Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Historical origins of Christmas

What are the historical origins of Christmas?

In Rome, 300 years after the resurrection of our Lord, there was a yearly feast celebrating the Roman god Saturn. This time of celebration was always situated around the December 17th - 23rd time frame, which was also called the Winter Solstice. The pagan year is a period of days, months and times that revolve around the seasonal changes of the earth (winter, spring, summer and autumn). The Winter Solstice is a day or period of days in the winter when the days are shortest (light) and the nights longest (darkness prevails). This is usually a time in their festivities of drunkenness, revelry and debauchery (perversion). The Pagan Romans called this celebration "The Feast of Saturnalia," in honor of their god Saturn. This festival was celebrated from the 17th to the 23rd of December. It was a time of merrymaking, and on the last two days exchanging "gifts" from house to house in honor of Saturn.

"Saturnalia"-was the name of an ancient Roman festival given in honor of Saturn, the Roman harvest god. The festival began on Dec.17th and lasted for seven days. On the first day, public religious ceremonies honoring Saturn took place. On the second day, many families offered sacrifices of young pigs. The Saturnalia festival was a gay occasion. Schools closed and all public business stopped. Courts of law closed their doors, and no criminals could be punished. Families held their banquets and even slaves were free to attend the festival. The last days of the festival were spent visiting and exchanging presents. Some of the gifts were little clay images called "sigillaria", which means small images (idols) (source: World Book Encyclopedia)

Then on the 25th of December, they began the new Celebration of "The birthday of the unconquerable Sun" (Natalis Solis Invicti). The ancient pagans believed that the sun would die during the winter solstice and then rise again from death as the solstice ended and the days of light began to lengthen, with the sun climbing higher in the sky, regaining its dominance. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Persian/Iranian mystery god Mithras, the Sun of Righteousness, the god of light, the Grand Deliverer. The Sun God Mithras was a popular deity in the Old Roman Empire, whose cult penetrated the Roman world in the first century B.C. "This festival has been commonly believed to have had only an astronomical character, referring simply to the completion of the sun's yearly course, and the commencement of a new cycle. But there is indubitable evidence that the festival in question had a much higher influence than this--that it commemorated not merely the figurative birthday of the sun in the renewal of its course, but the birth-day of the grand Deliverer...the Sun-God and great mediatorial divinity." (source - Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons or The Papal Worship, Loizeaux Brothers, 1916, pp. 94, 97)

Mithra was known as Horus in Egypt, Tammuz in Babylon, and various appellations in other ancient mythologies: "In Egypt, the son of Isis, the Egyptian title for the queen of heaven, was born at this very time, 'about the time of the winter solstice.' The very name by which Christmas is popularly known among ourselves - Yule day - proves at once its Pagan and Babylonian origin. 'Yule' is the Chaldee name for an 'infant' or 'little child' and as the 25th of December was called by our Pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors, 'Yule-day,' or the 'Child's day,' and the night which preceded it, 'Mother-night,' long before they came into contact with Christianity, that sufficiently proves its real character. Far and wide in the realms of paganism was this birth-day observed." (source - The Two Babylons, pp. 93, 94)

"Mother night", which today is called, "Christmas Eve", has nothing to do with Mary, the mother of our Lord, it was observed centuries before Jesus was born. Semiramis (Nimrod's wife) was the inspiration for "Mother night," and "Child's day" was the birthday of her son (Tammuz), the sun-god. Obviously Satan knew that Jesus would leave heaven and be born of a virgin to become the Saviour, and mediator between God and man, so he created a counterfeit Virgin and child, to confuse the people and take away their worship from God. The counterfeit Virgin was a beautiful witch named Semiramis. Constantine used religion as a political tool, and started to introduce the Babylonian mystery religions in 313 A.D. which then established a foothold with the holding of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

In 375 A.D., the Church of Rome under Pope Julius I merely announced that the birth date of Christ had been "discovered" to be December 25th, and was accepted as such by the "faithful." The festival of Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithras could now be celebrated as the birthday of Christ, even though the early church fathers, including Origen, stated for the record that it was blasphemous to celebrate this festival. Following the lead of Rome, the Church at Jerusalem commenced the celebration of Christmas, around 440 A.D.

In scripture, G-d forbids mixing Darkness and Light. Even many early Church Father considered this celebration evil - "even though the early church fathers, including Origen, stated for the record that it was blasphemous to celebrate this festival". This then is the reason the Synagogue does not celebrate Christmas.

We encourage each person to read the above facts prayfully and ask, "What do we believe G-d would have us to do? "

No one is judging anyone on how they choose to follow or not follow this practice. It is my job to inform and educate. G-d is the One who convicts the heart.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Extra-Scriptural sources?

Is it proper to use extra-Scriptural sources?

One area that confuses some people coming from an evangelical protestant view is the reference to the Rabbis, Talmud, and extra- Scriptural sources in Messianic Jewish teachings. The reaction varies from curiosity to hostility. This article is to help those that might not understand why these sources are used, their value, and the scriptural precedence for their use.

Lets discuss these in some detail:

Scriptural precedence for the use of extra-Scriptural sources
It may surprise some, but Scripture itself quotes extra-Scriptural sources. In the Renewed Covenant reference is made to the book of Enoch and other sources are alluded to. So if Scripture itself uses certain other writings, then study of those writings cannot be seen as condemned by HaShem.

The value of extra-Scriptural sources
Writings ranging from the Talmud to Josephus, numbering in the 100's, add considerable information of both the historical and cultural context of the writings of Scripture. Here are some examples:

* The Mishna (Oral Torah) for example, tells us many of the Oral Traditions followed during the time of Messiah. Many of these traditions the Master would have practiced himself as a fully Torah-observant Jew.
* Josephus's writings teach us much of the time period and many facts about both Jewish life and the destruction of Jerusalem. Much of this information is not available anywhere else.
* The Psuedoepighrapha contains many volumes, such as Enoch (mentioned above), that paint a vivid picture of common beliefs in the 2nd Temple era.
* Philo's work speaks of the Word of G-D being part of G-D.
* Targums (Aramaic Translations of Scripture) use specific wording that indicates common understanding of Scripture in the first century.

Why extra-Scriptural sources are used
These extra-Scriptural sources can provide valuable insight on how the Messiahs were understood to those He spoke with. They provide valuable understand as to the intended meaning of His words. They clarify difficult Hebrew idioms that we cannot understand today. This material is critical to maintaining a true picture of what the Master taught.

In Conclusion
Extra-Scriptural sources add meaning to the Scriptures and provide the proper framework for a proper understanding of their meaning. These extra-Scriptural sources should not be used alone for doctrine. They provide value when used along with Scripture to rightly divide the Word and give a true understanding of the doctrine our Master taught us to follow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Prophetic Meaning of Hanukkah

The Prophetic Meaning of Hanukkah

A brief history of Hanukkah - from the Jerusalem Prayer Team

The annual festival of Hanukkah begins December 4th and is celebrated for eight successive days to honor the restoration of divine worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple had been defiled by the Syrian King Antiochus who removed the Temple treasures, and forbade the Jews to celebrate the holy days.

He further desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the Holy Altar, then dedicating the altar to the worship of Zeus. A small group of Hasmoneans led by Judas Maccabee mounted an attack on the Syrians, and drove them out. The altar to Zeus was destroyed, and the Temple was purified. A new Holy Altar using unhewn stones was erected and consecrated.

After the Temple was cleansed, only one small cruse of oil for use in the holy lamps was found. The decision was made to light the Temple Menorah, the seven-branched candelabra. To the total amazement of everyone, the Menorah burned brightly for eight days...until new oil was available.

The rededication of the altar is still observed with eight days of joy and gladness during the same season each year, beginning on the twenty-fifth of Kislev. The light of the Menorah is the symbol of the light of Adonai. At the heart of the celebration is not only the recounting of the revolt and renewal, but the miracle of the oil.

Prophetic Overtones?

So what does Hanukkah have to do with Prophecy? Many scholars & teachers believe in the story of Hanukkah we can see a picture of:

* The Anti-Messiah
* What conditions will be like during his reign of terror
* The destruction of the Anti-Messiah

Let' s look at each of these in some detail:

The Anti-Messiah

Antiochus is a picture of the future Anti-Messiah. He declared himself "Antiochus Epiphanies" which means "visible god". Daniel 7:8 says the same about a future Anti-Messiah, "While I was considering the horns, another horn sprang up among them, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. In this horn were eyes like human eyes and a mouth speaking arrogantly. 2Th 2:3 Don't let anyone deceive you in any way. For the Day will not come until after the Apostasy has come and the man who separates himself from Torah has been revealed, the one destined for doom. 2Th 2:4 says, "He will oppose himself to everything that people call a god or make an object of worship; he will put himself above them all, so that he will sit in the Temple of God and proclaim that he himself is God."

He made people bow down to his statues and if they didn't comply.....the consequence was death! From scripture we know the future Anti-Messiah will act the same way, declaring himself to be G-d: Rev 13:15 "It was allowed to put breath into the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could even speak; and it was allowed to cause anyone who would not worship the image of the beast to be put to death."

What conditions will be like during his reign of terror

Social and political pressures caused many Jews to follow Antiochus and they actually bowed down to his statues. Those that did not where killed in the most cruel ways possible. Mothers who had their babies circumcised where forced to watch their babies being murdered, then tied on their chest as they where hurled over the walls of Jerusalem to their death.

The future Anti-Messiah will likewise force all those who follow the G-d of Abraham , Isaac & Jacob to to choose: Death or worship him and take the mark.
Rev 13:15 "It was allowed to put breath into the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could even speak; and it was allowed to cause anyone who would not worship the image of the beast to be put to death. Rev 13:16 Also it forces everyone - great and small, rich and poor, free and slave - to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead Rev 13:17 preventing anyone from buying or selling unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name."

The destruction of the Anti-Messiah

The defeat of Antiochus and his army is a picture of a future fight in which the forces of Messiah will destroy the forces of the man of sin.

The revolt began by one person, a G-dly priest named Matathias and his sons standing up for their belief in the one true G-d of Israel. As the revolt began, Matathias cried "Whoever is for the Lord, follow me!". The war was waged for over 2 years, and many died.

The war against the Anti-Messiah may begin in a similar manner, as those who are true to G-d stand-up to the Anti-Messiah; but unlike before, victory will not come until the armies of G-d descend with the trumpet of G-d and King Messiah enters the battle. As King Messiah enters the battle, the forces of the Anti-Messiah will be decimated and Jerusalem will be delivered.

With the final destruction of the Anti-Messiah, the real Messiah, who brought this great victory, will restore Israel to her place as the priestly nation of the world. The Temple will be restored and sacrifices will resume.

From Jerusalem Messiah will reign to the Glory of Adonai. The earth will be healed, and all the nations of the world will come to Jerusalem to worship their King.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el