"Where will this happen, Lord?" the disciples asked. Jesus replied, "Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near." (Luke 17:37)
Following up from yesterday's Gem. For me, there are two issues that make my choice clear. Is it that the good are left or are those deserving judgment left? I am aware that Jesus uses the examples of Noah and Lot, but the point of comparison has nothing to do, I believe, with those who are left behind. That is not the focus in the use of these examples. As I told you in Gem 1105, the point is the ordinary way life kept trundling on, contrasted with the sudden unpredictable nature of God's intervention. To quote from that section, "Business as usual RIGHT UP TO THE TIME of the coming of the Son of Man." That is the point of what Jesus is saying here. There is no link here to the plight of those who are left, nor is there a suggestion that it is the good who will be left at the time of the Coming of the Son of Man. We humans can come up with all kinds of interesting theories or possibilities, but what we imagine, has to fit the facts of Scripture. The Bible must be interpreted by the Bible. You cannot take a segment out of context and match it with any other passage that you think is interesting. It fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. Moral of the story - Don't force the pieces.
Besides, the Bible already makes it clear to us who will be taken and who will be left behind.
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. (1 Cor 15:51-52)
For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thess 4:16-17)
There, end of speculation! There are some definitive statements as to who stays and who gets beamed up. No need to discuss it any further.
Now we come to the questions asked of Jesus.
The first question Jesus dealt with came from the Pharisees – WHEN?
Almost everything related to the Coming of the Son of Man teaches that you will not know the time. There will be some general indications as to when it happens, but in terms of specifics you won't know. The message is: be prepared at anytime. As I said the other day, "Live as though He could step in to this world tomorrow." The message in all the parables Jesus teaches about the Coming of the King and nature of the Kingdom, is be prepared at anytime. It will happen in the midst of the humdrum sameness – business as usual, then the end. It was the message that the Rich fool was given and the rich man who ignored Lazarus. It will come upon you suddenly, but when it does you won't have time nor will you have opportunity to change anything. You do your deciding this side of eternity. The matter of when, is not finished yet. We will encounter it later in Luke with some remarkable connections. Just be patient, but be prepared. Note also, the presence of the Kingdom of God is NOW. Work out the issues of your submission to His rule now, and the aftermath will fall into place. If you refuse to submit now, it will likely be that you don't have the option later. God decides matters of repentance and choice, not you. Be like a good boy scout and BE PREPARED !
It is timely that one Deeper Bible student (she probably wouldn't appreciate me mentioning her name) asked last night about the statement in David Pawson's book "Unlocking the Bible" page 141, which says, "We cannot know the year that Jesus will return, but we do know that it will be around Sept/Oct because he always does things on time." This refers to the Jewish expectation that Jesus will return at the Feast of Tabernacles. Besides the timing of the The Feast of Tabernacles is not always Sept / Oct. It varies each year- by virtue of the variations between the lunar calendar and the solar calendar.
Yes, it is true that they expect He will return at Tabernacles, but this is by no means a certainty. There are many theories as to when He will return. We can think that it will likely be at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles but it remains to be seen if that is true or not. Believe it by all means and then wait and see if you got it right when He finally does come. If the Jews missed His Coming the first time, it is for sure we are not likely to be able to predict His Coming the second time. Especially when everything biblical tells us he will come like a thief in the night. Thieves don't telegraph when they are coming. It will be a surprise.
The second question comes from the disciples – WHERE?
It is like the disciples didn’t get an answer to their question. They wanted to know where will this Coming take place? Seemingly, they didn’t pick up on the hint that Jesus gave in what He said about the lightening. You don't need to ask where if it is going to be a global event. Ok, if you want to know where it takes place, write down "planet earth". Everyone will see it and know it, as I said in Gem 1103, this will be a global event. So when the disciples asked where will this take place, Jesus answer is a little obtuse.
The word used in Jesus answer is the word [aetos] which generally refers to "eagle" but it goes without saying that vultures and buzzards (the words used in some translations) also fit the sense of the verse. In fact eagles are not known to be birds which fly in flocks nor feed on decaying flesh. So using the terms vulture or buzzard fits the meaning well.
There are a couple of possible meanings for this verse.
The most obvious one is the same sense as the use of the lightening illustration. It is self evident where it will be. If you are in the desert or wilderness and there is a dead body, it is clear where the body is. It will be marked by the flock of vultures circling overhead to pick at the carcass. It will be so obvious you will not be able to miss it. The presence of the vultures is a sure sign of a dead body. It was an idiom used in Jesus' time. It is like saying nowadays – Where there is smoke there is fire. It is obvious where the fire is, just look for the smoke. There will be no mistaking "the place".
Another take on the inference is linked to the idea of prediction of the event. If you want to be able to predict the event, then humans will have to be eagle-like, in that they would need to be far sighted and quick to recognize the signs. An eagle (and a vulture) has amazing eyesight. They have the keenest eyesight of all species: birds, animals and humans. They are also able to look directly at the sun. They ride the thermals to gain altitude and then look down with a birds eye view over everything. They have the big picture perspective. Is there a predictive quality to this verse? Like eagles can "predict" the presence of decaying flesh, perhaps it is inevitable that where there are the spiritually dead, there too will be judgment. There is a corollary to this idea in that the rejection of the Son of Man by Israel, began a process which inevitably must end with judgment on the nation. If Israel is spiritually dead, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict her downfall.
Is that a possible interpretation of this verse? Is that reading too much into it? Don't know, ask an eagle.
Long ago I preached a sermon on eagles connected with Isaiah 40:31 and looked at the qualities of eagles. It is like I have gone back in time now and remembering the sermon I preached on eagles all those years ago. Thanks Lord for the reminder. Make me an eagle for you. Lord make us like "the sons of Issachar who understood the times and knew what Israel should do." (1 Chronicles 12:32)
Give us eagle eyes Lord to spot the signs and know where we are in relation to the past and the Coming of the Son of Man.
There is an eagle in me that wants to soar and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud. Carl Sandburg
Lone eagles, soaring in the clouds fly with silent, peaceful poise, while turkeys, in their earth-bound crowds, fill the atmosphere with noise. William Ward
When you soar like an eagle you will attract the hunters. Milton Gould
All birds find shelter during a rain. But the eagle avoids rain by flying above the clouds. Ian