any students of Bible prophecy have long recognized the concept of dual fulfillment. Perhaps the most obvious example is found in Jesus Christ’s Olivet Discourse, where He describes the Tribulational events which would occur at the Roman siege of Jerusalem, even as those same descriptions forecast events at the end of the age.
Some believe there will be another outpouring of the Spirit of God, which will be an end time’s version of the Pentecost event seen in the book of Acts. Others see yet another Exodus type event, in which the people of the LORD come out from among the nations.
It is self evident the escape from Egypt, and the journey into the “promised land” has an end of days prophetic application as well, for the New Covenant plainly tells us believers in Christ are to exit the world system, and enter in to the Kingdom of God. In light of the fact that there are many, many obvious parallels, it is interesting to note how virtually no one ever seems to address an enormously important event, known as The Provocation, and how it must also have a parallel fulfillment.
The Temptation In The Wilderness
The episode being referenced is mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New, and because it was consummated by what the Scriptures describe as the wrath of God, we would do well to examine it – especially if it prefigures a cycle which is to be repeated in our time.
The Provocation occurred when the children of Israel were about to arrive in Canaan, to receive the inheritance the LORD had promised them – a reward which was associated with God giving them a “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8).
In essence, this “provocation” was a rebellion which emerged within Israel, as a powerful faction rose up against Moses, voicing their discontent with his leadership, the plan of the LORD, and just about everything else. At the outset, we should take heed concerning certain facts about the pivotal event.
The Provocation started out with murmuring against Moses, and it continued through several phases – including an insolent attitude exhibited by Miriam and Aaron, who sought to place themselves on an equal standing with Moses, in terms of the leadership of Israel.
Taking note of the two-fold symbolism of rebellion by Miriam and Aaron against the singular vessel of Moses (see Zechariah 13:8 on the tri-partite division of all things), God quickly put an end to that opposition through direct intervention; but at another point, the children of Israel also complained about their circumstances, and the text tells us
“…the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed those who were in the uttermost parts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1).
Actually, after the rebellion had fully emerged, the LORD revealed that Israel had provoked Him “ten times” (Numbers 14:22). However, there are several aspects of the entire episode which help us to recognize the key characteristics of the Provocation, and how they are mirrored in our time.
First, the primary revolt was led by men in the priesthood – as opposed to those who were fighters or some other profession, within the camp of Israel. Second, it occurred after the LORD had led Israel through the arduous events of the Passover and the Exodus. This would include the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptian host, and even the miraculous provisions of manna and quail, which had been delivered from heaven to feed the large group.
Third, as the Israelites were in direct proximity to the land the LORD had promised them, God had sent out 12 leaders to survey the land and its abundance. It is here that we find a primary trigger of the Provocation.
Fight Or Flight?
Readers will recall that ten of the spies gave a discouraging report, for they saw the giants in the land and, fearing them, worried that God would not be able to fulfill His promise:
“The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof, and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak…” (Numbers 13:32, 33).
Echoing the ten times Israel had provoked the LORD, the ten spies so frightened the people that Scripture tells us that all Israel spoke of rebellion against Moses and Aaron:
“And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt!” (Numbers 14:2).
Here is a remarkable metaphor in that two of the 12 spies stood up to oppose the ten who doubted – anticipating the Northern ten tribes who were dispersed long before the faithful duo Joshua and Caleb sought to calm the crowd’s fears - and obviously prefiguring the shift of the leadership of Israel to the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin in Jerusalem.
Ultimately, God destroyed the ten spies by plague, and punished Israel by having them wander in the wilderness for an extended period, until that entire generation died out. The fact that modern prophecy figures practically ignore this event may very well be related to the fact that the Old Testament verse in which the LORD tells Moses how Israel has provoked Him, also includes His threat to disinherit the Israelites from their standing as His chosen people – an event which occurred at the rejection of Jesus Christ:
“How long will this people provoke me? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they” (Numbers 13:11, 12).
The New Testament has several key verses which show the continuing pattern of the Provocation. For example, we see another manifestation of the two-fold pattern of Miriam and Aaron opposing Moses, the mediator of the Old Covenant, when the Scribes and the Pharisees seek to do the same with Jesus – the mediator of the New Covenant:
“And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him” (Luke 11:53, 54).
After The Exodus
It is profoundly significant the Provocation in the Old Testament occurred when Israel was in the wilderness, as it anticipates the time when the Christians, who are Spiritual Israelites (Romans 2:29), Provoke the LORD in the wilderness of the end times. To that end, in the book of Numbers we find a revealing verse, where the wrath of God is kindled against those who led the rebellion:
“Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth and swallow them up…and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand these men have provoked the LORD. And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up…” (Numbers 14:23, 30, 33).
This wilderness event, in which Israel is subjected to the wrath of God, before the body of true believers entered into the promised land, anticipates the Spiritual wilderness seen in Revelation. In the end times, we see a description of the woman who is widely associated with Israel in the Spiritual wilderness, and it occurs before the believers enter into their heavenly promise, even as they are subjected to the wrath of the dragon:
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman…And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness…And the serpent cast out of his mouth 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” (Revelation 12:17, 14-16).
In this astonishing imagery, in addition to the widespread use of prophetic parallels to communicate prophetic truth, we see a fascinating example of the use of role reversals, a phenomenon which also occurs on a repetitive basis in the Word of God.
Predictions Of The Provocation
The book of Hebrews repeatedly warns of a New Testament era Provocation, when it exhorts the believer to open our hearts, and receive the true Word of the LORD:
“Wherefore the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:7,8).
Although this may appear to be a simple exhortation, it is embedded with key prophetic features which communicate the fact the cycle of the Provocation occurs twice – just as virtually every other primary prophetic pattern has a dual fulfillment. This is confirmed by the fact the precise phrase “harden not your hearts, as in the provocation” occurs twice in the text (Hebrews 3:8 and verse 15).
Most believers in this generation do not recognize we are seeing a prophetic recapitulation of the events which occurred in that generation -- because they are part of the majority “ten” whose hearts are “hardened” to the truth --- but this very text in Hebrews warns of these things:
“I was grieved with that generation…So I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest…..Take heed, brethren lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:10, 11, 12).
Just like the stiff-necked Israelites of old, most Christians today will assume they are on the right track, because they are already immersed in the prophesied “falling away” (II Thessalonians 2:3) from the truth in these end times (see also the Snare in Luke 21:35).
Unfortunately, just as the ten who doubted the LORD’s ability to provide His people with victory, only the two were shielded from what the text plainly calls the “wrath” of God. Since the original Provocation in the first timeline, when the majority of the Israelites “tempted” God after their calling into salvation (Hebrews 3:9) resulted in “their carcasses [falling] in the wilderness,” a prophetic parallel is scheduled to occur in our generation:
“All these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (I Corinthians 1:11).
The role of Joshua and Caleb, who were the faithful two which were preserved, even as the majority were destroyed, prefigures the pattern of the Two Witnesses. Indeed, in Revelation, the LORD confirms the present day prophetic parallel of the Provocation in the Spiritual “wilderness,” where most of His people are “tempting” Him even now, also carries preservation for those who hear his voice:
”Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will KEEP thee FROM the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10).
“I pray not that thou should take them out of the world, but that thou should KEEP them FROM the evil” (John 17:15).
-- James Lloyd