Hebrews 3:6-4:11 is a lengthy exposition of Psalm 95, especially verse 8 of the psalm, which refers to the provocation in the wilderness, and the Israelites’ lack of faith.
Psalm 95 was originally written for people of Israel who were dwelling in the promised land, and yet, it admonishes readers not to “harden their hearts,” as their fathers had done. This suggests that the “rest” mentioned in the last verse of the Psalm, which remained and was still available for them to enter, must be something other than physically dwelling in the land. The Hebrews passage confirms this, as it says “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.” [Hebrews 4:8] What “rest” could that be?
What land is host of the “wells of salvation”? Isaiah wrote:
In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, LORD.
Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation.
A literal well is dug into the ground, often through bedrock. The metaphor of a well suggests there are things corresponding to both land, and water. What are they?
John the Baptist preached his message in the wilderness, about preparing the way of the Lord, and he identified Jesus as the one spoken of by the prophets. Isaiah’s prophecy that mountains will be made low, and valleys filled, was part of John’s message.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
When we think about what Isaiah’s prophecy might mean, it is clearly not about literal changes in the earth; the highway in the desert is figurative. No literal highway was constructed, or even begun, as a result of John’s preaching. The mountains and valleys of the prophecy are not literal; the land had a spiritual meaning for the prophets. John’s dwelling and preaching in the wilderness was symbolic; it implies rejection of the established worship of the Jews.
Both time, and place, in the prophecies of scripture focus upon Jesus, and his ministry in the first century, and upon his death and resurrection, and his reign in the throne of David in heaven.
The prophecy in Revelation 12:15-16 is one of the most fascinating prophecies in the Bible. But it is also one of the most puzzling, and commentators have struggled to find the meaning of it.
“And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.”
What is meant by the river of water, that goes forth from the mouth of the serpent in Revelation 12:15? Consider what land it is, where the river flows; it must be the same land, the wilderness, where the woman sojourns for the time, times and a half.
In 1857 the Prime Minister of England, Lord Palmerston, appointed Henry Alford Dean of Canterbury. As a pillar in the Anglican Church, Alford would probably not have viewed the church as fleeing to the wilderness, at least in his time. Some have suggested that such a condition may have existed in the early centuries of the church, when Christians were persecuted. Alford’s comments about the vision of Revelation 12 indicate he struggled to understand the meaning of the part of the vision where the woman flees to the wilderness. He wrote: