God's people must ask: Where is the place of safety?
Mr. Dick served from 1967 to 1970 as the first office manager for the Radio/Worldwide Church of God in Jerusalem.
Mr. Dick graduated from Ambassador College in 1962. In 1958 the topic in an AC prophecy class was Zechariah 14: Christ would stand on the Mount of Olives; the mount would split and "ye would flee along this valley." But didn't 1 Thessalonians 4 say the dead in Christ would rise first and that "ye who were alive would rise to meet Christ in the air"? This, says Mr. Dick, was a contradiction he could not accept. The following article, he says, "shows that both scriptures mean exactly what they say. God does not lie."
This essay is part of a series in The Journal on the "place of safety." See other place-of-safety essays, by Robert Thiel, Tracy Walker, Rich Traver and Bryn Hendrickson, in the Feb. 29, 2000, and Jan. 31, 2001, issues.
By R.C. Dick
BIG SANDY, Texas--It has become a common expression in the Church of God that, if Petra is not the place of safety, the Scriptures do not tell us where it is.
Do God's elect really expect to spend the three-and-one-half-year time of great tribulation in Petra, Jordan's main tourist attraction and her main source of tourist income?
This time of safekeeping will be when God's people are bitterly hated by the whole world. Spy satellites even today can read the numbers on cars' license plates. God's people, in Petra, would be as visible and as vulnerable as if they were gathered on the playing field in a stadium. A single well-placed missile would blot God's elect out of existence. There is nothing reasonable or logical about the notion of being protected in Petra.
God has told us where He will hide His elect, and it is not in Petra. It is easy to cite scriptures that tell exactly where God says He will hide them, but setting the stage should make it much easier to understand God's awesome plan for His elect. Our account begins in the book of Exodus.
Israel's historic departure from Egypt
God led the children of Israel out of Egypt. The easy, logical route would have been along the coast by the way of the Philistines, but He chose another way: "And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt" (Exodus 13:17).
God chose the difficult way to show His awesome power to Pharaoh, to Egypt, to the whole civilized world--and especially to His people, the children of Israel.
He led them through the Red Sea, thereby accomplishing a scientific impossibility. It is impossible to form two walls of water. Water cannot be divided. It is also scientifically impossible to instantly provide a completely dry corridor between such walls of water.
But this is what God did.
The Song of Moses
In Exodus 15 we find the Song of Moses. God had just delivered the children of Israel by one of the most incredible miracles ever recorded. To celebrate, they danced and sang this song. We begin the account in verse 4:
"Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. The depths covered them; they sank into the bottom as a stone."
The children of Israel were recalling a tremendous miracle they had just witnessed. The account continues in verses 8-9:
"With the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them."
Now verse 10: "Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters."
So far everything actually happened. This is history, but what is recorded from here on has not happened. God's elect will, once again, find themselves surrounded by powerful armies. They will once more stand helpless on the brink of destruction. If you are one of God's elect, this means you.
The prophetic future escape
Now read verses 12-13: "Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation."
What did we just read? The earth swallowed them, and those who were redeemed were led to the Eternal's holy habitation. This is prophetic. This time it is not the sea that swallows them. This time it will be the earth.
The earth will split open and close again, just as the Red Sea opened and closed to destroy the armies of Egypt. Our forefathers crossed the Red Sea and arrived in the wilderness. They did not go to God's holy habitation.
Exodus 15:14-16: "The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased."
These are the Palestinians and the Moabites, in the land of Canaan. This is an end-time prophecy, and it takes place in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
But who are the dukes of Edom?
Since Petra was once the capital of Edom, some may think this shows Petra will be the place of safety. It is important we understand who the dukes of Edom are because, in Obadiah, God shows what He will do to Edom and why. This takes place in Jerusalem when the Jews are once again taken into captivity.
Obadiah 1:12: "But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress."
Verse 14: "Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress."
This shows Edomites are living among the Arabs, but who are they? Is there anything to distinguish the Edomites from the Arabs? Since most Arabs claim to be descendants of Ishmael, are the Edomites also Arabs? Here is the amazing answer.
Genesis 36:2-3: "Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Bashemath Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth."
Ishmael was Esau's father-in-law. Now notice verse 10: "These are the names of Esau's sons; Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau."
Reuel was the son of Bashemath, and here are his sons, verse 13: "And these are the sons of Reuel; Nahath, and Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah: these were the sons of Bashemath Esau's wife."
Notice verse 17: "And these are the sons of Reuel Esau's son; duke Nahath, duke Zerah, duke Shammah, duke Mizzah: these are the dukes that came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Bashemath Esau's wife."
The Dukes of Edom, the Moabites and the Palestinians are all Arabs. They will all live in the Jerusalem area at the time of the end. These are the people who will be filled with fear and dread when God's people pass over.
At the very end of this age a special group of God's people will find themselves in a trap with no escape. The earth will open, just as the Red Sea opened. They will escape. Exodus 15:17 repeats one of the greatest promises He ever made to a physical people:
"Thou shalt bring them in and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord which thy hands have established."
The children of Israel were delivered into the wilderness, where they spent the next 40 years. They were not planted in the mountain of God's inheritance, and the Eternal had not made a sanctuary for Himself to dwell in. Every bit of this is prophetic. The earth will open and swallow up the pursuers of God's people, and they will pass over and enter the sanctuary God's hands will have made.
A brief summary
As the children of Israel of old found themselves hemmed in by mountains, the Red Sea and the armies of Egypt, so God's elect will find themselves again facing certain death unless God intervenes.
As Pharaoh's armies were swallowed by two walls of water closing in upon them, so the armies that pursue God's elect will be swallowed up by the earth.
As the sheer stone walls of the valley of escape close up, these armies will vanish without a trace. The saints will disappear in the sanctuary in the Lord's holy mountain, and no living witnesses will be left to tell what happened.
Psalms, the key of David
The theories of men have filled books with baseless assumptions. The only biblical truth comes when men let the Bible explain the Bible.
We find a vital key in Revelation 3:7, where Christ told the angel of the church in Philadelphia to write: "These things saith He that is Holy, He that is True, he that hath the key of David."
The church in Philadelphia has access to the key of David. What did David leave for members of that church? He left the book of Psalms, in which we find most of the instructions for God's people in the last days.
A perfect example is Psalm 23. People of all faiths read it for its inspiration, but what it says applies specifically to God's elect. These are God's people, saved from destruction and led to God's sanctuary:
"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
Historically, the children of Israel walked through a corridor between two walls of water. But prophetically those who have been redeemed will walk between walls of earth. Their pursuers will be swallowed by the earth, not the sea.
As the Lord, with His rod and His staff, walks with the elect through the valley of the shadow of death, there is no fear. Those who flee along this valley are living, mortal saints. They are snatched from the clutches of their enemies, and their lives are saved. They are starved and exhausted, but their soul is restored. They are filled and rested. The remainder of Psalm 23 describes the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is peaceful, with green pastures and still waters. After resting and being refreshed, the elect find a banquet before them. Their heads are anointed with oil as they become permanent residents of God's house. They are still human, and God's Kingdom is still in the future at that time.
For the elect to be rescued and delivered to God's sanctuary, they must be where a valley opens for them. Again, let the Bible show where this will be, how God's people will get there and when and why the earth splits.
We turn first to the scriptures that show where God's elect will be dramatically rescued.
Flight to the wilderness
Revelation 12:14: "To the woman [the church] was given the two wings of a great eagle that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place where she is nourished for a time, times and half a time--from the face of the serpent."
How was the woman delivered to the wilderness? Governments, rulers and world powers would never supply air transportation to gather God's people from the four corners of the earth to deliver them to a place of safety. However, they would all be eager to gather them up from everywhere to exterminate them. Prisoners always travel free of charge.
Then, verse 15: "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."
The woman arrives in the wilderness to find a flood has already been cast out of the serpent's mouth to destroy her. She is not in her place of protection, and she is not hidden from the face of the serpent. She will be nourished, and she will be hidden, but not until she is rescued and taken to the sanctuary in God's holy hill. This is the rescue described in the Song of Moses.
Earth opens, woman is saved
The saints arrive in the wilderness to find that the serpent has cast out a flood of water that is intended to erase them from the face of the earth. Obviously they do not flee to this place. They are taken, not to be protected but to be killed.
Revelation 12:14-15 states a simple fact without telling us what is actually going on. Then we read in verse 16:
"And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth."
The flood does not carry her away because the earth opens at just the right time and the elect are rescued--just as the children of Israel were rescued. This time it is not the sea, but the earth that opens to rescue God's special treasure, His elect.
In Exodus 15 the redeemed and purchased saints are rescued and taken to God's sanctuary. Psalm 23 describes the rescue and the sanctuary to which they are delivered.
In Revelation 12:16 the earth opens. This is a simple statement, but it means that a mountain of almost-solid limestone is ripped apart.
As the Red Sea opened to serve as a corridor to safety for the children of Israel, so the earth opens to save God's saints and swallow up the flood and the armies that pursue them. The earth swallows up the flood and helps the woman. That is a promise.
Prayers of the saints
In just a few words the saints are taken to the wilderness, a flood is cast forth to carry them away, and the earth opens. But all the details are missing. The account does not tell us what actually takes place. For that we turn to Psalm 69.
Beginning in verses 2-3 we see the desperate plight of the elect, not unlike their forefathers standing helpless on the banks of the Red Sea:
"Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God."
The saints are weary, exhausted and frightened. With their hope waning and death only minutes away, we go to Psalm 18. Their prayers and their cries are poured out in desperation, and at last they are heard.
Beginning in verse 4:
"The sorrows of death compassed me and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of the grave compassed me about. He heard my voice out of His temple and my cry came before Him, even into His ears."
Rescue on the way
Verses 7-10: "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the mountains quaked and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and thick darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly; yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind."
In total darkness, with the earth shaking, lightning darting and hailstones raining down, the dragon's armies are routed, and, according to the Song of Moses, the earth closes in upon them as the elect are delivered. But where are they delivered?
Verses 16-19: "He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me."
As a thief in the night
While the world is distracted by the awesome turmoil on earth and in the heavens, the elect vanish! They are no longer in the wilderness; the earth has swallowed up their pursuers; and there are no living witnesses to tell what became of them.
The elect are rescued and set safely in a large place where they are nourished and protected for a time, times and half a time (Revelation 12:14). This is a physical rescue. It is not the time of the resurrection.
The church is to be protected and nourished for three and a half years, or 1,260 days. The woman is taken to the wilderness before that period begins. The serpent's flood is cast out, and the terror, crying and desperate prayers all come first.
Then Christ returns to rescue His elect, coming as a thief in the night. Only then does the 1,260-day period in God's sanctuary begin.
The elect are mortal human beings until the resurrection three and one-half years later. Be sure you understand this. Christ comes as a thief in the night to rescue His saints. Not until three and one-half years later does He return with the ultimate in pageantry, with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God.
On that day He comes as King of Kings and Lord of Lords at the head of His angelic army.
It is the day on which the dead in Christ rise first and those who are still alive rise to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Zechariah 14:1-5: The key
At last we should be able to understand the key that unlocks prophecy. That key is Zechariah 14:1-5. Until it is understood, prophecy is a hodgepodge of vain speculation.
The reason this has not been understood is that it is assumed to say what it does not say. Therefore it is necessary that we compare the traditional understanding with what these scriptures actually say.
According to tradition, based on what Zechariah 14:1-2 seems to say, the great and terrible day of God's wrath is at hand.
All nations gather against Jerusalem; one half of the city falls; the houses are looted; the women are raped; the people are taken into captivity.
The traditional scenario has it that the people are already in captivity when the Lord makes war on this great army. This is assumed to be the Battle of Armageddon. Apparently, if He had come just a little sooner, He could have saved the Jews from going into captivity.
The muddle continues. Christ's feet stand on the Mount of Olives and the mount splits to form a great valley, but we don't know why it splits!
"Ye shall flee as in the days of Uzziah," but who are ye, and where are ye going?
This is incredible! How could the most vital key to prophecy have possibly been rendered more useless? False assumptions and vain traditions have robbed god's people of an absolutely essential key.
What Zechariah 14 really says
Zechariah 14:1 begins: "Behold, the day of the Lord cometh . . ." This seems to say that this is the one and only Day of the Lord.
But Cook's Bible Commentary states that in the original Hebrew text there is no definite article and the passage should read: "Behold, a day of the Lord cometh . . ."
The New International Version reads: "A day of the Lord is coming..."
Several modern-language translations of the Bible have also corrected the error.
Zechariah 14:1-2 should read, "Behold, a day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee, for I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city."
We cannot understand this until we know exactly when the fall of Jerusalem takes place, and we can know. The answer lies in the book of Daniel.
But first Matthew 24:15-16 states: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, stand in the Holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains."
Mark 13:14: "But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains."
In Matthew and Mark, Christ charged that all who read should understand that the abomination of desolation was explained in Daniel's prophecy. That prophecy is in Daniel 12:11: "And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days."
That seems to say the daily sacrifices will be taken away 1,290 days before the end of this age. But we need not guess. The answers have been right before our eyes all along.
God's church has understood all along that God's people are to be protected in a place of safety for three and one-half years. That is a period of 1,260 days.
According to Matthew and Mark, only those of God's people who are in Judea are to flee to the mountains when the abomination of desolation is set up. They will be escaping from Jerusalem when there are yet 1,290 days.
Luke's account fills in the missing information, showing why they must flee at that exact time. Luke 21:20: "And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh."
Do we understand what Christ said?
Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies, the armies of all nations, and these will make Jerusalem desolate. One half of Jerusalem is about to be invaded and looted and the Jewish people taken into captivity.
But what about God's church? The answer is in verse 21: "Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains . . ."
The only time when God's people in Judea will flee to the mountains will be when Jerusalem is surrounded by armies--armies that take away the daily sacrifice and set up the abomination that makes desolate--and they do it when there are yet 1,290 days. That means there will be 1,290 days left until the end of this age when this takes place.
The account continues: "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (verse 24).
This is exactly what we read in Zechariah 14:1-2. The city will fall and the people will be taken into captivity. But Luke adds that Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the gentiles until the time of the gentiles is fulfilled. But how long is that?
In Revelation 11:1 God's temple and the altar are to be measured. Then in verse 2: "But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall be tread under foot forty and two months."
How many days are in 42 months, and when will this be? The answers are in verse 3: "And I will give power unto my two witnesses and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth."
Jerusalem has fallen, the people have been taken into captivity, and the city is trodden under foot of the gentiles for 42 months, until the time of the gentiles can be fulfilled. During this time the two witnesses prophesy for 1,260 days.
After the Six Day War, in 1967, the Jews regained their holy places. Religious and irreligious Jews alike vowed that only over their dead bodies would their Western Wall ever be taken from them.
But it will be taken away, and now we can know when and how this will come about.
In Zechariah 14:1-2 half of Jerusalem falls, and the Jews go into captivity, but Christ does not intervene. He intends that Judah and Israel will both spend three and one-half years in captivity.
But in verse 3 we see a fierce battle: "Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations as when He fought in the day of battle."
This is the intervention described in Psalm 18. The saints are near death in the wilderness; their prayers come before God's throne, and He flies down on a cherub to rescue them. This is not the great and terrible Day of the Lord. This is the day prophesied in Joel 2:30-31:
"And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come."
There is only one time when the sun becomes black and the moon becomes as blood, and that is the sixth seal in Revelation 6:12:
"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood."
This awesome event does not take place at the end of this age. It is not the final great and terrible day of God's wrath. On this day the Lord hears the cries of His saints, He sweeps down atop the wings of a cherub, and darkness is under His feet as the sun becomes black and the moon becomes as blood.
This is the sixth seal of Revelation 6. It is not the end of the seventh seal; it is not the time of the resurrection and the end of this age.
As Christ's feet alight on the Mount of Olives a great earthquake rips the mount apart. The earth opens to form a corridor for God's people's escape, and the pursuing armies are swallowed by the earth as the valley closes up behind them.
As the Red Sea closed upon Pharaoh's armies, as immortalized in the Song of Moses, so the earth will bury the enemies of God's saints.
We pick up the account in Zechariah.
Mount Zion splits; the earth opens
Zechariah 14:4-5 tells the rest of the story: "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."
The earth has opened her mouth. The serpent's flood is swallowed up. The elect are saved. Now what?
Verse 5: "And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee."
All the saints are in flight here at the same time. The saints have been gathered from everywhere, and they are all here. Christ does not come to bring the saints with Him. He comes to them.
This flight is clearly described in the Song of Moses. Psalm 23 describes the rescue of the saints and adds information about where they are going and what they will find when they arrive. How could this awesome event be overlooked?
Just what do you mean 'in that day'?
Many have studied these verses and completely missed this key prophecy because of one simple phrase. Zechariah 14:4 states: "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west . . ."
This day is 1,260 days before the end of this age. It is the day when He arrives to rescue His saints, who are ready to perish. He then takes them to His sanctuary, where they are with Him for the next three and a half years. This happens in that day. Now notice Zechariah 14:6-8:
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be."
We began three and one-half years before the beginning of the Millennium, and we have extended the account on into the Millennium, and it is all "in that day." How can this be?
The answer lies in the last book of the Bible. Revelation 1:1 sets the stage. The events that shall come to pass are revealed to Christ by God, the Father, then by God's angel to John:
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John."
John was in the spirit on the Day of the Lord. What he saw was to be written in a book and given to the seven churches. Revelation 1:8-11:
"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
"I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea."
The phrase "in that day" in Zechariah 14:4 includes everything the Revelator showed John. That means everything that happens from the opening of the first seal until the completion of the seventh and beyond into the Millennium.
Christ, the Revelator, did not rescue His elect on the day water ran out from under God's throne, but those two events and everything that happens between these events are all "in that day."
Throughout the Bible, when an event takes place in that day, that phrase almost invariably refers to this small window of time at the time of the end. The Mount of Olives splits in the sixth seal in that day. Understanding this simple fact should place many other puzzling scriptures in their proper perspective.
Saints gathered from everywhere
All the saints are gathered from everywhere to be executed in the same place at the same time. Christ returns to the Mount of Olives, the mount splits, a great valley is formed, and all the saints flee.
They are not resurrected and do not rise to meet Him in the air. They are still flesh-and-blood, air-breathing human beings. They are not changed to spirit until three and one-half years later.
These are the people in Exodus 15:17 whom the Lord shall plant in the sanctuary, in the mountain of their inheritance, in the place He has made for them to dwell in.
In Psalm 23 these are the people who fearlessly walk through the valley of the shadow of death with their Shepherd to a beautiful place of green pastures and still waters.
In Psalm 18 these are the people who are rescued and set safely in a large place when they find themselves at the point of death.
Summary of Zechariah 14:1-5
When there are yet 1,290 days, Jerusalem is attacked by an army of many nations. The daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate is set up. God's people escape just before half of the city falls; the holy places are desecrated; the Jews go into captivity; the Holy City is trodden underfoot of the gentiles.
But Christ does not intervene. Thirty days later Christ attacks those same armies. These armed forces are ready to destroy His elect. He fights against those nations as when He fought in the day of battle, and the elect are rescued and taken to the His sanctuary.
Hidden in His holy hill
God repeats things that are especially important, and here is where He says the saints will be hidden. Read beginning in Psalm 15:1: "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?"
It does not say, "Who shall dwell upon thy Holy Hill"; it says, "Who shall dwell in thy Holy Hill."
It goes on to say that he who dwells in His holy hill walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He backbites not with his tongue. He sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not. He puts not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved (Psalm 15:2-5).
Psalm 24 picks up the thought from Psalm 23. Read verse 3: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place?"
The place of refuge is once again in God's holy hill. Verse 4 again identifies the inhabitants of God's holy hill as those who have "clean hands" and a "pure heart": those who hath not lifted up their souls "unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully."
Verse 3 asks a question: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?"
Verses 4-6 tell us who will qualify to be there.
Then we come to a question that is as baffling as the parting of the Red Sea. How do you enter a mountain of solid rock?
Millions of people hear the answer to this question every year. Thousands sing these words each year. It is almost like Edgar Allen Poe's purloined letter, like hiding something in plain sight. Where do we find the simple answer?
Lift up your heads, O ye gates
Handel's Messiah is one of the best-known musical works in existence. The words and music came to George Frideric Handel as a sudden inspiration. He finished the entire work in only a few days.
An extraordinary feature of the Messiah is that it repeats, over and over and over, its theme. Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart? How do those who attempt to enter this hill actually enter it?
Here is the answer:
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in" (Psalm 24:7-9).
It is strange that the theme of this great work should repeat again and again how the elect enter God's holy hill. It is almost awesome that in one short chapter God tells us those who qualify will ascend into His holy hill and go in when the solid stone gates are lifted to let the King of Glory come in.
Who is the King of Glory? It is "the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle."
Yes, indeed! Within a few hours at the most, He rescues His saints, wipes out their captors and delivers His saints to the stone gates of the mountain that His hands made.
This is amazing! Those who have clean hands and a pure heart and have not lifted up their hands to vanity shall enter into God's holy hill.
To be able to enter the gates, the gates, the everlasting doors, must be lifted. God's people walk through an open entrance with the King of Glory into His holy hill.
Although this has never happened before, we accept the parting of the Red Sea as a historical fact, so why should we doubt that God will hide His elect? Why not believe what God says?
"Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgments: seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger" (Zephaniah 2:3).
Isaiah 26:20 calls God's sanctuary "chambers." Notice: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast."
It has walls, a floor and a ceiling. It can be entered, and it has doors that can be closed. This is not Petra.
For 1,260 days no one will know where God's elect are. Psalm 91:1-4: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers and under His wings shall thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler."
Psalm 27:5: "For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in His pavilion, in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me. He shall set me upon a rock."
God's people are hidden in an enclosure with a floor, walls and ceiling.
Again, in Psalm 31:20: "Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues."
The place of safety identified
God's people will be hidden in His sanctuary, in His holy mountain, but where is that hiding place?
The amazing answer to that question, in plain words, is found in Joel 2:32: "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call."
The Jewish translation, the Masoretic text, echoes the same message even more plainly: ". . . For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape . . ."
In Moffatt: "But every worshiper of the Eternal shall be saved for Sion hill shall hold those who escape, as the Eternal has declared, and the fugitives whom the Eternal calls shall be inside Jerusalem."
Only the children of Israel crossing a divided sea compares with this impossible prophecy. The saints are taken to the wilderness. The serpent's flood bursts forth. Darkness suddenly falls. The earth shakes as megatons of force rip the Mount of Olives apart. A way of escape and a sanctuary come into being at once.
Until that hour there is no sanctuary, no place of safety. Only God's elect believe this without a trace of doubt, because God's Word says so.
God's sanctuary is in Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, but the Mount Zion David captured from the Jebusite, which served as his capital, no longer exists. Historical records tell us it was a high, solid rock mount and had walls that were too high and too steep to scale.
The Jebusites were confident no one could remove them from their stronghold. But one of David's men entered it through their water system, and this awesome fortress was conquered and became the seat of David's government.
History is vague about what happened to Mount Zion. It was called the City of David then, and the area on which it stood is still called the City of David. The Jebusite stronghold, and seat of David's government, no longer existed when Christ was on earth, but it will rise again.
Mount Zion a geological miracle
We have seen directly from God's Word where He says the place of safety will be, but so far we have no idea how this geological miracle can be accomplished. The very beginning of the Olivet prophecy in Matthew 24 gives us the first clue.
We begin in verse 1: "And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple."
Jesus had just come from the temple. There was no reason to show it to Him. The awesome building blocks were in the walls of the Temple Mount.
The disciples were awed by an engineering marvel that would be almost impossible to duplicate in our modern age. The walls were constructed of perfectly cut stones that were about four feet in height and eight feet wide and varied in length from about 15 feet to more than 30 feet. Each Herodian stone was perfectly faced and had an embossed border. This was always a mark of Herodian construction.
Another mark of Herod's demanding standards was that the first course of dressed and embossed stone had to be placed on bedrock, even though that might be more than 50 feet below the ground level. These stones had such perfectly fitted joints that the courses were almost a solid stone wall.
The disciples marveled at what they saw, as we do to this day. This is why the disciples were shocked by His response (verse 2):
"And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
They were amazed and wanted to know (verse 3): When would this be? What would be the sign of His return and the sign of the end of the world?
The disciples assumed these three events would take place at the same time, and Christ did not correct them. The temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, but the walls of the mount were mostly undisturbed. Christ did not return at that time, nor did the world end. This prophecy was not fulfilled in 70.
Temples are beautiful but relatively fragile. Solomon's was glorious, but it was destroyed, as was Herod's. Many of the massive stones in the Temple Mount were toppled by the Roman armies, but, after nearly 2,000 years of earthquakes, wars, weather and the ravages of time, most of those massive stone blocks are exactly where they were then.
When Christ's feet touch the Mount of Olives, the mount will split. One half will move to the north and one half to the south. There will be a great valley running eastward, toward the Judean wilderness, and westward to the Temple Mount. Then those massive stone slabs will be tossed about like pebbles, fulfilling Christ's prophecy that there will not be left one stone standing on another that shall not be cast down (Matthew 24:2).
The hills leap and skip
But the casting down of these stones is not what Christ's prophecy was primarily about. The time setting in Psalm 68 is about the saints in the wilderness, helplessly waiting for the last breath of their lives to be snuffed out.
They have passed every test: They refused to flee. They refused to worship the image of the beast. They waited for the Spirit of God to speak through them. They did everything right. They were promised they would be rescued. But where is their help? Why haven't they been snatched from Satan's grasp? Why?
Psalm 68:1-3: "Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice."
This is the scene in the wilderness. Then God hears. Verses 7-8: "O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah: The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel."
He goes forth before His people. The earth shakes, and even Sinai is moved. This is when He fights against the nations as when He fought in the day of battle (Zechariah 14:3). This is the battle described in Psalm 18.
God, in His temple, hears His people's prayers. He flies on the wings of a cherub. The heavens bow; the sun is dark; the earth quakes when He arrives to rescue His saints, who are ready to perish.
So far there has been no Mount Zion. His hands have not yet built His sanctuary. This is the mountain of His holiness, the mountain His hands create. Now we will see how Mount Zion, God's holy hill, is created:
"The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan, an high hill as the hill of Bashan. Why leap ye, ye high hills? This is the hill which God desires to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever" (verses 15-16).
It is all there, right in your Bible. The desperate plight of the saints in the wilderness and an earth-shaking force that comes to their rescue. That is when hills leap and jump to create a high hill in which God shall dwell forever. This is the dwelling place we read about in Psalm 23:5-6:
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
Psalm 114 begins with the historical departure of Israel from Egypt: "What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan that thou was driven back?" (verse 5).
These events are history, but what comes next is future. Verses 6-7: "What ailed thee, . . . ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams, and ye little hills, like lambs? Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob."
The deafening noise stops. Light breaks forth. The elect have been rescued. The battle has ended. Jerusalem has changed. Here is newly created Mount Zion. Psalm 48:2: "Beautiful for situation, the joy of all the earth, is mount Zion . . ."
A beautiful mount stands gleaming in the sunlight! At the presence of the Lord the hills leap and skip. Every stone in the walls of the Temple Mount is cast down. No stone is left standing on another.
The Mount of Olives has split, half to the north and half to the south. A valley has appeared for the woman in the wilderness to be rescued. It is the corridor of escape to the sanctuary, and the walls of the valley bury the armies that pursue them. The earth closes up once more, and the elect are safely hidden in the God's sanctuary in Mount Zion.
Where the Eternal dwells
Many of the hymns sung by the Church of God that were written by Dwight Armstrong are prophecies set to music. An old favorite includes the words "Mount Zion stands most beautiful, the joy of all the land! . . . They [the kings of the earth] beheld it, all amazed, [and] fled in great dismay."
The kings of earth can surely travel whenever they wish. That they should all gather in Jerusalem at the same time to see a mountain shows that it had not existed before. A beautiful peak has suddenly risen, and the kings of the world are amazed at the sight. But fear grips them, and they flee in terror.
Mount Zion will be a beautiful sight, but the sanctuary within, which God's hands have fashioned, is even more beautiful. Psalm 48:2-3 provides a closer view of this newly created mountain:
". . . Mount Zion [is] on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge."
These are not the dung-infested caves of ancient Petra. Within Mount Zion are palaces designed and built by the one who designed sunsets, brilliant autumn foliage, blue skies, awesome mountains and fertile fields. God calls the living facilities within Mount Zion palaces, so palaces they must be, indeed.
Verses 12-13 provide more details of this awesome cavern:
"Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark well her bulwarks, consider her palaces, that ye may tell it to generations following."
This is not Petra! This is the place of refuge the hand of God has prepared. It has palaces, towers and bulwarks.
According to Psalm 23, it also has still waters and green lawns. It is the place that has been designed and outfitted for the apple of Christ's eye.
It is not a tourist attraction, and the world will not know the elect are there. It will not be there when New Jerusalem comes down from heaven. That is why it should be embedded permanently in the memory of those who are there so they will be able to describe God's sanctuary to future generations.
Mount Zion travails: A nation born
In God's awesome creation the only thing He cannot create is the willing obedience, love and total faith that the elect demonstrate. The actual worth of a human being is little, but the worth of those who qualify to be His elect is more than all the physical things that have ever been created.
What God has created once, He can create again. But the voluntary, complete loyalty and love of the elect cannot be created. It can only be given.
In Psalm 87:2 God shows the special reward He has for them: "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob."
Verses 4-6: ". . . This man was born there. And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her [Mount Zion]. The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there."
This is a mystery, indeed. This Zion has gates, and it is important to God to mark those who are born there. This is not a begattal but a birth. Where could we possibly find where these begotten saints come to be born? Has God burdened us with an unsolved mystery?
No, God has not left this important event to human speculation.
Turn in your Bible and read the astounding answer in Isaiah 66:7-8: "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children."
God had a special love for the gates of Zion. It was important to Him to mark those who would be born in her.
Before Zion travailed, she brought forth Christ. Zion did not travail when Christ arose, but when Zion travailed a nation was born. In one day a nation came into existence. Those who had been marked were born, not again as flesh and blood, but as spirit beings, born into God's family.
Who are these special people who will be born in the sanctuary that His hands have made for them to dwell in?
Isaiah's thrilling prophecy
Precious promises lie hidden among the prophecies of Isaiah. We often read them without grasping what they mean. For example, we find in Isaiah 51:16: ". . . I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people."
Words are put in the mouths of the elect. After they have been spoken, the elect are safely hidden under the shadow of God's hand. Those to whom He gives His words are His people in Mount Zion. Then this promise is extended to include their children and grandchildren. Notice Isaiah 59:20-21:
"And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever."
God's elect have turned from transgression and have come to Zion, but what are these words, and why is the promise extended to their seed and their seed's seed from then on and forever? We will see.
Worldwide witness before the end
In the Olivet Prophecy Christ gave the disciples the order of things to come. We begin in Matthew 24:7:
"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places."
This verse describes the bloodshed and turmoil that take place during the great tribulation. This is when the United States and the British Empire are destroyed and their people taken into captivity. Starvation and disease epidemics add to the pain and bloodshed caused by the invading armies.
Verse 9: "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you . . ."
This verse seems to say that the elect are cast in prison after the great tribulation. But Luke does not say this. Luke corrects the order of events.
Luke 21:10-11: "Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven."
These things shall be just as Matthew and Mark recorded. But notice verse 12: "But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake."
God's elect are arrested and cast in prison for Christ's name's sake. This happens before the great tribulation. These events are not a lack of concern or a betrayal of the elect. Rather, they are for a definite purpose. The great tribulation does not begin until their mission has been fulfilled.
Continuing in Luke 21:13-15: "And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist."
Mark 13:11: "But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost."
Matthew 10:20: "For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you."
These are the words that are placed in the mouths of the elect. These are the sensational testimonies that dominate television time for the next week or more. These testimonies go where no other television program could ever go. Where people would be forbidden to watch anything Christian, these sensational televised news reports will be eagerly watched everywhere on earth.
This is the final witness that goes to all the world just before the end, fulfilling Matthew 24:14. This is the witness God has reserved strictly for His Spirit.
Yet some ministers think their television programs, on which they speak their own words, will fulfill this scripture.
Even if television access were granted to these telecasts, the cost of covering the whole world would be prohibitive. Yet the testimony of God's elect will go forth without cost. In fact, no man will be able to stop it.
This final witness is delivered through God's servants after they have been arrested and cast into prison. But what about the words that would not depart from the mouth of their seed or their seed's seed?
Role of our children in God's plan
We have seen where God's elect will be hidden, and we have witnessed the earthshaking events that appear on earth and in the heavens. God's Spirit is poured out upon His elect to deliver a final witness to the world. Joel fills in what is missing.
Joel 2:28: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . ."
Yes, God's words will be placed in the mouth of your sons and daughters. If God has placed His words in your mouth, He will put His Words in the mouth of your seed, your sons and daughters.
These would seem to be in their teens, but what about your infants and small children? What happened just before Christ's crucifixion?
After His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Christ went to the temple to drive out the money changers and those who bought and sold. Then the blind and the lame came to Him and were healed. Then the religious leaders confronted Him:
"And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased" (Matthew 21:15).
They were more upset by what the children were saying than over the money changers being ousted from the temple.
"And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?" (verse 16).
How old are babes and nursing infants? Christ promised to put His words in their mouth. There is no age limit. The Scribes and Pharisees were distressed when they heard children who were too young to speak crying out praises to Christ. God's Spirit will be poured out upon our infants, our toddlers, our children and our youths--to set them apart.
God has an awesome plan and purpose for the sons and daughters of His elect. A future lies before the children of faithful parents that surpasses any goals they might ever have imagined. The plan is in place. The children of the elect will get the best possible care and training while their parents are with Christ in His sanctuary for three and one-half years of specialized training.
Armageddon is at hand
For three and one-half years the elect will be trained to help set up God's Kingdom on earth. Six thousand years of man's rule is coming to an end, and the armies of the world are gathered for the final battle. It is time for the great and terrible day of Almighty God.
Joel 3:2: "I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land."
Verses 13-15: "Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining."
The great and terrible day of the Lord is at hand, but where is Christ?
Here is the amazing answer: He does not roar out of heaven or out of Petra. "The Lord shall roar out of Zion and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the refuge of his people ..." (Joel 3:16).
This is so important that, again, God says it twice.
Amos 1:2: "And he said, The Lord will roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem . . ."
As we have already seen in Joel 2:32, those who escape will be in Mount Zion, in Jerusalem. Mount Zion comes into being when the Mount of Olives is divided to form a great valley, when the hills leap and when every stone in the buildings of the temple is cast down.
This is the place of safety, the Eternal's sanctuary!
Just to make sure we all understand, let's read it again and notice that Zion is His holy mountain, the mountain where He dwells:
"The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; . . . So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain . . ." (Joel 3:16-17).
Final message to the faithful
The elect refuse to follow Satan's false prophets to what seems to be an easy escape to a place of safety. Instead, they stand alone in a society that wishes to see them killed.
Next they refuse to worship the image of the beast, knowing the penalty for doing so is death. For this they are betrayed and cast in prison. They could compromise, but they don't.
Next they are placed on trial for Christ's name's sake. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit inspires a stinging testimony against those who placed them on trial. They speak those words as a witness against their accusers and are sentenced to die in the wilderness.
God has shown that the place of safety is inside of Mount Zion, a mountain that will not exist until Christ's feet stand on the Mount of Olives. No one can flee there ahead of time. The elect are taken to the wilderness--not to be protected, but to be killed. When they are ready to perish, Christ intervenes.
Only then is His sanctuary created, and only then are His elect rescued. They pass up three opportunities to save their lives. These are the apple of His eye and become dwellers in His holy sanctuary.
God's Word is truth, and His people will surely face these trials of faith. God has shown the final destination of His elect and how they arrive there. We know the way, but we can get there only by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Only by that power will we be willing to give our lives for Christ. By that power we can love Christ more than our dearest loved ones, and only by that power can we have the patience to wait for God's Spirit to shout the final witness to all the world through us.
The eternal question
When the information you have just read has gone to God's people worldwide--and when there exists a body of believers who understand that they can't follow Satan's false prophets and know they must be cast in prison and placed on trial so the Spirit of God can speak through them to deliver a final witness to all the world and who understand that it is Christ Himself who will train them for three and one-half years to qualify them to be pillars in His temple--only then can you expect Christ to return.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God