3.2.8 Eagle: Lord of the Heavens
Volume 3: Living Symbols—Chapter 2.8
Eagle: Lord of the Heavens
We have so far explored three of the four “living beings” that together prophetically represent the characteristics of the Messiah—the ox (the servant), the man (the maker of choices), and the lion (the one who wields authority). It is now time to look at the last of them: the eagle. Ezekiel recorded in his first vision, “As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.” (Ezekiel 1:10) Later, in the “wheel within a wheel” vision, the same truth was expressed like this: “And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of the cherub [a powerful servant, like the ox, but this one is angelic—a spiritual servant], and the second face was a human face, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.” (Ezekiel 10:14)
John’s apocalyptic vision contained the same imagery: “Around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living [beings], full of eyes in front and behind: the first living [being] like a lion, the second living [being] like an ox, the third living [being] with the face of a man, and the fourth living [being] like an eagle in flight.” (Revelation 4:5-7) All four living beings enlisted to comprise this composite picture of God’s Messiah have their own strengths, their own unique symbolic characteristics. John points out the eagle’s signature trait: flight. The eagle is not earthbound, but is at home in the heavens. He can not only fly, but soar at great altitudes, effortlessly riding the air currents and thermals for hours on end. But although this ability removes him far from the earth, the eagle’s astoundingly sharp vision compensates for the lack of physical proximity: though separate from the earth, he nevertheless sees quite clearly what’s happening down here on the ground. The eagle makes his nest in the highest crags of the mountains or in the tallest trees—inaccessible to man and beast. All of this conspires to make the eagle an effective symbol to communicate the fourth and final attribute of the Messiah—He is God incarnate, lord of the heavens. Without this essential element, the rest would be meaningless.
The eagle presents a picture of absolute freedom, of untouchable autonomy. Solomon noted, “Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin.” (Proverbs 30:18-19) The eagle goes where he wants, when he wants. It is thus with some irony that Solomon, one of the richest men who ever lived, speaks of the propensity of wealth to fly away from its owner, without so much as a “by your leave.” “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:4-5) Been there, done that. I don’t know why I find this verse so humorous, but I do.
Job was challenged by Yahweh to comprehend the way He had designed the eagle, and to match the skill with which He had made this magnificent raptor: “Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high? On the rock he dwells and makes his home, on the rocky crag and stronghold. From there he spies out the prey; his eyes behold it afar off.” It’s interesting that God then caps His challenge by pointing out that the eagle is not only a hunter, but also a scavenger. He is equipped with a hooked beak and razor sharp talons, and he uses them with great skill. “His young ones suck up blood, and where the slain are, there is he.” (Job 39:26-30) This is a perfect setup for an enigmatic observation Yahshua the Messiah would make two thousand years later, something we’ll discuss in a bit.
The fact that the eagle both pursues the living and disposes of the dead makes him a perfect metaphor for some of the military surrogates Yahweh has enlisted to chastise His errant nation. Israel’s breakaway northern kingdom, a.k.a. Ephraim, rebelled against God’s instructions from their idolatrous beginning under Jeroboam until their bitter end at the hands (or should I say, claws) of the Assyrian eagle. So Hosea writes, “Set the trumpet to your lips! One like an eagle is over the house of Yahweh, because they have transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law. To Me they cry, ‘My God, we—Israel—know you.’ Israel has spurned the good; the enemy shall pursue him. They made kings, but not through Me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction.” (Hosea 8:1-4) Israel presumed they were alive, since they had “history” with Yahweh. They thought they knew Him. But God knew better: the eagle He sent—Assyria’s king Shalmaneser (II Kings 18:9-12)—was assigned not so much to hunt down and kill them as it was to pick clean their already lifeless spiritual corpse.
The magnificent autonomy of eagles—their ability to do what they want, when they want—is the basis of the following prophetic parable from Ezekiel, in which two eagles are seen in competition. (Fortunately, the parable is explained in the verses following the passage. I’ll fill in the blanks.) “The word of Yahweh came to me: Son of man, propound a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel.” It’s nice when Yahweh tells us up front that He’s using symbols. He employs them all the time, but He seldom says so. “Say, thus says the Lord Yahweh: A great eagle [this would be Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon] with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colors, came to Lebanon [figuratively, the place of pride] and took the top of the cedar. He broke off the topmost of its young twigs [i.e., Judah’s proud king Jehoaichin and his princes] and carried it to a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants.” That’s Judah’s Babylonian captivity, beginning in 597 BC. “Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters.” This reference is to Zedekiah, the puppet king Nebuchadnezzar then installed in Jerusalem. “He set it like a willow twig, and it sprouted and became a low spreading vine, and its branches turned toward him, and its roots remained where it stood. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out boughs….” That is, for a time, Zedekiah served Nebuchadnezzar (whom Yahweh had sent to punish Judah for its apostasy) as he was supposed to.
But the story wasn’t over. “And there was another great eagle [this time, Egypt is in view] with great wings and much plumage, and behold, this vine [Zedekiah] bent its roots toward him [the Egyptian eagle] and shot forth its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted [Jerusalem], that he [Egypt] might water it. It had been planted on good soil by abundant waters, that it might produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble vine….” In other words, Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar’s vassal king in Jerusalem, sought help against his master by appealing to Egypt. It was a mutiny, and since Yahweh had empowered Babylon as His rod of correction (as had been revealed by His prophets) the rebellion was actually against God Himself. The whole thing is thus a picture of what it means to reject the discipline of true God in favor of the empty promises of a false one.
This may seem counterintuitive in the extreme, considering what Babylon (as a symbol) means: systematic false worship—manmade religion. But Babylon per se is not being used as a symbol here: it is not mentioned in the parable. Rather, the two unnamed “eagles” are seen vying for Judah’s affections. Specifically, the question is whether Judah will accept (and even embrace) Yahweh’s rod of correction—which, after all, is said to be “padded” with fertile soil and abundant waters to prevent it from being too terribly painful—or reject God’s chastisement, refusing to return to Him, repent of their idolatries, or mend their ways. In the parable, it was made clear what the rebellious Zedekiah would do: he’d turn to Egypt, the rival eagle. So the parable’s moral is stated: “Say, thus says the Lord Yahweh: Will it thrive?” That is, will Jerusalem find respite from its self-inflicted troubles by rejecting Yahweh’s uncomfortable but temporary discipline? “Will he [the first eagle, Nebuchadnezzar] not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers, so that all its fresh sprouting leaves wither? It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it from its roots. Behold, it is planted; will it thrive? Will it not utterly wither when the east wind strikes it—wither away on the bed where it sprouted?” (Ezekiel 17:1-10) Within eleven short years from the exile and installation of the puppet king, Jerusalem was “withered by the east wind” from Babylon: Nebuchadnezzar’s forces utterly destroyed the city and the temple in 586 BC. By allowing His temple to be torn down, Yahweh was telling the rebellious Judah, ever so eloquently, “Since you have chosen to reject My instructions, My provision, and My discipline, I won’t force you to look at My temple—the architectural metaphor for My entire plan for mankind’s redemption—any more. After all, free will is yours to wield, for better or for worse. But you have chosen the worst possible option.”
The lesson for us: be careful whom you choose as allies, whether national or personal—especially when enduring a period of divine discipline. There is no refuge other than Yahweh. The Psalmist describes how it was supposed to work: “You have dealt well with your servant, O Yahweh, according to your word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes…. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:65-68, 71) Accepting God’s rod of correction in humility—and even thanking Yahweh for applying it—is the only wise course of action open to us, presuming we learn from our mistakes and retain the lessons, no matter how painful they might seem. It’s not as if Yahweh’s discipline is unwarranted or unfair—or even overly harsh. He, after all, invented the concept of “Let the punishment fit the crime.” But the door to God’s “woodshed” is never locked. We can leave if we want; we can flee from His uncomfortable attentions. However, our Father would have us to know that there are worse fates than having to submit ourselves to His will and wisdom.
The swiftness of the eagle is a recurring component of its scriptural symbology. Job, for instance, saw his good life escaping from him with the swiftness of an eagle, his days carried away and lost to him through forces he could not control. “My days are swifter than a runner; they flee away; they see no good. They go by like skiffs of reed, like an eagle swooping on the prey.” (Job 9:25-26) On a more positive note, David eulogized the fallen King Saul and his son as eagles in battle, swift warriors and strong leaders: “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions.” (II Samuel 1:23) This swiftness brings with it the element of surprise, a speed against which an adversary cannot adequately defend himself. The Nazis called it blitzkrieg—lightning war.
Yahweh warned His people Israel that this kind of rapid assault would come against them if they failed to heed His Instructions: “All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes that He commanded you…. Yahweh will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young. It shall eat the offspring of your cattle and the fruit of your ground, until you are destroyed; it also shall not leave you grain, wine, or oil, the increase of your herds or the young of your flock, until they have caused you to perish.” (Deuteronomy 28:45, 49-51) Although left unspecified in this prophecy, this “swooping eagle” would turn out to be Assyria (in the case of Ephraim) and Babylon (in the case of Judah).
The warning had been delivered during the Exodus, but nothing had changed nine hundred years later, when Jeremiah saw the eagle of Babylon up close: “At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, ‘A hot wind from the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of My people, not to winnow or cleanse, a wind too full for this comes for Me. Now it is I who speak in judgment upon them.’ Behold, he comes up like clouds; his chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles—woe to us, for we are ruined! O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you?” (Jeremiah 4:11-14) Even now, Yahweh was pleading with Judah to repent, to turn back to Him. But His entreaties fell on deaf ears. Judah remained in stubborn denial about the swift eagle of Nebuchadnezzar—even after he had swooped in for the attack not once, but twice, in 601 and 597 BC. If they had “washed their heart from evil” as Yahweh had implored them to do, Judah could have spared itself the devastating siege and utter destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, in 586 BC.
The history of the thing is revealing—if not exactly straightforward. First, we read that “In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him. And Yahweh sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of Yahweh that he spoke by his servants the prophets.” The Jeremiah 4 passage we just saw was only one of many prophetic warnings. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, and others also got their two bits in. And why was Yahweh so angry with Judah? “Surely this came upon Judah at the command of Yahweh, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and Yahweh would not pardon.” (II Kings 24:1-4) Yahweh hates the shedding of innocent blood. From Abel to the Tribulation martyrs, He never lets it go unanswered—ever.
I haven’t left the topic of eagle symbology. We were just told of Moabite raiding parties helping Nebuchadnezzar. (This took place in 602-601 BC.) Yahweh didn’t fail to notice what was going on: “For thus says Yahweh: ‘Behold, one shall fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Moab; the cities shall be taken and the strongholds seized. The heart of the warriors of Moab shall be in that day like the heart of a woman in her birth pains. Moab shall be destroyed and be no longer a people, because he magnified himself against Yahweh.” (Jeremiah 48:40-42) The principle is that even though a nation is used of God to punish His people (as was the case with Assyria, Babylon, Syria, Moab, and Ammon), unwarranted enthusiasm in doing so will in turn result in Yahweh’s judgment upon the implement of discipline. There’s always a bigger eagle.
Habakkuk also wrote of the speed of the coming Babylonian onslaught: “Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!” (Habakkuk 1:8-11) But this prophet, like so many others, speaks not only of the impending invasion of Judah, but sees it as a harbinger of future judgment: the issues are universal and the ramifications extend to the end of the age. Yahweh told him, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:2-4)
The eagle, as “lord of the heavens,” is, not surprisingly, a sarcastic epithet sometimes given to people or nations who see themselves as untouchable or invincible. Yahweh, through Habakkuk, continues to rail, not against a nation, but against a class of men who through financial manipulation seek to gain hegemony and autonomy over the whole earth. This is precisely the ploy of what conspiracy buffs refer to as the Illuminati—a powerful and secretive cadre of bankers, industrialists, and politicians who are now well on their way toward achieving their goal—codified in Adam Weishaupt’s 1776 manifesto—of “owning” the whole world. “Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, ‘Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—for how long?—and loads himself with pledges!...’” World monetary structure today is built on a house of cards called debt. Even the “wealthiest” nations are awash in debts they will never be able to pay back. And who loaned them all this money? Central banks, who are, illogically enough, given the power to create funds out of thin air, based on debt, and then to lend the money to their respective national overlords at interest. It’s fiscal insanity on a worldwide scale, and only a fool could fail to see that it can’t be sustained forever.
So the prophet asks, “Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.” Obviously, it is in the central bankers’ perceived self interest to loan as much money as possible to their respective governments (whose plan it is to recoup the money by taxing their people). So it should come as no surprise that the same bankers, industrialists, and politicians who run the system have a vested interest in making sure there are always expensive wars going on—“the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.” Nor should it surprise us that Yahweh saw the whole fiasco, and its inevitable end, several millennia before it happened. As I write these words, the human race appears to be poised at the very edge of the cliff, peering into the chasm of chaos that awaits it. The Illuminati (or whatever you want to call them—the scriptural term is “Babylon,” in its financial permutation) see themselves as eagles, safe and invulnerable in their lofty perches of power. But God has ordained their end: “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life.” (Habakkuk 2:6-10)
The international elite are only one variation of this sin of collective pride, of course. Many nations throughout the course of history have imagined themselves to be invincible—eagles living above the mundane fray, invincible and indestructible. Some (like Imperial Rome, Nazi Germany, and the United States, to name but a few) have even adopted the eagle as a national talisman. Yahweh would have them (and us) to know that it’s all an illusion: we all live in the shadow of His wings; we are all subject to His judgment. The prophet Obadiah speaks of Edom—the descendants of Esau—in this light. “Thus says the Lord Yahweh concerning Edom: We have heard a report from Yahweh, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: ‘Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!’ Behold, I will make you small among the nations. You shall be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares Yahweh.” (Obadiah 1-4) The mightiest of men are less than navel lint in Yahweh’s estimation. Pride is therefore the most idiotic of institutions.
Jeremiah expands the thought—still speaking of Edom while providing universal admonition to the rest of us: “The horror you inspire has deceived you, and the pride of your heart, you who live in the clefts of the rock, who hold the height of the hill. Though you make your nest as high as the eagle’s, I will bring you down from there, declares Yahweh. Edom shall become a horror. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters.” It wasn’t so much Edom’s actual strength that God objected to, but her pride in it. As Solomon once noted, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. “As when Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities were overthrown, says Yahweh, no man shall dwell there, no man shall sojourn in her. Behold, like a lion coming up from the jungle of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly make him run away from her. And I will appoint over her whomever I choose….” This is how it worked out historically: originally Edom was due south of the Dead Sea, in modern-day southern Jordan. Edom is often identified in scripture with Mt. Seir, in the mountain range just east of the Arabah (the rift valley running north and south between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba). But if you’ll check a good Bible atlas, you’ll notice that the nation slowly crept west, then north, as time went on—eventually supplanted geographically by the Nabataeans, then the Byzantines, and then the Arabs. By the time of Christ, the name Edom had morphed into Idumea, and their territory extended from Gaza (only a few miles from the Med) to the Dead Sea (now its eastern border). In other words, it ended up smack in the middle of ancient Judah. Edom basically evaporated into the surrounding cultures.
Yahweh goes on to explain: “For who is like Me? Who will summon Me? What shepherd can stand before Me? Therefore hear the plan that Yahweh has made against Edom and the purposes that He has formed against the inhabitants of Teman. Even the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away. Surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. At the sound of their fall the earth shall tremble; the sound of their cry shall be heard at the Red Sea. Behold, one shall mount up and fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Bozrah, and the heart of the warriors of Edom shall be in that day like the heart of a woman in her birth pains.” (Jeremiah 49:16-22) The final swift eagle deployed against Edom (or at least Edomite territory—Teman is a city about 60 miles due south of the Dead Sea; Bozrah is north and a bit east of Teman) will apparently be the returning King Yahshua. Isaiah reports (in 63:1) that the winepress of God’s “day of vengeance” will be “trodden out alone” by Yahweh (in the person of the risen Messiah, we may safely presume)—beginning in Edom, at Bozrah. This is evidently the first engagement of the Battle of Armageddon, for Yahweh through Isaiah reports (in 63:6) that “I have trodden down the peoples (plural in the Hebrew: amim—families, nations, or armies) in My anger.” As in, more than just Edomites.
The eagle is recruited as a scriptural symbol fairly often in reference to the Last Days. One of the more enigmatic of these is found in the Olivet Discourse, in which Yahshua answered a question from His disciples with a remark about eagles (or vultures—the word aetos can mean either thing). Matthew’s version is a bit cryptic: “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the eagles will gather.” (Matthew 24:27-28) Luke’s, however, makes it clear that the four disciples whom Yahshua was addressing had asked a question about two contrasted prophetic eventualities, both of which were answered by the “eagle” comment. Yahshua said, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” What He was describing is the lightning-sudden separation of the redeemed from the rest of humanity at the rapture. “And they said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the eagles will gather.’” (Luke 17:33-37)
Yahshua’s answer explained the nature of the rapture, both “where they (the redeemed, those who were okay with ‘losing’ their lives on Christ’s behalf) are taken” and “where they (the lost, those who sought to preserve their mortal lives at all costs) are left.” The key word is the Greek word soma, translated “corpse” here. Thayer’s lexicon explains that soma can mean the body of a man or animal, dead or alive; a star or heavenly body; a group of people, such as a family, or organization such as the Church; or the thing that casts the shadow, as opposed to the shadow itself. In other words, it means pretty much what “body” does in English. “Corpse,” then, is probably too narrow a translation, especially in light of the fact that soma is related to the verb sozo: to save or keep safe, to rescue from danger or destruction.
Yahshua had told them, “One will be taken and the other left.” And they answered with a question: “Where, Lord?” His reply was a play on words answering both questions, that is, “Where will they be taken?” and “Where will they be left?” The first answer could be rendered, “Where my followers—the body of Christ, those who are safe in My love—are found, that is where My Spirit will have gathered them together.” The second answer would be, “Where those left behind are found, that is where the carrion birds will come together to feast upon their corpses.” Or words to that effect.
There is one more side to the eagle symbol that we need to explore: the idea that the eagle, being the autonomous “lord of the heavens,” has the ability, not to mention the desire, to shelter his offspring from harm. The eagle is portrayed caring for its young, providing shelter, and renewing its strength—what we might call “getting its second wind”—in the face of adversity and danger. Using this imagery, Moses presents a poignant picture of God’s role in Israel’s preservation as that of an eagle: “Yahweh’s portion is His people, Jacob His allotted heritage. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness. He encircled him, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, Yahweh alone guided him; no foreign god was with Him.” (Deuteronomy 32:9-12) Immediately after the exodus, Yahweh described to Israel what He had done for them: “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” His continued care, however, depended upon their willingness to remain in the nest. “ Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:3-6)
God’s care over Israel is an echo of the way Yahweh’s Spirit attended to the creation of the fledgling universe. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) Contrary to the opinion of agnostic theorists who are perhaps willing to admit the possibility of a God, but only in a distant, impersonal role, we are informed that Yahweh takes a personal “hands-on” interest in our world—and in us. And contrary to the estimation of atheistic secular humanists, man has no knowledge or power that he didn’t ultimately receive from His Creator: “Who has measured the Spirit of Yahweh, or what man shows Him his counsel? Whom did He consult, and who made Him understand? Who taught Him the path of justice, and taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14) The Spirit, like the eagle, has no use for man’s flawed wisdom.
The same picture—that of the Holy Spirit “hovering” over its work-in-progress—is presented in Yahshua’s lament over the fate of the holy city in the wake of it’s rejection of His Messianic credentials: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen [or a mother eagle?] gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see Me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh.’” (Matthew 23:37-39, quoting Psalm 118:26) That’s not like saying, “…until hell freezes over,” by the way. Israel will at last—after two thousand years of pathological denial—see her Messiah, and recognize that Yahshua has indeed “come in the name of Yahweh,” on the definitive Day of Atonement—unless I’ve completely misread Yahweh’s heavy-handed prophetic clues, on October 3, 2033.
The fact that Israel has not yet recognized or received her Messiah will not prevent Yahweh from keeping His word to protect her as He did during the exodus, “bearing her on eagles’ wings and bringing her to Himself,” as we read above. The “eagle” metaphor is once again employed to describe God’s shelter of Israel during the second half of the Tribulation, when (as Daniel puts it) “the power of the holy people is completely shattered.” “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman [Israel] who had given birth to the male child [Yahshua]. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent [Satan] into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time [i.e., three and a half prophetic years—1,260 days].” (Revelation 12:13-14) This allegorical vignette dovetails nicely with the broad sweep of Last Days prophecy. Briefly: the demon-controlled Antichrist will become “dictator of planet earth” near the midpoint of the Tribulation—at an event known as the “abomination of desolation.” At this time, he will attempt to impose a mark and oath of loyalty upon the whole world (beginning with Israel, I’m guessing). But they (stubborn to the end) will reject his Messianic claims and “fly (with God’s assistance) from the serpent into the wilderness,” where they will be miraculously fed, protected and taught—“nourished,” as the Revelation 12 passage puts it—for forty-two months by Yahweh’s angelic host. When it’s all over, they will be prepared at last to meet their true Messiah—the One they rejected two millennia previously. Better late than never, I guess. The timing, by the way, was revealed by the prophet Hosea: “Come, let us return to Yahweh; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up. After two days [i.e., two thousand years] He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him.” (Hosea 6:1-2)
That’s not the only “eagle activity” going on during the Tribulation. The following scene is connected with the fourth trumpet judgment, which by my reckoning would put it somewhere close to the midpoint of the Tribulation—the same general timeframe as the “great eagle’s” rescue of Israel. But here, the eagle is warning the rest of the world of the plagues to come. “Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!’” (Revelation 8:13) The messenger here is described as an eagle, but a bit later, three angels are seen delivering very similar news to the hapless inhabitants of earth as the Great Tribulation (the second half) is about to begin. Could it be that what was described as “an eagle” in Revelation 8 was actually an angel? Remember, the word translated “angel,” in both Greek and Hebrew, simply means messenger, so it’s certainly a plausible conjecture—not that it really matters: this was, after all, seen in a vision.
Anyway, the three angels of Revelation 14 have very specific messages to deliver: “Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead [precisely as the eagle of the three woes was described], with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water….’” This is a timely message indeed, for at this juncture, the Antichrist is about to try to force everyone on earth to bow to him and worship the dragon-demon who empowers him. Satan, who created nothing, is about to be outed as false god he is, for the true and living God, Yahweh, is about to mess with everything he made for man’s enjoyment and survival: the heavens (i.e., the sky), the surface of the earth, the oceans, and the world’s fresh water sources—just to show everyone who the real deity is.
“Another angel, a second, followed, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.’ (Revelation 14:6-8) The second angel announces the fall of what scripture calls “Babylon,” not just the city (which fell some time ago) but “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots,” that is, the collective expression of mankind’s idolatry, whether religious, cultural, political (the lust for power), or financial. The “sexual immorality” (some translations read “fornication”) of which the prophet speaks encompasses far more than literal illicit sex (though it no doubt includes it). This is the consistent scriptural metaphor for our unfaithfulness to Yahweh—in a word, idolatry. It isn’t “theological mistakes.” It’s purposeful systematic adoration and devotion to something—anything—that isn’t Yahweh.
On a more specific note, the fall of Babylon against which the angel is warning the world here signals the catastrophic collapse of the world’s financial infrastructure—economic meltdown on a global scale. Why now, exactly? After all, anybody with his eyes open nowadays can see it coming. Even as I write these words, the world’s governments are saddling their populations with multiplied trillions in debt they will never be able to repay. Remember Habakkuk 2:6-10, the passage I quoted a few pages back? John now reports the fruition of Habakkuk’s prophecy: “Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you.” Yes, they will. And the “suddenness” of which Habakkuk speaks is echoed in Revelation 18, where the judgment of financial or commercial Babylon is described as happening “in one hour.”
The Antichrist will capitalize (if you’ll pardon the pun) upon the economic chaos, using other people’s money—stolen, ironically enough, from the bankers of Babylon—to finance his own megalomaniacal aspirations. The heart of his plan (as far as controlling the populace is concerned) will be to implement what is known as “the mark of the beast,” a combination oath of loyalty and identification-for-commerce system that, on paper anyway, promises to eliminate the worldwide debt crisis, streamline commerce, prevent theft and fraud, and reign in the anarchy characteristic of the times. The sinister truth, however, is that the mark officially allies the bearer with “the dragon,” a euphemism for Satan, our adversary. Thus we see a third angel, like an eagle soaring untouched through the heavens, screeching out a warning to the hapless citizens of the earth below: “Whatever you do, do not receive the Antichrist’s mark!” "And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.’” (Revelation 14:8-10)
Alas, we are told that all over the world, multitudes of people will ignore this warning. John informs us, “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming His name and His dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. Authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.” (Revelation 13:5-8)
At this point, it all looks exceedingly grim. Satan has been given three and a half years to have his way with the earth, and God’s people (that is, those who came to faith after the rapture) are subsequently faced with mayhem or martyrdom, the ultimate trial (cf. Revelation 3:10). But even now, when things are worse than they’ve ever been (which is sayin’ something), God offers hope: “Bless Yahweh, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless Yahweh, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5) Those on earth who heeded the eagle/angels’ warnings, who turned to Yahweh before it was too late, will be given the strength the times require—strength to face hunger, thirst, terror, and environmental disaster, strength to fight against impossible odds, and strength to hide from a world irrationally bent on their destruction. Many will even be given the strength and courage to face martyrdom for their faith. Whether or not their tormentors ever figure it out, the Tribulation faithful—the “Church of repentant Laodicea,” as I like to call them—will prove impossible to defeat. The very gates of hell will not prevail against them. Even though their bodies can be slain, their souls cannot: whether in life or in death, their “youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Daniel was told (in 12:7) that before these things are finished, “the power of the holy people will be completely shattered.” They will have no political authority, no cultural influence, and no financial clout. They will be, as far as the world is concerned, non-persons: either fugitives living off the grid or prisoners awaiting execution. But the world doesn’t know the God they serve: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for Yahweh 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 40:29-31)
We who wait on Yahweh may die, but we’ll never stop living.