Christian Churches of God

No. 194z




The Place of Safety


(Edition 1.0 19970417-19970417)

For many years the churches of God have taught a doctrine that the church would be taken to a place of safety during the persecution and tribulation of the end times. The concept has a powerful appeal to those who see the world in physical and not spiritual terms.



Christian Churches of God





(Copyright ã 1997 Wade Cox)

(Summary by Willard Boettcher, Ed. Wade Cox)


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The Place of Safety

Ancient Israel was taken out of Egypt under a

pillar of fire and cloud, which took them through the Red Sea. That manifestation of God, as the Presence or face of God was a spiritual rock that was later to become Jesus Christ. God’s name was in him (Ex. 23:21; cf. Acts 7:38 and 1Cor. 10:1-4).

God Is Our Rock

1Samuel 2:2 shows that our God is our Rock, an everlasting Rock (Isa. 26:4). It is from this

Rock that all others are hewn. The Messiah is hewn from this Rock (Dan. 2:34,45). God, not Peter, nor Christ, is the Rock or foundation upon which Christ will build his Church (Mat. 16:18) and upon which he himself rests as our chief cornerstone. Christ was the stone hewn from the Rock as a mountain or quarry, and he was then thrown at the end of the world empires and will destroy them (Dan. 2:31-35)

God is the Flint that circumcises Israel (Josh. 5:2). God is the Rock of Israel (Deut. 32:15), the Rock that bore them (Deut. 32:18,30-31).

The City of Petra

The argument is that since the text in 2Samuel refers to Messiah who is the sela of David, and since the ancient name for Petra was also sela, then Petra is named for or after Christ.

It is alleged by those of the "Petra is the place of safety" argument that the specific area Sela of the Bible is identified with the rocky plateau of Umm el-Biyara which overlooks the city of Petra. The name Petra is the Greek translation for Sela and means literally a mass of rock (SGD 4073).

This is opposed to petros (SGD 4074) which means a piece of rock. That is the distinction made by Christ in Matthew 16:18. Peter was the petros, but Christ would build his Church on the Petra that was God.

Petra as the Sela of the OT

The advocates of Petra use the texts in the Bible which refer to Sela as having explicit reference to the ancient city of Petra (Judges 1:36). Other references to Petra and its surrounding area are held to be found in Isaiah 16:1 (RSV).

Another text used to indicate that the Church will live in the wilderness of Petra in the end days is found in Isaiah 42:11. These prophecies were held to be concerning Sennacharib (cf. Isa. 10; Isa. 37). However, the Petra advocates place them in the end times.

Petra is at present a wilderness and is also very small. It is surrounded by sandstone cliffs and is no more than 750,000 square meters in area. It might perhaps house as many as 1,000 small suburban house-blocks.

Kadesh as Sela

The next jump in logic for Petra is that the term Sela is applied to the place Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. Israel left Sinai and arrived at Kadesh where Miriam died and was buried (Num. 20:1-13). Here, Moses was told to speak to the rock and it would give forth water enough to water the nation. Moses took Aaron’s rod and struck the rock twice in anger instead of speaking as he was commanded. For that reason, they were not permitted to go into the promised land.

The word rock here is derived from sela and not from tsur. The idea that Kadesh was Petra is, however, another matter.

The case then seems to rest upon the identification of the wilderness of Paran as being that of Petra. This seems quite absurd. The Israelites left the wilderness of Sinai and,

following the Cloud, entered the wilderness of Paran (Num. 10:12-13). Deuteronomy 1:1 shows that the wilderness of Paran is against the Red Sea.


The text in Deuteronomy 1:19-20 shows that Israel came from Horeb through the wilderness by the way of the Mountain of the Amorites and came to Kadesh-barnea. Kadesh was considered to be in the hill country of the Amorites. Thus, it is not in Edom, but part of the inheritance of Israel and north of the Wadi El-Arish.

This view is supported from Judges 1:36 (RSV). Kadesh is outside of Edom (cf. Num. 33:37) because from here Moses sent messages to the king of Edom asking for passage along the route known as the King’s Highway (Num. 20:17). Neither Kadesh nor the Israelites were in Edom.

Numbers 21:11-13 seems to imply that they went to the east of Edom and then crossed Moab to the Arnon. The Arnon lies in Moab and flows to the eastern edge of the Dead Sea at its centre. Petra lies some 70 kilometres south of the Dead Sea on the eastern side of the Arabah.

From the texts we see that Petra was not visited by Israel in their wanderings and they are specifically excluded from the area by the Edomites themselves.

From Numbers 13:26 we see that the spies were sent out from Kadesh and returned to Moses and Aaron at Kadesh (cf. also Num. 12:16; 13:3). This is confirmed by Deuteronomy 1:19-25. As a result of the ten spies producing the false report at Kadesh, Moses and the entire congregation, twenty years old and upwards were banned from entering the promised land.

They did not enter Edom and, thus, this is another proof that Kadesh-barnea is not in Edom let alone Petra. Kadesh-barnea is shown without doubt to be at the southern border of the inheritance of Judah joining the Negeb.

God tested the congregation here by loyalty and in war. They were punished for internal failure and they faced external threat of extinction. They were forced to withdraw and to cleanse themselves of their iniquity. Many died throughout this process. This was a spiritual place of safety and not a physical one. They survived pestilence, internal subversion, external war of annihilation and errors in leadership, through their right relationship with God. That was their place of safety.

The Israelites stayed at Kadesh many days (Deut. 1:46) and from this point they developed their right relationship with God before moving on to possess the promised land. Kadesh (SHD 6946) means a sanctuary. The term barnea is derived from two words: SHD 1251 (bar (Chald.): field) and SHD 5128 (nuwa: to waver and hence to wander, waver, to be promoted, reel, scatter or be a vagabond).

The duality of the meaning of the name meant that if the individual was not right with God he or she was defiled. These people fell in large numbers from this place. Thus, it is truly a place of scattering. It was not at Petra, as the elect were specifically forbidden to enter the land of the Edomites. More importantly, Petra would not have held the numbers involved and the city was not carved out until almost a thousand years later.

The Idea of a Place of Safety

The idea is derived from Revelation 3:10 as given to the Church at Philadelphia. From this, it is assumed by all those who thought that they were the Philadelphian system that they would be taken somewhere to be kept from the hour of trial or temptation.

It was assumed that this period was immediately prior to the return of Messiah. It was often held to be coincidental with the three and one half years or 1,260 days of the two witnesses. This was coupled with Revelation 12:1-12 (RSV) which spoke of the church in the wilderness.

The important text here is that the saints overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the Lord of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto death. There is no promise here that they were protected from death or persecution. In fact, it is the opposite.

The persecution of the congregation which brought forth the man-child began with the confining of Satan. This congregation was also therefore inclusive of Judah.

The Wings of the Great Eagle

In Revelation 12:13-17 (RSV) we find two groups spoken of, the physical and spiritual descendants of the woman. These are the remnant of her seed that keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Thus, it is the Church and not Judah being spoken of here. Here at the last, the Church is being persecuted. So Israel is the woman who is composed both of physical and spiritual groups.

In Exodus 19:3-6 we find the wings of a great eagle are identified as Jesus Christ whom God gave Israel as a responsibility (Deut. 32:8-9 RSV). God bore Israel on the wings of this great eagle out of Egypt into the wilderness that He might bring her to Himself. They were to become a peculiar treasure above all nations by obeying His voice (which was itself the eagle, the Elohim who spoke) and also by obeying His covenant.

This being we now know as Jesus Christ had responsibility for the protection of Israel as the nation and the Church. Satan attempted to

destroy this group over a long period.

The Flight of the Elect

One of the key texts in understanding the intent of Messiah and the Church is that of Matthew 10:16-42, especially at verse 23. The place of safety is a doctrine of control and gives comfort to people who lack the faith and understanding to face the truth. There is no promise that the elect will not be required to give their lives for the faith. Indeed, the contrary is true. The key point is that Israel will still be unconverted and persecuting the elect when the Messiah comes again. To understand this text, we also need to understand who Israel is. The strongest advocates of the place of safety doctrine are themselves British Israelites.

The doctrine of the place of safety strikes at the very heart of the conversion of the individual. It seeks to elevate an organisation above the structure of God. That organisation, no matter how great, which does not do the will of God, shall not survive.

The place of safety is in the hand of God as a reflection of our personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Obedience to the laws of God is the requirement for protection (see the paper The Blessings and the Curses (No. 75)).