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The Duck Boat tragedy in Branson—a prophetic sign, part 1

Jul 23, 2018

Last Thursday, July 19, a storm having near hurricane winds hit Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, capsizing a “Duck Boat” and killing 17 people. There were 31 on board, including 2 crewmembers and 29 passengers.


While the event was certainly tragic, I did not understand it as a prophetic sign until this morning as I was waking up.

The Fifth Sign in John is the Storm

Recall that every year we watch July 15-22, because it is a type of the feast of Tabernacles on our western calendar (7/15 to 7/22). Tabernacles is also a revelation in the book of John, where Jesus’ eight miracles were “signs” (semeion) to manifest His glory (John 2:11). John records 7 signs before Jesus’ death and resurrection, and 1 final sign afterward. The point is that these signs represent the 8 days of Tabernacles (7 plus 1).

Each sign represents one of the days of Tabernacles. The fifth sign is where the storm arose on the Sea of Galilee, threatening the 12 disciples. Jesus walked on the water and calmed the storm. The story is recorded in John 6:16-21 and also in Matt. 14:22-34 and Mark 6:45-53.

The point is that July 19 is the fifth day of Tabernacles, linking the storm in Branson to the storm in Jesus’ day. The difference is that Jesus did not come to save the people on the duck boat in Branson. Yet 14 people were delivered out of that situation. The number 14 is the biblical number for deliverance or release. (See my book, The Biblical Meaning of Numbers from One to Forty.)

A Sign of Deliverance (14)

For example, the Passover lamb was killed in the 14th day of the first month for the deliverance of the people. This released them from Egypt the following day.

Another example is where the storm hit the ship that was taking the Apostle Paul to Rome. The ship was destroyed, but the people were delivered on the 14th day (Acts 27:33). Other examples are given in the book.

Insofar as the Branson tragedy is concerned, most of our attention is given to the 17 people who died. However, that is only half of the story, because 14 people were delivered—13 passengers and the captain, who were pulled from the lake. (The driver died, but the captain survived.)

In the biblical story, there were 12 disciples in the boat, and then Jesus joined them in the middle of the lake, making a total of 13 who made it to shore. In this case we would have to picture the captain as taking on the role of God Himself, and the passengers representing Jesus and His 12 disciples.

A Sign of Victory (17)

The number 17 is the biblical number of victory, yet they died, being swallowed up by the waves. The storm itself prophesies of tribulation. When Jesus sent the disciples across the lake after feeding the 5,000, it prophesied of the church being sent into tribulation until the second coming of Christ. Feeding the 5,000, as explained in John 6:26-71, was a revelation of Christ’s broken body (death) and His subsequent resurrection (gather the fragments that remain). That was the fourth sign in John, picturing the climax of Jesus’ ministry on earth before sending the church into tribulation.

The biblical number of victory, as seen in various biblical examples, is not always a happy outcome. In my book on numbers, I write this example:

Jeremiah records 17 prayers. The 17th prayer is found in Jeremiah 32. The prayer is made while the Babylonian army was surrounding Jerusalem. In such circumstances, the prophet redeems land in Anathoth for 17 shekels of silver (Jer. 32:9). It is remarkable that Anathoth means “answered prayers.” Then in 32:17-25 Jeremiah prays his great prayer of victory. There are no more prayers in Jeremiah, as if to remind us that once we obtain the victory of answered prayer, no further prayer is needed to obtain the object of prayer.

In other words, Jeremiah’s victory of answered prayer was a matter of faith, because the Babylonian army was about to take over the land. There is no evidence that Jeremiah himself ever was able to live on the property that he had redeemed for 17 shekels of silver. The victory was to be seen on another level.

In fact, because Judah and Jerusalem had rejected the law of God and the kings had usurped the throne of God, judgment was coming upon the land. In the conflict between God and Judah, God won the victory by leading the Babylonian army! Just because Judah was defeated by Babylon does not mean there was no victory. One army’s victory is another army’s defeat. Which side are you on in this battle?

The Two Jerusalems

The 17th time that Jerusalem is mentioned in Scripture is in 2 Samuel 5:5, where we read that David conquered Jerusalem, the Jebusite city. Prophetically speaking, this refers to our own time, where the old Jerusalem is conquered by the forces of the New Jerusalem. The Jebusites had usurped the rule of Melchizedek, the founder and builder of that city.

The power of flesh had taken over the city, even though the kings of Jerusalem had retained Shem’s original title: Melchizedek, or “Adonizedek” (Joshua 10:1). These two titles are synonymous. One means King of Righteousness; the other means Lord of Righteousness. Yet the king of Jerusalem ended up fighting Joshua (Jesus). The same has happened with the old Jerusalem, first in Jesus’ day and now in our own time.

That is why it is important to understand the difference between the two Jerusalems. Victory for the New Jerusalem means defeat for the Old Jerusalem. The Hebrew name for Jerusalem is Yerushalayim, which literally means “Two Jerusalems.” Most people do not distinguish between the two, and so they do not correctly interpret the biblical references to Jerusalem.

John understood these things, however, and in Revelation 21 he quotes Scriptures about “Jerusalem” to mean “New Jerusalem.” Just because the prophets speak of Jerusalem it does not mean that the prophets were speaking of the earthly city.

Nothing Can Separate Us

For the 17 who died in Branson, the Scriptures also have a word of comfort. In Romans 8:35-39 there are 17 things that are unable to separate us from the love of Christ. Paul lists the first 7 of these in verses 35. Then he interrupts himself in Romans 8:36, 37, saying,

36 Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

Paul then continues with another 10 things that cannot separate us from the love of Christ. The 17 who died in Branson represent the overcomers who have been killed during the past 2,000 years in the tribulation. These overcomers died, but they conquered even in death. So also the 17 who died in Branson were not defeated; they testify of a great conquest, even if the world considers them to be “sheep to be slaughtered.”

In fact, the account in Matthew 14:28-31 tells us that Peter went out to meet Jesus, walking on the water. That, of course, is a sign of the overcomers going out to meet Christ at His second coming in the midst of tribulation (turmoil). But there is another side to this, because Peter also sank into the water before Jesus delivered him.

That suggests baptism, broadly speaking, which in turn suggests death and resurrection. The 14 who were pulled out of the water were fulfilling the role of Peter, whom Jesus pulled out of the water, while the 17 who died were fulfilling the role of Jonah, who was swallowed up by the great fish to picture death and resurrection.

In the context of the Branson tragedy, it suggests that Peter represented two groups of overcomers. Most of the overcomers die and must be raised from the dead; but some will be changed or transfigured without dying (1 Corinthians 15:51). Either way, victory is assured.

I have also taught that Peter was a New Testament sign of Jonah. Peter was originally named Simon, son of Jonah (Simon barjona in Matthew 16:17 NASB). Just as Jonah was a type of Christ in His death and resurrection experience, so also was Simon bar-Jonah a New Testament parallel of Jonah when he got out of the boat and when he was baptized in the sea.

Though Jonah ended up in the belly of the great fish, he was an overcomer who was required to obtain victory through death and resurrection. So also the 17 who died in Branson fulfilled the sign of Jonah and Simon bar-Jonah; whereas the 14 who were delivered were a sign of the living overcomers at the end of the age who will be “changed” without dying.

July is like September

Recall the old revelation from about 1980 that “July is like September.” July 19 is therefore like September 19, which happens to be the Day of Atonement this year. The Day of Atonement is the day of Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:13, which He did “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). In other words, Jesus fulfilled the law of baptism found in Leviticus 14:5, combined with the Day of Atonement prophecy in Leviticus 16:34.

I have taught about those laws in my book, The Laws of the Second Coming.

The point is that the duck boat tragedy in Branson on July 19 points to September 19, the Day of Atonement. Therefore, the “baptism” at Branson on July 19 points to Jesus’ baptism on the Day of Atonement (September 19).

At the same time, by a different calculation, July 19 is the fifth day of Tabernacles, which correlates with the fifth sign in John, where Jesus walked on the water and where Peter got his baptism in the sea (in Matthew’s account).

It is complex, but each viewpoint is another witness pointing to the importance of this as a sign, as well as foreshadowing September 19 as a watch date.

(To be continued)

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Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones