ESV - 37 And they said to him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
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In my opinion, Jesus is saying in this passage that, just as a gathering in the air or on the ground of birds that feed on carrion indicates that a carcass or corpse is nearby, so the appearance of the signs of which He has been speaking will indicate that His future sudden return (or His "revealing" as He referred to it in Luke 17:30) is near.
To better understand what is going on here, we need to go back and read starting with Luke 17:20, where Jesus is teaching the end of this world events and His return in glory. These events are being compared with Noah’s days and Sodom destruction. Then, in Luke 17:34-36 it gets really interesting: “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." Jesus here is using symbolic language, and from other places in the Bible we know that sleep means the grave (John 11:13, 14) and women are churches (Rev 19:7, 8; 21:2). Using these symbols, we can easily establish that Jesus is saying that out the two who are resting in the grave, and out of two churches grinding, one will be saved, and one will not be saved. Grain is God’s word (Mark 4:8) and grinding means the work of spreading the Gospel. The disciples at this point are confused and ask: “Where Lord?” Jesus give the answer in Luke 17:37. The disciples wish to know where the "taken" ones have gone. The answer points toward destruction, the vultures being a symbol of doom. The meaning of "taken" is "taken in a snare," a common OT symbol of the work of judgment (Jer 48:43, 44; Eze 12:13; 17:20; Amos 3:5). Unlike the popular rapture doctrine, where the taken supposed to be the saved one, here Jesus clearly tell that the left behind are the saved and the taken will be “where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather”. This is consistent with Noah and his family who were left being and the lost who were taken away: “And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt 24:39 KJV). The one shall be taken, and the other left applies to the events of the Second Coming when the complete separation is made between the righteous and wicked. (Also see Matthew 13:24-30)
Jesus is talking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Roman army that will surround it. One interesting fact is the insignia of an eagle on the Roman’s staff and shields. This happened to that generation that was living at the time Jesus spoke this in AD 70.
Whenever we come across a verse we are puzzled about, it is really important to study and interpret the verse in its complete context. The referenced verse is part of a passage from Luke 17:20-37 in which Jesus is explaining the signs that will occur associated with his second coming. We have another more detailed account of this teaching by Jesus in the book of Matthew, chapter 24, verses 1 to 51. In Matthew Jesus provides a lot more information about what the signs of his coming will be and what will be happening in the world just before he comes. There is much to learn and interpret from this whole passage but space does not permit it here. So I will try to put the referenced verse Luke 17:37 into its context. After Jesus finishes describing what his second coming will be like, the disciples ask where these things will happen. Jesus replies, Where there is a dead body (carcass), there the vultures will gather. Why does Jesus talk about dead bodies? We know naturally that vultures are sure to gather where ever there are dead bodies. Does Jesus mean there will be dead bodies everywhere? Let's look at what we can learn from Matthew's account of Jesus's description of life on earth just before his second coming. 1. Many people will come claiming to be the Christ and will deceive many people (Matthew 24:5) 2. We will hear of wars and rumours of wars, nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom (Matthew 24:6-7) 3. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places (Matthew 24:7) 4. Believers will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death (Matthew 24:9) 5. Believers will be hated by all nations because of Jesus (Matthew 24: 9) 6. Many so-called Christians will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other (Matthew 24:11) 7. Wickedness will increase and the love of most people will grow cold (Matthew 24:12) 8. The gospel message about Jesus will be preached in the whole world (Matthew 24:14) 9. The abomination that causes desolation will be standing in the holy place, people living in Judea are to flee to the mountains, without going back to take anything with them or they will lose their life. (Matthew 24:15-20) 10. Then these key verses 21 & 22 when Jesus says "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would have survived, but for the sake of the elect, those days have been shortened." 11. Many false Christs and false prophets will appear and will perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible. (Matthew 24:24-25) 12. Then the Son of Man (Jesus) will come - like lightning that comes from the east and is visible even in the west (Matthew 24:27) Then Jesus mentions the referenced verse, "Where there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather." (Matthew 24: 28) 13. The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the nations of the earth will mourn. (Matthew 24:30) 14. Everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30) Then this key verse: 15. Jesus will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24: 31) 16. People will be eating and drinking, buying and selling, building and planting right up to the day when Jesus comes (Matthew 24:36-39; Luke 17:26-33) 17. Jesus reminds everyone to keep watch because you don't know when he is coming (Matthew 24:42-51) Here is my interpretation: A) Many people on the earth will die because of the wars, famine, earthquakes, persecution of believers, etc. That is why there will be so many carcasses-corpses-dead bodies for the vultures to feed upon B) Jesus will first gather all his elect and give them their new glorified bodies. See Paul's explanation in 1 Corinthians 15. C) Then Jesus will judge the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46)
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