When foretelling the future holocaust brought on by the Great Tribulation, Christ told the Jews that when a certain thing happens, flee to the mountains.
What mountains did our Lord have in mind? Surely not the ones of the Holy Land, the country so populated that there is no place to hide.
Here is what Christ said: “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” (Matthew 24:15, 16).
The Lord may have had in mind Petra (pronounced PETra) a nearly inaccessible ancient city 50 miles south of the Dead Sea in southern Jordan and the surrounding mountainous area.
One enters ancient Petra through a long, narrow gorge with cliffs 250 feet high on either side. Both sides of the gorge are decorated by nature with variegated colors of red, brown, purple, and yellow sandstone.
Then the scene widens to an ancient multistoried city hewn out of sandstone. Though now covered with much sand and fallen rock, the architecture hewn in the sandstone cliffs is still indeed remarkable.
Petra is located in biblical Edom, and that ancient country is discussed at length (not Petra) in Scripture. Esau, son of Isaac, was the father of the Edomites.
By the seventh century A.D., Petra had ceased to exist as an occupied city and no longer appeared on maps. However, at its height of development, 30,000 people lived there.
With an annual rain fall of only 6 inches, the ingenious people had contrived pools and dams in the cliffs to hold enough rain water to last throughout the year.
Petra, a popular site on Holy Land tours, is one of the striking archaeological ruins of the world. When Christ spoke of the beleaguered Jews rushing out of Israel to the mountains, He probably had in mind the many square miles of mountainous area around Petra.
There the Jews would exist 3 1/2 years (the last half of the worldwide Tribulation) until Christ’s second Coming, when they will wholeheartedly accept Him as Messiah.
As you read the scriptural account of the events leading up to the end of the first half of the Tribulation, you will see that apparently things will begin to happen in quick succession. The apostate church will be crushed (Revelation 17:16), and the two witnesses will be killed.
When these things happen, the antichrist will usher in the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation when he sets up “the abomination that causes desolation” (see Daniel 9:27; 11:31).
A world leader, whom we know as Antichrist, will commit an abominable act in the Jewish temple.
Jesus, quoting Daniel, referred to this grave breach of Jewish worship which will take place in the middle of the Tribulation.
With the apostate church out of the way and the two witnesses murdered, Satan will have a free hand in religious matters.
This is when he will break his agreement to protect Israel and will blatantly demand that Israel and the rest of the world worship him on penalty of death (Revelation 13:12, 15).
The apostle Paul spoke of that event: “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
“He opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4).
Notice that Paul said the Antichrist will seat himself in the Jewish Temple, the place of worship which Israel highly reveres. This godless man will be brashly proclaiming that he is God.
This gross sacrilege will fulfill the prediction of the “abomination of desolation,” which is a desecration of the Temple by a Gentile entering the Holy Place, a section of the Temple that only an authorized priest was allowed to enter.
Such an abomination occurred another time when in 165 B.C. a conqueror by the name of Antiochus Epiphanes actually slaughtered a swine in the Holy Place. However, this act did not completely fulfill Daniel’s prediction; that will happen when Antichrist reigns.
Jesus, addressing the Jews, said that when they see the Antichrist desecrate the Temple, “let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:16). Of course, the reason for fleeing will be to escape the wrath of the Satan-directed Antichrist.
Petra is located in biblical Edom, and the Scriptures state that the land of Edom “will be delivered from his [Antichrist’s] hand” (Daniel 11:41).
The Lord will assist the Jewish people with their escape to the mountains (Revelation 12:6, 13, 14); and when Antichrist sets out to destroy them, a great earthquake will wipe out that portion of his forces (v. 16). This is another example of God protecting His chosen people.