Here are the passages:
“And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together” (Matt. 24:22-28 NKJV).
“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:40-44 NKJV).
“I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together” (Luke 17:34-37 NKJV).
The phrase “One will be taken and another left” is enigmatic. One problem is commentators are divided as to just who is being taken and who is being left. It is made even more mysterious by the phrase “For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” This presents a couple more challenging problems for the Bible expositor. One is the word for “eagles” is the same as the word for “vultures” in the Bible. Another problem is that Matthew uses the word “corpse” while Luke uses the word “body.” In this blog, I will break down all the key Greek words and phrases to try to understand some of the mysteries surrounding these verses.
First, let us examine the Greek word for “taken.” Both Matthew and Luke use the same word, paralambono in Greek. This word is made from two words. The preposition para, which can mean “along side,” is the same word used in our English word “parallel.” The other word is lambano, which means “to take.” So paralambano means “to take along side.” Some examples of how it is used follow:
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20 NKJV).
Here it means for Joseph to take Mary as his wife.
Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel (Matt. 2:21 NKJV).
Here Joseph is taking Mary and Jesus with him to the land of Israel.
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves (Matt. 17:1 NKJV).
Here it is used of Jesus taking three of His disciples to the mountain. So although the word is not always used positively, it has the sense of taking something or someone along to be with them. Thus we would not think this word is used of the wicked being taken to be along with. Since the verses we are examining are in the context of the second coming, it seems paralambano is referring to the Lord taking His saints to be with him while the rest are being left behind. Specifically, it is referring to Jesus coming to His saints as a thief to take some away and leave others behind.
“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:40-44).
So it is looking like, at least in the verses we are studying, that you would want to be taken when the Lord comes as a thief to steal away his watchful saints who have made themselves ready.
The Greek word for “left” is aphiemi. Strongs Dictionary says about it,
From G575 (to send; an intensive form of εἰμι eimi (to go)); to send forth, in various applications: - cry, forgive, forsake, lay aside, leave, let (alone, be, go, have), omit, put (send) away, remit, suffer, yield up.
It clearly has some negative applications such as “forsake,” “leave,” “omit,” and even “suffer.” Aphiemi is a main word in the New Testament meaning “to forgive.” It means to forgive in the sense of sending off the sins. It can also mean “left” as it is translated in the passages we are looking at. We could see the people who are left behind not as sins but as sinners who do not qualify to be taken along with the Lord at the rapture.
Now let’s look at the phrase, "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together." First, the Greek word used in Matthew and translated “carcass” is ptoma. Strong’s Dictionary says about it:
From the alternate of G4098; a ruin, that is, (specifically) lifeless body (corpse, carrion): - dead body, carcase, corpse.
It clearly means a dead carcase. However, a different word is used in Luke. It is the word soma and is the main New Testament word for a “body.” Strong’s says about it:
From G4982; the body (as a sound whole), used in a very wide application, literally or figuratively: - bodily, body, slave.
As already pointed out, the word used for “eagles” can also be translated “vultures.” I did some research on eagles and found that they will eat dead carcasses if they have to. This further complicates the issue of whether eagles or vultures are in mind.
Could it be the Holy Spirit had two different applications in mind in these passages from Matthew and Luke? In one sense (Matthew’s passage), those who are left behind are likened to dying copses with vultures feeding upon them. This is true even though some of those may be believers left behind. In fact, the best example for “one being taken and the other left” in the Old Testament is when Elijah was taken up and Elisha was left behind. They were both believers and Elisha was not a sinner; he just was not ready to be raptured. Some believers will not be ready when the Lord “comes as a thief.” We are told that our flesh is mortal and is dying, which is true even for believers. Paul said:
I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily (1 Cor. 15:31 NKJV).
In the other sense (Luke’s passage), the body is the Lord’s body being gathered in the rapture as eagles. After all, the question the disciples asked about where the eagles are gathered is not asked in Matthew—only in Luke. Plus, the ambiguity of these texts accommodates both of these thoughts. They are also both Biblical concepts. For an example of the Matthew concept:
And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh (Rev. 19:21 NKJV).
For an example of the Luke passage:
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV).
I conclude that both of these interpretations are Scriptural and valid.
Besides the righteous being raptured in these passages and the sinners being left behind, I would like to offer another application—a personal application. That is, the two being in one bed or the two being at the grind mill are actually one and the same person—the soul is raptured and the body is left behind. I realize this goes against the example of Elijah being bodily raptured; however, Old Testament types are never 100% accurate of the reality. Furthermore, Paul dedicates an entire chapter in the New Testament to the concept that to be with the Lord is to be away from the body.
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:1-8 NKJV).
We also are told that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of heaven.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption (1 Cor. 15:50 NKJV).
Since the physical body cannot go into heaven anyway, why would it be raptured along with the soul? It is at least possible only the soul of a believer will be raptured and the body left behind. At any rate, it gets left behind at some point before the soul’s entry into heaven, and so it could indeed be an application to the verses we have examined here. Where the body is left behind—wherever that individual is at the time— there the eagle saint’s soul will rise and be gathered to the Lord.