Dr. Hoeh on Petra and the Place of Safety

Treasury building in Petra


Back in April 1962, the old Radio Church of God published the following from the late Dr. Herman Hoeh:

Let’s open our Bibles to see why Petra has puzzled scholars and Bible students for centuries.

The true Church of God is pictured in Revelation 12. It is symbolized by a woman-the bride of Christ. But it is a persecuted woman-a Church hated by the world. According to verse 6 the Church fled the first time from her persecutors for 1260 years – during the Middle Ages. But verse 14 unveils another flight of the Church-in the very last days. This time the duration is only 3 1/2 years! “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle”-supernatural deliverance-“that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time”–3 1/2 years.

This prophecy has never been understood by the world because the world cannot understand to whom this prophecy refers. It does not recognize who are the true Church. It sees only the false churches, described in Revelation 17.

But consider now the special time of this prophecy about protection in a mysterious wilderness. Notice exactly which period in the history of God’s Church the escape shall occur. Turn to Revelation 3:7-13. This is addressed to the Philadelphia Era of God’s Church -the Church before whom Christ opens the door to preach His gospel around the world (verse 8). Because this Church has kept Gods word, Jesus promises: “I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation”-the time of trial–“which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth’ (verse 10). Here is a world-wide terror to come upon all nations. This is not for the slow-moving past. It is a prophecy for the pulsating present the last days of human history–just before God intervenes to set up His Kingdom to bring peace at last.

Here is a prophecy for this generation- at the very time God’s Church is preaching and publishing the Gospel of the Kingdom of God world-wide. This prophecy is about us!

But how will Jesus keep us from the coming trial and persecution? We just read the answer from Revelation 12! There is a place of safety, in a wilderness, for the people of God.

But where is that wilderness?

That is the mystery that has puzzled so many for so long! God has kept it a mystery so the world would not know. He has even kept it hidden from God’s Church in the past so His people would have their minds on their work! It is only 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!

Remember, if the Christians in Jerusalem in apostolic days had quit their work and prematurely escaped to Pella before A.D. 69, they would have been destroyed by the Roman armies who devastated the city. It was only those who completed the work of God who reached safety in A.D. 69 after the Romans destroyed Pella!

That is why God has veiled the exact place of escape from human eyes all these years. But as the days draw closer to the time of the end, the light of prophecy shines ever more clearly! When the moment comes that we need to know where that place of safety is, Christ will make it known. Meanwhile we need to keep our eyes open and our minds yielded-drinking in the implications of prophecy for this Church today! But where does Petra fit in all this?

An Old Testament Prophecy

Turn to Isaiah 42:l0-13. Here is a prophecy for today-a time of divine intervention, verse 14. Now read verse 11 from the Jewish Publication Society translation according to the original inspired Hebrew:

“Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit”–the descendants of Kedar are the Bedouin Arabs who dwell throughout the Middle East in black tents. Here we have a wilderness located in the Arab world! But continue reading: “Let the inhabitants of Sela exult. Let them shout from the top of the mountains.” The inhabitants of Sela? Who are they? And where is Sela? (In the King James Version the word for Sela is translated “rock.”)

Any Bible student knows that Sela is the Hebrew name of Petra! Sela means Rock–in Hebrew; Petra means Rock in Greek! But Sela or Petra is fundamentally uninhabited today, save for a few dozen wandering Bedouin. These are not the inhabitants in this verse, for notice verse 12: “Let them’’–the inhabitants of Petra or Sela–“give glory unto the Lord”–the Bedouin do not know God, they are Mohammedan–“and declare His praise in the islands.”

Which islands? The islands which Israel inhabits–Isaiah 41:1 and 8. God is certainly not going to use a few uneducated, ignorant Mohammedan Bedouin to declare His glory in the islands and coastlands of Northwestern Europe -where Israel is today! This prophecy resurrection and the return of Christ in power and glory. Christ is going to use His servants–now immortal in the Kingdom of God–to proclaim His intervention and the establishment of His Kingdom over all the earth. He is going to use the very ones whom He is now using to proclaim His message. Then they will finally heed!

Isn’t this prophecy a clear indication that the place of safety for the people of God who are now doing the work of God–and broadcasting to the islands and coastlands of Northwestern Europe–is in an Arabian wilderness, where the Bedouin dwell and is probably at Sela, or Petra?

Supernatural Protection

Turn now to another parallel passage, this time Isaiah 33. Read especially verses 13-17. Notice the time setting. It is when the worlds ambassadors, who seek to make peace, suddenly find the world caught up in frightful destruction (verses 7-8).

Beginning with verse 13 God warns the House of Israel-the “sinners in Zion”-of their sins (verse 14). “Who will be able to live through the endtime fiery atomic and hydrogen warfare?” God asks (verse 14). Those who obey Him, declares verse 15. But where will they go?

Verses 16 and 17 answer! “He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks.. .” This verse is poorly translated in most versions because the translators did not understand the prophecy. The true meaning has been hidden. The place of protection shall be, not munitions of rocks, but the “strongholds of Sela!” The original, inspired Hebrew, mistranslated “munitions,” is metsad, and means a stronghold or a castle or a fort. And the word for “rock” in this verse is Sela, the name of Petra in the Hebrew language!

Petra is a dry, barren area. It hardly provides a few dozen Bedouin sufficient sustenance. How are all of the faithful people of God to be provided for? Continue with the end of verse 16: “…his bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” Here also is supernatural provision! Remember what happened to the children of Israel in the Sinai wilderness? God supernaturally provided them food and water nearly 40 long years! God can do the same today! 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!

Verse 17 completes the picture: “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off’-or “they shall behold a land stretching afar,” according to the Jewish translation. We shall see Him as He is (I John 3:2). Notice also that those in safety see “the land”-Palestine, the promised land stretching into the distance. Surely here is another indication of the high rocky crags of Petra from which one may look northwest to the promised land.

Place of Safety

Perhaps the most commonly quoted verses about Petra are found in Isaiah 16. The prophecy is found in verses 1 to 5. It is a message to Moab-modern Jordan, in whose territory Petra or Sela is presently located. Verse 1 should read: “Send ye the lambs for the Ruler of the land from Sela that is toward the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion” (compare the KJV with the JPS translation).

The time setting of this prophecy is the return of Christ to rule the nations. He is the King of the land. The Moabites are commanded to seek Him, to send Him an offering as a token of their submission. The offering comes from Sela. But why are the Moabites found in Sela, when only Bedouin dwell there today? The succeeding verses answer: “For it shall be, that, as a wandering bird cast out of the nest, so the daughters”– and‘ descendants–“of Moab shall be at the fords of Arnon.” Other prophecies picture hordes from the east capturing the land east of the Jordan. (See Ezekiel 25:l0.) As these Communist hordes plunge toward Palestine, slaughtering as they go, a pitiful remnant–described in Jeremiah 48:1-25–escapes at the Arnon (a stream running into the Dead Sea). The Moabite refugees flee southward for protection. Why? Is it perhaps because they have known of others already there in a place of safety? Now look at verse 4. God is addressing Moab: “Let Mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab; be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler.”

So there are others there already. “Mine outcasts,” God calls them. God’s people, who flee from the world, refugees or outcasts!

The fleeing Moabites are not to betray where they are. This makes verse 3 much clearer. The Moabites are commanded to “Give counsel, execute justice; make thy shadow as night in the midst of the noon day; hide the outcasts; betray not the fugitive” (JPS trans.). Their flight is not to reveal where God’s own outcasts are. Their movements are to be as invisible as if it were in black night!

Now compare this prophecy with Jeremiah 48:28, “O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock”–Sela, in Hebrew–“and be like the dove that makes her nest in the sides of the holes mouth”! A perfecr description of Petra, with its caves!

Isaiah 16:5 then reveals the very next prophetic event to occur: “And a throne is established through mercy, and there sitteth thereon in truth, in the tent of David, One that judgeth, and seeketh justice, and is ready in righteousness” (JPS trans.). Christ is now pictured as seated on the throne of David! Surely this indicates that God‘s outcasts in Isaiah 16 are the same as those mentioned in Revelation 12 who escape to the wilderness-shortly before the return of Christ!

In the New Testament, while not all Christians are promised physical protection, the Philadelphian Christians are promised to be protected from the Great Tribulation and this place of protection is in the wilderness according to the Book of Revelation:

7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: 8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie — indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (Revelation 3:7-10)

13 Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. 14 But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. 15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:13-17)

Notice that Revelation 12:17 shows that there are two groups of Christians, and only one group is protected in the wilderness.

While Petra may not be the place, it is a place to be considered.

I should probably mention that some have alleged that the idea of Petra and the ‘place of safety’ were non-biblical inventions of Loma and/or Herbert W. Armstrong. This is not the case. The idea of the biblical cave-containing area of Sela (the area currently known as Petra) being a place of protection during the tribulation predates the Armstrongs mentioning it (probably by at least a century).

It should also be understood that Catholic writers such as Irenaeus and Hippolytus also believed that there was a physical place to flee to (see Is There A Secret Rapture for the Church? When and Where is the Church Protected?). Also, later Catholic writers have confirmed this. Notice the following from a 20th century priest commenting on Revelation 12:14:

Verse 14

She is given “two wings” of a Great Eagle. This intimates a rescue by airplane. …

The “Great Eagle” may send or have present a powerful airplane to bring its citizens home … God promises that those who trust in Him shall take “wings as eagles”. The “wings” of the great eagle will enable the woman to fly into the wilderness. This wilderness is a heathen nation …

The great eagle therefore, as a nation, has never been Catholic. The word “eagle” suggests that the nation may have become great by conquest. This eagle will protect and shelter the Church during the reign of the Beast. The place of safety for the woman … will refuse to join Antichrist and will protect the Church during his domination of the world…

The time is stated in three different ways, in years, months and days to make the literal meaning unmistakably certain. Evidently it is three and a half years actual time. The time given in verse 14 is indefinite, similar to that of Daniel (XII. 7); But since in Daniel (XII. 11) it seems to mean 1290 days, so here it evidently synchronizes with the 1260 days of verse 6 and the same period in chapter eleven. (Kramer H.B. L. The Book of Destiny. Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus. Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, January 26, 1956. Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL),pp. 296-297)

Thus, the idea of a physical place of safety was not a new invention of one of the Armstrongs. Additionally, even the Rheims New Testament commentary admits that the Bible teaches that there is a place in the desert for the true church to flee:

The Church shall flee as to a desert in Antichrist’s time, but not decay or be unknown, no not for so short a time. (p. 556).

Furthermore, it is my opinion that the demons themselves know about this place (recall that even Satan quoted scripture to Christ, see Matthew 4).

Notice that the power behind the “secret society” is expected to be hidden in a cave:

Anne Catherine Emmerich (October 1820): I saw the secret society undermining the great church and near them a horrible beast … concealing itself in a cave (Emmerich AC. The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, Volume 2, p.290).

I also believe that somehow demons influenced a mystic Catholic saint and prophetess named Hildegard to warn that those in a place with caves worked for the devil and were an advanced group that support the Antichrist. Notice what she wrote in the 12th century:

And fly from those who linger in caves and are cloistered supporters of the Devil. Woe to them, woe to them who remain thus! They are the Devil’s very viscera, and the advance guard of the son of perdition.

Therefore, O you My beloved children, avoid them with all devotion and with all the strength of your souls and bodies. For the ancient serpent feeds and clothes them by his arts, and they worship him as God and trust in his false deceptions…Because they are afraid of My people, they do not openly resist these institutions of Mine, but in their hearts and their deeds they hold them as nothing. By devilish illusion, they pretend to have sanctity; but they are deceived by the Devil, for if he were to show himself to them openly they would understand him and flee him. By his arts he shows them things he pretends are good and holy, and thus deludes them. O woe to those who persevere in this death!

But because the Devil knows he has only a short time for his error, he is not hastening to perfect infidelity in his members; you, you evil deceivers, who labor to subvert the Catholic faith. (Hildegard of Bingen. Scivias. Paulist Press, Mahwah (NJ), pp. 301-302).

Since I believe that the mystic was demonically-influenced, she is actually warning against supporting the true Christians who will be protected who she is claiming are the “supporters of the Devil” (probably because they will oppose the Catholic Church). Since she calls them the advanced guard “of the son of perdition,” she seems to be referring to a group of people who will be protected in caves just before Christ returns (I stated that because certain Catholic prophecies seem to refer to the returning Christ as the “antichrist”, who is also sometimes referred to as “the son of perdition”—for more on this, please read the article Do Certain Catholic Prophecies About Antichrist Warn Against Jesus?).

Hence, I believe that the above demonically-inspired vision will be used to try to persuade people to be against those that are in caves (Jeremiah 48:28), who seem religious (Revelation 14:12), and are apparently miraculously fed (Isaiah 33:15-16). Those being protected will be teaching that Jesus is about to return (who certain Catholic prophecies call Antichrist)–this would be expected to result in persecution of those with similar beliefs. Yet notice that the above vision does indicate that even the demons have known about a place of protection where some people will be miraculously fed, for quite some time.

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

This is PETRA! This is a 1962 Good News article by the late Dr. Hoeh.
There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra This article discusses a biblical ‘place of safety’ and includes quotes from the Bible and Herbert W. Armstrong on this subject–thus, there is a biblically supported alternative to the rapture theory. There is also a video on the subject: Might Petra be the Place of Safety? Here is something related in the Spanish language: Hay un lugar de seguridad para los Filadelfinos. ¿Puede ser Petra?
Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism? Was the millennium (sometimes called chiliasm) taught by early Christians? Who condemned it? Will Jesus literally reign for 1000 years on the earth? Is this time near? Two related sermons are available Millennial Utopia and The Millennium.
Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End? Was a 6000 year time allowed for humans to rule followed by a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth taught by the early Christians? Does God have 7,000 year plan? What year may the six thousand years of human rule end? When will Jesus return? 2027 or 20xx? There is also a video titled 6000 Years: When will God’s Kingdom Come? Here is a link to the article in Spanish: ¿Tiene Dios un plan de 6,000 años?
When Will the Great Tribulation Begin? 2020, 2021, or 2022? Can the Great Tribulation begin today? What happens before the Great Tribulation in the “beginning of sorrows”? What happens in the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord? Is this the time of the Gentiles? When is the earliest that the Great Tribulation can begin? What is the Day of the Lord? Who are the 144,000? Here is a version of the article in the Spanish language: ¿Puede comenzar la Gran Tribulación en 2018 o 2019? ¿Es el Tiempo de los Gentiles? You can also see the English language sermon videos: The Great Tribulation from the Mount of Olives and Can the Great Tribulation begin before 2020? A shorter and newer video is: Could the Great Tribulation Begin in 2020?
The Times of the Gentiles Has there been more than one time of the Gentiles? Are we in it now or in the time of Anglo-America? What will the final time of the Gentiles be like? A related sermon is available and is titled: The Times of the Gentiles.
Armageddon Who is involved and when will this gathering happen? Here is also a video from Dr. Thiel, from Tel Megiddo in Israel: Armageddon. Other videos include: Armageddon Will it come on Trump’s watch?, Iraq, Armageddon, & Prophecy, Freemasonry, Armageddon, and Rome, Is China paving roads to Armageddon?, and Jordan, Petra, and Armageddon.

Christ or Antichrist? 1961 article by David Jon Hill, originally published in the old Good News magazine.
Will You Be Deceived by Antichrist? 1964 article by David Jon Hill, originally published in the old Good News magazine.
Satan’s Plan Does Satan have a plan? What is it? Has it already been successful? Will it be successful in the future? Here are links to a two-part sermon series: What are Some of the Parts of Satan’s Plan? and Satan’s Plan is More Dramatic than Many Realize.
Do Certain Catholic Prophecies About Antichrist Warn Against Jesus? Will the final “Anti-Christ” be Jewish, insist on Saturday, be opposed to the trinity, and bring in the millennium? Certain Catholic writings indicate this, while others take a different view, but what does the Bible show? A related sermon is Will Jesus Christ be called the Antichrist?
Catholic Prophecies: Do They Mirror, Highlight, or Contradict Biblical Prophecies? People of all faiths may be surprised to see what various Roman and Orthodox Catholic prophets have been predicting as many of their predictions will be looked to in the 21st century.
The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God, now the remnant of that era is basically the most faithful in the Church of God, like who hold to the beliefs and practices of the Continuing Church of God.
The Laodicean Church Era has been predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. The Laodiceans are non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG or its offshoots. They do not properly understand the work or biblical prophecies and will face the Great Tribulation if they do not repent. One video of related interest is 17 Laodicean Errors in Prophecy.

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