Updated: May 15, 2019
Under the Shadow of Thy wings! What a tremendous thought. This is where any teaching on the Last Days should focus. The Bible shows us in many places that the Lord is a shade and defence to those who trust in Him. The over-riding Biblical principle is that God rarely snatches His people out of tribulation but rather allows them to go through it – with Him as their refuge and shelter. He is their Ark of Shelter much like Noah’s experience.
This is a consistent theme right through Scripture, and for me it’s the most obvious concept that challenges the escapism found in most modern end-time Rapture teaching. I just cannot see in the Word where God snatches His people away as commonly understood in today’s Pre-Tribulation teaching.
The general principle is that when God’s people are undergoing either judgment or tribulation, God stands with them through it and delivers them out of it. Below I’ve listed a few of the many instances where the Lord shelters His people and acts as their strength and tower of refuge. I think you’ll find these enlightening and encouraging. Scripture gives us an important principle: God delivers His people by protecting them through tribulation, not necessarily removing them from it!
Shelter in Tribulation
As well as these obvious examples of divine protection there are innumerable other texts that have the same theme. Put together they build a good case for the principle that God’s usual pattern is not to take His people out of tribulation but rather to stand with them through it. If this is a general principle in lesser tribulation periods then surely it’s also going to be the case when it comes to the Great Tribulation.
Some supportive texts are below – please don’t skip them but actually READ the highlighted sections. It will encourage you to see God’s pattern unfold.
(Exo 19:4) “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself.”
(Job 5:19) “From six troubles He will deliver you, even in seven evil will not touch you.”
(Psalm 17:8) “Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings.”
(Psalm 27:5) “For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.”
(Psalm 32:7) “You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance.”
(Palm 34:7) “The angel of YHWH encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.”
(Psalm 36:7) “How precious is Your loving kindness O God! The children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”
(Psalm 57:1) “For my soul takes refuge in You and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by.
(Psalm 63:7) “For You have been my help and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.”
(Psalm 91) “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...and under His wings you may seek refuge... for you have made YHWH your refuge, even the Most High your dwelling place...no evil will befall you nor will any plague come near your tent... for He will give His angels charge concerning you to guard you in all your ways... I will deliver him... I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him.”
(Psalm 121:5-7) “YHWH is your keeper; YHWH is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day nor the moon by night. YHWH will protect you from all evil.”
(Prov 3:25-26) “Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for YHWH will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.”
(Isa 2:10) “Enter the rock and hide in the dust from the terror of YHWH and from the splendour of His majesty.”
(Isa 26:20) “Come my people, enter into your rooms and close your doors behind you; hide for a little while until indignation runs its course.
(Isa 43:2) “When you pass through the waters I will be with you and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched nor will the flame burn you.”
(Isa 49:2) “He has made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of His hand He has concealed me; and He has also made me a select arrow, He has hidden me in His quiver.”
(Isa 51:16) “I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, 'You are My people."
(Joel 2:31-31) “The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of YHWH comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of YHWH will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as YHWH has said, even among the survivors whom YHWH calls.”
(Joel 3:16) “YHWH roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble. But YHWH is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel.”
(Nahum 1:6-8) “Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken up by Him. YHWH is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him. But with an overflowing flood He will make a complete end of its site, and will pursue His enemies into darkness.”
(Zeph 2:3) “Seek YHWH all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of YHWH’s anger.”
And note how this very same theme is extended in the New Testament period when the Messiah Himself was “hidden away” from danger by the Father until the appointed time had come. It indicates that the shadow of YHWH is Jesus Himself! He is our Rock, our safe shelter, our Holy of Holies, the place wherein we find refuge from the storm.
(John 7:30) “So they were seeking to seize Him (Jesus); and no man laid his hand on Him because His hour had not yet come.”
(John 8:20 and 59) “These words He (Jesus) spoke in the treasury as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him because His hour had not yet come... Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”
Of course there are plenty of instances when the Israelites did suffer at the hand of their persecutors, when God didn’t deliver them. But in such cases it was because of their sin and rebellion: it was a judgment they received as part of their chastisement. Remember that God’s chastisement upon us is to bring us back to Him, not to drive us away. It is always for correction and not just as punishment.
Some might ask the question “What’s all this go to do with something as important as the Rapture?” I have included these texts and examples to highlight that again and again the Bible shows God normally doesn’t lift His people out of a threatening situation, but comes to His people and enables them to know His protection through it.
If this is the case throughout the Bible it knocks the escapist theory of the Rapture on the head. This is not to deny there won’t be a rapture, it just shows that protection, not escapism, is God's norm. Therefore we should be preparing ourselves now to live under “the shadow of His wings”, learning to “abide in Him“ daily.
As the Day of Tribulation approaches we will find He comes to us and protects us through the persecution. Of course there will be some who die as a result of persecution and tribulation, even when the Great Tribulation comes upon us. Those are the ones who have been destined to die as martyrs, and even then they’ll find supernatural grace to go through what lies ahead.
I therefore conclude from the recurring pattern found in Scripture that the Ecclesia will enter the Great Tribulation. Some will die as martyrs in that period, others will come to maturity as a result of the persecution – and others will have come to the place of maturity.
Believers, irrespective of the End Time destiny and role they’ll play, will not be raptured physically off the earth to escape prior to persecution or tribulation. They will remain here right up to either the mid-way point or throughout the entire Tribulation itself. You may well have a different End Time perspective than me, but this is where I am in my current Biblical understanding. Let us bear with one another in patience (Eph 4:2). God will be their defence and shield, and many supernatural acts of protection and deliverance will happen just as it did to Noah, Moses and Daniel.
For me this is the revolving point of all End Time understanding. It is a recurring theme that is hard to counter; that the Lord will shelter His people during persecution and tribulation. This of course doesn't deny the fact that there will always be some believers who die as a result of persecution. But in relation to the Great Tribulation the general theme that keeps on coming through is that the Lord will keep His saints throughout the testing. It is God’s purpose to lead us through testing not always to deliver us from it.
“I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)
God wants Overcomers. He wants us to mature to the point that we can prevail against all those things that attempt to hold us back from reaching perfection, maturity. All of God’s chastening works and His corrective rod have been for one purpose; to deliver us through to maturity.
(Heb 12:5-6) And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."
(Heb 12:10-11) For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
The principle is that God will keep us in the day of testing. But right now He is sifting the Ecclesia to sort out the chaff. Remember that Harvest time is always a time of sifting.
(Mat 13:40-41) “Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend.”
The protection of the Lord’s shadow is awesome. He speaks many times in His Word of providing this shelter. The first mention of “shadow” is in Genesis 19:8 when Lot protects the two visiting angels. It’s interesting that of course the angels didn’t need any protecting, but as Lot acted out the principle of hospitality and protection, so it return to him when the angels in turn sheltered him!
(Gen 19:8) "See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof."
Strongs H6738. tsel, tsale; from H6751; shade, whether lit. or fig.:--defence, shade.
We can see that “shadow” is the same as “defence” or “shade”. To be under His shadow is to be in the protected place of shelter. This is why Psalm 91 is important to understand. However it’s not an automatic process, but one that requires our personal positioning. We need to learn to dwell in the secret place in Him and thus receive His sheltering. This is what the psalm says.
(Psa 91:1) “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
Let’s look a little at the Secret Place as mentioned in this Psalm 91. The word used for “secret place” is sathar (“sether” or “cether”) and most modern translations render it as shelter. Interestingly in the Hebrew it could also be rendered as “secret things”. So we can ask ourselves “What is this shelter, where is the secret place, and what indeed might be the secret things of YHWH?”
As we often do, let’s unpack the Hebrew word sathar to get some deeper insight. "Secret place" in Hebrew means "to cover." Its verbal root means "to hide" so it's a hiding place, or a shelter – not just some “secret location”. Although it may well be an actual site during the Great Tribulation (see Rev 12:14-16). Often Scripture has a wonderful way of giving two meanings at the same time; one for the every day issues of life and the other for a specifically appointed time in the future. Interesting thought! Let’s continue on.
In Hebrew sathar is spelt Samekh, Taw and Resh (remember that Hebrew is read Right to Left). Hebrew letters are often associated with an image, a pictorial description if you like.
The first letter Samekh (or Simketh/Sin) looks a little like a shelter, a small round vessel with a cover or roof. Jewish tradition sees this as the heart of YHWH wherein you find shelter. So when Psalm 91 speaks of those who dwell in the sathar of God it’s referring poetically to those who find shelter in the very heart of God Himself. This letter can also have the meaning of a shield, just as shepherds built walls of thorns around their flocks in the wilderness to keep them safe within. In very ancient pictographs the imagery was that of something sharp, like a thorn, so there’s probably a play on words here.
The next letter of sathar is Taw (or Tav/Taf) which represents the truth of knowledge about God. Along with it is the inference of adjustment, fixing and restoration (tikkum). When we enter this shelter we enter into the very knowledge of God which will repair and restore us. It’s doing an action which will put something right, and fix it in place for good. There’s also the connotation of guidance associated with Taw. It’s so interesting to see that the Hebrew mindset (Middle Eastern) is more about right action than just knowledge, while the Greek mindset (Western Culture) is more about correct knowledge, even if you don’t apply it!
In ancient Semitic writings the Taw was depicted as a picture of two crossed sticks. This letter has the meanings of "mark" "sign" and "signature" which is quite fitting when you realize that knowledge about God is a kind of sign or signature that often sets us as believers apart.
So putting these two words together we already get the idea that in the heart of God you will find knowledge of the truth and in so finding it you’ll gain guidance and restoration. Added to this is the concept of spiritual revelation that can be found in the secret place. If you reflect on it for even a moment it will make sense that it’s in the very heart of God that we find true guidance and complete restoration. Quite obvious really!
The final letter in the word sathar is Resh. The letter resh is usually assumed to have come from a pictogram of a Head (of a man) or sometimes as Chief, or Beginning. The resh represents the Head, and its very shape looks like someone who has bowed the head, bent over as it were to serve (Mark 10:45). Jesus the Messiah came down, bent Himself in humility to pay the penalty of our sin. Humility is also the basis for spiritual revelation, for without humility the pride of your intellect will always hold you back from arriving at maturity in Christ. Therefore it seems fitting that resh can also represent the revelation of God’s thoughts through speech, and of course Jesus is the Word of God who expresses His Father’s thoughts/will through His words/teachings.
Conclusion. So we find that the "secret place" is actually a hiding place, or a shelter. The Song of Solomon 2:14 equates this "secret place" to "the clefts of the rock." It’s an obvious reference to the Lord Jesus for He is the Rock of Ages. If you’ve walked with God for any length of time you’ll know how often He’s been there for you. So just reflect on the occasions He’s sustained you, and give thanks. You've been in His "secret place" of communion and fellowship. Now while every believer is positionally in Christ and hence in the Secret Place, our goal should be to daily learn to live more experientially, more really, in that “Place”. And although we might refer to it poetically as a location or a “place”, it is in fact a POSITION.
Gradually our place, our position in Christ becomes a regular daily truth that develops into practice, what the Greek writers called “orthopraxis” meaning “correct conduct and action”. It’s out of that position in Messiah that we come to a lifestyle of correct action to act as a living testimony.
By experience David knew how to live in this Secret Place with YHWH by going through various temptations and trials. Also we find Solomon reminding us (Prov 18:10) that the Name of YHWH is a Strong Tower and when the righteous run to it they are safe (literally = lifted up). Remember that our true security and safety is not simply being in the absence of danger, but it’s the presence of Christ in us and us in Him (our position) regardless of the danger. Note this was Paul’s experience in 2 Tim 4:16-18.
As we enter the Last Days it will be vital for us to learn how to dwell in the secret place. Jesus said we need to keep on abiding in Him. This isn’t just something we do by simply “believing in God”. It’s a practical thing we have to acquire. It’s learning how to habitually abide in Christ, the Anointed One.
We can start by appreciating and honouring all those moves of God that bear His anointing on them. Whenever we see a truly anointed ministry or participate in a legitimate anointed move of God (not some of the fleshly counterfeits of recent years) we are learning to abide in the place of the anointing. Those who reject such anointings will find it difficult to discern where to abide when Tribulation comes. That’s why those who are now rejecting some of the valid expressions of God’s anointing may find themselves out of the covering in the Last Days, unless they repent.
The Word tells us that intimacy with the Lord is the greatest antidote for preservation during Tribulation times. Keeping close to Him, abiding in His presence, and learning to lean on His breast as John did with Jesus (John 13:23), will serve as our greatest asset as we enter the Last Days.
It won’t necessarily be correct doctrine, or a right knowledge of eschatology or even being “spirit filled”. As vital as all these things are, there’ll be many who won’t possess all these characteristics, but who will still find protection under the Wings. Why? Because their heart condition was right. They understood what it is to truly and experientially “know” the Lord. Remember the mind-numbing verses when Jesus said:
(Mat 25:11-12) "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'
(Mat 7:23) "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
(Luke 13:27) "But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.'
So if being “known” by the Lord (and therefore knowing Him in return) is a prerequisite here, how much more so will it be necessary as a lead-up to the Day of the Lord!
Note this in Strong’s concordance G492 eido (know). This word has the meaning of “behold”. In other words, to truly know the Lord means you behold Him. That means to continually keep Him in mind and in focus. He becomes the habitual focal point of your daily life. By this you get to actually know Him in an intimate manner. He becomes your bosom friend; not in a soppy way but in reality. You will know Him as “friend” and intimately, but still retain the fear of the Lord reverentially.
So may God’s Spirit grant that in and through the unavoidable times of testing that await us, we may learn the secret “of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Philp 4:12) so that we may confidently declare with Paul “I can do all things through Christ who continually strengthens me” (4:13) . He is the very same One who also preserves us safe in the “Secret Place” (Heb = Hiding Place) of His presence when the days of tribulation and trouble come our way.
And since God “hides” Himself in this world (Isa 45:15) we must humbly seek His face and find Him in the place of concealment – the Secret Hiding Place. The question we should constantly place before ourselves is: Do I really know the Lord from my heart? If not, perhaps we had better get desperate.
Here is an anointed song that may well encourage you!
The Issachar Ministry