Yes of course but it says that they eat the flesh of all people so who could be around for the thousand years?
Revelation 19:17-18 says, “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.”
The “fowls” that “fly in the midst of heaven” are commanded to prepare for a supper – the dead carcasses of the wicked that are about to be destroyed by the Lord.
The term “the fowls of heaven” is frequently employed throughout the Old Testament to describe bird-life in general and is quite often accompanies the description “the beasts of the earth” which relates to the animal life. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel identify both with the judgment of God and with feasting upon the wicked after destruction.
It seems that John borrows his language from the Old Testament prophets and their judgment pronouncements on the rebellious of their day (Jeremiah 15:3, 16:4, 19:7, 34:20, Ezekiel 29:5 and 32:4). And whilst the fowls and beasts that are predicted to consume the rebellious in these prophecies are literal it seems that John uses “the fowls” as a symbol of those commissioned to destroy the wicked at the end of the world.
So, what are the fowls in this reading symbolic of?
The word rendered “fowls” in this reading is the word orneois
in the original, which simply means birds. The word comes up three times in the New Testament, all of which are in the book of Revelation, twice in our current chapter (vv 17 & 21) and once in chapter 18 (v 2), where it is interpreted bird. We know that natural birds do not fly in space or outside of our atmosphere. The birds depicted in this symbolic passage “fly in the midst of heaven.”
These are obviously not literal birds. In fact, there is no evidence of literal birds in heaven. Allowing for the figurative location of this reading (namely Rev) I feel we can assume that this is a symbolic depiction.
The statement the “midst of heaven” is taken from the Greek word mesouranēma
which is the joining of the Greek words mesos
(Strong’s 3319) and ouranos
(Strong’s 3772). It is found three times in the New Testament all of which are translated “midst of heaven” – referring to the actual place of heaven. Notably, in the other two references (Revelation 8:13 and 14:6) the usage of the word also refers to angels in the “midst of heaven” Along with the evidence that I have already presented I believe this gives a compelling case for views these symbolic fowls as angels. Whilst it can be rendered sky, the translators were indeed correct in their interpretation of this.
This overall passage, which evidently relates to the second coming of the Lord and the awful day of God’s wrath, seems to entirely correlate with Matthew 24:27-30 and Luke 17:24-37.
Matthew records Jesus say: “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Where ever the carcass is there the eagles will be gathered together. Eagles flock to where there is prey. Where bodies lie that is where they will congregate. Death and destruction mark the aftermath of God’s judgment. Whilst God’s people are rescued the wicked perish in destruction.
The parallel passage in Luke 17:24-37 tells us: “For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 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. 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.”
This is saying the exact same as Matthew 24. Revelation 19 also correlates with this. The eagles devour those left behind after the catching away. The disciples then ask: “Where, Lord?” Christ replies: “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” Eagles flock to where there is prey. Where bodies lie that is where they will congregate. Death and destruction mark the aftermath of God’s judgment. Whilst God’s people are rescued the wicked perish in destruction.
Significantly, the word for eagles (aetoi
) is interestingly interpreted “angel” in Revelation 8:13.
It reads: "And I beheld, and heard an angel (aetos) flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels (aggelos), which are yet to sound!"
The fowls or birds seem to be a poignant symbol of the angels of God whose job it is to exercise un-merciless judgment on the wicked on that day. Describing the nature and character of the eagle, Job 39:30 poignantly declares, “where the slain are, there is she.”
There seems good reason to believe that these fowls or birds are symbolic of the angels, which mete out justice upon the wicked on behalf of God destruction at the end of this age. They are clearly a heavenly host as, when they are bidden, they are found flying “in the midst of heaven.” Here we see the final destruction of the wicked.