Matthew 24:28 MEANING

Matthew 24:28
(28) Wheresoever the carcase is.--Two interpretations of this verse may, without much risk of error, be at once rejected:--(1) That which sees in the "eagles" the well-known symbols of the strength of the Roman legions, and in the "carcass" the decayed and corrupted Judaism which those legions came to destroy. This, true as far as it goes, is too narrow and localised in its range for so wide and far-reaching a comparison. (2) The strange fantastic imagination of many of the Fathers that the "carcass" is Christ Himself, as crucified and slain, and that the eagles are His true saints and servants who hasten to meet Him in His coming. Those who picture to themselves with what purpose and with what results the vultures of the East swoop down on the carrion which they scent far off upon the breeze, will surely find such an explanation at once revolting and irrational. What the enigmatic proverb (if indeed it be enigmatic) means, is that wherever life is gone, wherever a church or nation is decaying and putrescent, there to the end of time will God's ministers of vengeance, the vultures that do their work of destruction, and so leave room for new forms of life by sweeping off that which was "ready to vanish away" (comp. Hebrews 8:13 for the phrase and thought), assuredly be found. What the disciples should witness in the fall of Jerusalem would repeat itself scores of times in the world's history, and be fulfilled on the largest scale at the end of all things. The words of Isaiah (Isaiah 46:11) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 39:4), in which the "ravenous bird" is a symbol of the nations who do the work of destruction to which God sends them, illustrate the meaning of the generalised law which is here asserted.

Verse 28. - For. The particle seems to be spurious, and is omitted by late editors. Christ applies a proverbial saying in confirmation of the certainty and universality of is appearance. He had used the same under other circumstances (Luke 17:87); and analogous expressions are found in Job 39:30; Hosea 8:1; Habakkuk 1:8, etc. Wheresoever the carcase (ptw = ma) is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Eagles (ἀετοὶ) do not live on carrion, so that here probably vultures are meant. The Hebrew word nesher, translated "eagle" in our version, often signifies "the vulture," as in Micah 1:16. This bird's keenness of sight is almost incredible; it will discern a prey at an enormous distance, and its movements being watched by others, all eager to secure food, a carcase is very quickly surrounded by a multitude of these rapacious birds, flocking from all quarters. What our Lord meant by this proverb has occasioned great disputation. If Christ were referring primarily and chiefly to Jerusalem, it would be easy to explain "the carcase" to be the corrupt city, "the eagles" the ministers of God's vengeance, especially the Roman armies, whose standards bore the image of this bird of prey. Or if it were a mere general truth, and to be taken entirely in a spiritual sense, the gnome would imply that moral corruption calls for heavenly chastisement. But neither of these interpretations would satisfy the context, which speaks of Christ's second advent. Hence many regard the sentence as altogether parallel to the preceding verse, expressing in metaphor that which was there set forth in more direct terms, viz. that all men shall assemble to the place where Christ shall summon them to be judged, as vultures congregate round a carcase. In this case the carcase is Christ, the eagles or vultures are the men to be judged. This exposition has satisfied commentators of reputation, but it has its weak points. One fails to see the propriety of describing men coming to the great assize as vultures gathering to devour a dead body, or how in this case the body can be Christ or the place of his appearance. More probable is the interpretation which regards the carcase as antichrist or the world power, and the eagles as the saints and angels who shall attend Christ when he comes in judgment (Revelation 19:17, 18). Others expound the clause entirely in a mystical sense. The carcase is Christ, or the body of Christ; the eagles are the saints, or true Christians; these, whatever happens, will, with keen spiritual sight, always be able to discern Christ and his body, and to flock thereto. He calls himself πτῶμα, because he saves us by his death, and feeds us by his body, in his Church, Word, and sacraments (see Wordsworth, in loc.). Such is the interpretation of many of the Fathers, and it has many analogies in other places of Scripture. Far be it from us to restrict the sphere of Divine prediction, or to assert that any legitimate reference which we may discover was not in the Lord's mind when he spake the words. But it is more simple to regard the proverbial saying in itself, without looking for abstruse or mystical meanings. As a carcase, fall where it may, is immediately observed by the vultures and attracts them, so Christ's coming shall at once be discerned by all men and draw them into it.

24:4-28 The disciples had asked concerning the times, When these things should be? Christ gave them no answer to that; but they had also asked, What shall be the sign? This question he answers fully. The prophecy first respects events near at hand, the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the Jewish church and state, the calling of the Gentiles, and the setting up of Christ's kingdom in the world; but it also looks to the general judgment; and toward the close, points more particularly to the latter. What Christ here said to his disciples, tended more to promote caution than to satisfy their curiosity; more to prepare them for the events that should happen, than to give a distinct idea of the events. This is that good understanding of the times which all should covet, thence to infer what Israel ought to do. Our Saviour cautions his disciples to stand on their guard against false teachers. And he foretells wars and great commotions among nations. From the time that the Jews rejected Christ, and he left their house desolate, the sword never departed from them. See what comes of refusing the gospel. Those who will not hear the messengers of peace, shall be made to hear the messengers of war. But where the heart is fixed, trusting in God, it is kept in peace, and is not afraid. It is against the mind of Christ, that his people should have troubled hearts, even in troublous times. When we looked forward to the eternity of misery that is before the obstinate refusers of Christ and his gospel, we may truly say, The greatest earthly judgments are but the beginning of sorrows. It is comforting that some shall endure even to the end. Our Lord foretells the preaching of the gospel in all the world. The end of the world shall not be till the gospel has done its work. Christ foretells the ruin coming upon the people of the Jews; and what he said here, would be of use to his disciples, for their conduct and for their comfort. If God opens a door of escape, we ought to make our escape, otherwise we do not trust God, but tempt him. It becomes Christ's disciples, in times of public trouble, to be much in prayer: that is never out of season, but in a special manner seasonable when we are distressed on every side. Though we must take what God sends, yet we may pray against sufferings; and it is very trying to a good man, to be taken by any work of necessity from the solemn service and worship of God on the sabbath day. But here is one word of comfort, that for the elect's sake these days shall be made shorter than their enemies designed, who would have cut all off, if God, who used these foes to serve his own purpose, had not set bounds to their wrath. Christ foretells the rapid spreading of the gospel in the world. It is plainly seen as the lightning. Christ preached his gospel openly. The Romans were like an eagle, and the ensign of their armies was an eagle. When a people, by their sin, make themselves as loathsome carcasses, nothing can be expected but that God should send enemies to destroy them. It is very applicable to the day of judgment, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in that day, 2Th 2:1. Let us give diligence to make our calling and election sure; then may we know that no enemy or deceiver shall ever prevail against us.For wheresoever the carcass is,.... Not Christ, as he is held forth in the Gospel, crucified and slain, through whose death is the savour of life, and by whom salvation is, and to whom sensible sinners flock, encouraged by the ministry of the word; and much less Christ considered as risen, exalted, and coming in great glory to judgment, to whom the word "carcass" will by no means agree, and but very poorly under the former consideration: but the people of the Jews are designed by it, in their fallen, deplorable, miserable, and lifeless state, who were like to the body of a man, or any other creature, struck dead with lightning from heaven; being destroyed by the breath of the mouth, and brightness of the coming of the son of man, like lightning, just as antichrist will be at the last day:

there will the eagles be gathered together: not particular believers here, or all the saints at the day of judgment; though these may be, as they are, compared to eagles for many things; as their swiftness in flying to Christ, their sagacity and the sharpness of their spiritual sight, soaring on high, and renewing their spiritual strength and youth: but here the Roman armies are intended, whose ensigns were eagles; and the eagle still is, to this day, the ensign of the Roman empire: formerly other creatures, with the eagle, were used for ensigns; but C. Marius, in his second consulship, banished them, and appropriated the eagle only to the legions: nor was it a single eagle that was carried before the army, but every legion had an eagle went before it, made of gold or silver, and carried upon the top of a spear (z): and the sense of this passage is this, that wherever the Jews were, whether at Jerusalem, where the body and carcass of them was, in a most forlorn and desperate condition; or in any other parts of the country, the Roman eagles, or legions, would find them out, and make an utter destruction of them. The Persic version, contrary to others, and to all copies, renders it "vultures". Though this creature is of the same nature with the eagle, with respect to feeding on carcasses: hence the proverb,

"cujus vulturis hoe erit cadaver?''

"what vulture shall have this carcass?" It has a very sharp sight, and quick smell, and will, by both, discern carcasses at almost incredible distance: it will diligently watch a man that is near death; and will follow armies going to battle, as historians relate (a): and it is the eagle which is of the vulture kind, as Aristotle (b) observes, that takes up dead bodies, and carries them to its nest. And Pliny (c) says, it is that sort of eagles only which does so; and some have affirmed that eagles will by no means touch dead carcasses: but this is contrary not only to this passage of Scripture, but to others; particularly to Job 39:30 "her young ones also suck up blood, and where the slain are, there is she": an expression much the same with this in the text, and to which it seems to refer; see also Proverbs 30:17. Though Chrysostom (d) says, both the passage in Job, and this in Matthew, are to be understood of vultures; he doubtless means the eagles that are of the vulture kind, the Gypaeetos, or vulture eagle. There is one kind of eagles, naturalists say (e), will not feed on flesh, which is called the bird of Jupiter; but, in common, the eagle is represented as a very rapacious creature, seizing, and feeding upon the flesh of hares, fawns, geese, &c. and the rather this creature is designed here; since, of all birds, this is the only one that is not hurt with lightning (f), and so can immediately seize carcasses killed thereby; to which there seems to be an allusion here, by comparing it with the preceding verse: however, the Persic version, though it is literally a proper one, yet from the several things observed, it is not to be overlooked and slighted.

(z) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 4. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 4. c. 2.((a) Aelian. de Animal. Natura, l. 2. c. 46. (b) De Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 32. (c) Hist. Nat l. 10. c. 3.((d) In Matt. Homil. 49. (e) Aelian. de Animal. l. 9. c. 10. (f) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 2. c. 55.

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