What is the meaning of the phrase “where the body is, there the vultures will gather” in Luke 17:37?

The following question is related to the phrase of Jesus, which says that where the body will be, the vultures will gather:

How can we properly understand the text of the Gospel of Luke 17:37?

Here is what it says in this text:

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

What is this body? Who are these vultures? What place is this? What did the Savior mean by that expression? To find the answer to all these questions, we need to understand the context in which Jesus said these words. Context is the key to understanding the meaning of any text, and breaking from the context is a pretext for any interpretation other than the true and correct one. So let’s see what the context says. From verse 22 to verse 37 of this chapter 17 of the Gospel of John, the Lord Jesus speaks to the disciples about His second coming, which is to come on earth, which will be after the great tribulation and should not be confused with the day of rapture, when the Lord Jesus will come on the clouds of heaven to take up His Church. From verses 34 to 36, the Savior says that then some will be taken and others will be left. The disciples asked, “Where, Lord?” This question may be about those who will be taken, but more likely it is about those who will be left, for with them Jesus concluded His statement in verse 36. So we have every reason to believe that by the phrase “Where the body will be there, the eagles will gather” Jesus described the place where those will be who remain after the rapture.

It is very good that there is a parallel text that presents the same event and the text is in the Gospel of Matthew. I will bring it here in its entirety:

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place—let the reader understand— then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get things out of his house. And whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those women who are pregnant, and to those who are nursing babies in those days! Moreover, pray that when you flee, it will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will again. And if those days had not been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is Christ,’ or ‘He is over here,’ do not believe him.  For false christs and false prophets will arise and will provide great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (Matthew 24:15-28 NASB)

You noticed that he described the same event of the great tribulation, then the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and ending with the same words, only this time he explains that that body is nothing but the carcass to which the vultures will gather. In the book of Job, reference is made to one of his qualities, which is to find where the corpses are in order to consume them, as it is written: “where there are corpses, there is also the vulture.” So the Lord Jesus describes the place where those who have been left will remain and it is a place with corpses that have been left unburied and eagles have come to eat their flesh.

In Moldova and Romania we do not see so many eagles or vultures and maybe someone will wonder where so many can come from at once. If you go to Pakistan or India, you will be amazed at how many eagles fly over cities and there are just vultures eating corpses and feeding on garbage. And there are so many people that sometimes they can suddenly fly and snatch a piece of bread from someone’s hand or attack the children in the city. Given that one of the qualities of the vultures is to orient themselves quickly and get to where the corpses are, no wonder.

Revelation 19:11-21 describes the struggle of the Lord Jesus Christ with the Gentiles following the Antichrist and the false prophet. Read carefully what the apostle John saw and pay attention to what he writes about the birds that will eat the carcasses of those who will die in this battle.

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great feast of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, both free and slaves, and small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse, and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire, which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:17-21 NASB)

If you want to know in detail how this battle will unfold, as well as the other prophecies in Revelation, I recommend that you study all 4 parts of the inductive study on the book of Revelation. They have been a great help to me in researching and understanding Bible prophecy. Use the site’s option to join a Bible study group in the city where you live or via Skype. God bless.

Translated by Didina Vicliuc