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The Body and Eagles?

Often I like to give a fun, easy-to-remember posts through rhyming or alliterations (actually, alliterations are always acceptable and awesome… ?) But one of the other purposes for me brainstorming is to give a simple message (at church) that will focus on a ‘difficult scripture’ and attempt to shed some light on it.

I had heard this scripture-in-question a few weeks ago in passing in a sermon, and it reminded me that I still didn’t really “get it.”

So today, you will discover the TRUE identity of the two witnesses!  Just kidding!

For real though, we read in the gospels parallel account of the disciples asking Jesus what would be the sign of his coming. We are told to not be deceived when people say Jesus is “here” or “there” and that some will be taken and others left.  This concept would be a great topic to cover, but I am not even talking about that! But rather what comes right afterwards. Regarding the account in Luke:

“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.  I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” Luke 17:31-37

Many people have different ideas about the potential meaning.  In some online forums, many simply say it just means “it will be obvious” when the time comes, and/or akin to “where there is smoke there’s fire” but is there more to it? Stay tuned as we discover:

What did Jesus mean in Luke 17:37 about the eagles gathered around the body?

When answering the question of what Jesus meant, we must first ask ourselves if there any other verses in the Bible that might help answer this question.

In this case, yes there are. A parallel account of this was recorded in Matthew:24:28, and in both places, it appears that Jesus was paraphrasing the inspired words of Job: 39:27-30

“Does the eagle mount up at your command, and make its nest on high? On the rocks it dwells and resides, on the crag of the rock and the stronghold. From there it spies out the prey; its eyes observe from afar. Its young ones suck up blood; and where the slain are, there it is” (Job:39:27-30).

(Some translations say “vulture” but the word allows for a large winged soaring bird.)

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for “slain” in this verse is chalal, which can be translated “pierced to death.” (Not to be confused with “Halal,” the attribute ascribed to Satan, the word from which the Latin derived “Lucifer,” which is merely a translation of an adjective, not a name… but I digress.)

Pierced to death.  At the risk of reading too much into this, I think this is significant. The symbolism in this allegory of Job may well be linked to the message the Messiah gave many years later. Other scriptures show by analogy, metaphor, or allegory what “eagles” can symbolize. Isaiah spoke of eagles as an allegory of God’s faithful people:

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah:40:31).

Where does Job say the eagle dwells? On the rocks, when using the symbolism of Gods people, points to Jesus Christ, who is our spiritual Rock (1 Corinthians:10:4).

What is the “prey,” which is “afar off” that the “eagles” seek? The answer is found in Matthew:6:33—the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Going with this understanding and interpretation of the symbolic meaning of Job:39:27-30,  we need to re-read Christ’s statement in Luke:17:37 and Matthew:24:28 and ask what the context surrounding these verses is;

In both accounts, the context is about the coming Kingdom of God on Earth. Notice how right before Luke:17:37 in verses 24-36, Jesus prophesies the events immediately preceding His return to this earth and the resurrection of God’s faithful people:

“For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day…Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left” (Luke:17:24, Luke:17:35-36).

The same is true in the verses right before Matthew:24:28. So the context of the statement is of the end of the age, just preceding Christ’s return and the resurrection of Gods people.

We can now understand that Jesus Christ is the “body” around whom the “eagles” (the Church, His faithful people) will congregate at the resurrection when Jesus returns to this world to rule over all the nations as King of Kings (Revelation:11:15, Zechariah:14:9, Revelation:5:10).

It was our Savior Jesus Christ who allowed Himself to be pierced and bleed to death to become a “carcass” before He was resurrected. He was dead for three days and three nights and did not go to His Father in heaven during His time in the grave.

Did the faithful “eagles (Gods faithful disciples) gather around Jesus Christ when He was resurrected then? Yes they certainly did. Paul recorded how Jesus was seen by over 500 brethren during the 40 days He revealed Himself after His resurrection to life again (1 Corinthians:15:6).

Further, will God’s faithful people be resurrected in the end of the age and gather around the “body” of the returning Jesus Christ? Yes, indeed they will:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians:4:16-17).

We too can be considered by God to be worthy “eagles” in that resurrection, to be with the “body” of Jesus Christ when He returns in power to set up His Kingdom on Earth, and to rule over all the nations with His faithful people.

Sorry, I can’t identify by name the Two Witnesses, but this was just something I found interesting and wanted to share!

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Stop Flapping!

When we trust in and wait on the Lord, we can know that He will take care of all our needs. God through the eloquent Isaiah tells us that we will then rise up and soar like eagles.

This year I plan to not get stressed out. How, you ask? By simply not flapping!

When I returned to school this fall, I sighed as I realized that I would be once again entering the stressful environment of deadlines, deadbeats and feeling dead tired. It’s been the same routine with ever-increasing amounts of work—for 16 years now.

Okay, here’s my plan for less stress. When facing major stressors, I am resolved to remember that the Bible tells us:

“He [God] gives strength to those who grow tired and increases the strength of those who are weak… the strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed. They will soar on wings like eagles ” (Isaiah 40:29
, 31; God’s Word Translation, emphasis added).

When we trust in and wait on the Lord, we can know that He will take care of all our needs. God through the eloquent Isaiah tells us that we will then rise up and soar like eagles.

Why is this particular analogy used? Consider that birds fly in one of three ways: constantly flapping, gliding or soaring.

Flapping

Many smaller birds travel in this fashion. Though hummingbirds do this seemingly gracefully, flapping is usually a lot of work that doesn’t get them that far. Since the bird constantly has to work, it tires more easily and can only fly relatively short distances.

Gliding

Medium-sized birds like pheasants or grouse can work at flapping until they get high enough to glide for a while—gracefully drifting downward for brief periods. Eventually, unless they start flapping again, they would glide straight into the ground. This is better than always flapping, but is there something even better?

Soaring

A few birds, like the eagle, are able to truly soar. This is because the eagle’s wings are large and powerful enough to catch the vertical columns of air (called thermals) shooting straight up from the earth in some places. Eagles can boost themselves up very high, floating from air column to air column without flapping much at all. These birds essentially glide downward on a constantly rising current of air.

This applies to our lives as well. When I stress out, I feel like a bird flapping with all my might, but not really getting anywhere. How we live life and how we trust in God for our daily needs and wants is analogous to how these birds fly!

Flap

Often we just flap and flap in life at school, home or work, trying to get ourselves in flight. Sometimes we do get airborne, but we exhaust ourselves from the stress.

Glide

We can work toward our moments of grace and epiphanies, but if we get too comfortable with our own accomplishments, we will plummet into the ground thinking we’ve got plenty of air left through which to glide.

Soar

This is the ideal! When we soar, we don’t have to worry about flapping or fear the lack of space to glide—we just comfortably float above our trials and fears, trusting God to keep the wind under our wings!

By waiting with hope on God to help us, we soar like eagles with renewed and increased strength physically, emotionally and especially spiritually. All of that translates into less negative stress in our lives. Imagine that, less “flapping” means less stress!