The Beginning of the Great Tribulation

Dani'el 9:24-27 and Isaiah 28:14-22

   DIG: What do the 7 sevens, the 62 sevens and the 1 seven mean? What is the abomination that causes desolation (see Matthew 24:15)? What is the covenant of death? In contrast to lies and falsehood, what is the sure foundation of God’s Kingdom? What promise is given to those who will trust in that chief cornerstone? What is the warning given to those who do not?

   REFLECT: For Dani'el and Jesus, how is the emphasis placed on what the future holds? Or on who holds the future? In what things (money, relationships, power, and so on) do people try to find refuge today? In your opinion, what is the Gospel in these passages?

    It has been emphasized that the signing of the seven-year covenant between the antichrist and Isra'el actually starts the Great Tribulation, not the Rapture. These two key passages bear this out.

    Dani'el 9:1-23 provide the introduction to the 70 sevens prophecy found in verses 24-27. The background is given in verses 1-2. Dani'el had been studying Jeremiah as well as other prophets, such as Isaiah. He realized that seventy years of Babylonian rule were nearly finished (see my commentary on Jeremiah Gu - Seventy Years of Imperial Babylonian Rule). Much of the prophecy he clearly understood. But what he misunderstood about the prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah was that he thought the messianic Kingdom would be set up following the seventy years of captivity. He also knew from the prophets that the prerequisite for setting up the messianic Kingdom would be the nation of Isra'el confessing her sins. Assuming that the Babylonian rule would be immediately followed by the messianic Kingdom, Dani'el prayed a prayer of confession for Isra'el’s sins in Dani'el 9:3-19.

    In Dani'el 20-23, the angel Gabriel was sent to correct Dani'el’s misunderstanding about the Kingdom’s being set up at the end of the seventy years of captivity. In a play on words, he informed Dani'el that it was not going to be seventy years, but 70 sevens of years before the messianic Kingdom would be established.181

    70 sevens are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy (Dani'el 9:24).

    70 sevens: The Hebrew word for sevens is shavuim and could refer to “seven” of anything, just like the English word “dozen” simply means “twelve” and could be twelve of anything. In this context it meant sevens of years because Dani'el had been calculating the seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity, assuming that afterward the messianic Kingdom would be set up.

    Are decreed for your people and your holy city: Dani'el was told that it was not seventy years that needed to pass before the messianic Kingdom would be set up, but 70 sevens of years, or a period of 490 years had been decreed. The Hebrew word for decreed means to cut off. Throughout his book, Dani'el had been dealing with the Times of the Gentiles. It began with the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC and will end with the Second Coming of Messiah. Here Dani'el was told that a 490-year period was being cut off from the Times of the Gentiles (see An - The Times of the Gentiles) to bring about the restoration of Isra'el. This period of 70 sevens would concern the Jewish people and the holy city of Jerusalem. It would have nothing to do with the Church.182 The 490-year period that God has decreed on the Jewish people is meant to accomplish six things. The first group of three are negative aspects of this period, while the second group of three are positive.

    1. To finish transgression: The Hebrew word for finish means to restrain completely or bring to an end. Transgression is a very strong word for sin coming from the Hebrew avar. It literally means to rebel or to go beyond a set limit. In the Hebrew text, it has the definite article. So it does not mean merely to finish rebellion, but to finish the rebellion. It refers to one specific act of rebellion and to bring it to an end. In this context, the one specific sin is the rejection of Christ. The leadership of Isra'el rejected Him and the leadership of Isra'el will have to ask Him to return before the Second Coming can take place (see Ev - The Basis for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ).

    2. To put an end to sin: The Hebrew word for to put an end to means to seal up or to be locked up, and normally means the sealing up for the purpose of punishment (Deuteronomy 32:34; Job 14:17). The Hebrew word for sin here means to miss the mark of a set standard. It is in the plural and refers to the sin nature rather than a willful, consciously chosen sin. The unsaved Gentiles who survive the Great Tribulation will continue to sin during the messianic Kingdom. But the daily sins of Isra'el will be put to an end at Messiah’s Second Coming (Isaiah 27:9; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27, 37:23; and Romans 11:20-27).183

    3. To atone for wickedness: The verb to atone, the Hebrew word kapar, means to cover. The word for wickedness, from the Hebrew awal, means failure to fulfill the standard of righteousness or lack of integrity. Kapar is the main word for atonement in the TaNaKh. Israel’s Day of Atonement is in view here (see my commentary on Exodus Go – The Day of Atonement). On that day ADONAI provided a just basis on which He could deal with a guilty people. The mercy seat was the place of propitiation. The word propitiation means to satisfy. And it was at the mercy seat that God’s wrath against sin was atoned for, or satisfied. At that time the high priest would sprinkle the blood of a goat over the mercy seat, when this was done the LORD’s wrath against the wickedness of the nation was satisfied. So Dani'el prophesied that Isra'el’s national sin of rejection of Messiah will be removed when the leadership of Isra'el ask for forgiveness (see above). At that time Christ will return and all of Isra'el, the one-third that is left at the end of the Great Tribulation, will be saved (Romans 11:26).

    4. To bring in everlasting righteousness: The second three accomplishments deal with the positive aspects of God’s program as a result of the Great Tribulation. Being satisfied with the atoning death of Christ, ADONAI will bring in everlasting righteousness. Literally, to bring in the righteousness of ages. This is a prophecy that the LORD will establish an age characterized by righteousness. This is a reference to the millennial or messianic Kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6).184

    5. To seal up vision and prophecy: All that YHVH said through the prophets about what He would do in fulfilling His covenant with Isra'el will be fully realized in the messianic Kingdom. The Hebrew word to seal up, hatam, means to enclose something authoritatively, hiding it from view and showing that its functions are completed. When the messianic Kingdom comes, then all the prophecies concerning the nation of Isra'el will be completed.185

    6. And to anoint the most holy: The Hebrew actually reads: And to anoint the most holy place. It does not point to a most holy Person, but a most holy place. To the Jews, this would have been the Temple. Not the First Temple of Solomon, nor the Second Temple of Zerubbabel, and surely not the Third Temple of the Tribulation (see Bx – The Tribulation Temple). More specifically, it is the Fourth Temple, the millennial Kingdom Temple, built by the Lord Himself (see my commentary on Jeremiah Gs - God Shows a Vision of the Millennial Temple).

    Know and understand that from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Yerushalayim Anointed One, the Ruler, comes, there will be 7 sevens, and 62 sevens. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble (Dani'el 9:25). The 490 year period, or 70 sevens, is then divided into three units: 7 sevens, 62 sevens and 1 seven.

    Know and understand that from the issuing of the degree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem: This begins the second division of the prophecy and the beginning point to the 70 sevens period. This period of time will begin with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.

    Until the Anointed One, the Ruler, comes: The end or goal of the prophecy was the appearance of the Anointed One, the Ruler. Jesus Christ will be anointed as Ruler of His Messianic Kingdom. The prophecy of the 70 sevens does not end with Christ’s First Coming, but with His Second Coming and the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom.

    There will be 7 sevens and 62 sevens: The 7 sevens and the 62 sevens run consecutively with no time between them and combined for a period of 69 sevens. The first unit of 7 sevens was a total of 49 years and refers to the time that it took to restore and rebuild the holy city of Tziyon.

    It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench: Though Nehemiah’s wall construction project took only 52 days, many years may have been needed to remove the city’s debris after being left desolate for so many decades. They needed to rebuild adequate housing, and rebuild the streets and a trench, possibly for Jerusalem’s fortification.

    But in times of trouble: This continued construction would be carried out in the face of trouble and opposition. Ezra’s trouble in building spiritually are seen in Ezra 9 and 10, and Nehemiah’s problems in constructing physically are presented in Nehemiah 4:1-23, 6:1-14 and 9:36-37. Nehemiah also experienced trouble in building spiritually in Nehemiah 13.186

    After the 62 sevens, the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come, will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood. War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed (Dani'el 9:26).

    After the 62 sevens: The second unit of 62 sevens was a total of 434 years and started after Jerusalem was restored and lasted until the First Coming of Jesus Christ. The Anointed One was not cut off in the 70th seven; He was cut off after the 7 and 62 sevens had run their course. This means that there will be a period of time between the 69th and 70th seven.187 Then Dani'el was told what three events would take place in that interval.

    1. The Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing: Jesus would be killed. The expression will be cut off is used of executing the death penalty on a criminal. Furthermore, it says and will have nothing. This Hebrew phrase means but not for Himself. In other words: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

    2. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: The word people in the Hebrew text has the definite article. It is the people, the specific people, who are the subject of the action. In other words, it is not the ruler who will destroy the city and the sanctuary, but rather the people of the ruler. The point here is that the nationality of the people and the ruler are the same. The ruler who will come, in this context is the antichrist of whom Dan'iel has already spoken of in Dani'el 7 and 8. After Christ was cut off the Romans destroyed the city and the sanctuary in AD 70. Since the antichrist must be of the same nationality as the people who destroyed the city and the sanctuary, the Bible teaches that the antichrist will be a Gentile. The people of the ruler were not all Romans. Certainly in the years of the Roman Republic and the early years of the Roman Empire, most of the officers and soldiers in the Roman army were Romans, if not Roman citizens. But as the Empire grew in size, the city of Rome and its citizenry could not supply enough men to make up the whole of the Roman army. Rome would allow citizens of conquered nations to join the Roman army, but simply being in the Roman army did not make one a Roman. Then Dani'el states that the end will come like a flood. When the figure of a flood is used symbolically in the Bible, it always is a symbol of a military invasion. Jerusalem was destroyed by a Roman military invasion, first under Vespasian and then under Titus.188

    3. War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed: For the remainder of the gap of time between the 69th seven and the 70th seven, the Land will be characterized by war. This prophecy has certainly been true throughout the history of the Middle East. As a result of these wars, desolations have occurred as decreed, or determined, by YHVH. The third unit of the 70 sevens will be the last seven year period, the Great Tribulation, or the end.

    And he will confirm a covenant with many for 1 seven. In the middle of that 1 seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wings he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Dani'el 9:27).

    The 70th seven is the seven years of the Great Tribulation. In Dani'el 27 these seven years are subdivided into two equal halves of three-and-a-half years. They are described differently in the books of Dani'el and Revelation. Sometimes each half is referred to as 1,260 days (Revelation 12:6); sometimes as 42 months (Revelation 11:2); and also a time, times and half a time (Dani'el 7:25). Since there will be a period of time between the 69th seven and the 70th seven, what will be the sign that will begin the last seven year period?

    And he: The pronoun he goes back to its nearest antecedent, or the ruler who will come in Dani'el 9:26. He is the antichrist, who was identified as the little horn (Dani'el 7:8, 19-25, 8:23-25). Since Daniel has described the antichrist twice before and will again (Dani'el 11:36-45), it is not surprising that he would be brought back into the picture here.189

    Will confirm a covenant with many for 1 seven: This will be the sign that the Great Tribulation has begun. The ruler who will come, or the antichrist, will confirm a covenant with many. The Hebrew word confirm does not mean to renew an existing covenant, but to make a new agreement with firm guarantees. It will be a firm commitment. The Hebrew word many has a definite article, meaning the many. The specific many, the Jews who will enter into a firm covenant with the antichrist that will begin the last seven years of Dani'el’s 70th seven. They will comprise about two-thirds of the nation of Isra'el and will die in the worldwide persecution during the Tribulation.190 The Bible teaches that the Rapture will happen before the Great Tribulation, but it never teaches that the Rapture starts it.

    In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering: After the first three-and-a-half years the antichrist will break his covenant with Isra'el. He will forcibly put an end to the ongoing, all be it worthless, sacrificial system in the Tribulation Temple (Revelation 11:1-2).

    And on the wings he will set up an abomination that causes desolation: The phrase on the wings is taken from the Hebrew root word kanap, which means to cover over, and as in Isaiah 8:8 definitely has the idea of overspreading in a destructive sense. Therefore, in the middle of the Great Tribulation, the false prophet will set up an image of the antichrist (Revelation 13:14b). The false prophet will be given power by Satan to give apparent life to the image of the antichrist, so that it could speak, deceiving many. Where the One True God dwelt between the overspreading wings of the cherubim on the mercy seat, Satan will foolishly try to take His place. The antichrist will cause desolation because for the next 42 months he will attempt to destroy the Jews. He will attempt to finish what Hitler could not accomplish: genocide of the nation of Isra'el. It will be his final solution to the thorn that has always been in the side of the Adversary . . . the Jewish people.

    Until the end that is decreed is poured out on him: ADONAI has determined long ago that these things will come about (Isaiah 10:23 and 28:22). The end of the 70th seven will not go one single day beyond its predetermined duration (Mattityahu 24:22). At the end of the Great Tribulation, during the Campaign of Armageddon, Yeshua Himself will kill the antichrist (Habakkuk 3:13b; Second Thessalonians 2:8). The judgment that has been decreed upon him will be poured out at that time.

    While Dani'el 9:27 presents the covenant that begins the Great Tribulation from man’s perspective, Isaiah 28:14-22 presents the same covenant from God’s perspective.

    Therefore, hear the word of ADONAI, you scoffers who rule this people in Jerusalem (Isaiah 28:14). Ha'Shem calls the Jewish leadership scoffers and considers them mockers rather than godly leaders. The next verse explains why.

    You boast mightily: We have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement. When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us, for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place (Isaiah 28:15). The leaders of Isra'el think that by entering into this agreement with the antichrist they will escape the coming overwhelming scourge. Whenever used symbolically, the figure of a flood is always a symbol of a military invasion. So they think by entering into this covenant, they will be free from any further military invasions. But YHVH states that it will not be a covenant of life, but a covenant of death. It will not be a covenant from heaven, but a covenant from Sh'ol. Rather than obtaining security, they will only gain insecurity. There is a common misconception that Isra'el will accept the antichrist as Messiah. In reality, apostate Isra'el will make a covenant with him and place their security in that agreement. But there will be a believing remnant, faithful Isra'el, that will refuse to place their security anywhere but in the Lord.

    So this is what Adonai ELOHIM says: Look, I am laying in Zion a tested stone, a costly cornerstone, a firm foundation-stone; the one who trusts will never be dismayed (Isaiah 28:16 CJB). This verse assures us that there will be a believing remnant of Jews who refuse to have anything to do with the covenant with death. This remnant’s security is not in a covenant, but its security is in a costly cornerstone, a firm foundation-stone. According to Romans 9:33 and First Peter 2:6-8, this stone is Christ. Jesus states that He is the costly cornerstone that the Church would be built upon (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Fx - On This Rock I Will Build My Churh). And the gates of Sh'ol (CJB), the Jewish expression for death, will not overcome it. Friend, if you put your faith/trust/belief in Jesus, you will never be disappointed.

    Then in Isaiah 28:17-22, the same three results are found as in Dani'el 9:27. The first result will be the breaking of the covenant by the antichrist in Isaiah 28:17-18, followed by the military invasions they had hoped to escape. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, and water will overflow your hiding place. Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it.

    In the second result, sheer terror will fall upon the Jewish people (Isaiah 28:19-20). Isaiah 28:15 teaches that they entered the covenant because of security, but in Isaiah 28:19 and 20, there will be invasion and a lack of preparedness both militarily and spiritually. As often as it comes it will carry you away; morning after morning, by day and by night, it will sweep through. The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror. The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you. Instead of security, they will have insecurity.

    The third result is the wrath of Ha'Shem found in Isaiah 28:21-22. Of the many names that we have in Scripture for the Great Tribulation, Isaiah gives us two of them in Isaiah 28:21. They are ADONAI’s strange work, and ADONAI’s strange act. The reason it is a strange work and a strange act is seen in Isaiah 28:22; it is a decree of destruction against the whole world. As a result of the making of the covenant back in Isaiah 14-15, as in Dani'el 9:27, an announcement of destruction is contained in the sealed scroll of Revelation 6. Once those seven seals are broken, one by one, the judgment of the earth begins. By the time the Great Tribulation ends, the earth is in total chaos and despair. Therefore, once the covenant is signed, the Great Tribulation and the destruction begins.

 

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