfully stamped out Jewish culture if not for a small band of resistance fighters who became known as the Maccabees. They were not soldiers—their leader was a priest. And though untrained in warfare and greatly outnumbered, but with God on their side, they defeated the Seleucid Empire's powerful army. The story of the Maccabean Revolt, recorded in the Apocryphal Books of Maccabees and celebrated annually as the Feast of Dedication, is more commonly known as Hanukkah. For more about Hanukkah, read my article Hanukkah is for Christians Too.

Antiochus IV

The historical account of the Maccabean Revolt focuses on their miraculous victory in battle and subsequent rededication of the Temple. But the often-overlooked backstory of the Maccabean Revolt/ Hanukkah is one of spiritual warfare. We read of spiritual warfare from Genesis 3:15-Revelation 20:10. The Maccabean Revolt was a physical manifestation of war between God and Satan with humanity caught in the middle.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

If Antiochus IV had succeeded, the survivors would've completely assimilated into the pagan Hellenistic culture to the point that Jewish culture would've been completely stamped out. Consequently, there would've no Virgin Mary to give birth to our Savior Yeshua (Jesus), the Christ, effectively putting an end to God's plan of redemption for mankind. Satan never rests, but in the end, the Lord God Almighty is triumphant.

By royal decree, Antiochus IV made possession of the Holy Scriptures a capital offense. He abolished observance of the Sabbath and festivals of the Lord and forced the Jews—under penalty of death—to eat foods prohibited by the Scriptures. In this article, I discuss how the modern church has willingly adopted the prohibitions Antiochus IV used to brutally persecute God's people.

Biblical Illiteracy

The Books of the Law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the Law, was condemned to death by decree of the king.” (1 Maccabees 1:56-57)

Antiochus IV, in his quest to wipe out the Jewish people and abolish their religion, outlawed the Torah (i.e. the Hebrew Bible). Sadly, many nations today outlaw the Bible. For instance, in North Korea, anyone caught with a Bible is sentenced to prison along with three generations of his or her family. And in many Muslim majority countries, Believers in Christ put their lives in danger simply by owning a Bible. Fortunately, in America, we have no restrictions on Bible ownership that puts our freedom or lives at risk. Nevertheless, most Americans do not read their Bibles. And so as a nation, for the most part, we are biblically illiterate.

As Christians, we are called to be like Christ. But to be like Christ, we must think like Christ. And before we can begin to think like Christ, we must have our minds transformed by the renewing that comes through reading (listening to and studying) the Word of God. In other words, we must be biblically literate.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

The apostle Paul advises us to (1) be transformed, and (2) do this by renewing our minds. Let's unpack each part of his statement. First, the Greek word translated as 'transformed' is the same word that forms the root of the English word “metamorphosis.” The radical transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly is descriptive of the type of metamorphosis God wants to create in our way of thinking and viewing the world. Let's look at three aspects of our transformation.

  • First, notice that the phrase 'be transformed' is in the present tense, indicating a continual transformation. So we see that our transformation is not a one-time only occurrence; instead, it is an ongoing process.
  • Second, the phrase 'be transformed' is passive. In other words, we are not the primary source of our transformation. Instead, our metamorphosis comes from outside of us. Simply put, it is God Who performs the metamorphosis.
  • Third, though God does the transforming, we nevertheless have a role to play. So how do we do our part in changing the way we think? How do we renew our minds? We do this primarily by immersing ourselves in the Word of God.

Transformation through renewed minds comes as the result of saturating our minds with the Word of God. There are no shortcuts or magical formulas for renewing our minds. We simply must take time and put forth the effort to fill our minds with God's Word.

Blessed is the one ... whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, and who meditates on His Law day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)

As a natural consequence of filling our minds with God's Word, we begin developing a biblical worldview. Everyone has a worldview, whether we use that term or not. Simply put, a worldview is like a set of lenses through which we see and make sense out of the world around us. Our worldview is shaped by our education, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the books we read, and by a host of surrounding cultural influences. When we have a biblical worldview, we begin to see and understand the world around us from the Creator's perspective. Only then can we interact with the world in a truly Christ-like manner.

The statistics on biblical illiteracy rates in America are both shocking and appalling. A 2014 LifeWay Research study found that less than 20% of church-going Americans read their Bibles daily. Since biblical illiteracy naturally leads to a non-biblical worldview, we should expect that most Americans do not have a biblical worldview. And in fact, that is exactly what the Barna Research Group found. Their research indicated that only 9% of all American adults have a biblical worldview. But what's more shocking is that only 19% of Christians self-described as “born again” have a biblical worldview. Heaven help us! But what I find most appalling is that only 51% of Protestant pastors hold to a biblical worldview! Blind shepherds are leading the flock.

How well do you know the Bible? To test your general knowledge of the Bible, take my Bible Knowledge Quiz.

Menorah, Bible, and cross picture

Importance of Biblical Literacy

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

The biblically illiterate are easy prey for the apostates, heretics and false teachers that fill the church today. Without adequate knowledge of the Word of God, biblical illiterates can only base their decisions on what seems right. That's an especially dangerous road to travel in a world plagued by serpents such as Rick Warren, dubbed as 'America's Pastor'.

There must be an especially hot spot reserved in hell just for Rick Warren. The one thing more than any other that makes Rick Warren stand out as the Chief Apostate among apostates is his promotion of the 100% Satanically inspired blasphemous religion known as Chrislam. According to Rick Warren, Christians and Muslims worship the same God. (Let me make it perfectly clear that the God I worship, the God of the Bible, is NOT Allah - the god of the Muslims.) Chrislam is a syncretistic religion that attempts to combine Christianity and Islam by focusing in on superficial commonalities while overlooking irreconcilable differences.

Christianity and Islam are diametrically opposed on critically important doctrines such as the deity of Christ. Christianity teaches that Yeshua (Jesus) is the incarnate Son of God. Islam, on the other hand, rejects the deity of Christ and claims that God has no Son. If Yeshua (Jesus) is not the Son of God, then he was just a good man who was wrongly executed, and we are still lost in our sins. Islam rejects the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and other crucial doctrines of the Christian faith, making it totally incompatible with true Christianity. Simply put, Chrislam is a lie of the Devil, and it's being propagated by his loyal servant Rick Warren. It is imperative that we know what the Bible teaches so that we are not led astray by false teachers, heretics, and apostates.

It seems that the arm of Antiochus has reached through history to rip the Bibles out of our hands. Yet today no force is needed. In the days of the Maccabees, the people fought and died for the right to read the Holy Scriptures, but today we just choose to ignore God's Word.

Sabbath Observance

The Sabbath, instituted by God on the seventh day of creation week (Genesis 2:2-3) was made for us. According to Yeshua (Jesus), “The Sabbath was made for man.” (Mark 2:27) We know that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16), but when God gave the Sabbath Commandment, as part of the Decalogue (10 Commandments), He did not rely on Moses to give the command. Instead, He spoke the Commandment for all to hear. But He didn't stop there. “When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18)

God quite literally craved the seventh-day Sabbath commandment in stone and gave it to us. In addition, He said, “The Israelites must keep the Sabbath day. They must celebrate it for all time to come. It will be a covenant that lasts forever.” (Exodus 21:16 NIRV) Now don't be misled by the term “Israelites” since, according to Romans 11:11-31 and Ephesians 2:11-22, as followers of Yeshua, we are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel. Jewish and Gentile Believers together form “one new man” in Christ. Hence, the Sabbath commandment applies to all Believers. Moreover, the disciples continued to observe the Sabbath after Yeshua's death and resurrection. (Acts 13:14, 16:13) In fact, Paul kept the Sabbath every week (Acts 18:4) and taught his gentile congregations to uphold the Law of God. (Romans 3:31)

Nevertheless, in spite of the preponderance of scripture telling us that the Sabbath was, is, and will forever be the seventh day, some “New Testament Christians” claim that the new "Christian Sabbath" is Sunday. Nowhere does God ever change the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day.

God told us to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Exodus 20:8) Yet most of modern Christendom does all it can to forget the Sabbath day and make it unholy. Anti-Semitic early church fathers, the misguided Emperor Constantine, and power-hungry Catholic Popes through the ages have all attempted to make null and void God's carved in stone Law by changing the Sabbath to Sunday. To all who follow their lead, I offer a word of caution. Yeshua said, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore, anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven...” (Matthew 5:18-19) And, for anyone who still has the audacity to try to change God's Word, I suggest you read Deuteronomy 4:2 and Deuteronomy 12:32, then act accordingly. Now I ask you, is that a road you want to go down?

Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah tells us that after the Millennium, when God has created a new heaven and a new earth, that “from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before Me,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 66:23)

Antiochus forced the Israelites to abandon Sabbath observance under the threat of death. However, today many people simply choose to follow the traditions of men, abandoning the Sabbath, instead of following the Word of God. The arm of Antiochus has reached us today, only now he doesn't need a royal decree to stop us from keeping the Sabbath. We fail to keep the Sabbath by choice.

“Christian Sabbath”

Question: Is it OK to attend church/worship services on Sunday?
Answer: Yes, it's OK. Every day is a good day to worship God. Just don't get it twisted; Sunday is not the Sabbath Day. When Yeshua (Jesus) said to the Pharisees, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5, Mark 2:28, and Matthew 12:8), He was saying that He is the Master and thus has authority over the Sabbath Day. In other words, He claimed the seventh-day Sabbath as the “Lord's Day.”

Feast Days

“It was impossible to keep the Sabbath or the ancestral festivals, or even simply to profess to be a Jew.” (2 Maccabees 6:6)

Leviticus 23 describes seven annual festivals (or feasts) of the Lord. Many Christians think of the festivals the Lord, as “Jewish festivals.” But God said, “These are My appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord”. (Leviticus 23:2) He did not say these are the appointed festivals of the Jews.

The Hebrew language is more expressive than is English, which oftentimes this is problematic when translating the Hebrew Scriptures into English. Some Hebrew words have layers of meaning that are lost in translation, leaving us with only a shadow of the original message. For example, the word translated as “feasts” or “festivals” in most English Bibles is the Hebrew word 'moedim'. In English, when we hear the words “feasts” or "festivals”, we commonly think of celebrations involving lots of food. However, the Hebrew word 'moedim' literally means 'appointed times' as in appointed times of meeting. The moedim of the Lord are special days on God's Divine appointment calendar set apart as holy occasions for us to meet with and worship Him.

Feast of Tabernacles

The festivals (moedim) of the Lord are:

  1. Passover
  2. Unleavened Bread
  3. First Fruits
  4. Shavuot (Pentecost)
  5. Trumpets
  6. Atonement
  7. Tabernacles

Whether we call them feasts, festivals, appointed times, or moedim, they are Holy Days given to us by God Himself. Each of these Holy Days has a specific purpose, which when taken together outline God's plan of redemption for mankind. For instance, did you know that Yeshua (Jesus) was crucified on Passover, laid in the grave on the feast of Unleavened Bread, and resurrected on the feast of First Fruits? God had it all planned well in advance of the actual events.

In the times of the Maccabees, people fought and died for the right to observe the feasts of the Lord. Yet today, many Christians disregard these appointed times as irrelevant relics of the past or as Jewish-only observances. And to make matters worse, some popular televangelists stand before their megachurch congregations and preach the “foolishness” of observing the feasts of the Lord. According to them, you're putting yourself in bondage to practices that have been done away with. Lies, lies, and more lies! And once again, the arm of Antiochus has reached through the ages to impose his will on the church.

To Eat or Not To Eat

“But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts, not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant, and they did die.” (1 Maccabees 1:62-63)

Old Testament dietary laws, as given in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, separate animals into two categories, clean and unclean animals. Those animals described as clean are fit for human consumption, whereas unclean animals are unfit for human consumption. Nowhere does God give us a list of reasons why some foods are acceptable and other foods are not acceptable. He only told us to avoid eating unclean foods.

Nowadays, many people assume that Yeshua (Jesus) abolished the distinctions between clean and unclean meats, even though no evidence for this exists in the Scriptures. Some people take Peter's vision, as recorded in Acts 10:10-16, out of context, misinterpret it, and then use their misinterpretation as justification for ignoring the dietary restrictions. However, when Peter's vision is kept in its proper context (the entire chapter), it is abundantly clear that his vision is not about food, his vision is about the Gentiles.

Many Jewish people in Peter's time thought of Gentiles as inferior and "unclean" people. Whether you call it bias, bigotry, prejudice or racism, the bottom line is that it took a three-part heavenly vision and the voice of Yeshua (Jesus) to convince Peter that the Gentiles were not "unclean." Peter's vision meant that he should not look upon the Gentiles as irredeemable “unclean” people. For Peter, the food analogy was most appropriate.

Clean vs. Unclean Foods

The Bible does not tell us what makes some food clean and other foods unclean. However, today we understand the danger of pathogens, toxins, cholesterol and a host of other health hazards. Though it's taken thousands of years, modern medical and nutritional science confirm what the Bible already told us, which is that we ought to avoid unclean foods. Foods described by the Bible as unclean are in fact very unhealthy.

Did you know that crabs absorb carcinogens and neurotoxins such as dioxin and domoic acid as well as other harmful chemicals? And did you know that crabs absorb cesium-137 and strontium-90—radioactive contaminants from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster? Because strontium-90 mimics calcium, once it gets inside the body, it is taken up by the bones and teeth where it remains for quite a long time. The long-term accumulation of strontium-90 in the human body can cause cancers of the bone and blood.

Well, guess what, God knew long before the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster that eating crabs can be hazardous to your health. Crabmeat is but one example of a food product that God has told us to avoid. While we may not understand why God has told us to avoid certain foods, we can rest assured that He has good reasons for the dietary restrictions He's given us. As our Creator, God knows far more about our bodies than we do, and any restrictions He gives are for our benefit.

Mr. Spock

Modern medical and nutritional science has uncovered and continues to uncover health hazards connected to eating "unclean" foods. This is in direct contrast to the health benefits associated with eating “clean” foods. Though it's taken thousands of years, modern medical and nutritional science is catching up to the Word of God.

God knows what foods pose potential health risks, and He has wisely told us to avoid them. We would be wise to heed the advice of our all-knowing Creator. After all, He wants us to prosper and be in good health (3 John 1:2), or as we Trekkies say, “Live long and prosper”.

It seems as though the arm of Antiochus has reached through the ages and has taken hold even of our dietary habits. We know the Devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but today we don't need the Devil in the form of Antiochus to destroy our health, we willingly do it to ourselves by casting aside God-given dietary health rules.

Persecution

Each of the prohibitions previously mentioned (the study of Torah, keeping the Sabbath, feasts of the Lord, and dietary laws) were elements of a larger persecution of the Jews.

The goal of Antiochus IV was the eradication of Judaism. Similarly, today the goal of Islam is the eradication of Christianity. In many Islamic countries, the law demands that anyone guilty of converting from Islam to Christianity be sentenced to death by decapitation. In Nigeria, the leader of Boko Haram has vowed to kill every Christian in the country. And of course, we've all heard of the Christian genocide happening in the Middle East due largely to ISIS. But Boko Haram and ISIS are only two of many Islamic terrorist groups. Let's not forget Al-Qaida, Al-Shabab, Hamas, Hezbollah, MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), Muslim Brotherhood, Sudanese Islamist Regime, the Taliban, and other Islamic terrorist groups

Antiochus gave the Jews an ultimatum; renounce your faith and assimilate into the surrounding Hellenistic culture, or die. Likewise, today Muslims subject Christians to a similar ultimatum; renounce your faith and convert to Islam, or die. According to a recent OneNewsNow.com report, some 90,000 believers in Christ were martyred for their faith in 2016. The same news article reports that persecution of Christians in Africa has reached epidemic proportions. To learn more about the global persecution of Christians read my IDOP 2016 article, War on Christianity.

Reminiscent of the days of Antiochus IV, in many places around the world, Christians face brutal persecution. Stories of ISIS atrocities bear shocking similarities to the story of the martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons as recorded in 2 Maccabees 7.

Most Bible scholars agree that Antiochus IV foreshadows the end-time Antichrist. So when we look back to the events surrounding the Maccabean Revolt, we also get a glimpse of the future Great Tribulation. (See Matthew 24:15, Daniel 7:15-28 and Revelation 19:11-20.) The arm of Antiochus has reached into the present age and has a stranglehold on much of the Body of Christ.

“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (See Luke 21:5-36)

Conclusion

In a world of compromise fueled by Biblical illiteracy and a rising tide of persecution, how will you respond? My prayer is that you will say, as did Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Break free from the arm of Antiochus!

Three Crosses