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Series: From the Holy Land (Week 1 of 2)
Woodrow Kroll: The name Petra means "a little rock."
Tami Weissert: But it could mean much more than that in the future.
Woodrow Kroll: Yes, we'll check the Scriptures for it's meaning as we come to you on tour from the Holy Land. Hi, I'm Woodrow Kroll.
Tami Weissert: I'm Tami Weissert.
Woodrow Kroll: And this is Back to the Bible.
Tami Weissert: This begins our annual radio journey to the Holy Land and, Wood, you've been to the Holy Land how many time?
Woodrow Kroll: Forty-six times. Every time I go, I learn something new, I see something new, I meet new people. It's just a great place to go if you want to better understand the archaeological, the historical and the cultural background that shaped the writings of the Bible.
Tami Weissert: That is very true. We have two tours shaping up in 2011. We'll tell you more about that later in the program. Right now, we are starting our study from Petra. If you've watched the Indiana Jones movies, you have seen Petra.
Woodrow Kroll: Yes, Petra is located in Jordan. It's a pretty amazing place actually. It has towering rocks that form a geographical fortress. But there is some scriptural evidence that this may be a future hiding place for people during the Tribulation period.
Tami Weissert: That's what we'll talk about in our study today. So come along as we tour Petra--part of our journey through the Holy Land. Here's Dr. Kroll.
Woodrow Kroll: Well, this is really truly an amazing place and kind of an amazing day to be here--wonderful weather. It's good to be in Jordan and it's good to be at Petra. Now we got here coming down through that siq. What a wonderful place that is--as narrow as it can be and as high as it can be. You can imagine what it was like to discover this place for the very first time.
Well, a lot of you are discovering it for the first time, and I want to talk a little bit about why this place is important in the Bible. It's called Petra, P-e-t-r-a, which is not an Arabic name. It's the name given by the Greeks to this place. It means "a little rock." Remember the story of Peter: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock. You're the little petras" (see Matthew 16:18). Well, that's what the word is, and it means kind of a crack in the rock. We came through that siq before we got to the Treasury. It's just an amazing kind of architecture, and you can see why they would call it Petra.
Well, this place is interesting because it remained unknown to the Western world for most of its history. In fact, it was kind of rediscovered in the year 1812 by an intrepid Swiss explorer by the name of Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Well, J. L. Burckhardt got in here, wore his entire costume as if he was just a nomadic Bedouin, and he found this place and the Western world discovered it for the very first time. Of course, all the locals knew it was here the whole time, but we have discovered it today.
Now I want to talk a little bit about why this place is important, because UNESCO has said, and I'm quoting them now: "This is one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage." It is a World Heritage site. Just a few years ago Petra was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
So you've come to a place that's pretty amazing, to say the least. There's lots of historical evidence for this place, Petra. If you go back to the Bible times, and even before Bible times, it's not called Petra in the Bible. There is a reference in the Book of Isaiah to Sela. That may be this place, although it's not necessary because it simply means "a rock." As you can see, we've got a lot of rock around us here.
I think the more interesting reference is to a place called Rekem. That's the original name of this place. In fact, you can find that name in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls mention this place and they call it Rekem.
It's also associated in the Dead Sea Scrolls with Mount Seir. Now Mount Seir was the location of the place where Esau came, Esau the twin brother of Jacob. Esau and his peoples populated this area around here on this side of the Jordan and on this side of the Dead Sea; Jacob and his relatives on the other side of the Jordan and the other side of the Dead Sea. So we have the Edomite peoples over here and the Jewish peoples on the other side.
According to Genesis chapter 36, this place is important because this is the center of what was Edom. Now it didn't become an important place as the Edomites; it became an important place because of a people by the name of the Nabataeans.
The Nabataeans were an interesting group of people that probably not many Westerners know much about. They were an independent nation. They had their capital right here at Petra. As an independent nation they lived side-by-side with other peoples in this region for centuries. They lived across from Judea but adjacent to Judea. So when you read about Nabataeans, you generally think of people who lived in this part of the country, this being their capital.
From 150 or so B.C. to A.D. 106, the period that they were the most powerful in their history, this was a very, very important place. In A.D. 106 Trajan, the emperor of Rome, came through here, conquered the city, more or less absorbed the people, the Nabataeans, into the Roman Empire.
So what we have here is a very ancient town, maybe mentioned in the Old Testament, because if Sela is the place of Petra, then it is mentioned--but we don't know that for sure. It's definitely mentioned in the New Testament, not the name Petra but the king of this Nabataean land. His name was King Aretas.
Remember the apostle Paul, when Paul was imprisoned in Damascus, he says, "I escaped Damascus because I was let down over the city wall in a basket." Let me read it to you. This is 2 Corinthians 11. Paul says, "At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands" (2 Corinthians 11:32-33, ESV).
King Aretas was the governor of Damascus. Now that's due north a couple of hundred miles. So you can see that the king of this place right here, Petra, was a very, very important person.
Tami Weissert: You're listening to live From the Holy Land here on Back to the Bible with Bible teacher, Woodrow Kroll.
Woodrow Kroll: So here we have a unique nation, a distinct nation. The Nabataeans are a unique and distinct people, Arabic people, originally a Nomadic people, but they made this place, Petra, their capital.
Now we said that it's mentioned maybe in the Old Testament. We certainly know that King Aretas is mentioned in the New Testament. But the most interesting thing about this place, I think, is not the past or even the present. It may be the future. Do you know that this place may well be mentioned often in the future of God's plan for the nations?
Now I want to tell you exactly what I mean by that. Again, not the name, the name Petra you will not find in the Bible, but you will find a place like this mentioned in the Bible. In Bible prophecy there are lots of people who believe that this is the place that God has prepared for the Jewish people to flee to when they're under persecution by the Antichrist and by the forces of evil in the world.
Now let me explain to you how the whole history fits together. Someday, according to the Bible, Jesus is going to come back and take His Church out. After that comes a terrible time of judgment on the entire earth. That judgment is called the Tribulation period. We know, according to the Book of Revelation, that that period lasts for seven years.
Now we also know, according to the Book of Revelation, that there will be a leader during that time who is called the Antichrist. He's going to come on the scene. He'll be a world leader. He'll be a very charismatic figure. He'll have the whole world at his knees. And during that time, during the first half of that Tribulation period, he is going to make a pact, a peace pact, with the nation Israel.
But in the middle of that Tribulation period, the Bible tells us, he will break that pact and he'll begin to persecute the Jewish people and they are going to need a place to flee. There are lots of people, lots of Bible scholars, that believe this is the place right here where God has prepared for His people to go.
Now I want to read some Scripture to you, because I think it's important for us to understand, is that even possible? Here's what I have to say to you. These are the words of Jesus from Matthew 24. Listen to this. This is His Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24.
"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 [when travel is difficult] or on the Sabbath [when you're not allowed to travel]. 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."
Now those were the words of Jesus of Nazareth. Now what He is doing is He's describing a future day when the people of Israel will be terribly persecuted by this person the Antichrist. By the way, the Antichrist comes on the scene very, very quickly. He has this ability to rally the world around him.
So someone is going to step up and say, "You follow me and I'll lead you out of all this difficulty--all the calamities, all the natural disasters, all the economic ruin. I have a plan. I'll get you out." And the world will follow that person. That person is called the Antichrist.
As I said, Jesus says be very, very careful, because when the Antichrist comes it'll be very difficult for the people of Judea but they're going to have to flee from the mountains to the mountains. Now if you know anything about the geography of this part of the world, you know that you start at sea level right at the Mediterranean Sea. You rise to the peaks of Jerusalem and Hebron and other towns. And then you drop down into the lowest spot of the earth, the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley. And then you rise again to the peaks of the Transjordan plateau, the mountains we have been in the last day or so.
That means, then, that if people from Judea are going to flee to the mountains, it's certainly not the mountains of Judea. It must be these mountains. These are the closest range of mountains to the people of Judea. So a lot of people have said, "Hey, this is the perfect place for God to prepare a place for the Israeli people to hide."
Now Jesus here was talking about the Great Tribulation, and there's another passage, Luke 21, that fills in a little more of the story. I want you to get the whole story here, because you need to decide for yourself whether or not you think this place is actually a part of Bible prophecy. Listen to this, Luke 21, again Jesus talking here. He says:
"But 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" (see Luke 21:20-22).
Now twice Jesus has warned them that when the Antichrist breaks his covenant with the people of Israel, they're going to have to go somewhere. They can't stay in Jerusalem, because the armies of the world will surround Jerusalem and their intent will be to destroy the people of God.
Tami Weissert: Thanks for joining us today here on Back to the Bible. We're touring Petra, a place full of ancient history and possible implications for the future. Let's find out more as we return to our study with Dr. Kroll.
Woodrow Kroll: One of the interesting things about the Bible is sometimes you get multiple references from multiple periods of history for the same event. Jesus now has spoken twice about this, in Matthew and again in Luke. But if you go all the way back to the Old Testament prophet Zechariah to chapter 14, listen to this, verses 1-3, the prophet Zechariah says:
"Behold, a day is coming for the LORD, when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will 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" (see Zechariah 14:1-3)--a reference to the same thing by an Old Testament prophet.
Now this has never happened yet. The armies have not gathered around Jerusalem. They haven't half of the people yet. God hasn't taken half the people of Jerusalem away. But there is a passage in the Book of Revelation I think that relates to this; and if we understand Revelation correctly, we're talking about a future event. Now here's what it says, this is Revelation 12:
"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. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it [the dragon might devour the child]. 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, and the woman fled into the wilderness [now listen carefully], where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days" (Revelation 12:1-6, ESV).
Now that reference to 1,260 days is not just a casual reference, to be sure; 1,260 days, according to the lunar calendar is exactly three and one-half years. Remember, I said earlier on that the Antichrist will make a pact with Israel. In the middle of that seven-year period the Antichrist will break that pact and attack Israel. That's three and one-half years, 1,260 days.
Now if the woman here symbolically means Israel, I think the child, the male child the woman is giving birth to symbolically refers to the Messiah, the Son of Israel, the Lord Jesus Himself. Three hundred sixty days in a year, three and a half years, 1,260 days--this is not a coincidence, friends. I think the Bible is trying to tell us something here.
Chapter 12 of Revelation continues at verse 13 and says this: "And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman [now watch] was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time."
All right. God has prepared a place where the woman (the nation) will be in the wilderness--and if you look around us, this is wilderness, folks--and she will be nourished at that place for a time, and times (plural), and half a time. "A time," one year. "Times," two years. "Half a time," three and one-half years.
Tami Weissert: You're listening to live From the Holy Land here on Back to the Bible with Bible teacher, Woodrow Kroll.
Woodrow Kroll: Now, the person who first noticed these things in the Bible (at least, made something of them) is a Bible scholar by the name of W. E. Blackstone. I have several of Blackstone's books on my shelves back in Nebraska, and one of those books is entitled Jesus Is Coming. In that book he talks about this place, Petra. He talks about a place that God has prepared for His people to be protected from the Antichrist.
Blackstone was so convinced this was the place, he took $8,000 (this was back in the 1940s so a long time ago, 50 some years ago)--he took $8,000 of his own money and he bought boxes of Bibles and brought them to this place. You've seen these caves all along here. There are just thousands of caves in this place. Blackstone actually bought these boxes of Bibles and hid them in these caves.
And his intent was this: He said, "When the Israeli people have to flee from Jerusalem, if this is the place that God has prepared to protect them from the Antichrist, they're going to need a Bible to read. They're going to need to know who the Antichrist is. They're going to need to know who the Savior is. They're going to need to know what God's plan is and they have to have a Bible to do it. So he peppered these hills with Bibles.
Now this is a very, very interesting theory, because it fits the wilderness; it fits the three and a half-year period; it fits all the descriptions we've read in Zechariah and Daniel and in the Old Testament and in the New Testament from the words of Jesus and then here in the Book of Revelation.
Is this the place where God has prepared for the Israel people to be under the protection of God rather than under the assault of the Antichrist? Let me say it as clearly as I can say it: I don't know. It's a terrific theory and it does fit a lot of the facts; but as is often the case when we interpret Scripture, we have to interpret Scripture through what we understand. This well could be that place; I mean, it fits the description.
There are obvious problems with that. For one thing, these Bibles hidden here (they've been here for 50+ years), you can imagine a lot of them are gone by this point. For another thing, while you came through that siq--and it was very difficult to get through and it was very, very easy to defend because the walls are so high and it's so narrow going through that place--you can understand, in the days of Jesus and the days of Paul, you can understand how it would be easy to say, "Look, this is a defensible place, no one will know that God has prepared this for His people."
But now look above you here. Today all you need to do is land a helicopter in here, you know. The defensive system of this place is wonderful for 2000 years ago. Will it be wonderful in the future? That's what we don't know.
So while it's possible that this place, Petra, is in fact the place that God has prepared for His people to be protected from the Antichrist during the great period of Tribulation that comes in the future, we don't know for sure that this is the answer.
So what we do know is this: We know that protection is always found in the hands of God. Listen to this. When you look at the Psalms, often the Psalms tell us, Psalm 17:8, for example: "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings."
Whether you're Jewish or Christian or Muslim or Buddhist--or
whatever you are--the safest place for you is always under the wing of God,
because He provides that kind of protection for you. In fact, that's why in
Psalm 32:7, he says, "You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from
trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance."
Whether this place is the place God has prepared for the Jewish people or not, we can't say with certainty. Here's what we can say with certainty. Any person who needs a shelter always finds that shelter--not in a place like this--but finds that shelter under the wings of God.
Tami Weissert: Wood, Petra was definitely an amazing place but, honestly, all the stops on the journey through the Holy Land are amazing because they bring the Bible to life.
Woodrow Kroll: They do and tomorrow, Tami, we're actually going to stand on Mt. Nebo and look into the Promised Land. We're also going to visit Bethany where John the Baptist baptized the Lord Jesus. That's tomorrow on tour right here on Back to the Bible. Thanks for dropping by today. God bless you. I'm Woodrow Kroll. Have a good and godly day.
Tami Weissert: Back to the Bible is sponsored by the Good News Broadcasting Association Incorporated.