Last time I mentioned that there are two views on where Jesus will return to earth at His second coming. One view is that He will return first to the Mount of Olives. We examined the Biblical and theological support for that view. This time we will turn to an alternative view.
Some think that he will return to the biblical city of Bozrah which is near the present day city of Busaira, Jordan. Bozrah is about 250 miles from the Mount of Olives. It is about 40 miles from Petra.
Those who think that Jesus will return to Bozrah root their view in five passages. The first we will look at is Isaiah 34:5-6. These verses are in the context of a coming, global, Divine judgment. In 34:1 “nations”, “peoples”, and “the world” are addressed. In v. 2 the Spirit says that the Lord “is enraged against all the nations…all their host”. It certainly sounds global to me.
In vv. 3-4 the fury of the Lord against the nations is described in graphic terms and in the context of astronomical disturbances which will accompany the judgment on earth. Then, here is what verses 4-5 say:
“For My sword is satiated in heaven, Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, It is sated with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, With the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.” (Isaiah 34:5–6, NASB95)
The first thing to notice here is that the judgment is center in Edom. This is the country upon which judgment will fall. Although judgment starts in Edom the context indicates it is going to spread. Edom’s judgment is just a picture of the judgment coming on the whole world.
Also notice that the location of the start of the coming judgment gets more specific. The great slaughter of the Lord starts in Bozrah. The following verses show that this slaughter is payback for what the nations have done to Zion.
So what Isaiah sees is an attack by the nations on Zion, which is part of Jerusalem. The Lord’s response is to take vengeance on the nations by a devastating attack. This attack begins in Bozrah, engulfs Edom, then spreads to the nations.
Isaiah’s prophecy fits right in with Zechariah 14:1-4. In v. 2 all the nations are gathered to battle against Jerusalem. In v. 3 the Lord goes to war against those nations. This Jesus led attack is what Isaiah refers to when he writes of the day of vengeance for Zion in v. 6 of his prophecy. According to the “Bozrah First” view, this attack on the nations who have gone to war against Jerusalem happens after the Lord first brings judgment on Bozrah and Edom.
The next piece of evidence supporting the Bozrah First view is found in Isaiah 63:1. As with Isaiah 35 the context of this verse is important. According to Isaiah 62:2 and 7 the nations are in view. According to vv. 1-2 God is going to act for the sake of Zion and Jerusalem. He is going to show the nations Jerusalem’s righteousness and salvation. All the nations will have to praise Jerusalem (v. 7). In other words God is going to perform some saving act that will demonstrate His allegiance to Jerusalem and Zion.
In Isaiah 62:6 God says He has placed a watchman on the walls of Jerusalem. This is someone who is watching over the city that God loves. The following verses say that the watchman will be ever interceding with the Lord for Jerusalem so that God would never be able to forget his promise to fully establish Jerusalem and make all the earth praise it. (v. 6b, 7).
When we come to our verse, the watchman sees someone coming:
“Who is this who comes from Edom, With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, This One who is majestic in His apparel, Marching in the greatness of His strength? “It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.””
(Isaiah 63:1, NASB95)
The watchman sees Jerusalem’s Savior coming from the direction of Edom. Specifically He is coming from Bozrah. He is arrayed in garments of “glowing colors”. This phrase translates the Hebrew word hamus which means red. So the NASB has a marginal note saying that an alternate translation is “crimson”, which is how the ESV translates this.
The following verses make it clear that the garments of the coming Savior are crimson with blood. In vv. 2, 3 the Savior says that he has trodden the winepress which is a metaphor for judgment. The same metaphor for world-wide judgment used in Revelation 14:19-20, 19:15. His garments are stained red because he has brought judgment to Bozrah and Edom because the day of vengeance has come (v. 4).
This prophecy is clearly seeing events that happen after the judgment of Bozrah and Edom in Isaiah 34. In this expanding judgment the Lord, having started exacting vengeance on the nations in Bozrah, then Edom, now comes to Jerusalem to bring His vengeance on the nations gathered there. This expanding vengeance against the nations continues to fit in well with Zechariah 14:1-4.
We find further support in Habakkuk 3:3:
“God comes from Teman, And the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His splendor covers the heavens, And the earth is full of His praise.”
(Habakkuk 3:3, NASB95)
As in Isaiah 34 and 63, the context of this verse is global judgment (Hab. 3:6). Some would understand this as strictly limited to a vision of judgment against Babylon. However, I think that while the judgment of Babylon may be the near-term fulfillment, the global context points to a future and fuller fulfillment.
Habakkuk’s vision comes in response to his prayer in vv. 1-2. In the prayer he acknowledges that he has indeed heard what God has revealed. That was a revelation of God’s justice, sovereignty, and power. So, he asked god to act.
What he sees next is very similar to what Isaiah saw. “Teman” is an area located in southern Edom. Mount Paran is located there as well. So again we have the Holy Spirit revealing through another prophet a vision of salvation for the nation coming from Edom. In this case the Savior is explicitly identified as God in his splendor.
So we have three verses that together say that God will bring judgment on Edom beginning in Bozrah. This judgment will spread and engulf the nations arrayed against Zion and Jerusalem. The judgment that God brings is an act of vengeance against those nations.
At this point you are probably wondering “Why Bozrah?”. The answer to that question is found in Micah 2:12:
““I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold; Like a flock in the midst of its pasture They will be noisy with men.”
(Micah 2:12, NASB95)
At first you might look at this and wonder what does this have to do with Edom or Bozrah? It is a reasonable question. The answer is found in the phrase “sheep in the fold”. That is a translation of the Hebrew word Bozrah. What this verse says then is that God will preserve a remnant of Israel out of Judah and gather them in Bozrah.
Jesus had warned in Matthew 24:15-16 that when the mid-point of the tribulation is reached then the remnant who are heeding his words were to flee to the mountains. Luke adds that they are to flee because these are “days of vengeance”. This is the vengeance Isaiah referred to.
Similarly, in Revelation 12:14 Israel is led into the wilderness for protection. Most prophecy scholars think that they will flee to the area of Petra, Jordan. This is in the vicinity of Bozrah, only about 40 miles away. So why might Jesus first return to Bozrah? In order to rescue his people who have listened, obeyed, and taken refuge there.
Lastly, you might be wondering about the sequence of events. Specifically, whether there is anything else in scripture that would indicate that Jesus first returns to Bozrah then to Jerusalem. I think Zechariah 12:7 sheds some light here:
““The Lord also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah.”
(Zechariah 12:7, NASB95)
The context of this verse is the rescue of Jerusalem which is in the midst of a siege (v.2) by all the nations of the earth (v. 3). This is the same siege in Zechariah 14:1-4. This verse says that first God will save Judah, then Jerusalem. It is significant that Judah is described as residing in “tents”. The Hebrew word ohel refers to a nomadic shelter. So when Judah’s salvation comes they will be living in temporary shelters. I suggest that this fits in perfectly with the fact that they have hastily fled into the wilderness area of southern Edom seeking protection.
If we pull all this together in the context of the events immediately surrounding the return of Jesus then we have the following sequence of events:
- At the mid-point of the tribulation the faithful remnant of Israel heeds Jesus’ words and flee to the vicinity of Petra
- The forces of the anti-christ attacks the remnant
- The remnant remembers Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:39 and call for their Messiah
- Jesus responds and returns to the area of Bozrah to rescue His people and initiate world-wide judgment that will bring the tribulation to an end
- Having rescued the remnant in the area of Bozrah Jesus then leads a campaign to rescue Jerusalem
- Jesus arrives at Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives from Bozrah
- The siege of Jerusalem comes to a sudden and spectacular end
The Bozrah first view is the one I adopt. I think it fits together all the Biblical evidence we have concerning Jesus’ return. Just so you don’t think I am making all this up or coming up with something no one else has noticed let me point out that this is essentially the view of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum. Anthony Garland, in his detailed commentary A Testimony of Jesus Christ: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation sums up Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s view as follows:
1. The Assembling of the Allies of Antichrist – When the sixth bowl is poured out, the Euphrates river is dried up and the kings of the earth are gathered to the valley of Jezreel (Rev. 16:12-16+; Joel 3:9-11).
2. The Destruction of Babylon – Babylon is rebuilt on the banks of the Euphrates to become the world economic capital (Zec. 5:5-11). While the Antichrist is away at Megiddo, Babylon undergoes catastrophic destruction (Isa. 13, 14; Jer. 50, 51; Rev. 15:8+; 17:18+; 18+; 19:2+).
3. The Fall of Jerusalem – The Antichrist receives news that his capital city has been destroyed and moves south against Jerusalem (Zec. 12:1-3; 14:1-9; Mic. 4:11-5:1). The Jews will put up a mighty defense, but Jerusalem will eventually fall (Zec. 14:2).
4. The Armies of the Antichrist at Bozrah – The Jewish remnant flees to the mountains (Mtt. 24:15) and then to the wilderness in Edom (see Sheep in Bozrah ). The armies under Antichrist will move against the Jews in Bozrah (Mic. 2:12).
5. The National Regeneration of Israel – The Jews confess their national sin, the rejection and crucifixion of Messiah Jesus (Lev. 26:40-42; Jer. 3:11-18; Hos. 5:15). They then plead for His return (Ps. 79:1-13; Isa. 64:1-12; Hos. 6:1-3; Zec. 12:10-13:1; 13:7-9; Mtt. 23:39).
6. The Second Coming of Messiah – Christ returns to Bozrah, where the remnant have been preserved (Isa. 34:1-7; Isa. 63:1-6; Mic. 2:12-13; Hab. 3:1-19; Zec. 12:7; Rev. 19:11-18+).
7. The Battle from Bozrah to the Valley of Jehoshaphat – Christ fights the forces of Antichrist from Bozrah continuing all the way back to the eastern walls of Jerusalem, which overlook a section of the Kidron Valley, also known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Antichrist is destroyed. (Joel 3:12-13; 2Th. 2:8; Zec. 14:12-15; Rev. 14:19-20+; 19:20+).
8. The Victory Ascent Up the Mount of Olives – This is not the initial return of Christ, for He will save the tents of Judah first (Zec. 12:7). Nor will his initial return be to the same place He ascended, the Mount of Olives, but merely in the same manner (Acts 1:11). His ascent to the Mount is attended by cataclysmic events associated with the seventh bowl judgment (Mtt. 24:29; Zec. 14:4b-5; Rev. 16:17-21+).1
So there you have it.
1 Anthony C. Garland, A Testimony of Jesus Christ: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Galaxie Software, 2006), Re 22:21.