Today while I was doing my reading of Scripture in the ESV (English Standard Version), I came across this portion:
So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:26-31 ESV)
In verse 3 of chapter 24, the disciples had asked the Lord to “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” He was telling of future events in answer to that question, when right in the middle of that dialog, He said, “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” What? Where did that come from? So, here we are trying to figure out that saying.
Using my e-Sword program and searching for “vulture” in the ESV, the search shows that verse and Luke 17:37 saying the same thing.
And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Luke 17:37 ESV)
This time the vulture statement is preceded by this:
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 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.” And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Luke 17:33-37 ESV)
Using the Compare mode, the verses have either Eagles, Vultures, or Buzzards showing up. Reading the MSG’s version, it is starting to make some sense even before the commentaries are used.
The Arrival of the Son of Man isn’t something you go to see. He comes like swift lightning to you! Whenever you see crowds gathering, think of carrion vultures circling, moving in, hovering over a rotting carcass. You can be quite sure that it’s not the living Son of Man pulling in those crowds. (Matthew 24:27-28 MSG)
Believer’s Bible Commentary – 24:27 Christ’s Advent will be un mistakable—it will be sudden, public, universal, and glorious. Like the lightning, it will be instantly and clearly visible to all.
24:28 And no moral corruption will escape its fury and judgment. “For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” The carcass pictures apostate Judaism, Christendom, and the whole world system that is leagued against God and His Christ. The eagles or vultures typify the judgments of God which will be unleashed in connection with the Messiah’s appearing.
Life Application Study Bible – Matthew 24:24-28 – In times of persecution even strong believers will find it difficult to be loyal. To keep from being deceived by false messiahs, we must understand that Jesus’ return will be unmistakable (Mar_13:26); no one will doubt that it is he. If you have to be told that the Messiah has come, then he hasn’t (Mat_24:27). Christ’s coming will be obvious to everyone.
Matthew Poole’s Commentary – That phrase, Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together, is a proverbial speech, signifying that it will need no great labour to bring things together which are naturally joined by an innate desire either of them to the other; so that it is applicable in more cases than one.
Matthew Henry – Christ foretells the rapid spreading of the gospel in the world. It is plainly seen as the lightning. Christ preached his gospel openly. The Romans were like an eagle, and the ensign of their armies was an eagle. When a people, by their sin, make themselves as loathsome carcasses, nothing can be expected but that God should send enemies to destroy them. It is very applicable to the day of judgment, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in that day, 2Th_2:1. Let us give diligence to make our calling and election sure; then may we know that no enemy or deceiver shall ever prevail against us.
F B Meyer – It is a matter of literal fact that there was compressed into the period of the Jewish War an amount of suffering perhaps unparalleled. Josephus’ history of the period abounds in references to these false Christs who professed themselves to be the Messiah.
J Vernon McGee – Matthew 24:28 – This is the most difficult verse to understand in the entire Olivet Discourse. After speaking of His coming in glory like lightning out of heaven, then to speak of carrion-eating birds seems strange indeed. But I believe it refers to Christ’s coming in judgment, because Revelation 19 tells us about an invitation that went out to the birds to come together for a great banquet, “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; 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. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army” (Rev_19:17-19). The birds that feed on carrion seem to be agents of divine judgment. When the Lord comes again, He will come in judgment.
This is only a few of the remarks. There are all kinds of interpretations of this verse and those surrounding it. Only a few were chosen to give a variety of the meaning. Whatever it is, apparently birds of prey will be there at the judgment. Maybe this will make you curious and encourage you to dig into the commentaries and do a little study. e-Sword is a very handy free Bible study tool.
- Gospel Message
- Birds of the Bible
- Birds of the Bible – Vultures
- Birds of the Bible – Eagles
- Cathartidae – New World Vultures
- Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks and Eagles
- Vulture – Wikipedia