|Petra and the Place of Safety
Study No. 127
God is Our Hiding Place
Scripture is full of encouraging reminders that only the Eternal is our source of refuge and protection, and that we are not to worry and fret about coming dangers of famine, disease epidemics, war and earthquakes.
Psalm 18:2, 31, "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation and my high tower . . . For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?"
Psalm 27:5, "For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock."
Psalm 31:20, "Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues."
Psalm 32:7, "Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah."
Psalm 91:1-16, "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust . . . . Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee . . . . Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling."
Proverbs 14:26, "In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge."
See also Job 5:21, Psalm 62:1-8, 34:19, 121:1-8.
False Prophets of Petra
There are many "Places of Safety" claimed by different religious groups, such as Arkansas, northeast Pennsylvania, or the Caucasus Mountains. Others have identified the rose red city of PETRA in modern Jordan as the location where the Eternal will protect His people during the Great Tribulation. Some imply that being taken to the "Place of Safety," is almost equivalent to entering the Kingdom of God.
According to past Worldwide Church of God teaching, January 7, 1972, was the date the church was to flee to Petra. When this event failed to materialize, time was extended. The church?s "long-winded prophet of Petra," Gerald Waterhouse, continued to tour churches, expounding his prophetic speculations. At one time, purchase of a fleet of DC-10?s was said to have been predicted, which would usher church members to Jerusalem, where they would trek to Petra. Waterhouse?s "Petra Doctrine" emphasized loyalty to the organization above loyalty to the Creator. Only faithful church members would be protected in the Place of Safety. Disloyal or lukewarm believers would suffer the Great Tribulation. Because of erroneous prophetic date setting, some church members put off needed dental work, failed to plant fruit trees, didn?t save for their children?s education, and lived in fear that they would miss the boat or plane to Petra. Such prophetic excesses make it almost impossible for some to objectively study the subject of Petra and the Place of Safety.
Nevertheless, the Bible says a great deal about Petra and the fact that the Almighty will divinely protect His chosen people. In spite of others, we should heed what the Bible has to say about Petra and the Place of Safety.
Refuge in Selah (Petra)
Petra has had several names: Sela, Kadesh, Kadesh-barnea, Arce, Rekem, and Joktheel. It is a well-known fact that the Greek word for rock, petra, is the equivalent of the Hebrew Selah or Sela.
Isaiah 16:1-4 Mentions Selah and outcasts seemingly being hidden in the land of Moab. Verse 5 shows that this will happen just before the return of the Messiah to rule from the throne of David. This chapter show the Eternal?s judgment on Moab.
Isaiah 33:15-17 shows that the righteous shall dwell in the munitions of rocks (i.e., rock fortresses), and be given bread and water. Just as the Almighty protected Israel in the wilderness, so will He protect and provide for His people in the last days.
Isaiah 42:10-13 prophesies that the inhabitants of the rock (Selah) shall sing and rejoice, along with seafarers and others living on the coast lands and the wilderness.
Isaiah 43:20-21, " . . . I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen . . . they shall shew forth my praise."
Psalm 108:10-13 speaks of God leading us to the strong city of Edom, and the Almighty helping us in a time of trouble.
Petra is at the entrance to the ancient land of Edom, just 16 miles northwest of Ma'an in the southern part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This area may be spared from the scourge of the King of the North in the end time:
Daniel 11:41, "He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon."
Satan?s Wrath: The Great Tribulation
The Great Tribulation is Satan?s wrath against the people of the Almighty. The Eternal promises to protect those who are faithful to His word.
Revelation 3:10, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."
On the other hand, the Father also promises that the lax, lazy and lukewarm of His people shall be chastised, in order to encourage them to be zealous for God, Revelation 3:14-19, 7:14, Ezekiel 5:2-4, 34:5-10, 13-16, and Zechariah 11:3-5, 15-17.
Revelation 12:12-17, " . . . Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time . . . . he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
Matthew 24:16-22, "Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: . . . . For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect?s sake those days shall be shortened."
We are not to follow into the desert impostors claiming the Messiah is there. If we go anywhere, the Eternal must lead us, Matthew 24:23-26.
Luke 21:12, "But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name?s sake."
Luke 21:16-18, "And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name?s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish." Some will be put to death, others will go through unscathed.
Romans 8:38-39 shows that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even persecution.
Hid From God?s Wrath
After Satan?s Wrath (the Great Tribulation), comes God?s Wrath (the Seven Last Plagues), described in Revelation chapters 16-19. While the former is directed against God?s remnant people, the latter falls on the unrighteous.
Isaiah 26:20-21, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain."
Zephaniah 2:3, "Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord?s anger."
The wicked will not flee from the wrath to come, Matthew 3:7. We need to listen to what the Eternal says, or we will never flee (escape), Hebrews 12:25. Just as the early New Testament church fled to Pella, so the Almighty?s people flee in the last days:
Luke 21:36, "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape [Greek ekphugo, literally, "to flee out of"] all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man."
Hebrews 2:3 uses the same word ekphugo, exhorting us, "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation . . . ?" The unrighteous will not be hid from the Almighty?s wrath:
Revelation 6:15-17, "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?"
Revelation 9:4, " . . . they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads."
A Way to Escape
Ezekiel 9:4-6 is a prophecy explaining that an angel will put the Eternal?s mark on the foreheads of the righteous so they will be spared.
I Corinthians 10:13, " . . . God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." The word here for "escape," the Greek #1545 ekbasis, means "a way out," or literally "to walk out," or "hoof it" in the vernacular today. This shows "there is a way out of our difficulties. That way is directly ahead, straight through the problem!" with the help of the Almighty (The Good News, November-December 1988, page 8). Hebrews 13:6-7 show us that we are to not fear what man can do to us, realizing God is our helper, following the example of the faithful leaders in the Church, considering the end (ekbasis) of their righteous conduct.
A person "escapes" a trial by being delivered, not necessarily by being absent from the conflict. Escape can mean survival. Daniel escaped the lion?s den, though spending the night in it; the three Hebrew boys escaped the fiery furnace by divine presence and protection, though right in the fire. Luke 21:16, says "some of you shall they cause to be put to death," yet verse 18, says "there shall not an hair of your head perish." Obviously, "escape" in this sense does not imply absence from the trouble, but survival: whether living through the trouble, or resurrection after the trouble has brought death. Jesus escaped death ? it could not hold Him, though He suffered it.
Colossians 3:3, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Hebrews 6:18, "That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us."
Fear Versus Arrogance
I John 4:18 says "Fear hath torment." Some who believe in a Place of Safety feel tormented and fearful they might "miss the plane" and have to go through the Great Tribulation. The Apostle John assures us that "There is no fear in love." Those fearful are holding to an incorrect doctrine. See also II Timothy 1:7, Romans 8:15, Matthew 6:25, 32-33, 10:39, Acts 21:13.
On the other hand, some are so sure of themselves going there, that they have a cocky arrogance and look down on others whom they think are "less righteous" and will have to suffer through the Great Tribulation. Both extremes are wrong.
The Jonestown, Guyana Jim Jones People?s Christian Church mass suicide episode shows the dangers of an extreme Place of Safety idea. One who seeks to save his life shall lose it, Luke 17:33. The prophecy of Revelation 6:15-17 shows the unconverted, not the believers, seeking refuge from God?s wrath among the caves and mountains in the last days. One should only flee to a cave or mountain if the Heavenly Father sends us there!
Physical Description and History of Petra
Petra is the Greek name for Sela, or Selah, a city of ancient Edom. The Hebrew word sela means "lofty, craggy rock, fortress, stronghold, cliff." Petra is located 120 miles south of Jerusalem, almost due south of the southern tip of the Dead Sea, and 60 miles north of Aqaba (Eilat). Roman geographer Strabo said Petra was 3-4 days journey south from Jericho. It is in the modern nation of Jordan, a few miles from the Israeli border.
Petra is legendary as the rock-cut "rose-red city half as old as time." The rose-red cliffs, nestled in a craggy canyon, are practically invisible from the air and almost impregnable from the ground.
In Abraham?s time, Petra was known as Selah. It is located in the mountains of Seir, the land of the Edomites. Petra has many natural caves that are ideal hiding places. In addition, inhabitants have hollowed out many more caves.
From Lebanon to the Gulf of Aqaba (Akaba), piercing through the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan Valley, and the Dead Sea, the rift valley splits the Holy Land in two. Petra is located about half way between the Dead Sea and Aqaba on the east side of the rift, near Jebel Shera, the Mount Seir of the Bible. The Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses, one of the traditional sites where Moses struck the rock and water gushed forth) is a great ravine running east to west enclosed by crimson cliffs which give the area its name, the Land of Edom, which means red. The Valley of Moses enters Petra from the East through a narrow winding 1 1/4 mile long gorge, or "Siq," 10-30 feet wide with walls over 150 feet high.
The city of Petra is only 3/4 mile long from north to south, varying width from 250-500 yards. There are ruins of rock carved temples, a theater, tombs and public buildings. Petra?s "suburbs" cover about 25 square miles, consisting of residential cliff dwellings with modest carvings around their entrances.
A mount rising 1,000 feet above it, Umm el Biyara, has eight deep cisterns for storing water. Sela in Arabic means "rock cleft." A few miles south of Petra is 4,280 feet high Mount Hor, which some say is where Aaron died. Josephus says that Miriam died at a mountain called Sin, near Petra, and that Aaron also died at a mountain in Petra (Ant. IV, iv, 6-7). He relates that a king Rekem was among five Midianite kings who fell to Moses and the Israelites, giving his name to the city, Arecem, later called by the Greeks Petra. In Jesus' and Josephus' day, Petra was "the chief and capital of all Arabia" (Ant. IV,vii,1).
Petra was originally inhabited by cave dwelling Horites. Esau drove out the native Horites and established the kingdom of Edom with its capital at Petra, Deuteronomy 2:12. Josephus says the Amalekites lived there (Ant. III, ii,1) at the time of Moses. Esau?s descendants were called "Edomites." The name "Seir," often associated with the Edomites and a mountain, means "rugged." At that time, the area was fertile, as prophesied in Genesis 27:39, and attested to in Numbers 20:17. The Edomites were defeated by King Amaziah of Judah.
Nabatean Kingdom of Arabia Petra
An Arab (Ishmaelite) tribe known as the Nabateans replaced the Edomites, and made Petra their center beginning about 300 B.C. The Nabateans migrated up from southern Arabia and had a history of carving cities in stone. They worshipped rock, and their god Dushares is represented in obelisk carvings on buildings and niches throughout Petra. Nabateans gained a monopoly on the lucrative spice trade from the East through Elath (Aqaba) and Gaza. They battled the Seleucids, successors to the Greek Empire, and sacked Damascus in 85 B.C. Nabateans dug thousands of room size chambers into the rose-colored limestone mountains that rise steeply from the valley floor of Petra. The largest monument is a massive cliff building named El Deir, a two hour climb up a carved stone staircase to a temple on top of a mountain. In New Testament times, the Nabatean Kingdom of "Arabia Petraea" included the Sinai Peninsula, Ailah on the Gulf of Aqaba of the Red Sea, the eastern part of the Dead Sea, and much of the modern Jordan.
Several of Petra?s kings bore the title "Aretas." An Aretas of Petra warred against Herod Antipas. (It should be noted that the Herodian dynasty were part Jew, part Edomite.) The immediate cause was a border dispute, but it was aggravated by the fact that Herod divorced Aretas' daughter because of his shameful attachment to his brother Philip?s wife. John the Baptist preached against this public divorce and remarriage, and as a result, lost his head. Herod?s army was later destroyed through treachery when some of his brother Philip?s troops joined Aretas. As Josephus records, "some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod?s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist . . ." (Ant. XVIII, v, 1-2). Many Jews rejoiced at Herod?s defeat.
The Nabatean kingdom finally fell to Rome. In A.D. 106, Petra became a Roman province, and prospered greatly as a trading center between Rome and the East. Changing trade routes, and Rome?s fall, caused Petra to decline into obscurity for a thousand years. It gradually became abandoned except for wandering Bedouin tribesmen. Petra was re-discovered in a well-preserved state in 1812 by European John L. Burckhardt. In the late 1950s, archeologists excavated Roman ruins at Petra.
E. Raymond Capt?s book, Petra, has many fine pictures, maps and drawings of Petra, detailing its history. "Petra?s once fertile valleys are now covered with sand from the desert and debris from the soft rock of which the mountains are composed. Petra?s springs and streams have dried up to such an extent that much of the area is incapable of supporting life. Only a few isolated places can be found containing enough vegetation and water to sustain the few Bedouin Arabs with their goats and sheep, that call Petra their home" (Capt, p. 107).
The Curse of Edom
Crighton?s "History of Arabia and its People," refers to the "curse of Edom," also known as Idumea. He notes the desolation of Petra as a sign of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
Isaiah 34:5, 8-15 speaks of the Eternal?s judgment against Idumea [Edom], "the people of my curse" and that the land shall lie waste from generation to generation, inhabited only by satyrs (wild goats) and screech owls. Ezekiel 35:1-9, Obadiah 1:1-4 and Jeremiah 49:7-18 repeat the divine prophecy of doom against Mount Seir and Edom. Malachi 1:3-4 prophesies of the waste of Edom and says they will not be allowed to rebuild it, for the Lord has indignation against them forever.
Crighton writes, "The solitude [of Petra?s Siq] is disturbed by the incessant screaming of eagles, hawks, owl and ravens, soaring above in considerable numbers, apparently amazed at strangers invading their lonely habitation." At night the screech owl is heard above the rest. As late as the 18th Century A.D., both lions and leopards were seen in the hills around Petra. Wild goats (KJV "satyrs"), foxes, wolves and jackals and hyenas were also in the area.
Biblical References to Selah or Petra
Judges 1:36 shows the rock [Petra, Moffatt translation] was one of the boundaries of the territory of the Amorites. In II Kings 14:7, King Amaziah of Judah defeated Edom (Seir) and took Selah by war, renaming it Joktheel. II Chronicles 25:11-12 adds that 10,000 Edomite captives were brought to the top of the 1,000 foot tall rock and cast down to their deaths.
Herman L. Hoeh says that Petra is mentioned more often in the Bible than any other city except Jerusalem, Samaria, and Babylon. The reason this is usually unnoticed is that Petra goes by different names. He concludes that Israel spent considerable time in Petra on their way to the Promised Land and that the Eternal will do likewise to His people in the last days. Here are references to Petra which are well camouflaged in the Bible:
(1) Wilderness of Paran. Numbers 10:11-12, and 12:16 refer to "the wilderness of Paran" as a stopping place for Israel after they left Sinai. Paran means "full of caverns," from the Hebrew root word for "to dig out." No other city is so famous for its beautiful carved out caves as Petra. Ishmael, father of the Arabs, lived in the Wilderness of Paran, Genesis 21:21. Numbers 12:16 to 13:1-16 shows that the twelve spies were dispatched from the Wilderness of Paran. In verse 26, they returned to the Wilderness of Paran, to a specific city there named Kadesh.
(2) Kadesh, Kadesh-barnea. "Kadesh" in Hebrew means "holy." God?s presence in the cloud above the tabernacle made the place holy. Deuteronomy 9:23 shows that another name for Kadesh is Kadesh-barnea. "Barnea" means "son of the wanderer, vagabond." Abraham was a stranger and a pilgrim, wandering from place to place. His son Ishmael lived in Paran?s wilderness. At Kadesh, the Israelites wavered in their faith, failing to trust God, Numbers 14:1-11. As punishment, they had to wander, or be fugitives, in the wilderness, 32:1, 13.
NOTE: Many Bible Atlases are inaccurate. They show the route of the Exodus, not through the Red Sea, but through a shallow pond, the Sea of Reeds, in the Nile Delta. Likewise, some maps incorrectly show Kadesh-Barnea, the launching point of the spies to the Promised Land, as a place south of the Negeb Desert, on the west side of the Arabah (referred to in Scripture as "the plain," that sunken land from the south end of the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba).
(3) Mount Seir, the mountain of the Amorites. Deuteronomy 1:2, 6-7, 19-21. Mount Seir is the name for the chain of mountains between the Arabian Desert and the Arabah. It was there, the same place as Kadesh, where the spies left and returned, that Israel rebelled against God and fought the Canaanites and were defeated by the Amorites at Seir, Numbers 14:40-45 and Deuteronomy 1:42-46.
(4) Wilderness of Zin. This is the same as Kadesh, Numbers 20:1, 27:14, 33:36. "Zin" comes from a Hebrew root word meaning "a mountainous crag, piercing the sky." (Zin is not the same as the Wilderness of Sin, which Israel reached before Sinai.) Note that Miriam died there. Whiston, in his footnote to Josephus (Ant. IV, iv, 7) says Miriam?s sepulcher is still in Petra, the old capital city of Arabia.
(5) Water of Meribah is the place where the people demanded water, Numbers 27:14 and Moses got so mad he disobeyed God?s instruction to speak to the rock. Instead, Moses angrily struck the rock to give them water, and as a result he was denied entrance to the Promised Land, Numbers 20, especially verse 24. Moses was reminded of the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, Deuteronomy 32:51.
Aaron died near Kadesh on Mount Hor, verses 22-29. A little southwest of Petra is a 4,800 foot mountain called by the Arabs "Jebel Nebi Harun," meaning "Mount of the Prophet Aaron."
Further proof that Kadesh is Petra on the east of the Arabah is the fact that Edom would not let Israel enter the Promised Land by the "King?s Highway," Numbers 20:17-21. Instead, they had to bypass Edom by way of the plain, i.e. go through the flat dry Arabah, Deuteronomy 2:2-8. This was the same "way of the spies" who had come forty years previously, Numbers 21:1, 4.
(6) Paul Went To Arabia. After his conversion at Damascus, Jewish persecution became too severe and Paul fled to Arabia where he apparently remained for three years, later returning to Damascus and going on to Jerusalem, Galatians 1:15-18. It appears that during that time Damascus was under the control of King Aretas of Petra. Aretas along with the Jews tried to apprehend Paul, II Corinthians 11:32-33, Acts 9:23-25. (Some Arabians kept Pentecost and other festivals in Jerusalem, Acts 2:11.)
The "Arabia" Paul fled to probably included the region of Petra, capital of Arabia Petraea. Paul?s later references to Sinai in Arabia indicate that he had firsthand knowledge of the area, Galatians 4:25 and Hebrews 12:18. Sinai was at that time part of the Nabatean Kingdom. Conybeare & Howson, in The Life and Epistles of Paul, page 80, say that Paul may have gone there to preach the gospel in Petra, as well as to deepen his repentance and grow closer to the Eternal through prayer. Paul followed the footsteps of Moses, Elijah and the Savior, who was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Luke 4:1.
God led Israel out of Egypt, and they stopped over at Petra on the way to the Promised Land. The Apostle Paul was personally trained by the Savior for three years in this same area.
False Ideas About Petra
After a 1963 visit to Petra, David Jon Hill listed several false impressions he had to unlearn about Petra:
False: The Siq is the only entrance to Petra. True: It?s the only road, but the other side of the valley has gentle sloping mountains over which any army could swarm. False: The Siq is so narrow, you can touch either side as you walk through. True: Mr. Hill couldn?t do this when he went through on horseback. (The narrowest point is eight feet wide.) A large dump truck or a tank could drive through.
False: Petra is small. True: Its thousands of caves could accommodate 250,000 people, if they had adequate food and water. False: Petra is an impregnable fortress. True: Any army could easily send tanks and paratroopers into Petra.
False: Petra has two springs, and the Wadi Musa (River of Moses) flows into its valley. True: This used to be so, but springs and river have been dry for years. Jordan constructed a ditch to make sure the Wadi Musa never again flows into Petra via the treacherous Siq. False: There is plenty of food in Petra. True: Only 150 Bedouins and their goats live there. (In 1986, some cave dwellers had electric generators and portable radios and televisions.)
Rather than a great place to live, Hill says, "Petra is literally what it is advertised to be ? the Rose Red City of the DEAD!"
Summary of Place of Safety Doctrine
Just as the Eternal protected His people in the past, so will He also protect His people as a whole during the Great Tribulation. Historically, the desert area of Petra has been the scene of God?s providential protection of His people. How and where He chooses to protect His people in the future is stated in general prophecies which He can fulfill in a multitude of ways. It is important for us to be zealous for Him, ready for His coming, in constant personal contact with the Eternal through prayer and righteous living.
Arguments Against Place of Safety Doctrine
Several writers have expressed opposition to the Place of Safety doctrine. Here are some of their arguments, followed by our answers. (For references to their works, see the Bibliography at the end of this article.)
(1) No man can know the day when the Savior returns, Matthew 24:36, yet Place of Safety advocates claim to know the day, which will be 3 1/2 years after they flee, Revelation 12:14.
ANSWER: When the Savior said this, neither He nor the angels in Heaven knew the day nor the hour of the coming of the Son of Man. He did not say that in the future the Father would not reveal it to Jesus or to others of His choosing. We should not trust in dates of our own devising. Instead, we should be ready, doing His work now, waiting on the Eternal to reveal all things, Amos 3:7.
(2) Place of Safety advocates have a poor track record for prophecy. In 1963, Hoeh said, "It is time we realized that civilization has less than 15 years to go, unless a supernatural God in heaven intervenes on earth to stop madmen from destroying all life on earth in their crazed dreams for world conquest."
ANSWER: We should not set prophetic dates.
(3) Some claim Daniel 12:11-12 shows they will have 45 days to prepare for flight, another 30 days to assemble in Jerusalem to organize before going over to Petra. Luke 21:21 shows we are to stay away from Jerusalem and surrounding area.
ANSWER: Here again, date setting should be avoided. If the Eternal doesn?t provide the way to a Place of Safety, we must not cut the path ourselves.
(4) When Christ returns, He will gather His elect from all different parts of the world, not just one place, Matthew 24:31. Jesus prayed to the Father not to be taken out of the world, but rather they should be sent into the world.
ANSWER: It is true that not all of God?s people will be holed up in one physical "place of safety." The Place of Safety doctrine does not preclude others of God?s people being scattered around the world and protected by the Almighty wherever they are.
(5) Jesus warned us not to flee to the desert to meet or await His return, Matthew 24:26.
ANSWER: His warning is not to follow false prophets claiming that Messiah is in the desert. However, if an angel speaks directly to you, will you heed and go?
(6) The logistical problems of gathering 144,000 to Petra are immense. Therefore, it is impossible.
ANSWER: Humanly speaking, it is impossible. However, with the Eternal, all things are possible. He protected Israel with a cloud from her enemies, and fed them manna from heaven and water out of a rock. Can He not do the same again?
(7) Steven Ross says Christians are to be busy in Christ?s service when He returns, Matthew 24:46, "Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing." He says it is hard to fulfil this hiding in a cave in Petra.
ANSWER: The Eternal doesn?t need us to preach the Gospel. He will do it through various means, the two witnesses of Revelation 11, the three angels of Revelation 14, etc.
(8) Roy Marrs says the woman of Revelation 12 is Israel, not the Church. Compare Revelation 12:7-10, 13 with Luke 10:18, John 12:31. "NOW shall the prince of this world be cast out" shows that Satan?s wrath was focused on Israel. Israel fled to the wilderness. Christ told Israel, the inhabitants of Judaea to flee to mountains, Matthew 24:16-22. Revelation 12:17 shows that the remnant of Israel is the Church. Revelation 13:7 says Satan shall war against the saints and overcome them, they don?t escape.
ANSWER: If the woman of Revelation 12 is Israel, then what is the period of 1260 years (3 1/2 prophetic times)? Our understanding is the 1260 years was from 325 A.D., the Council of Nicea, when the true church had to flee, to 1585, when the true church came out of hiding after the Dark Ages. Revelation 13:7 squares with Daniel 7:25. The fourth beast wears out the saints of the most High, that is, prevents them from proclaiming the gospel to the world.
(9) Steven Collins says "The Bible does say that the place ?sela? (Petra) will be a place from which people are taken captive in the latter days and not a place where they are given refuge from captivity . . . . Numbers 24 indicates Petra will be a very dangerous place in the latter days . . . . those who put their trust in Petra may blunder into the very captivity they are seeking to avoid by 'fleeing to Petra'." Instead of going to Petra, we should "stay away from Petra."
ANSWER: Collins believes that Numbers 24:14-24 and other passages indicate that Balaam may have uttered his prophecy in the area of Petra. Verse 21, "nest in the rock," he says is sela or Petra. Balaam?s prophecy is for the "latter days," verse 14. The Kenites shall be carried away captive by Asshur (Assyria), which historical research indicates is Germany. Daniel 11:40-41 is thought by some to indicate that Germany will lead the "King of the North" and attack Palestine, and Moab and the chief of Ammon shall escape out of his hand. Collins is not a trustworthy prophet. When Balaam uttered his prophecies, Israel had defeated the Amorites and Bashan. They were encamped nowhere near Petra, but instead on the east side of Jordan near Jericho, Numbers 21 and 22:1-5. Mt. Pisgah (23:14) is near the north end of the Dead Sea. Not every use of selah (Strong?s #5553) refers to Petra.
(10) Capt disagrees with the theory that Petra will be a "hiding place" for 144,000 Israelites, 12,000 from each tribe. Capt thinks the "great tribulation" is past, not future. The prophecies of Daniel 11:41, Matthew 24 and Luke 21, he believes, were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
ANSWER: It is preposterous to say that the prophecies of Matthew 24 have been fulfilled. Read them for yourself.
(11) Ross says the Place of Safety idea is a weird "curious theological concept," of an "end time ?hideout? for God?s people."
ANSWER: This is a good point. Some who hold this view are unbalanced. God is our refuge. We should not think ourselves better than others.
(12) Ross says the day of Messiah?s return will come unexpectedly, Matthew 24:42-44, I Thessalonians 5:2.
ANSWER: He doesn?t quote verse 4 which says we are not in darkness and that day should not overtake us as a thief.
(13) Ross disputes the seven church eras idea, saying six are addressed in an end time tone.
ANSWER: Several of the messages to the seven churches of Revelation appear to refer to the end time. But, the Place of Safety doctrine is not dependent upon the Seven Church Historical Eras doctrine. The Philadelphia group is promised protection because of their faithfulness.
(14) William F. Dankenbring says that Revelation 12:6 shows that during the Middle Ages, the true Church fled the boundaries of the Roman Empire to "the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God." That was the mountains of eastern Europe, southern France and northern Italy, and western Europe and England. Thus, he now says, this "place prepared of God" need not be a desert rocky wasteland such as Petra, but any mountainous region beyond the reach of the beast power. "The idea that God will lead 144,000 Church members from locations around the globe to a hostile desert near Jerusalem, to a barren rocky region in southern Jordan, and feed all of them there for three and one half years ? carrying them on jet aircraft and steamships from around the world, seems preposterous, to say the least."
ANSWER: Why would the Almighty, who transported Philip by His Spirit power, need to use modern means of transportation to carry His people to a Place of Safety? He doesn?t! However, the Bible example is that the "badlands" of the desert is the place where man comes into contact with His Maker. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus are prime examples. We should not ignore many scriptures which indicate that Petra, the place of the craggy rock, is at the very least a type, if not the very place of the Almighty?s end time protection for His people.
Warnings for Us Today
Dankenbring says, "God is the One we must look to. For no matter where the chosen place of safety is, or when we flee, unless God takes us there, it will either be the wrong place, or else we will go there either too early, or too late!" Amen!
Hoeh says that the Place of Safety "is only [for] those who are having a part in the work of God ? who have their minds on the Kingdom of God, not some physical place of protection ? who will escape. That escape cannot be planned for in advance. It is a supernatural escape!" Hoeh continues, "It is not those who heap up provisions that shall escape! It is those who obey God, who do His work, and who trust Him to provide the necessities and the divine protection when that time arrives!"
David Jon Hill says, " . . . GOD HIMSELF will have to be our Protection, our Safety, our Buckler, our Shield, our Tower, our Defense ? or Petra will become, as it has for many thousands of others, OUR TOMB, instead of our Place of Safety!" Daily miracles will be necessary to keep us alive. "There is NO WAY we can save ourselves from the prophesied famines to come upon this land. No matter how much whole wheat . . . [etc.] we have stowed away in a cave we're not going to live through that time of famine except by God?s express will and desire and by His direct intervention!" See Matthew 16:25.
Lessons From Petra
L. Leroy Neff in his article "You May Not Escape the Tribulation!" gives balanced, uplifting principles we can learn from Petra and the Place of Safety:
We all need to prepare now to make our election and calling sure. Many in the Church of God are "weak and carnal minded. They have no zeal. They do not have their hearts completely and totally in God?s work and are not doing with their might the great work that God has commissioned all of us to do."
We should have our goal on the Kingdom of God, not just escaping end time calamities. Being taken to the Place of Safety does not mean that all our troubles will be over and we then have it made into the Kingdom of God. The Place of Safety is "not a time of ease but a time of trouble." Some will fall by the wayside, unwilling to forsake all (money, relatives, friends), to follow the Master. "It will be a time of serious decisions for God?s people and many will not make the right decision."
We complain too much, like Israel of old, I Corinthians 10:1-13. It?s too hard for some to travel to the Feast of Tabernacles. Would we complain about the lack of food and water in the desert on the way to a Petra? We are not thankful enough for what we have now. "Lack of appreciation for the wonderful spiritual and physical blessings of God will bar some from going to safety." Beware of the warning in Luke 21:34-35.
God is going to nourish His people, physically and spiritually, Revelation 12:14. At a Place of Safety, believers can grow spiritually and fellowship with God?s people. We have small trials and temptations now. Troubles will increase as Satan attacks God?s people. Let?s appreciate the physical blessings while we have them, and use this precious time to grow in the Spirit and be able to overcome during the trials ahead.
True believers today can claim the promise of Luke 21:36. If we are wide awake spiritually, always in the attitude of prayer, we will be accounted worthy to escape (flee out of) the coming worldwide calamities. How He does it is the Almighty?s business.
Who are the worthy? The word "worthy" in Luke 21:36 is from the Greek kataxio-omai, #2661. Luke 20:35 notes that the "worthy" are those in the first resurrection. Acts 5:41-42 adds that the worthy suffer persecution with rejoicing (not with counter lawsuits and political action), never ceasing to teach and spread the word about our Savior. II Thessalonians 1:4-6 defines the worthy as those who patiently and faithfully endure persecution and tribulation for the Kingdom of God?s sake. The "worthy" are not those who get out "scot free." They go through difficult times, yet are mercifully delivered from great tribulation.
We need to put our trust in the Creator, not a rock of death in the Middle East, II Samuel 22:1-3. Let us learn to live by faith NOW, Habakkuk 2:4, crying out to God daily to help us overcome, or we won?t be protected by the Eternal. Don?t worry how God will protect you. Be concerned whether He will. Make your calling and election sure. Remember I Peter 4:18.
Bibliography Capt, E. Raymond. Petra. Thousand Oaks, California: Artisan Sales, 1987.
Collins, Steven M. "Petra: Place of Safety or Latter Day Death Trap?" 1985. Four page paper.
Dankenbring, William F. "Where is the Place of Safety?"
Encyclopedia Britannica, article "Petra."
Good News magazine, published by the Worldwide Church of God:
Hoeh, Herman L. "We Saw Petra!," January 1958.
Neff, L. Leroy, "You May NOT ESCAPE the Tribulation!," January 1962.
Hoeh, Herman L., "This is PETRA!," April 1962, June 1962, July 1962.
Hill, David Jon, "PETRA!," October 1963.
Smith, Norman, "We FLED Petra!," November 1966.
Hoeh, Herman L. "There Is a Way of Escape," Ambassador College, 1963.
Josephus, Flavius, The Antiquities of the Jews.
Marrs, Roy. "Questions & Answers" in October, 1988 Bible Advocate.
National Geographic Magazine, February 1935, "Petra, Ancient Caravan Stronghold."
Ross, Steven L. "Where is Your Place of Safety?" in July-August 1985 Bible Advocate.
Welebit, Diane, "Pilgrimage to Petra" in February 1986 House & Garden, p.82.
Material to Write For
Petra, by E. Raymond Capt, Thousand Oaks, California: Artisan Sales, 1987. 128 pp. Bible Study Index