EXEGESIS: LUKE 17:33-37
There The Vultures Gather
22. Then He said to the disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23. People will tell you, ‘Look, there He is!’ or ‘Look, here He is!’ Do not go out or chase after them. 24. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other, so will be the Son of Man in His day. 25. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man: 27. People were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. 28. It was the same in the days of Lot: People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29. But on the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30. It will be just like that on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31. On that day, let no one on the housetop come down to retrieve his possessions. Likewise, let no one in the field return for anything he has left behind. 32. Remember Lot’s wife! 33. Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” 37. “Where, Lord?” they asked. Jesus answered, “Wherever there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”
I believe that Jesus was using the "If you understood this, then you would understand that" manner of speaking that he used frequently in Scripture. When the Jewish rulers asked Jesus who his Father is, he said, "If you knew me, you would know my Father as well." John 8-19 And so here, the disciples asked Jesus in Luke 17:37 to where the people "taken" would be taken, and Jesus gives an odd and confusing answer. He speaks of vultures and a dead body.
In some translations of Scripture, Jesus says, "Where the dead body is, there the eagles will gather." I'm going to use this translation, because it helps clarify what Jesus means. An eagle, according to the proverb in Ezekiel 17, is a ruler with a powerful army. In Ezekiel, it referred to Egypt and Babylon. Today, it could be any number of nations, such as the U.S. and China and Russia.
Scripture tells us that in the last days, just before Jesus's return, Israel will be surrounded by armies, and this will be the battle of Armageddon. And so, Jesus is saying to his disciples, If you understood that I'm speaking of the battle of Armageddon, when the rapture of the believers will take place, then you would know where exactly some people will be taken, and to what others will be left. Those who belong to Jesus, as the Apostle Paul states, will be "taken up to meet the Lord in the air," 1 Thes. 4:17 while those who do not belong to Jesus will be left to their destruction with the Beast and the Dragon, and all the wicked who have rejected the Lord Jesus from reigning over them.
These words that Jesus spoke have two meanings: one is to tell the disciples where the ones "taken" will be taken, and the other meaning is to let us know exactly when the rapture will take place. "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then look up, for your redemption draweth nigh." Luke 21:28