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Luke 17:33-37 says,

"Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

In this passage, Jesus is referring to those who would be taken, and those who would be "Left Behind". But, when asked where are those who are taken go, He cryptically says, "Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered."

My question is, Who are taken, and who are left behind, and how are we to understand Luke 17:37?

  • This answer presented here covers pretty much of your question. – Charlie Oct 20 '14 at 2:35
  • @Charlie I appreciate your research in finding a similar question; I searched it, but originally didn't see the Luke text, although the Matthew records almost the same discussion. However, I am dissatisfied with the answers given, as they are either "off the wall", or "I don't know-but I think this...". I will answer it myself, if no one else has a satisfactory answer, but I would like to keep it open, just in case. – Tau Oct 20 '14 at 4:37
  • Related: Who is being “taken” in Matthew 24:40-41? – Dan Oct 21 '14 at 23:00
  • See also Where is the dead body in Luke 17? – Dan Oct 21 '14 at 23:01
  • @majnemɪzdæn Are you a riddle wrapped in an enigma.....;>) ? I was less than satisfied with the Matt. 24 answer, and I originally didn't see the Luke 17 answer on CSE. I like Joseph's answer, which if no other answers turn in will receive my check. – Tau Oct 22 '14 at 23:05
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“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."” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭17:34-35‬

The disciples are interested to know about those taken away and it’s location

“And they said to him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭17:37‬ ‭

The message is destruction. Vultures devour. Who will be devoured? Those taken or those left behind?

Considering the context starts several verses earlier

“nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭17:21‬

proclaiming therefore that the kingdom is here already (even if carnal eyes cannot see it). And Noah and Lot are used as examples of those left behind and surviving destruction; Noah survived the flood but everyone else was destroyed and Lot survived the fiery brimstone but everyone else was destroyed. It would make sense that those taken will be devoured. Like in the wheat and the weeds parable.

“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, "Gather the weeds FIRST and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn."'"” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:30‬ ‭

It is clear that the "rapture" is for those to be devoured. See texts below.


“For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land.” ‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭39:12‬

If they are not still on the earth then who is doing the burying?

And also consider in the next passage the birds of prey where they are doing the devouring and the sequence of events.

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, "Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great." And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭19:17-21‬

  • Your's is the answer I believe most correctly describes the passage: it flies in the face of the "Left Behind" methodology, but it accurately describes the language used. Thank you! – Tau Feb 20 at 21:43
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The passage in Luke 17 appears to be parallel to Matthew 24. If these passages are parallel, then the birds of prey refer to events evident in the heavens that point to judgment on earth. Like the lightning that flashes in the sky, these phenomena in the heavens "illuminate" the Day of the Lord when the spiritually dead are judged on earth. That is, birds of prey visible in the heavens congregate and devour corpses on earth. If the allusion is also literal, then these birds of prey may refer to Rev 19:17-18 and Ezek 39:17-20, but in such a case, the salient meaning of this passage in context would remain the same (i.e., judgment on earth evident from heaven).

In this respect, if we continue to compare Luke with Matthew, the ones "taken" (Matt 24:40-41, NASB) are similar to those "taken" at the flood of Noah (Matt 24:39, NASB). Luke makes allusion to the same people but instead of "taken" (as appears in the NASB of Matthew) Luke mentions the "destruction" of those at the time of the flood (Luke 17:27, NASB).

In other words, the image of "taking" may have the wider meaning of destruction as in the "taking" of life, which does not have to include the idea of rapture or snatching away, since there will be seven months of burying human remains after the supernatural intervention of the Lord to save Israel (Ezek 39:12). That is, Ezekiel 39 and Revelation 19 also appear to be parallel as apparent eschatological events of predictive prophecy, since both chapters also mention the birds of prey devouring those judged on earth at that time.

  • Thank you for your response! This was not an answer given in the previous discussion of this question; I basically agree with your conclusion-there is no other way of interpreting 'eagle' except as a bird of prey, consequently, those 'taken' by the eagles are where eagles go to devour their flesh-certainly no picture of anything that looks like heaven. Those 'left behind' therefore, are those who will be 'caught up' with the Lord; not as a 'dead carcase' but as a living body. – Tau Oct 21 '14 at 22:01
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First, the disciples asked Jesus,

"Where, Lord?"

and not

"Where do they go, Lord?"

Big difference. In other words, an equally legitimate interpretation of the disciples' question is that the disciples wanted to know where the events Jesus was telling them about would take place.

First When, Then There

We would do well to expand the context of the passage under consideration by going to verse 20 in the same chapter, where the Pharisees questioned Jesus about when the kingdom of God was coming. Here is Jesus' answer to the "when question," which I have paraphrased quite liberally:

The day to which you are referring concerns the denouement of the Son of Man on the "Day of the Lord" which the prophets of old predicted. When it comes, it will be as obvious as the lightning which flashes and lights up the entire sky. Right now the kingdom of God is within the hearts of people, but then--whenever then is--the Kingdom of God will come in spectacular fashion to bring about "the end of the age."

The phrase "the end of the age," of course, comes from Jesus' "Great Commission" found in Matthew 28, specifically verse 20. Though there are widely disparate opinions about what Jesus meant by his use of this phrase, I suggest there is a unanimity among conservative scholars that God is going to bring history as we know it to a conclusion, at which time he will usher in the new heaven and the new earth. Then and only then will his will be done perfectly on earth as it is in heaven. Moreover, his kingdom will be without end.

"The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15b).

*The Disciples' "Where-Question"

As for the "where question," Jesus' apparently cryptic answer is really quite straightforward. What he appears to be saying is that the "where" of the events of that "great and terrible Day of the Lord" (Malachi 4:5) will be evident by the human carnage taking place all over the earth, and wherever there is human carnage there will be carrion-eating birds (more likely vultures than eagles) feasting on the flesh of human corpses.

Jesus' word picture of one aspect of the Day of the Lord is gruesome, indeed, but at some point in human history there will be a holocaust of such unimaginable scope and scale that perhaps a third--or more--of the entire population of the world will be decimated (see Revelation 6:7-8 and 9:15-18). Thank God his saints will be taken at some point to their eternal reward (exactly when is a hotly contested point among eschatologists). In other words, they will experience the glory and not the gory!

  • Whom did you cite saying this?: Right now the kingdom of God is within the hearts of people, but then--whenever then is--the Kingdom of God will come in spectacular fashion to bring about "the end of the age." – Ruminator Dec 28 '18 at 16:31
  • Jesus faulted the Pharisees for missing (ignoring) the signs of the times: His own day WAS the "last days"! They are not still future. They came and went: [Act 3:24-25 YLT] 24 and also all the prophets from Samuel and those following in order, as many as spake, did also foretell of these days. 25 'Ye are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant that God made unto our fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall be blessed all the families of the earth; – Ruminator Dec 28 '18 at 16:33
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The reference to "one shall be taken and one left" is a reference to Zechariah's prediction that half of the people of Jerusalem would be taken away from Jerusalem as captives:

[Zec 14:1-2 KJV] 1 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

So what does it mean that "the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city"? Perhaps it means that the ones taken will be disenfranchised, their goods confiscated and their rights terminated as a "felony". If so this might help explain the 1.1 million non-combatants killed in the judgment that fell around 70ad and why Revelation refers to the Jews hiding in the rocks of the hills, wishing that they had died in the war.

The birds come to pluck out their eyes as they eat their carcasses:

[Isa 5:25 NKJV] 25 Therefore the anger of the LORD is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them And stricken them, And the hills trembled. Their carcasses [were] as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand [is] stretched out still.

[Jer 9:22 NKJV] 22 Speak, "Thus says the LORD: 'Even the carcasses of men shall fall as refuse on the open field, Like cuttings after the harvester, And no one shall gather [them].' "

[Jer 16:18 NKJV] 18 "And first I will repay double for their iniquity and their sin, because they have defiled My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable and abominable idols."

It doesn't matter if it is a raven or an eagle!:

[Pro 30:17 KJV] 17 The eye [that] mocketh at [his] father, and despiseth to obey [his] mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.

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This is definately an idiom or para-phrased statement!. Jesus: being symbolised at the dead copse, point of interest, (,,not meaning/saying, He's a dead Copse) Saints: being, the Vultures will gather! Then thereafter, everything said, points to 'features of *rapture, simple. Literalising the scripture with a carnal mentality, wud just lead one astray to his own peril.

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Peace.

When the Lord comes to open up the Scriptures to our hearing ears, there is going to be a major upset among the churches of men who will hear His voice (in the Spirit of Truth) and not believe and agree with what He says as they will seek to defend their denominational interpretations…their own thoughts and ways. They will seek to prevent others in believing the revealed Word of Truth and will persecute those who will receive it in faith.

Some will hear and believe and come out from among the unbelievers (the dead body) who will not believe in the revealed Word of Truth when they hear it. They will not be “unequally yoked” together with the unbelievers in their churches.

As Lot was “taken” out of Sodom before its destruction, we who will believe in Him also are to be “taken” from among the unbelievers.

The believers that are taken are not to “look back” (remember Lot’s wife) to their “churches” but just leave it all behind.

There will be persecutions coming from the group we leave behind as they will think it “strange” that we no longer run with them in their church things. We are not to return evil for their evil that will come out of their mouths as we leave their company.

As the men of Sodom, they will “weary” themselves to find the door in their spiritual blindness brought upon them for their unbelief in the hearing and resistance of Word of Truth. They will want you to return evil for their evil when they speak against you for receiving it. But the “door” of our mouths is to remain shut …. not open the mouth to render evil for their evil. They will "weary" themselves to get you to speak evil back so that they are justified in their own eyes.

But, we must also "Arise up" and get out...just as Lot was commanded to do.

Genesis 19:9-15 KJV (9) And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. (10) But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. (11) And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. (12) And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: (13) For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it. (14) And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. (15) And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.

We must also leave the churches of the unbelievers in this coming time or be “consumed in the iniquity of the city” as we may render evil for their evil if we stay too long. We who believe must ARISE and go from here and snatch others from the coming fire as well.

(15) And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.

We are to leave it all behind for His sake and the good news of our salvation that we hear in the Word of Truth spoken to our hearing ears from Heaven above. We are to also not look behind to return evil for their evil that will certainly come out of their mouths as one leaves the churches of the unbelievers.

Luke 17:30-37 KJV (30) Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. (31) In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. (32) Remember Lot's wife.

We are to leave it all behind (all of their church thoughts and ways) and take nothing of them with us so that we follow the Lord in His footsteps and suffer without the camp by the keeping of His sacrifice as they will persecute us for leaving them.

(33) Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (34) I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. (35) Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (36) Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

The “body” is the dead body of unbelievers we are to leave behind in order to follow Jesus.

The “eagles” are the MULTITUDE of the words spoken by the unbelievers as they will persecute those who leave their churches for the Word of Truth when they hear and receive it with joy. The eagles will be gathered together as they will speak a multitude of words as they will persecute those that leave them. Sin is present in their multitude of words and this shall destroy them in God’s righteous judgment upon them.

(37) And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

We must hear the command and “ARISE” (just like Lot was commanded to "ARISE" and go from Sodom) from the “dead” body of unbelievers and “let us go from here”….their “churches”.

The prince of this world….those who love the preeminence (love to be first) among the churches... will have nothing to do with Him as they will come forth to persecute those who will receive His words and exercise their authority over the churches as they will act like Diotrephes did. They will show that they do not know the Lord by their evil words and actions against those who will receive the Word of Truth in faith.

John 14:29-31 KJV (29) And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. (30) Hereafter I will not talk much with you: **for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.*

We must "ARISE" and go away from the company of the "dead"...the unbelievers who will hear the revealed Word of Truth and will not believe in it when they do.

(31) But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.*

We must follow Jesus in His footsteps and “go away” from the congregations of unbelievers in this coming time. It is “expedient” that we “go away”….following Him out. If we also go away from them, then the Comforter shall come unto us. The Comforter is the Spirit of Truth that shall comfort us as those we leave behind shall persecute us in their unbelief and wrath that we have left their “church”.

John 16:7-13 KJV (7) Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

We must leave their "church"...we must depart... in this coming time so that the Wicked shall be revealed and their judgment is executed. The Lord will not destroy the righteous with the wicked....so we must depart and follow Jesus out.

(8) And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) Of sin, because they believe not on me; (10) Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; (11) Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (12) I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. (13) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

A good man will bring good things out of his heart while an evil heart shall speak a multitude of evil words.

Matthew 12:33-37 KJV (33) *Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. (34) O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. (35) A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. *

Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the Day of Judgment.

(36) But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

By our words shall we be justified and by our words shall we be condemned.

(37) For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

All the “fowls that fly in the midst of heaven” are the multitude of words that will “fly” out of the mouths of all the unbelievers in this coming time….and it is by our words that we are justified and it is by our own words that we are condemned.

Again, these “fowl” in Revelation 19 are the multitude of words of the unbelievers who will not believe in the true sayings of God when the Scriptures are opened up by the Lord to our hearing ears. Their very own words will “eat the flesh” of those who will (in unbelief) resist what the Spirit says in this coming time in the Day of Judgment. Their own words will come back upon them to destroy them.

Revelation 19:17-18 KJV (17) And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; (18) That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.

If any man hear His Word and believes (rejecting what one hears and does not receive it) not shall be judged by the Word of God that He has spoken. Many will resist what He has to say with a multitude of evil words that will fly out of their mouths into the "air".

John 12:47-49 KJV (47) And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. (48) He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (49) For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

The Word of God spoken is the “sword of Him”…and all the fowls are the evil multitude of words that the unbelievers will speak in the Day of Judgment and are condemned.

Revelation 19:21 KJV (21) And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

When the righteous (think about righteous Lot here) are taken out of the churches of the unbelievers, then the Wicked are revealed as they will speak evil words against the believers who leave.

The Lord shall consume them with the “Spirit of His mouth” as they will gnash their teeth in rage against what they hear Him saying and will speak all kinds of evil in resistance which will destroy themselves.

We are to keep His sacrifice in the presence of their persecutions by not returning evil for their evil. The "brightness of His presence" = the keeping of His sacrifice (the Lamb) in our lives in the persecution by not returning evil for their evil. This will "torment" them.

2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 KJV (6) And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. (7) For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. (8) And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

The wicked will be tormented in the presence of the Lamb as we keep His sacrifice when the persecute us. They will also be tormented in the presence of the holy angels....the messengers....the words of our Lord which are life and spirit. They will not be able to receive His words and will gnash their teeth in rage towards what they hear.

Revelation 14:10 KJV (10) The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:

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