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Prophecy – Signs
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
The prime directive of Bible interpretation is to look at what the whole Bible says about a topic. Particularly with regards to prophecy, as all prophecy relates to God’s promises to Israel, and those promises were made, for the most part, not in Revelation but in the Old Testament. Need persuading? One word, birds…One of many puzzling prophetic verses is Matthew 24:28:
“For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
It comes at the end of a passage that describes, for Matthew’s audience (i.e., the Jews) the sequence of events over that last seven years of horror, known as the tribulation, under the reign of a deceitful and arrogant king. First Jesus warns His followers that this unrighteous king will again desecrate the Temple; an act known as the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15) at the midpoint of the seven years. He then tells them that the second three and a half years will be much worse than the first. Finally, He gives them a very important warning; when you see the abomination of desolation, flee to the mountains.
Lickety split, because it will truly be a matter of life and death.
Why? (It actually took a little while for me to make this connection, maybe because it is in Revelation.) Because the beast, in the process of desolating the Temple, was given the power to give life to his image, and to cause all that refused to bow to it to be killed. Apparently, immediately. If you don’t flee, you die. Duh.
But back to Matthew, and the prophetic sequence of events. After Jesus’ warning to flee to the mountains, He jumps all the way to His return, perhaps because He is now speaking directly to those seeking Him in the tribulation, which will then be secreted in the mountains. And what He says is rather curious. Basically, it’s this: don’t believe anyone who says that I have come. Because when I come, you’ll will know it:
“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be”. (Matthew 24:26-27)
You won’t miss it. The next verse, however, gives us a very important piece of information, although in a very cryptic manner:
“Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”
A puzzling verse, and one that’s been interpreted as an idiom meaning, “it will happen when the time is right”, as well as a reference to the Catholic celebration of the Eucharist (as a representation of the dead body of Christ.) And everything in between.
But let’s see what happens when you look at the whole Bible.
Carcass first appears in the book of Genesis, in an interaction between God and Abraham. Specifically, God’s covenant with Abraham.
“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Then He said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.” And he said, “Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
That’s the back story. Here’s the kicker.
So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. (Genesis 15:1-11)
The Law of First Mention, another rule of Bible Interpretation, defined as the practice of going to the first mention of a topic or symbol in Scripture in order to understand its fundamental meaning.
The first mention of carcasses is in the context of the carcasses that God used to cut a covenant with His chosen people, who would spring from the loins of Abraham. According to the law of first mention, that means that carcass and vultures are symbols related to God’s covenant relationship with His people.
And when you look at successive verses, this is only is only reinforced. Verses like Leviticus 26:30:
I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols; and My soul shall abhor you…
And Deuteronomy 26:28:
Your carcasses shall be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and no one shall frighten them away.
And Isaiah 5:25:
Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them And stricken them, And the hills trembled. Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.
In that context, when Jesus, speaking specifically to the future remnant of Israel, hidden in their mountain refuge, he tells them where he will come to them, and he says that it is where the carcass is, it would seem that the carcass, in fact, is Israel.
Which is strongly supported by the fact that the armies of all the nations that surround them have fervently wished for their demise (and regularly attempted to achieve it) throughout the centuries at this prophetic instant must certainly see the final victor—(making all of Israel a carcass) within their grasp.
The vultures, in other words, have gathered around the carcass to be. And that’s where Jesus comes