Imagine a rocky and barren landscape. There doesn’t appear to be any water, food, or shelter, none of the essential elements for survival. Now, picture yourself as the man summoned by God to lead a vast multitude of recently released slaves through the desert to the Promised Land. Their number? Somewhere north of 2,500,000 men, women, girls, and boys. Moses knew what God had just done. He had killed all of the first-born sons of Egypt, including Pharaoh’s own son. Pharaoh’s army had been swept away by the crashing waters of the Red Sea. The children of Israel had passed through the waters on dry ground.
As amazing as all of this was, Moses must have thought, “Look at this wilderness. What now?” It wasn’t long before the people lost the wonder of their newfound freedom and began to grumble and complain. I guess that was only natural.
So, would you have wanted to be in Moses’s sandals?
On a Disciple Daily tour of Israel, the journey is every bit as important as the destination. The first few days of our tours are designed to force Bible trekkers to reorient their preconceived notions of the land of the Bible and the people of Israel.
The more baggage one carries into the wilderness, the harder and more deadly is the journey. Throughout the grand story of the Bible, God has repeatedly used the desert to force those He has called to Himself to let go of all that the world offers and follow Him. God took Abraham from the thriving Mesopotamian metropolis of Ur into the desert. It was there that God’s promises to Abraham were realized in Isaac and Jacob (Israel). Israel’s twelve sons made their way to Egypt through the desert. It was through the desert that Moses led the Israelites home once again. David lived with God in the desert. Jesus was tested in the desert. Paul was discipled by Jesus in the desert.
The desert experience is part of everyone’s life. There are many good things to be learned from it, lessons that cannot be learned in any other place. As strange as this sounds, I love the desert. It has a way of sweeping away the clutter from my life, reaffirming that He is all I need! Disciple makers must learn to embrace the desert.
It is a three hour drive from Israel’s southernmost border with Jordan to one of the most remarkable destinations in the world. Petra was the ancient capital of the Nabatean Kingdom. The landscape is pretty much the same as it was when the twelve tribes of Israel wandered around the eastern side of the Aravah. In those days this area was known as Edom. Without a doubt, the confederation of Israel’s twelve tribes saw the very same mountains, wadis, sunsets, and stars that our little band of explorers experienced here.
There is no readily identifiable mention of Petra in the Bible. Consequently, the people who travel with us often ask, “What is the biblical significance of Petra? Why are we going there?”
Here is another reason our tour groups go to Petra. It is our belief that this is where the remnant of Israel will be supernaturally sheltered from the wrath of the AntiChrist by God Himself during the second half of the Tribulation (Time of Jacob’s Trouble). The Bible is not specific on the exact location. Here are the reasons we think Petra is the possible location of the remnant’s sheltering.
Four passages shed light on this matter. The first is Matthew 24:16. Jesus instructs His Jewish believers in the time of the Tribulation to flee to the mountains. Second, according to Revelation 12:6 the mountains will be in a wilderness area that includes a specific place prepared for them in advance. Isaiah 33:16 identifies the location as high and in a very defensible location. It will be a place where water is easily available. This is what we have so far. The refuge will be:
In the mountains
In the wilderness
In a place prepared in advance
In a place that is high, rocky, and defensible
One final passage locks Petra in as a likely possibility. It is Micah 2:12. “I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold; like a flock in the midst of its pasture.”
The word translated as “the fold” in most modern translations is בָּצְרָה (Bozrah). In ancient times, Bozrah was an actual city. Bozrah means “fortified place.” This is an instance where the older translations like the King James Version are preferrable. They rightly identify the place where the Remnant of Israel will be sheltered, a real city of antiquity. Bozrah wassituated near Mt. Seir in a rocky, desolate, and mountainous area that was part of Edom. A number of very respected Bible scholars have identified the city once known as Bozrah as the area now known as Petra.
Sequence Of Events
Here is the background to all of this. At the time of the Rapture, every follower of Jesus will be taken up to be where He is forever. At that moment there will be no believers in Yeshua remaining on earth. As a result of the Rapture, 144,000 Jewish people will recognize what has just happened as an act of God foretold by the Jewish prophets of the Hebrew Bible. They will begin to profess Jesus as their Jewish Messiah, evangelizing those left behind at the Rapture. They, along with those who come to faith through their witness, will be severely persecuted all over the world during the subsequent seven year period known as the Tribulation. Halfway through the Tribulation (3 1/2 years), the AntiChrist will declare himself as God in the newly built Tribulation Temple on the site where the Dome of the Rock currently sits in Jerusalem. Jewish people will be horrified when vicious persecution of them breaks out. Two-thirds of all the Jewish people in the world will be killed over the next 3 1/2 years. The later half of the Tribulation is known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. Those future Jewish believers in Jesus are the ones who will flee to the mountains of Petra as the Scriptures prophesy and as Jesus directed according to Matthew 24:16.
In a way, this part of the tour bookends the storyline of the entire Bible. Following our arrival yesterday, we headed south into the Negev to open our journey near Be’er Sheva. This is the area Abraham settled in following his call to leave Haran in Genesis 12:1-3. Then we saw part of the area of Israel’s wilderness wandering. Today we visited the location where some of the events of the latter half ofTribulation will take place prior to the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. See Revelation19:1-20:6.
Our Visit To Petra
Mount Seir means “hairy mountain.” Approaching Petra, we got a glimpse of how this is an appropriate description of the area around the ancient Nabatean capital. We stayed the night in an interesting hotel that looked out over the entire area. Sunset was spectacular. After a good night of rest, we arose early to make our way to the entrance of the world heritage site.
Petra can be seen from the seat of a horse drawn carriage and from the back of a donkey or camel. But the best way to get one’s first glimpse of the area’s grandeur is on foot. The Siq is a long narrow passageway, carved out of the sandstone by water erosion. At its terminus an overwhelmingly magnificent building dominates the opposing canyon wall. Most buildings rest on a foundation on which various types of materials are used to erect a structure. There is nothing ordinary about the Treasury building. First, it was never a place where money was stored. The Treasury was a grand necropolis, a burial site. Second, the Treasury was not erected on a foundation and composed of different materials. It was carved out of sandstone from the top down. The Treasury is nothing more than a grand facade created to emphasize a man-made cave for the interment of the luminaries of the ancient Nabatean Kingdom. A nod was made to the many ancient pagan gods of this part of the Middle East and also to those of their conquerors, Greece and Rome.
Most of Petra’s structures were built the same way that the Treasury was. Rome began to exert its influence on the Nabatean Kingdom in 106 A.D. when Trajan annexed the entire area, making it part of the Roman Empire. It was at that time that Roman architecture began to make its way into the secluded canyon.
Who were the Nabateans? Originally nomadic pastoralists of the Negev and Arabian peninsula of the 4th Century B.C, the Nabateans built a desert empire through the trafficking of spices brought from as far away as India and selling them at ports on the Mediterranean like Gaza and Caesarea. The route from pickup to delivery ran through one of the most hostile regions in the world. Identifying and securing watering holes allowed the Nabateans to control the Spice Route for centuries.
As long as the Nabateans remained mobile they prospered, growing the size and influence of their kingdom. However, after Rome annexed the region the once mobile Nabateans began to reflect Roman values and culture. Their decline and eventual demise was inevitable. By the end of the 4th Century A.D., they had left their desert capital and assimilated completely into the majority culture of the day, the Byzantine Empire.
Assimilation. This is the battle line drawn in the sand confronting every disciple of Messiah Jesus. Here is the question we need to be asking.
Am I dangerous to my environment or is my environment dangerous to me?
Everybody wants to fit in, to feel a part of a larger community or cause. This is human nature, it is natural to want to join something larger than ourselves. We honestly believe there is safety in numbers. It is amazing to observe the lengths to which one will go to be accepted by the target community. This is true of believers and doubters alike. If the group one wants to be a part of is dysfunctional or destructive, it won’t be long before the new acolyte takes on the characteristics of the peer group. Anonymity is safe.
We know that the deep desire to fit in is true of those in the world at large. It is harder for us to identify this in the Church, the Body of Messiah. Literally, hundreds of Christian faith brands exist. They are known as denominations. Where did they come from? Why do they exist? In some ways, denominations originated out of a genuine need to take a stand against a larger and increasingly corrupt religious institution. But, before long the distinctives that the founders built their brand around became blurred, less important than the body they had created.
What we are talking about are values and convictions. What one truly believes deep down inside drives everything that they do. This is true of me. It is true of YOU!
The prince of this world is Satan. We are born as citizens of his kingdom. On this point, the Scriptures are unequivocally clear. There is no ambiguity, no wiggle room. We are told by God through the Apostle Paul that once we come to faith in Jesus’s atoning work on the cross that we have become something we were not. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.“
What He has done for us who now believe, He will also do for His Chosen People. Today, as a nation, Israel is faithless. There is nothing they can do to change this reality. Like us who now believe, the circumstances of the Times of Jacob’s Trouble will cause those Jews who remain alive at the end of that devastating time to fall before the One they have pierced and acknowledge Him as their Messiah. All Israel will be saved. The remnant will come forth out of Petra, join with their brethren in Jerusalem and worship the King together with us forever. This is not a fairy tale. This our certain future! Some Thoughts
In a few months, citizens of the United States will go to the polling stations and elect a new President. Looking at the candidates the parties are putting forth against the backdrop of what is happening around the world, neither of the prospective candidates appears to have what it takes to make our nation a better place to live.
It appears that the world is falling apart. The truth is, that it IS! Everything God said would happen in the latter days is coming into view. Everything. No one knows exactly when it will all culminate. What we do know is that the One who “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), is in control. He has given us work to do. We are to make disciples who make disciples until He returns.
We have hope because we know what is coming. Are you prepared to teach others how to teach the grand story of God from beginning to end? What are you doing about being a hope bearer to the world without hope?
Up Next… Tent Camping!
P.S. – If you are interested in a seriously fun discipleship training tour of Israel and Jordan, visit our tour page.