Most people who follow Bible prophecy are aware that the trigger for the beginning of the 7-year Tribulation is the covenant that Antichrist confirms between Israel and an entity described as the “many.” We famously see this in Daniel 9:27:
And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
The covenant is for a week of years, i.e. seven years. It is believed by most people who study this passage that this covenant will pave the way for the building of the 3rd temple in Jerusalem, what we also call the “Tribulation Temple.” This will enable the orthodox Jews to once more begin religious rituals, including sacrificial offerings. At the midpoint of this period – at the three and one half year mark – “he” (the Antichrist) – will cause these sacrifices to end. Following in the footsteps of the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes circa 165 BC, who desecrated the temple by killing a pig there and spreading its blood on the altar, Antichrist will similarly perform the abomination of desecration. As Daniel describes, the desolator, i.e. Antichrist, will himself ultimately come to a preordained end.
Perhaps you’ve wondered what circumstances would cause Israel to trust Antichrist to broker a deal that is eventually broken. First is the fact that Antichrist has somehow brought the Jews to a position of faith in his goodwill toward them. Perhaps they see him as their Messiah for some reason. If that’s the case, that would certainly convince them that he had Israel’s best interests at heart. All we can do is speculate about this, as Scripture is silent how this actually comes about.
Secondly, circumstances in the world must bring about the need for Israel to even consider such a covenant in the first place. Again, speculation is all we have, with some thinking Islamic pressure necessitates the deal; whereas others, like noted Bible prophecy teacher Bill Salus (and me, who is un-noted!), believe this comes about because of the rise of militant Catholicism. Regardless of the precipitating cause, God declares that this covenant is not of Him; in fact, it is destined to bring Israel to its knees because it is based on lies. Consider what Isaiah 28:14-15 says about it:
Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers,
who rule this people in Jerusalem!
Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement,
when the overwhelming whip passes through
it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;
The overwhelming whip in these verses is also known as the overwhelming scourge (KJV). This agreement is made with Death and Sheol, a.k.a. Hades in the Greek. One very prominent mention of these two partners in crime is in the opening of the 4th Seal in Revelation 6:7-8:
When he [i.e. the Lamb = Jesus] opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.
If Isaiah is referring to these verses in Revelation – which I believe he is – then the partners to Daniel’s covenant are Death and Hades, who come riding forth at the opening of this final Seal. They are bringing an overwhelming scourge that Israel greatly fears. A scourge is an instrument of punishment which brings affliction and suffering. Israel wants to avoid this.
The problem is that the agreement made is based on falsehoods. These untruths may come from all parties to the covenant. Antichrist knows he’ll break it. The many, represented by Death and Hades (Sheol) may be plotting to cheat on it. The leaders of Israel may be trying to retain their positions of power and will do whatever is necessary in selling out their people so as to retain governmental control. In other words, just as Isaiah says, this is a false refuge against whatever is threatening Israel.
It gets worse, Isaiah 28:18 tells us the fate of this agreement and of Israel who enters into it:
Then your covenant with death will be annulled,
and your agreement with Sheol will not stand;
when the overwhelming scourge passes through,
you will be beaten down by it.
God declares that He will cancel this agreement. It will fall like broken shards to the earth and be ground into dust. The trouble that Israel hoped to avoid will come upon her anyway. Likely the misfortune and torment that subsequently engulfs Israel will be worse than the people ever imagined.
Consider what Isaiah 28:19 says about it:
As often as it passes through it will take you;
for morning by morning it will pass through,
by day and by night;
and it will be sheer terror to understand the message.
Even just hearing of what transpires in this horrific evil will cause many to tremble in abject fear, let alone the actual harm that occurs.
God’s plan for Israel requires her to be broken. Indeed she will be as Isaiah 28:22 tells us:
… for I have heard a decree of destruction
from the Lord God of hosts against the whole land.
Only through this devastation upon all of Israel and her people during the Tribulation can God get her attention. Through the witness of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the preaching of the two witnesses in Jerusalem, and finally by the Gospel proclaimed throughout the world by the angelis host – Israel will finally acknowledge Jesus Christ as her long-awaited Messiah. She will see the truth of Jesus just as Isaiah 28:16 says she will:
… therefore thus says the Lord God,
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
God’s hopes and plans for His Chosen People will come to pass. It will be a hard-won victory for Him and a painful reality for the Jewish nation as Zechariah 13:8-9 recounts:
In the whole land, declares the Lord,
two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one third shall be left alive.
And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
Indeed, Israel will repeat the words they proclaimed as Jesus first entered Jerusalem to their fickle acclaim, but this time they will mean them:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.” (Psalm 118:26)