This passage was the one that I kept coming back to, so again I’ve done research – going beyond meditating on this verse, I like to dig into the original meaning of the word and find out what I can once a scripture stands out. I was reading in Luke 17 where the disciples were asking Jesus about the Second Coming:
“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 NLT)
When I read this in the NLT, I kept thinking – where death and decay are found. After looking into the original Greek, ἀετοὶ for ‘aetos’, is defined as ‘bird of prey’ which either means an Eagle or a Vulture – but since Eagles do not eat carrion, Vultures is the word generally accepted.
What do vultures eat – they eat the dead, they do not ‘kill’. Eagles kill their prey, vultures eat on what has already been killed; they eat the dead remains, what was once alive, but have now become dead – which is without life; and decay – which has rotted away. There is a difference in the Old World Vultures and today’s (New World Vultures) the Old World Vultures of the Biblical times did not search for prey by smell, they searched for prey by sight. Most of the times when vultures would be seen circling their prey, it was because the prey had yet to die, it was weak and dying. Since the vultures hunt by sight, when they would see other vultures circling, they would go in to investigate and soon many vultures would be circling the prey, waiting for its imminent death.
Now here’s where it gets interesting, the original greek , σῶμα for ‘sóma’, is used for ‘body’ which the short definition is: the body, the flesh; the Body of Church. Soma is also used figuratively of the mystical Body of Christ (= the Church, the one people of God). Wow, so these birds of prey are going to see the weakening of the church, they are going to exploit and prey on what has begun to lose its life. Since the eagle has to kill its prey and the vulture just waits for it to die, I see this death as something that happens from the inside, something that happens within the church. When I think of weakening, I can see an easy way for the enemy (the devil) to weaken the church is to divide the church, to divide is to weaken, to weaken is to diminish, to change, to alter, to modify, to decrease, to lessen. The devil wants nothing more than the weakening and ultimate death and decay of the body of the church!
One can start to see where I’m going with this analogy. I’m not going to say much else, except as much death and decay happening in this world; I am so happy to report that I see nothing but LIFE and the sharing of LOVE, JOY, and PEACE in my ‘home’ church. My church (as part of the Body of Christ) we are alive and thriving, teaching the Word of GOD and Salvation, sharing the Good News, giving and not taking. I know there are many more churches that are alive than are dead or decaying!
I have witnessed a lot of people taking offense at to what some churches use to help get people in the door, but I have to remind myself that taking offense is a sin, judging is a sin – we are not to do that. The only exception is if a church is teaching False Doctrine, that is something that I relate to Death and Decay – not the methods used to help lead people to Christ; does it matter if the concept to ‘win a prize’ got a person in the door, if once in those doors, they received Salvation? We can’t share the Gospel unless we reach others, one church’s method to reach the unbeliever cannot be judged, the disciples had different methods of preaching as well because not everyone is the same, we need different preachers for different people! The Apostle Paul said that the motive didn’t even matter as long as the Good News was preached:
But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. (Philippians 1:18 NLT)