Petra is believed by some to be the place Israel finds safety during Armageddon. But Bible prophecy reveals a different place protected from the Antichrist. Worse, it is not for the nation of Israel but only for the scattered righteous: yes, faithful believers are still on earth because the rapture comes 3½ years later. Read on to understand God’s end time escape plan for you.
Does Petra Provide End Time Protection?
Petra, Jordan was once the stronghold of the Edomites and later the capital city of the Arab Nabateans. Today it is ruins featuring amazing buildings carved into the rock cliffs by the Nabateans. If you saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade then you got a glimpse of it in the movie's climax. Thanks to Indiana Jones, Petra is now Jordan's number one tourist destination.
Will Petra become the number one safe destination of Israelites in the end times, as well? Some people think so and feel they have Bible prophecy to back this up.
The most popular version of the speculation around Petra is that the Jews escaping from the Battle of Armageddon will find refuge there. Some Old Testament passages mentioning the city are used to support this idea, as we will cover below.
One believer in this theory even bet money on it. An American evangelist known as W. E. Blackstone spent $8000 to have boxes of Bibles placed in Petra. Reason: He wanted the Jews who he expected to flee there to be able to read up on their Messiah fighting for them at Armageddon.
Others, believe Petra to be the place that the "true church" will be protected in fulfillment of Revelation 12.
Both views argue based on Scripture and the city's excellent defensive structure. It is mountainous and its main entrance is a long narrow rock wadi, called the Siq. What better location for people to be safe from attack, right?
Supporters also claim that the city could hold 144,000 people, the number of Israelite evangelists listed in Revelation 7 and 14. The Worldwide Church of God believed that there would be 144,000 of their members who made it to there.
The Petra theory has its appeal. But is it truly grounded in Scripture or even realism?
Petra in the Bible
If you search the Bible for the name of the city Petra, you will not find it. Instead of that modern Greek name for the city, you have to search for the Hebrew equivalent, Sela (or Selah). Both words mean rock.
The city of Sela is mentioned in the following five passage:
Judges 1:36 (ESV) — And the border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward.
1 Samuel 23:28 (ESV) — So Saul returned from pursuing David and went to meet the Philistines; therefore they called that place the Rock of Escape
2 Kings 14:7 (ESV) — He struck down ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt and took Sela by storm, and called it Joktheel, which is its name to this day
Isaiah 16:1 (ESV) — Send the lamb to the ruler of the land, from Sela, by way of the desert, to the mount of the daughter of Zion.
Isaiah 42:11 (ESV) — Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the habitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Reading these passages one is hard-pressed to find any clear support for the idea that this ruined city plays an end time role.
Isaiah 33 Petra or Zion?
Here's another verse used by proponents. It does not mention the city of Sela directly but use the word sela for rock:
Isaiah 33:15-16 (ESV) — 15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, 16 he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sureArticle continues below...
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If you read the surrounding verses, it's pretty plain that this is figurative language describing the blessedness of the righteous serving God. There is no mention of the end times in the passage or an exodus of people to this rock fortress. It's a description of the unshakeable divine security of the righteous for all time.
If you skip back a verse, you find that this passage is an answer to a question posed there. It says the sinners in Zion ask who shall survive the consuming fires (Isaiah 33:14). Compare that with Rev 6:13, "who shall stand" speaking of the coming of Wormwood. Also compare the very next event chronologically (skipping the parenthetical chapter 7 giving background on the 144,000 who were sealed at the 6th seal) in Revelation 8:7. It tells us there will be fire coming on the entire earth from meteorites of Wormwood, burning all the grass.
This indicates that this passage is a parallel prophecy about Wormwood. For escape from Wormwood's upheaval, Joel 2:30-32 already tells us we must flee to Zion to be safe. The sinners in Zion will not be protected but the righteous will, in an elevated mountainous place somewhere there. (I don't know where.)
Therefore, the place mentioned in the passage is specifically named as Zion, not Petra. Further, it fits with Revelation's prophecy of Wormwood (Rev 6:12-8:13).
Logistical Arguments for Petra
If the Bible does not explicitly support Petra as a special place of gathering or protection, why do people support this idea? As with so many prophecy theories, it relies on a generous helping of good-sounding speculation.
It seems like the main basis of the Petra speculation is the area's natural features. It makes sense to humanistic reasoning that if God is going to protect Israel or anyone else, he would gather them to a naturally fortified place like that. A place that has dwellings already carved out of rock and even two springs of water.
But when you examine these arguments, they, also disappoint.
The springs have dried up long ago. The wonderful-looking carved facades do not have anywhere near as impressive spaces behind them. Rather than the caverns they would need to be, they are best described as caves.
As far as how many people can comfortably live there, it's woefully inadequate. This is a small city with an estimated past top population of 20,000. Whether you think Israel or Christians will be sent by God there, it equals far, far more than 20,000 or double that. The remnant of either Israel or the church is more likely to be in the millions.
They simply could not all fit in Petra when you are realistic about it.
Israel Will Fight In Armageddon Not Flee It
As for the theory about Israel fleeing the land before Armageddon, that also is problematic. Notice Zechariah speaking of where the Jews (Judah) are when Jesus returns to reign:
Zechariah 14:14, 12 (ESV) — 14 Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem... 12 And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
This is a confusing verse unless you understand the scenario leading up to Armageddon. All nations are going to be defeated by the Antichrist and forced to take his mark by the start of the Great Tribulation. They will be his slaves and serve in his army through and at the end. That includes Israel. In fact, the Antichrist takes over Israel first to make the Third Temple his headquarters after cutting off the sacrifices there and putting up the Image of the Beast statue in the Temple. This "abomination of desolation" is the final warning sign Jesus gave of impending Great Tribulation (30 days later).
Only the faithful will escape the Antichrist, which, as it is today, will be only a small percentage of each nation. That means most of the Jews will be left behind and forced to take the mark after the Jews with faith flee. This majority of Judah/the State of Israel left behind is who Zechariah is referring to as "even Judah" who fights at Armageddon.
This means that the nation of Israel will not be able to flee Jerusalem to Petra (or anywhere else) before Armageddon. Judah will be fighting in Armageddon like all other nations...
...minus the faithful who have fled to the real place of protection nearby.
Doesn't Revelation 12 Say Israel Is Protected?
Revelation 12 is a key passage that seems to contradict what Zechariah says:
Revelation 12:1, 5 (ESV) — And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne
Here we have a coded description of Israel. The twelve stars, moon and sun hearken back to Joseph's dream of his family, Israel (Gen 37:9). The child taken to heaven who will rule all nations is obviously Jesus. He came out of the nation of Israel, through Mary of the tribe of Judah.
However, keep reading to get the full flavor of the protected Woman:
Revelation 12:13-17 (ESV) — 12 When the dragon saw that he had been thrown to earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent’s presence to her place in the wilderness, where she was fed for a time, times, and half a time. 15 From his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river flowing after the woman, to sweep her away in a torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the river that the dragon had spewed from his mouth. 17 So the dragon was furious with the woman and left to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and have the testimony about Jesus.
Notice the main attribute of the Woman given at the end is that her offspring are the ones who keep God's commandments and have the faith of Jesus (Rev 12:17).
This description does not fit national Israel in the end times or any time in their history. Israel has always had a mixed history of partial obedience and rebellion. Soon after a righteous king died, the nation would go into longer period of apostasy. They were never a nation of committed commandment keepers, or with the testimony of Jesus even after Jesus came. That's true to this day because of the veil over their eyes that Paul talked about (2 Co 3:12-13).
The Woman's Real Identity
What the Woman is showing us is not national, secular Israel, but God's faithful righteous including Israel but not limited to Israel. Righteousness is not a matter of race, but of faith. The faith of Jesus can be adopted by anyone. And according to Revelation 12, if you are faithful you will be included in the Woman company who is preserved. In fact, as my previous articles explains, faith in God's word, promises and instructions is exactly what will be needed to move to the "place prepared" for the Woman.
Then why is Israel mentioned at all if it's really about the faithful? Scripture says "salvation is to the Jew first" and "salvation is of the Jews." It is God's model nation. He has revealed his plan for mankind through Israel and in this passage he is revealing his plan to save the righteous through the picture of Israel's righteous. But God is not a "respecter of persons" (shows no partiality) (Ac 10:34) and is not limiting his end time escape plan to Israel.
If you still doubt the Woman's members being about faith and not race, then read Joel 2:30-32. It describes the physical protection of people from the crisis event immediately preceding the Antichrist: Wormwood (Joel 2:30-31=Rev 6:12-16; Joel 2:32=Rev 6:17). They are saved not in Jordan but in nearby Mt Zion/Judea, across the Jordan river.
And what does it say? "all those who call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved." Is God really going to save all who are willing to listen in faith from one global threat (Wormwood) and then not save them from the next global threat (Antichrist)?
That would be absurd. All means all; there is no limitation by race to be saved, you just have to trust in God for both. You do not call upon God unless you have faith in him. The people who do so and gather to Judea ahead of the blood moon and other cosmic disturbances of Wormwood will be the "those in Judea" (Mt 24:15-16) who Jesus spoke of and told to flee to the mountains before the abomination of desolation. Even if some who happen to be in the area wait until they see it, they can manage to head over the mountains and across the border into the "place prepared" (Rev 12:14).
How Do We Escape the Great Tribulation?
But wait a minute, did I just say that all the faithful will still be on earth when the abomination of desolation happens and need to flee to the mountains like Jesus instructed in Matthew 24?
Absolutely. After all, who was Jesus speaking to in Matthew 24? The Jews only? Nope.
"You" there refers to his disciples who were believers. They also happened to all be Jewish at that point, but it's plain throughout Matthew 24 that what he is saying hinges not on their race but on their faith:
- "You will be hated of all nations for my name's sake" (Mt 24:9). (Did he say they were hated for being Jewish or for believing in Jesus?)
- "Many will fall away and betray one another" (Mt 24:10). (Are these people falling away from being Jewish or believers?)
- "And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." (Mt 24:22). (Who are the elect/chosen? You do not elect yourself to be Jewish but you do elect to be a believer. Throughout the NT books, the elect refers to believers, not Jews - Col 3:12; Ti 1:1; 2Jn 1:1, etc.)
So if Jesus expected believers to be on the earth for the Great Tribulation and gave them instructions on escaping it, how can there be a pretrib rapture?
There can't...and that's why the study of Petra is so rewarding.
You see, more and more Christians are looking in their Bibles for themselves and finding out what it really says on the rapture timing. This is no easy task; it takes courage, clear thinking and an ability to focus on the few core rapture verses and not get distracted by non-rapture verses many use to argue the pretrib position. The dominance of pretrib rapture belief makes even the best of us doubt what we're seeing in our own Bibles. Especially when we have to then provide an alternate answer to how we are saved from the Great Tribulation.
Yet it's plain what we read. The Bible says our gathering to heaven comes "after the tribulation of those days" (Mt 24:29-31). Or stated in another way, that the "man of sin" (Antichrist) comes "first" and then "the day of Christ and our gathering to him" (2Th 2:1-3). When Revelation calls the resurrection of the just to rule during the Millennium the "first" resurrection (Rev 20:5), it puts Paul's first resurrection/rapture event of the "dead" and "alive" "in Christ" (1Th 4:15-17) squarely at the start of the Millennium, or post-trib.
Now what is there in the Bible as an the alternative to a "pretrib rapture" for saving believers from the Great Tribulation?
That's where even the false theory of Petra is helpful. Although it is false, it is much closer to the truth than the pretrib rapture is! It gets you at least looking in the right direction and part of the right location as we shall see finally.
Where the Real "Place of Safety" Is
Once you get the pretrib rapture and Petra theory out of your mind, you will be able to finally see what plain Scripture says God plans to do to help us "escape all these things" (Lk 21:36).
Bible prophecy offers one place in connection with the Antichrist's domination of the world which it says he cannot take over. It is not Petra, or, at least, not exactly Petra. You can see it in Daniel's prophecy of the King of the North (the Antichrist):
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.
OK, that looks like three places, right? In ancient biblical times it was.
But in modern times there is one nation encompassing those exact three peoples. You may have already guessed it from the name Ammon. As in the capital of Jordan.
Jordan is the one and only place named as escaping from the Antichrist's grasp. Ironically, it includes Petra. But it includes much, much more land than that. Enough to hold the millions of believers who have the faith of Jesus and obey God's command to flee home and gather elsewhere (Rev 18:4 = Joel 2:32 = Rev 12:14).
But what makes Jordan so safe that God chose it? High elevation? Defensively advantageous natural rock formations? None, but none is needed.
Revelation 12 describes this "prepared place" as being supernaturally protected. Nothing less would suffice when you consider we're talking about the Antichrist with the power of Satan (Rev 13:2). When the faithful flee there with God's providential help (pictured as "eagle's wings") (Ex 19:4 = Rev 12:14), the earth miraculously opens up and swallows the Antichrist's armies.
Objections and Questions Answered
Now you probably have the following questions:
- Q. What about Bozrah?
A. Like Petra, Bozrah is part of Jordan, so what I'm saying here does not negate those theories completely, just expands them to the whole truth).
- Q. Isn't Jordan a Muslim country? What about the Jordanians there?
A. Jordan will be evacuated after the country is laid waste in the attack against Israel.
- Q. Will we need passports?
A. Things will be normal when we leave, pre-Wormwood and therefore passports will be needed.
- Q. How do we know when it's time to go?
A. God must send some prophet since no man knows the day or hour.
- Q. How much time do we have?
A. I think we won't see the prophet until the 2020s at the earliest.
- Q. How do we prepare?
A. Build your faith to obey radical commands of God.
- Q. Who will be left to evangelize the lost during the Tribulation?
A. The 144,000 will be supernaturally protected to witness even with the Antichrist in power.
By the way, before we go to Jordan we first are gathered to Judea. That's why Jesus said "those in Judea flee to the mountains" (to Jordan which is over the mountains from Judea) (Mt 24:16).
- For more on those and other questions, read my previous article on the faith it will take to go to Judea and Jordan.
- For how Psalm 91 describes the place we go to before Jordan, see my article on Psalm 91 in Prophecy.
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Tim is the author of this site (since 1999) and the book Know the Future that explains Revelation literally at last--including the key event of Wormwood (Rev 6-8). To read more from Tim and not miss a single new article, sign up for his free newsletter above.