The Rapture Parable

Did Jesus share a parable on multiple occasions in order to explain the Rapture? Is this “Rapture Parable” his most misunderstood parable?

(This article was written in response to a request by a reader to explain the parable in Matt. 24:28)

Our traditions sometimes determine what we think a biblical parable or illustration means.  This even can affect the translators of our Bibles. The short parable found in Luke 17 and Matt. 24 is a perfect example of this principle.

Let’s look at this short illustration:

And answering they said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures (Gk: AETOI) will be gathered. (Luke 17:37)

This is a most confusing parable. Now let’s make it even more confusing! Look up the Greek word AETOI translated “vultures” in a Greek/English dictionary and you will see:

aetos: an eagle

Original Word: ἀετός, οῦ, ὁ
Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
Transliteration: aetos
Phonetic Spelling: (ah-et-os’)
Short Definition: an eagle, bird of prey
Definition: an eagle, bird of prey.

If the word AETOI is best translated “eagles” or even as “birds of prey” why do our English bibles translate it as “vultures” which are carrion birds? The answer is in order to match with our traditions! Thus begins our examination of possibly the most universally misunderstood parable in all of the gospels.

A Rapture Parable

Jesus taught this illustration on at least two separate occasions to illustrate his PAROUSIA or return. These may be the only two occasions Jesus taught this parable, or it may have been a regular teaching of his. We simply do not know. The first occasion we see this parable in the gospels is in Luke 17. At that time Jesus and his disciples were heading to Jerusalem prior to his passion. Immediately before teaching the parable, he famously healed the 10 lepers.  Prompted by this healing he was questioned by the Pharisees about when the Kingdom of God was to come. After this, Jesus explained to his disciples privately what His return or PAROUSIA would be like. He began by giving the sign of his coming:

For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. (Luke 17:24)

Only a few days or weeks later, Jesus repeated this sign and parable as part of his teaching in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24):

For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming (PAROUSIA) of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (Matt. 24:27-28 NASB)

It is this later version of the parable in Matt. 24 that has sparked so much misunderstanding. Pastor Jim McClarty of Florida summarizes the primary position of both Pre-Tribulation Rapture and Post-Tribulation Rapture camps on their view of this illustration:

“Jesus was not referring to those ‘taken to be with the Lord at the Rapture when He comes.’ He was speaking of a gathering of people to the place where the carrion birds would eat their flesh. We see that prophecy fulfilled in Revelation 19 (Rev. 19:17-18, where birds eat the flesh of those who die at Armageddon)[i]” –- Pastor Jim McClarty, (clarification mine)

At the heart of this misunderstanding is the mistaken notion that Matt. 24:29-31 is picturing the physical Second Coming of Jesus when he comes to fight Armageddon. This view is held by the vast majority of the Church. And again, as we have repeatedly seen in other applications, a mistaken theology leads to a misinterpretation of the Greek words in the passage. If one believes that Matt. 24:29-31 is the physical Second Coming, they will want to align the passages around it to match that belief.  They will try to force a round peg into a square hole. And as we just learned, this can lead to a mis-translation of the sacred texts. This mis-translation then only further propagates the mistaken theology.

If on the other hand, one believes that Matt. 24:29-31 is the Rapture, they will not try to force scripture, but let it say what it truly says. Although there are multiple proofs that Matt. 24:29-31 is the Pre-Wrath Rapture, in this article, we will only look at the Parable of the Vultures and the Body. If you wish to continue this study in much more detail, purchase the book Rapture: Case Closed? due out this summer that contains 147 separate proofs and counter-proofs for the Pre-Wrath Rapture.

Rather than impose meaning on the parable one way or the other, however, let’s first look at what it truly says. As we have already seen, the primary misunderstood word is AETOI which means eagles (not vultures)! Now an eagle can be a carrion bird as well as a carnivore, but this passage isn’t talking about birds at all! There are five uses of this word AETOI in the New Testament; two occurrences are found in these illustrations while the final three usages refer to angels not birds (Rev. 4:7, Rev. 8:13, and Rev. 12:14).  In the Old Testament, eagles are associated as a symbol of angels in Isa. 40: 31, Jer. 48:40, Jer. 4:13, Ezek. 1:10, and Ezek. 10:14;  and for God himself in Exo. 19:4, Jer. 49:16, and Deut. 32:11. “Eagle” is a very common term for a heavenly being. Once it is understood that AETOI in this parable is most likely a symbol for angels, the meaning of Jesus’s short illustration begins to jump to life.

Additionally, the word translated “gather” in Luke 17:37 is EPISUNAGO (“gather together upwards”), which is one of the great “Rapture-words” in the New Testament. This word is used in these other Rapture passages, where it is believers who are gathered together:

And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together (EPISUNAGO) His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matt. 24:31 NASB, emphasis mine)

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming (PAROUSIA) of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together (EPISUNAGOGE) to Him (2 Thess. 2:1 NASB, emphasis mine)

In Matthew 22:28, the word translated “gather” is SUNAGO which also means “gather together.” (It is missing the prefix EPI which means “above” found in the Luke 17 version.) In both instances the words used by Jesus EPISUNAGO (“gather together upwards”) and SUNAGO (“gather together”), do not mean to simply “gather.” Rather they imply the process of gathering something together. Our English translations are a misapplication of the words. The way our English Bibles are translated, one would think the AETOI were gathering as in a flock. That is not the meaning. They are gathering different items together into a single group.

Finally, the version of this illustration in Luke uses the Greek word for living body and the Matthew version uses the Greek word for dead body.

Once the correct translations of the Greek words are understood, the crystal-clear meaning that Jesus had in mind for this illustration becomes apparent.

Jesus’s angels will gather together the dead saints (Resurrection) and the living saints (Rapture) together upwards into the air to meet the Lord!

This passage has absolutely nothing to do with Armageddon. The fact that both the Pre-Tribulation Rapture exponents and Post-Tribulation Rapture exponents misinterpret Matt. 24:30-31 as the physical Second Coming only intensifies the misunderstanding of the Illustration of the Vultures and the Body and a link between it and Armageddon.

Please do not be too harsh on the Bible translators. In my NASB, at least the proper translations are found in the footnotes. The translators were only trying to make the best application they could given their eschatological views. However, we must let the Bible speak for itself and not impose meaning on it.

Context

Now that we fully understand the “sense” of the words in the parable, let’s look at the context. We can only fully understand scripture in context. If we look at the illustration in Matthew, we see it concerns the PAROUSIA (which we now know as the Rapture). Only three verses later (Matt. 24:30-31), Jesus explains this same event in clear, concrete terms (not as a parable).

Wherever the corpse (PTOMA) is, there the vultures (AETOI) will gather (SUNAGO meaning “gather together”). (Matt. 24:28)

And He will send forth His angels (symbolically AETOI in parable) with a great trumpet and they will gather together (SUNAGO in parable)  His elect (symbolically PTOMA in parable) from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matt. 24:31, clarification mine)

Once viewed in this way, it is so easy to see that Jesus was clarifying his parable for the disciples. If the word SUNAGO were properly translated in the English,  the use of the term “gather together” in both verses in such close proximity, would help readers properly interpret the parable. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

If we look at the illustration in context in Luke, it also helps explain the issue of “taken” and “left:”

Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.  And answering they (his disciples) said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body (Gk: SOMA, meaning “living body”) is, there also the vultures (Gk: AETOI) will be gathered (Gk: EPISUNAGO, meaning “gather together upwards”).” (Luke 17:36-37 NASB, clarification and emphasis mine)

When the disciples ask “Where, Lord?” there are two possible meanings to their question: 1) where are “they” taken? or 2) where is this going to happen? Jesus did not answer the first question so they must have been asking the second question! We now understand that it is the righteous that are “taken,” and of course, this would be the primary concern of the disciples. They would be disturbed that perhaps they had to be in Jerusalem to be “taken.” Jesus calmed their fears. That is why in this version of the parable he used SOMA to mean body, which is a living body not a corpse. By using this term he was in essence saying, “Wherever the living body (of Christ — the Church!) is, there the angels will gather them together.”

You may have wondered about the illustration used at the top of this article. I’m sure it seemed a strange work of art — birds flying around in the lightning. Look at it again. Can you now see it is a “tongue in cheek” depiction of this Illustration of the “Vultures” and the Body as depicted in Matt. 24:27-28?  The sign of the Son of Man (Lightning) will appear and Jesus will send his AETOI (Angels rather than Vultures!) to rapture the saints!

Summary

Proper timing of the Rapture as a Pre-Wrath Rapture is perhaps the most important factor in eschatological interpretation. Otherwise the temptation is to try and force a square peg in a round hole. In this article we saw how this has even affected the translation of the Holy Scriptures to the detriment of readers.

Hopefully this article has helped all of us see that trusting the English translations alone is not always adequate to provide exegesis of a passage. The actual underlying words from the original text should always be examined as well.

 

[i] “The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church,” Salvation by Grace , last modified:unknown , accessed April 13, 2016, http://salvationbygrace.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/The-Pre-wrath-Rapture-of-the-Church-Jim-McClarty.pdf

26 thoughts on “The Rapture Parable”

  1. Hi Nelson,
    I’m blessed reading your articles and the many comments. This may not be directly related, but I did see several times the reference to prewrath rapture, which I do believe. I’ve felt for some time that just as there are three intelligent beings, man, angels, and God, that there does seem to be three kinds/times of wrath. The first six seals seem to be man given his time of folly/evil. The fifth seal of persecution points that out. The first six trumpets seem to be satan’s time of wrath. A third of the angels followed satan in rebellion, and there are several references to thirds (trees, seas, rivers, sun, moon, stars,) in the trumpets. Also, just as the fifth seal of persecution is an indicator, the fifth trumpet with a fallen angel having the key to the bottomless pit seems to indicate not God’s wrath but directly satan’s wrath. And before the first bowl, there is in Rev. 16:1 the clear indicator of God’s wrath: “Go and pour out the bowls[a] of the wrath of God on the earth.” In seal six people do speak of God’s wrath as coming, but that is the people’s opinion. That is not the Lord’s statement. There is more in support of this, I believe. What do you think?
    PS Please excuse me if this doesn’t fit here exactly. I’ve been looking for a chance to present this…

    1. The Trumpets are given to the angels to blow and clearly are God’s Wrath as well as the bowls. Rev. 15 says, “seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished” This tells us that the Wrath doesn’t being with the bowls, God’s Wrath ends with the bowls.

  2. THE New Living Translation of this verse (as contained on the website biblehub.com) puts it as, “Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.” In other words (given the context), to me this would mean both that, when people either falsely claim that they are the returned Messiah, or falsely speak of places where the returned Messiah can be found, it means that the Messiah’s actual return is near; and also that His return will not be hidden (so that people would have to be told about it, or would be in confusion or uncertainty about it), but will be as obvious as the flashing of lightning, or as the presence of a carcass is to carrion birds.

    1. What this paraphrase says is not, of course, what the underlying Greek text says at all. It is the translator’s best guess at what the parable is about. In fact I don’t think there is a single word in this paraphrase that reflects the Greek. “just as” isn’t there, “gather” isn’t there (gather together is), carcass isn’t there (Living body is), “signs indicate the end is near” is total fabrication. This paraphrase is dangerous as it is adding to the Word of God. If the translator doesn’t know the meaning, just translate the actual words and let the Holy Spirit work in the Body (SOMA) of Christ to eventually give the meaning when the time is right.

      Again, as stated before, once it is understood that Matt. 24:31 and Mark 13:27 are demonstrating the Rapture (not the physical Second Coming), the meaning of the parable is easy to see. That is probably the translators problem.

  3. Anytime Jesus says He is coming at an “hour” that we do not expect, He is talking about the rapture. Because that statement cannot apply to His coming on the clouds of heaven to the Mount of Olives. That hour IS known in scripture. The hour of twilight, 1290 days after the AoD. This is important to distinguish which coming Jesus is talking about, when there may be doubt. The rapture is the only time we don’t know the “hour” of His coming.

  4. There are three statements Jesus said that are very difficult to face: (1) love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; (2) I stand at the door and knock; (3) his reason for parables.

    The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

    He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from themThis is why I speak to them in parables:

    “Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
    In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

    “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
    For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
    Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
    and turn, and I would heal them.’a
    But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

    The scary part of this is, to realize that if you don’t understand the parable you may be one of those who has ears but does not hear, or eyes that do not see. We should all pray vehemently for the ears that hear, and eyes that see so that we will be blessed more abundantly in understanding the Word of God.

    1. Amen. However, I am sure all of us still do not understand all of God’s plan, and yes, it is scary. But perhaps God reveals it on a need to know basis! When we need to know, we will know. Notice in the parable of the 10 Virgins that even the wise virgins are asleep until the midnight cry.

      1. I very much agree with you there Nelson, it can be on a need to know basis. The error if the pre trib was revealed to me simply one afternoon while I was simply reading my Bible. Its been really exciting how the Lord has been showing me things, like the verse in Job, and how the Lord is not actually preparing us a home in heaven as I’d always been taught.Not through a book (though I’m grateful for them)

        We have to be gracious with each other, it’s possible to understand what a person is saying, and respectfully disagree. It doesn’t make either person blind. In the end God himself will reveal what he will.

        Thanks for allowing me to comment.

  5. Right again, Nelson!

    You said, “Parables are by their nature up for debate. But to me, this one is so very clear. The reason it isn’t clear to everyone is the popular view that Matt. 24:31 is the physical return of Jesus to fight Armageddon. Once a person sees it is an event that occurs prior to the Trumpet and Bowl judgments not a final day event, everything else falls into focus.”

    That is what made all the difference to me when I understood this and it then became crystal clear. The parable about eagles/angels/messengers gathering the elect is about the rapture event (Jesus sitting on the clouds directing his heavenly beings, whatever descriptive noun you prefer being discussed here) performing the ingathering of the elect to return them to heaven BEFORE the beginning of the God’s Wrath (‘that Day’) commences.

    It is just so plainly obvious! Why do we insist on making it so difficult?

    Blessings!

  6. The first thing to understand is the Greek word aggelos, translated angel in the King James Version of Rev. 8:13 literally means “a messenger”. It’s almost always translated angel, theoretically the messenger could be an eagle. Several other translations use the word eagle there deriving their authority from older Greek texts that show the word to be aetos, which means eagle.

    You say potatoe, I say pototoe.

    1. Only the Textus Receptus (on which the KJV is based) uses “angel” in Rev. 8:13. The majority text and the ancient texts both have “eagle.”

      In summary we have multiple passages where heavenly beings take the form of an eagle (Ezek. 1, Ezek. 10, Rev. 4, Rev. 8), we have multiple passages where the deliverance of God’s people are divinely accomplished by eagle’s wings (Exo. 19, Isa. 40, Rev. 12), we have multiple passages where God’s agents are described as like eagles (Jer. 48 and Jer. 4), and God himself is described in terms of being like an eagle (Deut. 32). I think we can conclude that in the setting of a parable, eagle is a very possible symbol for a heavenly being.

      You can then add to this the use of the “Rapture” word EPISUNAGO (found in 2 Thess. 2:1 and Matt. 24:31) and the use of both SOMA and PTOMA (living and dead bodies) and a very complete picture of the PAROUSIA comes into focus.

      You can then add the fact that Jesus interpreted the parable for us in Matt. 24:31 using very clear language only 3 verses after giving the parable.

      Parables are by their nature up for debate. But to me, this one is so very clear. The reason it isn’t clear to everyone is the popular view that Matt. 24:31 is the physical return of Jesus to fight Armageddon. Once a person sees it is an event that occurs prior to the Trumpet and Bowl judgments not a final day event, everything else falls into focus.

      This little parable isn’t proof of that, it is just additional substantiation of it.

        1. I am not a dispensationalist, and frankly, I don’t think those that claim they are, truly are either. Let me explain.

          My understanding of that theory is that God is currently working with Christians and not the Jews. After the Rapture of the Church, these believers suggest God will work with Israel. The word suggests God has separate “Dispensations” for Christians (the Church age) and for Jews.

          I believe there are three groups not two. First, there are what I term “the mockers,” those who deny that Jesus is the Son of God. Second, there are the wise virgins (from Matt. 25:1-13) and the unwise virgins. If we closely examine that parable, a cry goes out at Midnight that the bridegroom is coming and both the unwise and the wise wake up. Notice BOTH were asleep. I consider “midnight” to be the Great Tribulation, when the Antichrist sits in the Temple of God and begins to kill everyone who refuses to worship him, there will be no question about what is going on-all will wake up. If you look at the Letter to Sardis (that I consider to be about the events of the fifth seal) you will see reference in Rev. 3:3 to waking up.

          Both unwise and wise “light their lamps (LAMPAS).” These are actually torches not lamps and represent the testimony of our lives about Jesus. The unwise run out of oil (Holy Spirit) and their lamps go out. Only the wise virgins who keep their lamps burning during the Great Tribulation will enter the Marriage Feast at the Rapture of the Church. This is NOT salvation by works. The continued testimony in the face of persecution is evidence of true faith. The cowardly will not inherit the Kingdom (Rev. 21:8). The Church currently has wise and unwise within it. The Great Tribulation will be the time of decision revealing who is who.

          At the Rapture (1 year, 10 days prior to the physical second coming), the whole world sees Jesus coming on the clouds. Rev. 1:7, Matt. 24:30, and Rev. 6:16-17 all agree. The Jewish remnant that was part of the mockers, many of the unwise virgins, and probably many who did not take the Mark of the Beast mourn, but it is too late, the Rapture has happened. Notice in Rev. 11:11-13 shows this reaction to the Rapture. This is the point when they look upon the one they had pierced and mourn.

          These folks have to go through the Wrath of God (Trumpets and Bowls), however. This is discussed in the Letter to Laodicea (which means trial of the people). This is why Jesus says I wish you were hot or cold. The “hot” or faithful were raptured, the “cold” or those with the Mark fully deserve the Wrath that is coming. The “lukewarm” have the potential to love and believe in Jesus. The final year is their trial where the refining is by fire and brimstone (Rev. 3:18). Jesus is the faithful witness (rev. 3:14)and their counselor during this period. The witness of the Church has been removed. Notice they still can receive white garments (wedding clothes) Rev. 3:18 if they repent.

          God desires that all should be saved and is saving Jews and Gentiles right now. He will still be trying to save some during the Wrath of God and as we know the Jewish remnant will be saved. I think even dispensationalists would agree with these last two sentences. God’s “work” of salvation isn’t changing. He uses the wise virgins to testify during the Great Tribulation until the Rapture. Then he uses his Wrath as a final attempt to get the “lukewarm” (Jews and Gentiles ) to repent prior to his returning with the raptured saints all on white horses.

  7. Thank you for your time Nelson

    My English isn’t brilliant, so my Greek is zilch.
    I just found the strongs no for body 4983 and went down the listings. I only deal in simple☺

    Thanks for your time.

  8. Nelson I hope you don’t mind me chipping in.

    I confess I wouldn’t be classed as pre wrath, infact I wouldnt say I subscribe to any opinion completely, still working things through.

    I noticed that you said that in the verse in Luke 17 the word ”body’ soma means living body as apposed to carcase. Clearly while speaking to people about their ‘person’ that body would indeed be alive.

    So I looked it up, but I see that the word soma, is also used to describe dead bodies……

    Math 27 :58 among many verses that describe Jesus dead body.

    Jude v9. Talking of Moses dead body

    Acts 19v40. Speaking of Dorcas’s dead body.

    I couldn’t find any reference anywhere (in a short look) that said soma actually means a living body. I’m not trying to be awkward, just sorting through things.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. Linda, this is great critique. Technically SOMA means the physical body and it is the word that Scripture uses for the Body of Christ, the Church. It is also used of the body when someone is living. It occurs 142 times in the New Testament alone. PTOMA is the word for corpse. Now, you are correct, and I didn’t know this, there are several instances when SOMA is used for a dead body. However, in every case, these are unusual. In Matt. 27:52 is the resurrected Old Testament saints. In Acts 9:40 it is the soon to be resurrected body of Tabitha. In many places it is the dead, but soon to be resurrected body of Jesus. You mentioned Moses’s body in the Old Testament, and this was claimed by the Lord so Satan couldn’t have it. These are highly unusual cases.

      I don’t think this changes one bit my premise in this article, but I learned something from your investigation. Thank you.

  9. This is very helpful, Nelson. Thank-you. I will use it in my study of the end-times with a small group here in Beer Sheva.

    God bless you as you and your family celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior!

  10. Exactly! Exactly! Exactly, Nelson!

    Once I understood this subtle difference between the Rapture and the physical Second Coming much fear and confusion was calmed for me internally. Many, many, many believers do not understand this critical end-time teaching by Jesus and our vital link of hebraic roots which has been obscured by Augustine to remove this Jewish understanding from Christian teaching causing tragic results, unfortunately.

    I just had to explain this very theme on Mark Davidson’s blog regarding Jesus using the jewish idiom of “the day and hour no man knows, but only the Father in heaven knows” from the Gospel of Matthew. The Church in general is negligent in not teaching this and the seminaries do not prepare future pastors adequately about it. But it tragically has to be laid at the feet of Augustine who did the Church a great disservice on this score.

    Blessings!

      1. Nelson,
        Your study warns that people try to bend scripture to a conclusion they have already arrived at and as you say ‘put a square peg in a round hole.’

        I have to say you are guilty of this in the lesson you presented.
        You say that in the parable Christ uses regarding ‘where the corpse is, there the eagles will gather’ that the eagles represent ‘angels’. After reading the scriptures you quote to affirm your exegesis, I am not convinced that scripture refers to angels as eagles. I can clearly prove stars are commonly referenced to mean angels, not eagles. (Revelation 1:20, Job 38:7)

        This leads you to come to a wrong conclusion about what Christ was truly saying in the passage.

        You mention context but fail to mention what was said in Luke immediately preceding Jesus’ idiom ‘where the corpse is, there the eagles will gather.’

        Luke 17:31-37
        31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their 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.
        He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

        Where, Lord?
        In Luke, the question that Jesus is responding to is also a bit confusing (particularly given our modern understanding of the rapture). However, the question of “Where, Lord?” seems to be addressing the last thing Jesus says. He just finished saying that the “Son of Man” will come and gather his people. The disciples’ question seems to ask “Where will they be gathered to.”

        This very much is a reference to what we call the “rapture”. This is the “gathering up” of people that Jesus will perform in the last days. Just before this he talks about how the world is turning evil and then he says that he will come back and gather his people. This is definitely what we modernly call the “rapture”.

        Jesus replies
        His reply to the question of “Where, Lord?” is a parable. He’s basically saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” The meaning behind this is:

        “That should be pretty obvious to you.”

        Jesus was saying that his kingdom was coming, the world was about to end, he was about to gather his people. The disciples ask a stupid question: “Where will you gather them?” Jesus doesn’t even bother giving a straight answer because the answer is obvious: He’s gathering them to heaven to be with him forever.

        Why use this phrase?
        The reason that the answer is obvious is because, he’s already answered that question. Just previously in Luke 17:20-21 the passage begins Jesus’ speech with “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed.”

        The entire speech is about the Kingdom of God. So when they ask, “Where will they be gathered.” He just replies in parables, since he’s already made it obvious.

        I am surprised at how you arrived at your conclusion.

        1. Christopher, Thank you for engaging on this topic. I understand that this interpretation flies (sorry for the eagle pun) in the face of your strongly held beliefs. New interpretations of scripture should be challenged. If they stand up to the challenge, then we can accept them. So thank you for the challenge.

          You ask three basic questions. I will address the first one in this message and the second and third in a separate message.

          First, you challenge that eagle can be a symbol for a heavenly being. I agree with you that “star” can also be a symbol of a heavenly creature, but you are mistaken when you miss that eagle is as well. There are 35 references to eagles in the scripture and by my count 13 are symbols of heavenly beings or the actions of heavenly beings. Obviously you are aware that one of the four faces of the Cherubim is literally that of an eagle! With the Cherubim, eagle isn’t just a symbol, but is a part of their make-up. There are five uses of eagle in the New Testament and all of them refer to angels; two occurrences are found in these illustrations while the final three usages are in Revelation (Rev. 4:7, Rev. 8:13, and Rev. 12:14). In the Old Testament, eagles are associated as a symbol of angels in Isa. 40:31, Jer. 48:40, Jer. 4:13, Ezek. 1:10, and Ezek. 10:14; and for God himself in Exo. 19:4, Jer. 49:16, and Deut. 32:11. There are other references where God protects us under his “wings” and although they aren’t mentioned to be specifically eagles, they could be. Look at Matt. 23:37:

          “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Do you realize this word “gather together” used in this passage is also EPISUNAGO??

          So in conclusion, “Eagle” is a very common biblical symbol for a heavenly being and a perfect choice for a parable about the gathering together up (EPISUNAGO).

          1. Nelson,
            I am sorry that you believe that eagle is a common symbol for angels in the Bible. It clearly is not. I see there are many mistranslations and this may lead you to arrive at your conclusion. You look at the translation and then at the original Greek, that usually clears it up for me.

            Let’s look at some of the scriptures you give as ironclad proof that eagles are symbols for angels.

            Isaiah 40:31- “those who wait on the Lord will mount up with wings as eagles”…
            -No angels mentioned here, just blessings to those in Christ.

            Jeremiah 48:40-“For thus says the LORD: “Behold, one shall fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Moab;”
            -God sent judgement against the Moabites and says the one who will come against them will be Swift and you will not escape his wrath.

            Jeremiah 4:13- “Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as whirlwinds. His horses are swifter than eagles! Woe unto us for we are despoiled!
            -Another reference to inescapable judgement. No angels referenced.

            Ezekiel 1:10 and 10:14 reference four living CREATURES/BEAST that surround the throne of God.
            The creatures had four faces with faces of the ‘likeness’ of an eagle, man, lion, and cherub.
            It would be a stretch to say this is referencing angels as eagles.

            Revelation 12:14-“and the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness”
            -No reference to angels as eagles. This is reference to God’s provision of safety.

            Revelation 8:13- “And I beheld and heard an ANGEL flying through the midst of heaven saying with a loud voice, Woe, Woe, Woe to the inhabiters of the earth…”
            -If your translation says eagle, look at the original Greek.

            Angels are referenced as stars in the Bible but to say they are also known as eagles is a stretch (harder to justify).

            Linda made a good point on the original Greek ‘soma’, which disproved your assertion it only means living body.

          2. Sorry Christopher, I can’t agree with you at all. Let’s begin with Linda’s observation. Did you notice that all of the SOMA’s (about 5% of the total 142 in the NT) were bodies that were resurrected at a later date? This exception that I had been unaware of previous to Linda’s keen observation, does not include bodies of those who are not resurrected to life-the observation still holds.

            In regard to eagle as a symbol for angel. Let’s look at Rev. 8:13. The original Greek is Καὶ εἶδον καὶ ἤκουσα ἑνὸς ἀετοῦ (And I looked and heard one EAGLE). This eagle later speaks. Now only in the KJV, the Greek word for angel appears. Did the KJV scribes make this substitution realizing that the messenger is an angel and change the Greek word? Either way, eagle is a symbol for angel, probably a Cherubim who have an eagle’s face.

            I could explain each other entry, but Rev. 8:13 is enough to demonstrate that eagle is a symbol for angel if it makes textual sense; especially in the case of this article since we are dealing with a parable!

        2. Christopher, this is the second of a two part answer to your questions.

          Your second question of sorts regards the disciples’ question “Where, Lord?” Like the vast majority of the Church you take the position that they were asking where the destination of the “taken” PARALAMBANO was to be. You rightly notice that Jesus does not answer this question and you suggest Jesus just blew the disciples off; that they obviously should have known the answer. This is not so for two very solid biblical reasons.

          First, Jesus DOES ANSWER a “Where, Lord?” question. He just doesn’t answer the one you were expecting. Jesus’s first word in his answer is “where.” He is telling us “where” the taking is going to occur, not where the destination is. “Where the Living Body is . . .” Also notice, despite reading the article, you still mistake the body in Luke 17:37 for a dead body. That is not the word Jesus uses. He uses SOMA or “living body” in this version of the parable. That is significant. It eliminates the carrion bird aspect of the parable.

          Second, Jesus couldn’t assume the disciples would know the destination of the taken, because this was the first mention of Rapture in scripture. The Olivet Discourse was still more than a week away, the letters to the Thessalonians were 15 years away, and Revelation probably 60 years away. So Jesus was not “blowing the disciples off” and ignoring them. He was beginning to unfold the end times. In about a week or so, during the Olivet Discourse, he would repeat a lot of this teaching in Luke 17. He would mention Noah again, the taken and the left and this parable. But his time, he would clarify the parable in perfectly clear terms in Matt. 24:31!

          Now your last question involves the interaction with the Pharisees that preceded this teaching. In that interchange Jesus said that Kingdom of God comes without the need for “careful observation” (Gk: PARATERESIS). So why did Jesus address the Pharisees differently than the disciples? The Kingdom of God is where ever Jesus is King. The Pharisees were missing the point that He was their King. Thus Jesus addressed the coming of the Kingdom of God that happens within a man. Jesus became my king in 1992. This initial coming of the Kingdom within every believer is not observed by careful watching. The Kingdom is within your “midst” or even “within you.” The Pharisees were missing this “First Coming” of the Kingdom that is within believers everywhere. They expected only the Kingdom that would come upon the earth later. Jesus then called the disciples aside to clarify the coming of the Kingdom that will come upon the entire earth so they would understand the dual nature of the Kingdom.

          Our next series on Amillennialism will discuss this in much greater detail.

  11. Nelson,
    If your research is correct, then the disciples were not confused, or misunderstood Jesus when he said these words as so many of us today. They were hearing the word as meaning angels, the gathering together of bodies and corpses. Not vultures and dead bodies lying around. Mathew, Mark & Luke were very careful then, in recalling and choosing the exact word that Jesus spoke, even so many years later. That is a great example of the Holy Spirit working through them.
    It makes me wonder if Mathew, John Mark, and John, kept a daily diary, of his Word while with him. Then they compiled their writings in book form later. Luke is the interesting one because he learned the Gospel through Paul. Therefore Paul knew the words Jesus used to illustrate his point. Remarkable.

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