Chapter 11



The Flight of the Remnant from Jerusalem at Mid-Tribulation

Earlier it was pointed out that Revelation 12 is a symbolic overview of all of Israel's history. In Revelation 12:6 we read, "The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days." The woman is symbolic of Israel. 1260 days is exactly three and one half years--the standard lunar (prophetic) years of the Bible, with 360 days each.

Later in the same chapter, this event is described this way:

The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.

But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
(Revelation 12:14-16)

This also corresponds to Jesus' warning in His Olivet Discourse, a sermon by Jesus to his disciples known as the "Olivet Discourse"--so-called because Jesus was seated with his disciples on the Mt. of Olives opposite the Second Temple when he gave this sweeping outline of the future.

So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:15-22)

Jerusalem Surrounded by Armies

The parallel passage in Luke 21 adds what Matthew does not tell us, that Jerusalem will be surrounded by hostile armies at the time of the end.

When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.

How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
(Luke 21:20-24)

This same scene is depicted by the Old Testament prophet Zechariah,

Behold, a day of the LORD is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.
(Zechariah 14:1-3)

Jerusalem, "trodden down by the Gentiles" again and again since the time of the Babylonian captivity is yet to suffer one last final, terrible invasion by the Gentiles.

Flight of Jews from Judea

The prophet Joel foresaw this calamity.

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand--a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste--nothing escapes them. They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountain tops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle.

At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course. They do not jostle each other; each marches straight ahead. They plunge through defenses without breaking ranks. They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves they enter through the windows. Before them the earth shakes, the sky trembles, the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine.
(Joel 2:1-10)

The size of this believing remnant at the mid-tribulation point is open to discussion, but for the sake of argument it would seem to be some thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of believing Jews who are warned to flee from Jerusalem.

The words and teachings of Jesus to His people Israel were not heeded when He was with them during His First Advent. We can not expect the entire nation to take this warning to leave Jerusalem seriously even though it will no doubt be heralded again by a new generation of prophets in the end time. Those Jews in Israel who have come to know Yeshua personally during the first half of the tribulation will be responsive and it is to this believing remnant that Jesus makes His appeal.

Ray Stedman remarks on this event,

Who are they who must flee so urgently when the last days begin? Who dare not hesitate long enough even to go back into the house to pick up a wrap, but must immediately head for the hills? There is no need to wonder, for the Lord says plainly, "those who are in Judea" Now Judea is a geographical part of the land of Israel, ancient Palestine. It comprises the hill country surrounding the city of Jerusalem and includes the city as well. It is to the residents of Jerusalem and Judea that this warning is addressed.

Furthermore, the Lord's mention of the Sabbath establishes the fact that these residents of Judea are Jews. He urges them to pray that their flight will not be in the winter, with its distress of cold, or on the Sabbath, with its travel limitations, for Jews are allowed to travel only a short distance on a Sabbath day. Later in this passage these Jews are called "the elect" ("for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened"), and this makes clear they are believing Jews, that is, men and women of faith who know and love Jesus Christ as Lord and are prepared to live or die for him.
They are not Christians in the usual sense of that term, referring to those who are members of the church, for we are told that in the church there is neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free. Jews are not to be distinguished from Gentiles within the church. These distinctions, we are precisely told by the apostle Paul, have been invalidated in the church The "middle wall of partition" has been eliminated; there are no distinctions of background, race or religious training that are recognized within the church of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, Christians, we are told, are free from the law and no longer observe special days, special feasts, new moons and Sabbaths. In his letter to the Colossians the apostle Paul clearly speaks of the fact that the Sabbaths were included in those shadows which were done away in Christ. But here the Sabbath distinctly will be a restricting factor in the flight of these people. Here then will be a class of people who cannot be identified with the present day church They will be Jewish believers in Christ who will be converted after the removal of the church and before the time of the Great Tribulation.

As Ray Stedman has noted, Jesus does not tell the residents of Tel Aviv or Haifa to flee. The greatest danger is in Jerusalem and the peril is so great that the true believers in Yahweh must leave town immediately. They are called to flee to the mountains, and since Jerusalem is already in the mountains of Judea, the flight will evidently be down to Jericho, then across into Jordan.

Most Bible scholars believe this godly remnant will find refuge in the ancient rock-hewn cliff city of Petra, and in the surrounding region in the land of that once belonged to the descendants of Esau, that is Edom (Southern Jordan). The remnant will survive there, protected by God, for three and a half years. Meantime terrible destruction will come upon the land of Israel--which will be the center focal point of war. The entire world will suffer terrible destructive judgments, all from the Lord on that Day--but the believing refugees who constitute what the Bible calls "true Israel" will be safe in the sheep-fold around Bozrah and environs.

Believers' Underground

These fleeing refugees from Jerusalem will become a part of a believer's underground in those days. True believers in Yeshua as they are converted by the vigorous world-wide evangelistic campaign of the 144,000 will not be allowed the privileges of citizenship and commerce in Antichrist's world government, as we have noted. They will refuse to participate in worship of the beast, and consequently will not be allowed to buy or sell anything. Therefore, they will be forced to hide in secret places, or die, as the early Christians did when the church was young.

Christians went underground during the persecutions in Rome. They literally lived in the vast network of catacombs beneath the city of Rome. Visitors to Rome today can visit the places where they lived, including large cavernous rooms where they met for worship and prayer, and hundreds of tombs carved into the sides of the tunnels for those who died during this time.

Groups of "underground" believers during the Tribulation Period will no doubt form their own alliances for survival, including sharing of resources, bartering, and standing guard for one another. They may well have the use of the Internet, satellite communication, and other high tech methods in their struggle.

According to Revelation 12, which records the cosmic drama of Israel and the Dragon, Antichrist will be thwarted in his attempt to capture the fleeing remnant of Israel and will be enraged at "the rest of her offspring" who are described as true believers in Yeshua (Revelation 12:14-17). Evidently this latter group will be converts from all the Gentile nations.

It is possible that the underground followers of Yeshua during The Tribulation period will receive special divine guidance and help from this place to which Israel will flee, because it will be protected by God. Petra is certainly one of the best natural places on earth for protection, because it can only be entered by one narrow valley ("El Siq") which would be easy to guard. However, given the modern capabilities to fly over the city and bomb even mountain sanctuaries, it seems clear that God Himself will provide the necessary supernatural, angelic protection for Israel.

The Fifth Seal - Martyrdom

The Greek word "martyr" actually means "witness" or "one who gives a testimony." Early Christians were very bold witnesses for Christ in fulfillment of His command to be His witnesses in all the earth (Acts 1:8). In those days every Roman subject was expected to acknowledge Caesar as god. They were required to say"Caesar is Lord." Christians, of course could not say this. Instead, they acknowledged "Jesus is Lord." (1 Corinthians 12:3) For this reason many early Christians were put to death by a variety of cruel methods, such as crucifixion, burning at the stake, beheading, and being fed to lions. Historical accounts of these people refer to them as martyrs.

There have been a great many Christian martyrs down through the centuries. In fact, our own generation has seen the persecution and death of more Christians than any other age. This is especially true in fundamentalist Moslem countries, and in the totalitarian communistic regimes of Russia and China

During the Tribulation there will be many martyrs--perhaps the majority of those converted to faith in Yeshua around the world will be put to death as a threat to the New World Order established by the Antichrist. The fifth seal (Revelation 6:9-11) is about these martyrs, who ask the Lord, "How long...until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" (Revelation 6:10)

It is also clear that those who trust in Christ and refuse to receive the mark of the beast will be put to death for treason against Antichrist's one-world government (Revelation 13:10; 20:4). Surely the Lord will give them the strength to stand for Christ even if it means suffering in this extreme way. Believers are not promised deliverance from persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

Petra - The Prepared Place

Historical Background of Petra

The ancient capital of Edom was the city of Bozrah---the Hebrew bosra means sheepfold. It lies 30 miles southeast of the Dead Sea in present-day Jordan. The present Jordanian city of Buseirah is not on any modern road but is a remote mountain village of difficult access. Ancient Bozrah at the same location, however, was on the main North West trade route known as the King's Highway (Numbers 20:17). The city was noted for its weaving industry and export of dyed garments.

Edom, as the territory allotted to Jacob's brother Esau, is documented in Genesis 36. A man named Bozrah was a descendant of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land "before there were any kings in Israel." The historical record in Deuteronomy includes this parenthetical note:

(The Emites used to live there--a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. Like the Anakites, they too were considered Rephaites, but the Moabites called them Emites. Horites used to live in Seir, but the descendants of Esau drove them out. They destroyed the Horites from before them and settled in their place, just as Israel did in the land the LORD gave them as their possession.) (Deuteronomy:2:10-12)

Edom's long-standing enmity against Israel ultimately brought God's judgment on Edom. Obadiah the prophet devotes his short but potent message to the judgment of Edom, telling us of her pride and arrogance and the reasons for God's final judgment on these people. Amos, the shepherd of Tekoa, wrote of impending judgment on Edom:

This is what the LORD says: "For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back. Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked, I will send fire upon Teman that will consume the fortresses of Bozrah." (Amos 1:11-12)

Several writers have written fine descriptions of Petra and the history of that region of ancient Edom. The Nabateans displaced the descendants of Esau probably in the 6th Century BC. They controlled the entire region as far North as Damascus until the First Century. The Greeks and Romans built extensively in Jordan and the area around Bozrah and Petra was well populated as late as Roman times. Today the area is desolate and sparsely populated because of the very low rainfall and scarcity of natural resources there.

South of Bozrah, 20 some miles on the King's Highway, is Petra, the capital city of the Nabateans. Tourists to this vast mountain-enclosed ancient city in the Wadi Musa generally enter from the east on foot or on horseback through El Siq, an 6000 feet long narrow cleft (width: 12-30 feet) with 100-500 foot high cliff walls. Tombs and houses carved into the bed rock over a vast area at Petra would be suitable for temporarily housing many thousands of people. Mt. Hor is nearby, where Aaron died after Moses passed the high priestly garments of Aaron on to Eliezer in the sight of the congregation (Numbers 20:23-29). An Islamic shrine marks the probable tomb site.

Not to be conquered by Antichrist

The route of escape for the Jewish believing remnant from Antichrist's military pursuit as he seeks to annihilate them, has been made ready by the Lord:

He [the last king of the North] will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. (Daniel 11:41)

A hiding place

Evidently Jordan is given special protection during the last great invasion of Israel which will in fact devastate the Land. Isaiah the Prophet instructs the believing remnant of Israel to find a safe hiding place during the time of Jacob's trouble when God's judgment will fall on the whole earth,

Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.

See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer.
(Isaiah 26:20-21)

During the second half of the tribulation period there will be no safe place to hide anywhere on the earth--except in the refuge God has provided, probably at Petra. We gain glimpses of how terrible life will become for non-believers in those days from many passages in the Book of the Revelation. For example at the opening of the Sixth Seal of judgment John notes:

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes,the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Revelation 6:12-17)

The Concept of the Remnant

From the Old Testament it is clear that the majority of the Jewish people within the nation were not necessarily believers. Elijah lamented that he was the "only one" left who knew God after his successful defeat of the priests of Baal at Mt. Carmel. But God responded telling him that He had, at that time, "more than seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal."

From 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 we get the clear picture regarding Israel that "with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies fell in the wilderness"--referring to the generation that left Egypt under Moses.

Thus at any point in time "true Israel" means the believing community within the nation.

Sometimes it was substantial, at other times few in number.

Likewise within the professing church of Jesus Christ around the world, not all are true believers by any means,

"Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' " (Matthew 7:21-23)

God gets his work done by a "remnant" in every generation it would seem.

Christ's Presence

Ray Stedman has proposed the interesting possibility that Jesus Christ, following the Rapture of the church, will be present on the Earth during this time, appearing and disappearing at will as He did for a few weeks following the Resurrection.

In contrast to the false propaganda of the last days, in Matthew 24:27,28 Jesus unveils the true method for locating him in the day of his presence. To do so he uses a parable from nature and a proverb from life: "For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together."

The word the Lord uses for "coming" here is the now familiar "parousia." It is quite a different word than he uses a few verses farther on when he speaks of "the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." It is easy to confuse these two comings because of his reference to lightning in verse 27. Since lightning is a form of power and glory, many feel the Lord is using it as symbol of his coming in glory. But note carefully what he says.

Lightning flashes in the east, but the effect of it is seen all over the sky. Yet the flash itself does not involve the whole inverted dome of the heavens from east to west. When he uses the symbol of lightning, therefore, he is not describing a universally visible manifestation of his glory, but the universal effect of his presence behind the scenes. Like lightning flashes He will be seen by his own in different places, at all different times, but the effect of those appearances will be felt throughout the earth.

Furthermore, lightning is sovereign, unpredictable, uncontrollable. So will be the presence, the parousia, of the Son of man. He will appear and disappear at will. Whenever there is need for him he will be there, just as he was during the post-resurrection period. There will be no need to search for him for he cannot be found that way. There will be no need to look for him in the wilderness nor in the inner rooms, for he will come whenever and wherever he finds a heart ready to know him. In the passage parallel to this in Luke 17, Jesus says, "For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day." A "day" used in that sense always refers to a period of time, not a sudden, climactic event.

We won't be dogmatic about this, but if Ray Stedman's interpretation is correct, it would certainly help explain the supernatural protection that the refugees from Israel will enjoy during this time.

An interesting corollary to this idea is that the raptured church might be involved in this activity of protecting the Saints during the Tribulation. This could be true because we know that we, the church, are destined to rule and reign with Him when He appears later as King of Kings. In any case, we are assured in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that once we have met The Lord in the air, we will always be with Him! The church is called the "Body of Christ" in the New Testament, so wherever the Lord of the church is at work, there also is His Body the church.

If the above scenario is correct, it is important to remember that the members of the church as well as their Lord will all have their new resurrection bodies. It should not surprise us that our ministry during this time period might well be like that of our Lord Jesus during the 40 days after His resurrection and prior to His ascension when He came and went at will, appearing and disappearing in the midst of followers to continue to teach them and guide them. The church may well have a similar role of encouragement in the lives of the 144,000 who will still be mortal and not immune from suffering and martyrdom in their heroic acts of evangelism.

Next Chapter

 Index Page Prefatory  Chapter 1
  Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4
  Chapter 5   Chapter 6   Chapter 7
  Chapter 8   Chapter 9   Chapter 10
 Chapter 11   Chapter 12   Chapter 13
 Chapter 14   Chapter 15  Appendices