One of the most curious and mysterious statements made by the Lord Jesus was when he spoke about his return to earth in Matthew 24 and Luke 17. He warned his disciples that there would be groups of people before his return claiming to have special knowledge of his whereabouts and falsely claiming that Christ secretly returned to them and could be found in their designated special location (see Matt. 24:26). Then he made this symbolic statement:
For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. (Matt. 24:28)
…Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. (Luke 17:37)
Saints through the centuries have given varying interpretations of what Jesus could have meant. I originally thought about listing what several theologians have said about these words, then I would chime in with who I agreed with. But for the sake of being pithy, I decided to try to cut to the chase of what my thoughts are. In both Matt. 24 and Luke 17, Jesus made this statement in the context of trying to assure his disciples that they would not have to worry about missing Christ’s return by wondering where it would happen because it would be done openly and he would gather his people together at that time around a dying earth like eagles are gathered around a carcase.
The main reason I think this is because I believe Christ defined what he meant in Matthew 24 a few verses after v. 28 when he said in v. 31, “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Several places in scripture refer to eagles as God’s instruments of judgment (e.g. Ezek. 17), but I think Matt. 24:28 and Luke 17:37 specifically refer to saints as eagles who are with Christ to take possession of and pass judgment on a spiritually dead earth in the last days, which is the carcase.
The following verses are more scriptures to consider that tie in with this theme:
27 Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? 28 She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place. 29 From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off. 30 Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she. Job 39 (the “rock” and “strong place” where eagles really nest in nature are symbolic of Christ and the eagles are symbolic of believers.)
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles… Isaiah 40:31
2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle… 3 Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations… 4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east… 5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains…and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. Zech. 14
7 …the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe… 2 Thess. 1
14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds… Jude