“When thou seest the abomination of desolation, thou shalt flee to Petra.”
OK, I confess that it doesn’t say that. I made that up. However, some would speak as though the Bible says it just that clearly. We are not definitely told that Christians will flee to Petra during the Great Tribulation. Even LCG acknowledges that this is not certain, even though Thiel makes (yet another) big deal out of it in his article “Some of the Differences between the Living Church of God and the United Church of God, ia”.
In fact, in his never ending zeal to put down all other COG organizations and preach about the “one true church (TM)”, he gets the questions out of order. How about first answering if there even is such a thing as a Place of Safety before answering where it will be?
Thiel’s Reading Disability
Instead, Thiel goes off on another tangent “that it is only the Philadelphians (Revelation 3:7-10) who are promised to be kept ‘from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world’”. Well, if you believe in church eras, then according to his theology, the Philadelphian era is over so we are all in trouble.
Thiel goes on to say, “Yet, thus far, I still have not seen who UCG believes will be protected and who will not be.” Utter and complete nonsense. I have to conclude that Dr Thiel has a learning disability, for he clearly copied and pasted just above it:
Furthermore, in the related article, UCG teaches,
“A passage in Revelation indicates that God plans to spare His people, granting them His protection during the 3 1/2 years of tribulation and wrath that will come on humanity (Revelation 12:14)…. Isaiah the prophet was inspired to ask: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isaiah 33:14). These questions impact every person alive at the beginning of the prophesied Great Tribulation. The answer follows in the next verses: “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly [emphasis mine] … his place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; bread will be given him, his water will be sure” (verses 15-16)” (Elliot, John. Coming Calamities: Doe God Offer Protection? Good News, Jan-Feb 2003, p.13).
You see, Dr Thiel, it has everything to do with who is righteous and not who belongs to a manmade organization (that is, organized according to man’s laws for the purposes of accounting for taxes). The Church is spiritual and God’s people are and have always been scattered throughout the world. Just read the answer God gave to Elijah when he lamented, “I only, am left”. No, Elijah was not the “one man” God was working through. Rather, God told Elijah, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel” (1Ki 19:18). God knew who was His, scattered all throughout Israel, because they had an attitude of obedience.
However, there are COG organizations that teach God will keep people safe in place. In other words, there is no “place” of safety but references to safety during the tribulation are not necessarily in one physical place. While I think there is some validity to the argument, that’s not how I read Scripture. However, groups that proclaim this actually do make another more important point that I want to address that next.
Saving Your Own Behind (or, Why Weinland is Still Around)
I have heard Garner Ted Armstrong in times past speak about this very subject. His point was that God can keep someone safe no matter where they are located. However, in his refutations of the rapture theory, he makes an even more important point (at least to the present discussion) that people want to escape times of trouble. Whether it is by rapture or by fleeing to Petra, people are into escapism. They want to leave the pain and trouble behind them.
And, let’s face it: People want to believe they are special and that God will protect them.
However, they are setting themselves up for possible disillusionment.
Does anyone remember 1975? In spite of every cautionary note given, some bought into it completely. Every caveat was completely ignored by a sizable portion of the congregations. When 1975 came and went, many dropped out. They had set themselves up (with the help of the ministry, by the way) for failure.
While there may have been some that were genuinely discouraged and confused, my bet is that the vast majority of those who dropped out had one thing in common. They realized that Christ was not coming back right away, and so they could continue indefinitely in their sins. They had no need to attend any more because the need for a Place of Safety was gone! They were in it to save their own hides. Now with the Great Tribulation much farther off than they imagined, they no longer felt compelled to swim against the world’s current.
When you think about it, why do so many still follow Flurry today? They are scared to leave! Why are there any at all who still follow Weinland in spite of failed prophecy after failed prophecy? They think he has the key to their physical safety!
Lot’s wife left Sodom only when compelled to do so. However, her heart never did. Jesus gave the warning, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Lk 17:31). She turned back, and so did many after 1975. They had never really left the world in their hearts!
However, Jesus’ warning did not stop there:
33Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (Luke 17:33, King James Version)
Jesus is not looking for people who are out to save their own behinds! He is looking for commitment – even to death if necessary.
It’s the Attitude
“Philadelphian” does not mean “get out of Trib free card”. No, it means “brotherly love”. It’s an attitude! Righteousness is the attitude of the ones that God will save. Sacrifice, even of one’s life if necessary, is the attitude of the one God will raise up again!
Do you really believe that God will not save someone with the right attitude but is in the “wrong” group? Or, do you not believe your own Bible? I challenge anyone who truly has God’s Holy Spirit to read and understand:
25And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
26But there remained two of the men in the camp [in the wrong place!], the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them [anyways!]; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.
27And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
28And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them [it’s the wrong time, place, organization!].
29And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them! (Numbers 11:25-29, King James Version)
Was this not written for our admonition? Was this not recorded for our learning? Or, as Paul wrote:
9For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. (1 Corinthians 9:9-10, King James Version)
Indeed, all Scripture is God-breathed.