Questions From Readers
● What is the meaning of Matthew 24:28 (NW): “Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will flock together”?—E. F., Canada.
Under “Eagle” The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible says: “As a carnivorous bird, feeding on reptiles and occasionally on carrion, it was unclean (Lev. 11:13). The Hebrews, like the Arabs, applied the name which they used for eagle to birds that eat carrion, probably, like the Greek and Roman naturalists Aristotle and Pliny, including certain larger varieties of the vulture among the eagles (Matt. 24:28; cf. Prov. 30:17). In alluding to the baldness of the eagle (Micah 1:16), the prophet, if he does not refer to molting, which is an inconspicuous process in the eagle, has some vulture in mind, whose head is bald and neck but scantily feathered.” Doubtless because of this ancient usage of the term some modern translations, such as Rotherham and Moffat and Goodspeed, and the marginal reading of the Revised Standard Version, use the word “vultures” instead of “eagles” at both Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37.
To grasp the meaning of these words of Jesus we must know the setting of their utterance. In Matthew chapter 24 Jesus was discussing the composite sign that would indicate his second presence, and in Luke chapter 17 he was showing that this event would come suddenly and unexpectedly upon those not faithfully serving Jehovah, just as the flood of Noah’s day and the rain of fire and sulphur of Lot’s time caught unawares the opposers and scoffers and indifferent ones then living and they were abandoned to destruction. Jesus next stated: “I tell you, In that night two men will be in one bed; the one will be taken along, but the other will be abandoned. There will be two women grinding at the same mill; the one will be taken along, but the other will be abandoned.” His disciples asked, “Where, Master?” In answer to this question of where those “taken along” would be taken, Jesus responded: “Where the body is, there also the eagles will be gathered together.”—Luke 17:34-37, NW.
Some say this means that the Roman legions, who had the figures of eagles emblazoned on their standards, would come to Jerusalem and consume it as a dead carcass, and which subsequently took place A.D. 70. But this hardly fits. It was not the time of Jesus’ second presence, nor were the Roman legions “taken along” with Jesus for salvation and to reign with him. Others have contended that this means saved ones feeding on the body or carcass of Jesus as their Ransomer. But the sacrificial, ransoming merit of Jesus’ sacrifice has been made available down through the centuries of the so-called “Christian” era to those qualifying as body members, whereas the text under consideration has application at the time of his second presence, as shown by the setting. Other suggested explanations similarly fail to fit, for various reasons.
In Jesus’ illustration the eagles represented the faithful remnant of the anointed class that were cleansed and approved and “taken along” with him, that were “caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” at the time of his coming to the temple for judgment. Disapproved ones were left or abandoned to Satan’s organization, which is doomed by Jehovah’s judgment. Prophecies yet to be fulfilled show this world’s destruction at Armageddon, and through the eyes of these prophecies Jehovah’s servants farsightedly peer into the future and see it reduced to a carcass and expectantly anticipate that time, just as carrion-eating birds of prey can sense when an animal is near death and await the feast, and with their divinely provided telescopic vision these birds can spot from afar a carcass and swiftly fly to the feast. Jehovah’s witnesses now see the Scriptural judgments proving the world of Satan is near destruction, and they gather together with Christ Jesus to feast on these judgment truths and also to make them available to other spiritually hungry ones.—1 Thess. 4:17, NW; Ps. 149:9; Matt. 5:3, 6.
Complete fulfillment occurs when Jehovah through Christ Jesus reduces Satan’s visible system of things to a dead carcass at Armageddon, and when Satan and his demons are bound in a state of deathlike inactivity. The dead body of Satan’s beastly organization will be a feast to Jehovah’s faithful servants because it evidences Jehovah’s victory over it. It means the complete establishment of Jehovah’s new world with all opposition gone. It means the vindication of Jehovah’s name and Word. So the reducing of Satan’s organization to a carcass will provide a feast of victory, joy, exultation and increased understanding. The accomplishment of Jehovah’s will is food to all on his side.—John 4:32, 34, NW.
This is the same victory feast symbolically referred to at Revelation 19:11, 16-18, 21 (NW): “I saw the heaven opened, and, look! a white horse. And one seated upon it is called Faithful and True, and he judges and carries on war in righteousness. And upon his outer garment, even upon his thigh, he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. I saw also an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice and said to all the birds that fly in midheaven: ‘Come here, be gathered together to the great evening meal of God, that you may eat the fleshy parts of kings and the fleshy parts of military commanders and the fleshy parts of strong men and the fleshy parts of horses and of those mounted upon them, and the fleshy parts of all, of freemen as well as of slaves and of small ones and great.’” The feast is satisfying to those invited: “And all the birds were filled from the fleshy parts of them.”
So from the foregoing it is clear that the eagles represent those approved by Christ and “taken along” with him, “gathered together” with him at the feast, to the carcass, and not left behind or abandoned to become a part of the carcass. The time is during his second presence when he is revealed executing Jehovah’s judgments against the enemy, making a carcass of the enemy. The feasting is a spiritual feast of victory and vindication, a celebration feast provided by Jehovah for his faithful servants.—See the book “This Means Everlasting Life”, pages 232-235.