Matthew 24:28

From BelieveTheSign
What do you think?

The statements by William Branham included in these articles are so strong, they force you to make a conclusion.


(a) Will you accept William Branham's statements and conclude that he was God himself - greater than Jesus, equal to the Holy Spirit, infallible, and above reproach?


(b) Or will you conclude that William Branahm was delusional.


There is no middle ground, because to compromise these statements requires you to deny William Branham's own words. It's time to choose: is William Branham's word Infallible, or was his message fallible?

This article is one in a series of studies on the doctrines of William Branham that pointed to himself - you are currently on the article that is in bold:

For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together. (KJV)

William Branham’s followers insist that he was Elijah of Malachi 4, and therefore had a divine right and supernatural ability to interpret the scripture. His interpretation of scripture is accepted over any other, no matter the source, often despite the plain meaning of scripture itself. This is especially troubling because William Branham often paid little attention to context or even the simplest laws of grammar when interpreting a passage of scripture. One example is Matthew 24:28, a verse frequently repeated in message pulpits. Similar comments would also apply to Luke 17:37, although it is not used as frequently.

What William Branham taught

What is that carcass? The carcass is what the eagles feed on. Now, an eagle is considered in the Bible, a prophet. A prophet is the eagle. God--God calls himself a eagle, and we're eaglets then, the--the believers. You see? And what is the carcass that they feed on? Is the Word. Wherever the Word is, the true nature of the bird will show itself. See? A eagle, which wants fresh meat, he must have his fresh meat. [1]

The way William Branham unpacks this verse, we are to understand Jesus to mean: Wherever the living Word of the hour is being preached, the elect bride will be congregated around it.

We won't deal with the issue of whether an eagle is a type of the prophet in the Bible; however, this is also based on lazy theology which we deal with in a separate article - The Prophet and The Eagle

What the Bible is actually saying

In understanding the Bible, you MUST NOT take things out of context.

Perhaps the leading interpretive principle for understanding any document can be summarized in three words: “Context. Context. Context.” [2]

With respect to Matthew 24:28, neither the context of the passage, nor the original language support William Branham's interpretation. Throughout the 24th chapter of Matthew, Jesus is foretelling the great tribulations to come, and is responding to his disciples question of how they will know when these things will take place (v.3).

Jesus warns them about being led astray, about false prophets arising with secret revelation (v.26), and finally says that the coming of the son of man will be no secret, rather, it will be as obvious as lightning flashing across the sky. Many scholars believe that verse 28 is simply Jesus summing up his answer by giving an allegorical reference, as he so often did in his sermons and parables: “there, I’ve told you the signs to look for, if you want to find a body, look for the vultures.”

Vultures? But I thought the bible said ‘eagles’? No. In fact, nearly every English translation in print translates the Greek word aetos as “vultures”.

Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. [3]
Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.[4]
Wherever there is a dead body, the vultures will gather.[5]
The Arrival of the Son of Man isn’t something you go to see. He comes like swift lightning to you! Whenever you see crowds gathering, think of carrion vultures circling, moving in, hovering over a rotting carcass. You can be quite sure that it’s not the living Son of Man pulling in those crowds.[6]

Eagle or Vulture?

The Greek word aetos can refer to any number of large, meat eating birds, and whether the Biblical reference is to an eagle or a vulture depends on the context.

ἀετός (aetos) — ‘eagle, vulture.’ ἐδόθησαν τῇ γυναικὶ αἱ δύο πτέρυγες τοῦ ἀετοῦ τοῦ μεγάλου ‘they gave the woman two wings of a large eagle’ Re 12:14; ὅπου ἐὰν ᾖ τὸ πτῶμα, ἐκεῖ συναχθήσονται οἱ ἀετοί ‘wherever there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather’ Mt 24:28.
In Re 12:14 the emphasis is upon strength and speed, and therefore a term meaning ‘eagle’ is probably more satisfactory, but in Mt 24:28 (and the parallel passages in Lk 17:37) the reference is to the eating of dead flesh, and therefore a word meaning ‘vultures’ is more appropriate.
The basic distinction between eagles and vultures is that the former either capture their prey or feed upon dead carcasses, while vultures only feed upon dead carcasses. Only in the Western Hemisphere are there two distinct families of birds: (1) birds of prey, which also feed upon dead bodies (eagles) and (2) vultures, which never take live prey, but only feed upon carcasses. [7]

How can we be sure William Branham wasn’t correct? Perhaps the numerous translators leaned too heavily on the apparent vulture/carcass context and missed Jesus’ subtle meaning. William Branham certainly seemed to think so:

Where the carcass is (the Manna is, the Word is), there the eagles will be gathered.[8]

William Branham's Incorrect Understanding of Nature

Grizzlies eating fresh meat

William Branham believed that eagles could only eat fresh meat. He also considered himself an expert on eagles.

They claim as the--that some of them were vultures because they eat carrion, but that was wrong. I would just different with the man that wrote, because I know eagles. Eagles only eat live meat. Vultures eat--eat carrion. But a real eagle kills his own meat. He has to have it fresh, just like the grizzly bear and the black bear. The black bear is a scavenger. He--he eats carrion. But--but the grizzly bear, he has to kill fresh every night or when he's going to eat, he eats.
And so is the eagle. A eagle gets fresh meat. He doesn't want anything that's stale, or left over, or hand-me-downs. He--he wants to get his--his own meat. [9]

William Branham pictured himself as an expert on nature because he was a hunter. The problem is that he never really studied animals other than to kill them.

While William Branham stated that he knew eagles, he didn't. It is well known and an accepted fact that all eagles eat carrion.[10]

He also stated that grizzly bears also only eat fresh meat but this is also far from the truth. It is estimated that a grizzly bear's diet consists of 80-90% of plant material and they also eat carrion.[11]

Fresh Kill or Dead Body?

Though the context of the passage and the ambiguity of the Greek word aetos should be sufficient to refute William Branham’s repeated misinterpretation of this verse, the kicker comes when we look a little closer at Branham’s treatment of the word carcass.

He not only interprets carcass as meaning the “Word” as in, the Word for our day, but as Christ himself.

What is the carcass? The Word. He is the Word, the Carcass, Christ, Christ in you, the same yesterday, today, and forever.[12]

William Branham’s intention here is so clear that Voice of God Recordings actually chooses to capitalize the word carcass!

πτῶμα (ptoma) means “fall,” “plunge,” “collapse,” Aesch. Suppl., 797, transf. “evil,” “defeat,” Aesch. Choeph., 13; Eur. Herc. Fur., 1228, then “what has fallen.”1
In the LXX 23 times, 8 in Job (only 11 also in Heb., almost as many Heb. equivalents): Is. 30:13 f. of the collapse of a wall...The meaning “corpse” occurs only in Judges 14:8 (carcass of a lion), perhaps also ψ 109:6 (this use gains ground somewhat in ἈΘΣ).
The only meaning in the NT is “corpse,” the carcass of an animal in Mt. 24:28 (vl. σῶμα א; influence of Lk. 17:37), otherwise a human corpse:
  1. Mt. 14:12 (vl. σῶμα K) and Mk. 6:29 - of the body of John the Baptist,
  2. Rev. 11:8 of the bodies of the two witnesses (Rev 11:8, 9a collective sing., 9b plur.).[13]

The Greek word translated as carcass, is ptoma which refers to either:

  1. the fallen body of one dead or slain, a corpse, a carcass.
  2. that which has fallen
  3. (metaphorical) a downfall, defeat, calamity, error, or lapse into sin.

There is simply no way around the obvious here; the original Greek word carries an even more negative connotation than the English word can convey! In order to continue to accept William Branham’s interpretation of Matthew 24:28, one would have to come to grips with this disturbing picture: Wherever the ptoma is, there will the aetos be gathered together. To make it clearer still:

Wherever the (dead corpse, the lapse into sin & error, the downfall & calamity) are, there will the (vultures? or is it eagles?... eaglets, prophet, called out, elect, bride?) be gathered together.

One can see how moot the discussion of eagles vs. vultures is in light of the clear --and grim-- reality of what Jesus meant when he said carcass. Whichever bird it is, you don’t want to be one of them. This isn’t splitting hairs. This isn’t twisting a dead man’s words for the purposes of discrediting him, as some will accuse. This is a poignant example of reckless and irresponsible eisigesis[14] of scripture, as Peter himself warned:

There are some things in them [Paul’s epistles] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. [15]

The Real Problem

The story here isn’t the obvious error, as no one understands the Bible perfectly, all of the time. The point is this: the man making the error claimed to be the prophet to this age, to have a divinely gifted ability to unpack the scriptures, and yet time and again, we see him reading his own bias into the Bible even when honesty to the text will not support that view, and worse, even changing the scripture in order to make it work. This is not a prophet of God opening the Word to the people.

It is a tragically deceived man, intent of bending God’s Word to make it support his delusions of grandeur, and in the process, causing thousands of ministers to stand in front of congregations --perhaps hundreds of thousands-- and relay this type of biblical exposition as the revealed Word for the hour.

Paul urges us to present ourselves to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15) He goes on in v.16 to admonish us to “avoid irreverent babble”. Though many assume he was referring to gossip here, the context reveals that he was dealing with false doctrine. (2 Tim. 2:16-18)

Will we reverently treat the Word of God as the very words of God, filtering all men’s teaching through the totality of scripture, or will we drawn away by the doctrines of a man who is clearly identified many times in scripture, not as Elijah, but as a false prophet who made a career out of irreverent babble.


Footnotes

  1. Questions & Answers, Conduct, Order and Doctrine #2, 1964 (tape#64-0823M)
  2. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Book of Revelation Made Easy: You Can Understand Bible Prophecy, Second Edition, 34 (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2010).
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Mt 24:28 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).
  4. The New International Version, Mt 24:28 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).
  5. American Bible Society, The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation, 2nd ed., Mt 24:28 (New York: American Bible Society, 1992).
  6. Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, Mt 24:27–28 (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005).
  7. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, vol. 1, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., 44 (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996).
  8. The Anointed Ones at the End Time, vol.5, no.3A, 1965 (tape#65-0725M)
  9. AS.THE.EAGLE.STIRS.HER.NEST_ BEAUMONT.TX SUNDAY_ 61-0122
  10. Wikipedia article on the diet of the Bald Eagle
  11. Wikipedia article on the diet of the Grizzly Bear
  12. The Seed is not Heir with the Shuck, vol. 6, no 4R, 1965 (tape#65-0218)
  13. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, electronic ed., 166 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-).
  14. Eisigisis: The act of reading an understanding, or opinion into a text, usually biblical text, which may or may not be supported or evident by the text itself - in accordance with the person’s own presuppositions, agendas, and/or biases. This is the opposite of exegesis, which means to derive the meaning ‘out of’ the text.
  15. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, 2 Pe 3:16 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).


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