Petra -- Place of Safety???
By: Ed Szalankiewicz
My Mom came into the church in the mid 1960’s. She was extremely diligent in studying her bible and all of the WWCG church literature including taking the complete correspondence course and writing out all of the scriptures and taking all of the tests. She knew her bible and was ultimately responsible for 19 members of our extended family coming into contact with the Church of God. Eventually, one of them was me. She died in 2006 but until then, she remained the “Matriarch” of our family in the Church. She eventually saw her son (me) ordained as a minister of Jesus Christ and saw me baptize my Father – converted by her example – into the Church of GOD in 1995. She was an amazing woman.
But, as a young lad, before I began attending church, I remember my Mom (at that time the only one in our household in the church) going off to the Feast of Tabernacles in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. For one of those Feasts, Mom had prepared about a year’s worth of pre-cooked meals and placed them in a chest type freezer we had in our basement. She believed that she was not going to be coming home from this Feast and that she and all who attended were going to be traveling to a place somewhere in the Middle East called Petra. I can only imagine the pain she must have felt as she said her goodbyes to me, my two brothers, and Dad as she departed for that Feast.
This concept of going to Petra was extensively taught back then and believed by a great many in the Church of God. But, of course, we now know this was not a correct understanding. The term “The Place of Safety” so often spoken of and forming the underpinning of so many sermons – is not even found in scripture. This example serves to show how paradigms of prophecy become entrenched in the culture of the church for one reason or another because we rely too heavily on our own understanding rather than letting GOD’s Holy Spirit guide us. The Holy Spirit of GOD is not “militant” – it never forces us to do anything. However, when we are humble in our approach and humbly ask for enlightenment and guidance – we have a much better chance of seeing what GOD wants us to see in HIS word. He is very clear. Acts 5:32 says that if we obey HIM we will receive HIS spirit. John 16:13 says – it is that spirit emanating from HIM that will lead us into – notice it – ALL TRUTH – AND SHOW US THINGS TO COME! Yes – that means proper understanding of the prophecies contained in scripture. If we are seeing “things to come” incorrectly – it is a fair conclusion that we are being influenced by something that is false – something that is coming from a false spirit. The Church needs to understand that we are NEVER immune to that false leading when we are lifted up in our own mind (un-teachable and self-convinced, and “rich and increased with goods) – it is then that we are NOT submissive to the leading of GOD’s Holy Spirit and vulnerable to error. Remember, the Jews – to whom were committed the Oracles of GOD – and who knew full well the scriptures – totally MISSED that Christ was the actual Messiah. And when HE came – it was their leaders who were offended by HIM and even adjudicated his death.
The concept of the “Place of Safety” comes from a section of prophetic scripture found in Revelation 12:13 à 17
“V13, And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. V14, And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place , where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.”
In Revelation 1:19 John is told to write the things which he as seen (Prior to John’s day), and the things which are, (Present in John’s day) and the things which shall be hereafter; (From John’s day forward) It is important to remember that the last of these three time frames – the “hereafter” is from JOHN’S DAY FORWARD. A lot of the things that happened in this “hereafter” might now be in our past.
Here is a historical example that just might be the fulfillment of this section of scripture. Certainly, all of these events match perfectly with what is stated in these verses.
In 1661 one of the largest Sabbatarian Groups was found in London. The Pastor of this Church known as Whites Chapel was John James. Pastor James refused to accept the religion of the King and was therefore accused of treason. He was ordered by King Charles II to renounce his faith but he refused. He was sentenced to be drawn and quartered. Finally, his severed head was place on a post outside Whites Chapel as a warning to all who might continue to reject the “religion of the King”. This is an example of the harsh persecution that was being felt by the Sabbath keepers and the Church of God in Europe at the time.
James Mumford and his family were Sabbath Keepers and most likely members of the Church in that day. The Mumfords had heard that in 1638 Roger Williams had purchased land (known today as the state of Rhode Island) in the New World (a wilderness at the time) from the Indians. Mr. Williams had petitioned and received a charter from the King. Mr. Williams was motivated to establish a place in the new world where one could enjoy complete freedom to practice religion as he saw fit. Prior to that time, there was not “religious freedom” in the new world. An example is the hanging of a Quaker lady – Mary Dyer – executed because of her Quaker faith.
Roger Williams had written into the documents of this territory a guarantee or “right” that all people living there would enjoy this “religious freedom”. Of course – this territory became a state and this language made it into the constitution of Rhode Island and ultimately became the “model” for the language in the Constitution of the United States of America. And of course – the USA has become the most powerful nation EVER on the face of the earth -- economically, and militarily. Do you think GOD saw that coming? Do we find the USA in the Bible? Well, I believe we find it right here in the 12th chapter of Revelation.
The Mumfords and many like them emigrated from England to Rhode Island to escape the heavy persecution that was coming down hard on the Sabbatarian Church members. His flight into this new wilderness happened sometime in the mid 1660’s -- most likely around 1664 – almost exactly 350 years ago.
What does it say?
- The Dragon persecuted the WOMAN which brought forth the manchild
- (Satan persecuting Israel-and the Church. Christ’s lineage came from Israel and HE established the CHURCH which is “the woman” or “virgin” or “bride” of Christ)
- And to the Woman were give two wings of a great eagle
- (The national symbol of the USA is an Eagle. The USA’s very existence is a major part of GOD fulfilling HIS promise to bless the descendants of Abraham)
- That she might fly into the wilderness,
- (At the historical time the church fathers fled the intense persecution in England and all of Europe and came to the colonies in this new wilderness that would become the USA, it was, of course, indeed a wilderness.)
- Into her place where she is nourished for time, and times, and half a time. From the face of the serpent.
- (The USA is unique in that we have a constitutional RIGHT to freedom of worship. This was built into our documents starting right in Rhode Island by Roger Williams. It was the birth place of the Sabbatarian movement in our country – the genesis of the modern day Church of God movement. The gospel has been SAFE – in this land and was allowed to flourish and prosper safely here as no place on earth ever in history – in the richness of this land.
- And all this began – you guessed it – about 3 and one half centuries ago. Time Times, and half a time.
Now we see the next verses: “V15, And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. V16, And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon case out of his mouth. V17, And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of GOD, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
In the recent history of the USA the purity and clarity of the True Gospel Message has been watered down. Watered down how? – By a flood of false messages. The most effective tools which were used to build the church in our recent past, TV and Media, have now been conscripted by the enemy and have given rise to a plethora of “religiosity” of every kind and stripe – some serious and filled with “half-truths” and some just plain silly. But nonetheless – there is an absolute FLOOD of false information out there designed to “carry away” the believer into a “whirlpool of deadly spiritual soup” making a mockery of the REAL PLAIN TRUTH of GOD’s word. Then, the Church of GOD which had come to some reasonable strength in the latter part of the last century was directly attacked by “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (“certain men who crept in unawares” Joseph Tkach and the gang—Jude 4) and driven into apostasy – much the same as it was in the time of the Nicean Council. The same lie retold and rehashed in our day – the Sabbath invalidated!
The full onslaught of this apostasy came in 1995 when the church fractured into many small groups seeking safety in small congregations (small hills of truth). Those in these present day small groups form the biblical “Remnant Church of God” spoken of in these verses. These scattered people are those who still KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD AND HAVE THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST. Those who steadfastly cling to the faith once delivered.
Now what happens in a flood? Water comes across the surface of the ground in torrents and waves. What happens to all the “critters” that live there? Well, they scamper up to high ground. I believe, there is a real chance that this flood is the wave of lies (The dragon cast this flood from “his mouth”) coming from the false church that has swept across the nations of Jacob. Just as it says in Matthew 24:39 “until the flood came and took them all away . . .” Also, (the dragon was wroth with the woman) and the anger of the enemy moved to break the back of the Church in 1995. And now, the remnant people have scampered up to those hills of safety from that flood – the many small congregations that still teach the truth. Effectively, the Church of GOD has disappeared into the cracks and crevices of the earth – no longer a solid and visible target. The sheer size of the nation has hidden the remnant churches giving new meaning to Psalm 121:1
“I will lift up mine eyes to the hills. From whence cometh my help? My Help comes from the LORD!”
What I believe we see here is the very real possibility that we are living through the fulfillment of this prophecy in our very day. Is there a “Place of Safety”? Well it would appear that there is and it is right under our feet – the very land promised to Abraham. And, again, if this is so – we are much closer to the end than perhaps we once believed as this prophecy depicts the time of the very end. ~~~~~