The Coronavirus and Bible Prophecy
April 22, 2020 | Ray Pritchard
Here are a few recent headlines:
“US Coronavirus Cases Doubling in a Week”
“What if This Lockdown is Only the Beginning?”
“What if This Lockdown is Only the Beginning?”
“Virus Kills More Americans in Month Than Flu Kills in a Year”
“Second Wave Could Be Worse”
“Coronavirus Drives New York Hospitals to Breaking Point”
“Food Distribution Systems Break Down”
“Millions of Americans Say Coronavirus a Wake-Up Call from God”
As of this writing, 2.6 million people worldwide have contracted the coronavirus, resulting in 179,000 deaths. In the US, there have been 819,000 cases, resulting in 45,000 deaths. That’s amazing when you consider that in January most of us had never heard of this virus called Covid-19.
We face an “invisible enemy”
We have never seen anything like this. At the first of the year, we all had our plans for 2020. Whatever they were, you can forget them now because the virus has put the whole world in a virtual time out. Billions of people are sheltering in place against an enemy they cannot see. We wear masks and gloves when we go out because we don’t know when or where the virus will strike.
(For updated information on the spread of the virus in the US, go to Coronavirus Bell Curve. This website allows you to track the spread of the virus nationwide and in each of the 50 states.)
Is the Virus a Sign from God?
Joel Rosenberg wrote an article called What Does The Bible Teach About Pestilence, Plagues, and Global Pandemics? He shows that the Bible uses the words “pestilence” or “plague” at least 127 times, starting with Moses calling down the ten plagues in the book of Exodus and ending with the various plagues mentioned in the book of Revelation. In between, you have some other striking examples of God using pestilence as part of his divine purpose:
In Numbers 16:41-50, 14,000 people died because of a plague.
In Numbers 25:1-9, 24,000 people died because of a plague.
In 2 Samuel 24:15, 70,000 died because of a pestilence from the Lord.
I encourage you to read Joel Rosenberg’s article to get the full picture of what God says about this topic. If you think God doesn’t send pestilence as a judgment, then you haven’t read your Bible carefully.
Is the coronavirus a sign of the end times?
In order to focus our thinking, let’s concentrate on three questions many people are asking today: Is the coronavirus a sign of the end times? Does this worldwide pandemic signal that we are living in the last days? How can we know for sure?
Let’s start with the last question: “How can we know for sure?” The answer is, we only know what God wants us to know. No one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36). If you hear anyone claiming to know when Christ is coming (“He’ll be here by September” or “He’s coming during the Feast of Tabernacles”), run the other way. I mean that literally. Run from anyone who claims knowledge God has reserved for himself. For 2000 years multitudes of guesses have been made about the date of our Lord’s return. The only thing we know is, they’ve all been wrong.
“What Will Be the Sign of Your Coming?”
Jesus is coming back. The New Testament reveals various “signs” of his coming. We can read about some of them in Matthew 24. Here’s the background. On Tuesday of Passion Week, Jesus goes to the temple in Jerusalem where he pronounces final judgment on the religious leaders of Israel. Then he leaves the temple area with his disciples, crosses the Kidron Valley, and finds a place to sit on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. Jesus then begins to explain the world events that will lead to his return.
When the disciples comment about the beauty of Herod’s Temple, Jesus replies that a day is coming when the temple will be destroyed and “not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Researchers in Jerusalem have discovered the stones of the temple, still lying along the road where they were thrown by the Roman soldiers 2,000 years ago. For centuries they were covered by rubble. The recent excavation offers dramatic proof of the literal truth of Jesus’ words.
When the disciples heard this prediction, they asked three questions: “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). In his reply, Jesus doesn’t directly answer the first question. He skips over 2,000 years to discuss the events surrounding his return to the earth.
Six Signs of the Second Coming
In Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus reveals six “signs” of the times. As we study these verses, keep in mind they have a double reference. These “signs” are true and present in every generation, and they will be especially visible as we approach the end of this age.
Sign #1: Spiritual Deception
“Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many’” (Matthew 24:4-5).
The first “sign” reminds us that religious charlatans appear in every generation. As we approach the end of the age, increasing gullibility will lead to a rise in spiritual deception. People will follow anyone who speaks with authority and promises to help solve their problems and give meaning to daily life. We should not be surprised by the words of Jesus that such teachers come “in my name.”
Gullibility leads to spiritual deception
Sign #2: International Conflict
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6-7a).
We live in an age of commotion and upheaval. Leon Trotsky once commented that anyone seeking a peaceful world picked the wrong century to be born in. His words seem truer today than ever before.
A recent article in The Daily Express lists these six hotspots as the most likely places where World War 3 might erupt: Iran, Israel, Turkey, Kashmir, North Korea, China. Those are just a few of the current “hot spots” scattered around the globe.
Sign # 3: Natural Disasters
“There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” (Matthew 24:7b).
This means there will be upheavals in nature itself as we hurtle down the final path that leads to the return of Christ to the earth. The UN says that the coronavirus will cause global famines of biblical proportions. The situation in Africa is made worse by the worst locust invasion in 25 years.
We face global famines of biblical proportions
Sign #4: Fierce Persecution
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” (Matthew 24:9).
This is a verse no one likes to read or memorize. It’s too negative to be popular, yet there it is, clear and easy to understand, right from the lips of our Lord. He told his disciples to expect the worst because he knew they would be persecuted for their faith. We see that happening around the world today in places like China, India, and in many Middle Eastern countries. But opposition to Christianity is on the rise everywhere, including Europe and the US.
Sign #5: Widespread Apostasy
“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:10-12).
These verses paint a picture of unprecedented religious apostasy (a word meaning “falling away from the truth”) in the last days. They especially apply to so-called Christian leaders who depart from the Christian faith. They support abortion, the redefinition of marriage, and the right of pornographers to practice their evil trade. They do not preach the message of Christ’s salvation because they do not even believe the gospel. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Sign #6: Worldwide Evangelism
“But he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:13-14).
This sign may seem surprising because we are used to thinking of the signs of the Second Coming in purely negative terms. These verses give us a clear picture of the worldwide spread of the gospel in the last days. As we rush headlong into the final events of human history, vast multitudes will come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Multitudes will come to Christ in the last days
Let’s focus on # 3: Natural Disasters. Matthew 24:7 mentions famines and earthquakes in various places. Luke 21:11 offers us some additional information: “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” The addition of “pestilences” includes infectious diseases of every sort, such as leprosy, smallpox, botulism, the plague, and in modern times Ebola, SARS, and the coronavirus. A “pestilence” is any deadly disease impacting an entire community. The term “pandemic” describes an epidemic that has spread to several countries.
The Amplified Version gives us a useful expansion of Luke 21:11:
There will be mighty and violent earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences (plagues: malignant and contagious or infectious epidemic diseases which are deadly and devastating); and there will be sights of terror and great signs from heaven.
What can we say about all this? First, pestilence appears in the Bible in many places. Second, God uses pestilence to get our attention. Third, pestilence will figure in the events of the last days.
The Four Horsemen
To put this in a broader perspective, let’s look at Revelation 6. As the seals are opened on the scroll that Jesus holds in his hand, the first four seals unleash the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” on the earth. These “horsemen” symbolize events happening in the closing days of human history as the world experiences enormous suffering just before Christ returns to the earth. The four horsemen in order are:
Dead bodies will be stacked like cordwood
- The rider on the white horse (v. 2) symbolizes world conquest. He represents the Antichrist, whose evil reign will encompass the entire globe.
- The rider on the red horse (v. 4) symbolizes war spreading across the earth.
- The rider on the black horse (vv. 5-6) symbolizes famine.
- The rider on the pale horse (v. 8) symbolizes death. For our purposes, let’s focus on this final “horseman.” Here’s the text of Revelation 6:8:
I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
After the Antichrist rises to power, war spreads across the earth. This leads to global famine, which results in death at a level never seen in world history. If one-fourth of the world dies as a result, that means almost two billion dead bodies. Undertakers will be overwhelmed, and cemeteries will be filled to overflowing. The dead will be stacked like cordwood. We’ve seen pictures of burial trenches being dug for coronavirus victims around the world. That’s a preview of what is to come in the last days on a vast scale.
Revelation 6:8 mentions four ways people will die when the fourth seal is opened:
Plague: Epidemics of every variety
Wild Beasts: Animal kingdom revolts.
What a rebuke this is to modern man with his dreams of longevity. We spend billions of dollars to gain a few extra years. We diet and exercise, and we invest in the latest medical technology. We dream of world peace, hoping that now at last the nations of the world will come together.
But when God unleashes his judgments on the earth, billions die as a result. No technology and no peace treaty will save mankind in that awful day.
Labor Pains for a New World
How does this apply to the coronavirus pandemic? We find the answer in Matthew 24:8, which speaks of the “beginning of birth pangs.” What does that mean? Famines, earthquakes, and outbreaks of disease have been with us since the beginning of time. They are with us today and will be with us tomorrow. These things, bad as they are, do not in themselves point to the last days. They are like “birth pangs” or labor pains as one world dies and another one takes its place. That image helps us get the right perspective on contemporary events.
When a woman is pregnant, she knows from the calendar the general time when the baby is due. Her body begins to send specific signals as the day approaches. Those signals are called labor pains. They begin with low intensity and low frequency. Sometimes they go on for several days and then suddenly stop. They may start and stop several times. But eventually the labor pains start in earnest. Even then, the tempo is slow and steady. As time passes, the pains come more frequently and with greater intensity. In the end, the pains come rapidly, and finally in one great burst the baby is born. That’s a perfect description of what will happen at the end of this age.
Jesus warned us about too much speculation
How close are we to those end-time sufferings and ultimately to the return of Christ to the earth? Jesus warns us about the dangers of too much speculation. As bad as the current situation may be, things may get much worse in the days to come. Or possibly things may be much better in the world by next spring. No one can say with certainty.
There is a flow or tempo of world events that is controlled by our Heavenly Father. In the last days before Christ comes, the world will seem to disintegrate before our eyes. The very systems in which we have placed so much confidence will utterly fail. Chaos will spread across the earth as men and women cry out for a leader to bring them peace and safety. In those frightful hours, a man of peace will rise with a promise of deliverance for those who follow him. Millions will do so to their eternal regret because that man will prove to be the ultimate false Christ, or as he is commonly called, the Antichrist.
The Bible teaches there will be pestilence in the last days. The world will be afflicted with diseases far worse than the coronavirus. Men and women from all nations will experience sickness no doctor can cure. There will be death on a scale never before seen and super-viruses worse than the Black Plague.
Some Key Questions
Is the coronavirus a sign? Yes, but we shouldn’t take it in isolation. Consider how rapidly this “invisible enemy” spread around the world. People ask me, “Do you think God can speak today?” Yes, I do, and he doesn’t have to do it with tornadoes and earthquakes or with bombs and missiles. If God wants to bring the world to its knees, all he has to do is release a tiny virus called Covid-19. Billions of people are in lockdown at this moment because of a virus no one can see with the naked eye.
Diseases worse than the coronavirus!
Was the coronavirus prophesied in the Bible? No, not specifically. Perhaps it is just a foretaste of things to come. If we can imagine pandemics even worse than the coronavirus, we can easily see how such a crisis could lead to a world government. In fact, that’s what former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has suggested. Even though he says it would be temporary, unscrupulous leaders would surely hang on to global power.
Don’t Waste Your Quarantine
This crisis has reminded all of us of our inherent weakness. We aren’t as strong or as wise or as clever as we thought we were. This invisible enemy has brought us to our knees. But we will gain from that, if going to our knees causes us to turn to the Lord.
On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus gave this remarkable promise to his disciples: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Note that he doesn’t say, “I have overcome your trouble,” but rather, “I have overcome the world.” Our Lord is telling us, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got this!”
At the moment we are in our fifth week of quarantine. As hard as it has been, these days can help us if we do not waste them. We will be glad we sheltered in place if we end up thinking about eternal things. It’s as if the Lord in heaven hit the Pause Button and said, “It’s time for you to slow down and refocus on what matters most.” According to a recent poll commissioned by the Joshua Fund, 44% of Americans believe the coronavirus pandemic is a sign for America to wake up and turn back to God.
May God help us not to waste these days.
Remember that Jesus is Lord. He told us these things would happen, and then he said, “See that you are not alarmed” (Matthew 24:6). Those are the words of a madman, or they are the words of the Son of God.
Trials reveal the contents of every heart. Christians ought to be the calmest people on earth because we know the Lord, and he holds the future in his hands. Jesus even said, “These things must happen.” The coronavirus outbreak did not surprise God. The Lord is seated on his throne. He’s not pacing the floor, wondering what will happen next. When chaos breaks out on earth, perfect peace reigns in heaven.
Truth Made Personal
In a practical sense, what should this mean for us? First, we need to return to the Lord. That’s where we must begin. It does no good to point our fingers at people who disappoint us. Take a good look in the mirror. What do you see? It’s time for all of us to get serious about our Christian faith.
Second, we need to release our anxiety. Why live in fear when Jesus has promised never to leave us? Let’s live as men and women of hope. A businessman was on a long flight home when the airplane hit turbulence. Thunder cracked, and high winds blew the plane up and down, like a cork bobbing on the water. Lightning flashed across the skies. When the man looked around, he saw his fellow passengers were terrified. But then he noticed a young girl who seemed unconcerned. She tucked her feet under her seat and calmly read a book. When the plane finally landed, the businessman asked her why she wasn’t frightened. “My father is the pilot,” she replied, “and he’s taking me home.” That’s the faith we need in these uncertain days. Our Father is the pilot, and he will make sure we get home safely.
“Our Father is the pilot”
Third, we need to reaffirm our faith in Jesus’ return. I have friends who wonder, “Is this the end?” Perhaps it is. We will know the answer soon enough. If the world ends tomorrow, then my friends were right. We ought to wake up each morning and say, “Maybe today!”
Remember that our hope is in the Lord, not in medicine or technology or politics. It’s quite possible things will get worse before they get better. Let’s get ready for Jesus’ return, and then let’s make sure our friends and loved ones are ready too.
There are many things we know and many things we don’t know about the future. This much is certain: Jesus is coming again, and his coming may happen sooner than we think.
Jesus is coming–maybe sooner than we think
The bottom line is quite simple:
If Jesus comes today, will you be ready?
If he comes tomorrow, will you be ready?
If he comes in your lifetime, will you be ready?
If this really is the terminal generation, the smartest thing you can do is to give your life 100% to Jesus Christ. That way you will be ready if he comes today or tomorrow or next week or next year or in 100 years. Live as if Jesus may come today, and one day you’ll be right.
Jesus is coming! Are you ready?