Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given [them] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of My Father's hand. "I and [My] Father are one." John 10:22-30 NKJV
There is an old Jewish saying that I have read many times over the years which says simply that “coincidence isn’t kosher”. I don’t recall when I first read that, but it is something that I have always remembered when I study the Word because of my personal belief that God intended every word, and even the very punctuation to be placed exactly where we find it. I believe this is exactly what Jesus was referring to when He made the following statement to the disciples in what we know as the Sermon on the Mount.
“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Matthew 5:18 NKJV
It is because of this that I have become very sensitive to the structure of God’s Word as well as the content, and one of the things I habitually do is look to see where and when certain words are repeated in scripture and how they are used in order to better understand the meaning of what I am reading. I recall as a parent using certain words, and often repeating them at times, when I wanted to make a point to my children in the hope that they would remember whatever it was that I was trying to convey. I believe God has done the same thing in His Word to us, which is why I always take a closer look when I find certain words which are repeated.
Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, is considered to be one of the minor holidays in Israel, and is not one of the seven major feasts instituted by God in the Old Testament. Yet we do find it mentioned in the New Testament in this passage from John, and when we read these verses we find that it plays a rather important part in the life of our Lord. I have always found it curious that throughout His early ministry, Jesus seemed to go out of His way to avoid stating specifically that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. It almost seemed as if He was waiting for a particular, appointed time to do it, and on this particular day, the Feast of Dedication, we find that Jesus was asked this very question as He walked in the temple.
Since Jesus answered this question the way He did, this was obviously the day He was waiting for. Yet it is not the fact that Jesus answered the question plainly and unequivocally that caught my attention, but rather His use of a particular word in His answer which I find not only interesting, but rather intriguing considering we know He chose His words carefully and deliberately. You see, twice in this passage Jesus uses the word “snatch” when referring to His “sheep”. Now as I have said, repeating a word always gets my attention so I first of all wanted to look closer at the original Greek, and also look to see if it is used elsewhere in the Word and the context in which it is used.
When I did this, no surprise, I again was reminded why studying the Word is so much fun to me. The word for “snatch” that Jesus uses here is harpazo, meaning to seize, carry off by force, to claim for oneself eagerly, to snatch out or away. I’m also sure most of you recognize this as the very same word used by Paul in Thessalonians to refer to the rapture of the Church. The word rapture simply comes from the Latin translation of harpazo, and this is the event that we as believers are all looking forward to with great anticipation.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NKJV
Obviously my first thought was that this is not a coincidence, but rather an intentional use of the same word. Unfortunately though, the next step is to try and come up with an explanation as to why? This is where most of us could probably come up with our own, and probably very different explanations. Many have speculated in the past, however, that Hanukkah would be a perfect time for the rapture of the Church for many different reasons. Of course, although I might agree, I also firmly believe that the rapture could occur on any given day and is not restricted to any of the Jewish holidays.
Was Jesus trying to tell His believers when He would return for His bride? I certainly couldn’t say that was the case, yet looking at the state of the world in which we live and examining events in light of what the Word of God has revealed to us should give all of us who believe pause for thought. Have you ever considered that Jesus is eagerly awaiting the Father's permission to snatch His bride from this earth? It seems more than obvious to many that we are rapidly approaching the time of our deliverance from this earth, and with Hanukkah just a month away, it would not surprise me in the least if Jesus were to call us home then, coincidently while we celebrate His birth at Christmas.
As we celebrated Thanksgiving this past week, and as most eagerly wait for Christmas to arrive, may we all remember to give thanks to God for His gift of salvation to us through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. If you have never made the decision to accept that free gift I encourage you to do so today. Simply ask God to forgive you of your sin based on your belief that Jesus died to pay the price for your sin, and turn over control of your life to Him. You can do that right now by praying a prayer just like this one;
"Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen."
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV