The term “apocalypse” is being tossed around these days in connection with the coronavirus pandemic as people seek the right words to express the trauma we’re feeling on a global scale. There’s a ton of fear in our world right now for obvious reasons since this COVID-19 virus is quite contagious, leading to concerns that it could overwhelm our medical system with deadly force. So this question seems to be floating in the air: Is the coronavirus some sort of sign that the end is getting closer? The Bible has quite a bit to say about all this.
Just to start with a little historical perspective, I have a hunch that people enduring the Bubonic Plagues or Hitler’s Nazi death machine were facing some intense evidence that the end of the world might be getting near. Yet, we’re all still here centuries after those plagues and many decades after WWII. To be clear, I’m not belittling our current predicament or what it tells us about the End Times. In fact, when the entire world is literally facing a lockdown, people are dying around the globe, and economies are being undermined, I think that’s some serious evidence that God wants us to pay close attention to His Word.
In Luke 21:9-11, Jesus explains that before the end of time, we will see escalations in all types of calamities in our world, including plagues:
“When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.”
Our world has certainly experienced all of those things in some measure, and they seem to be escalating, from tsunamis to massive earthquakes, from wars to global Islamic terrorism, from plagues of locusts and disease to blood moons and other signs from heaven, it’s all been happening around us in recent history.
But several excerpts from that passage caught my eye. Consider the phrase “the end does not follow immediately”. I’m not an expert on eschatology, but to me that phrase means the traumatic events unfolding in our world – including the coronavirus pandemic – indicate that a conclusion is on the horizon, but we can’t read these specific signs to mean that the conclusion will be immediate.
The other phrase that caught my eye was “do not be terrified.” Throughout scripture, God tells us “do not be afraid.”
Jesus continues in Luke 21:25-28:
“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Jesus offers true hope by stating, “Your redemption is drawing near.” While plagues are prophesied throughout Scripture and were a part of the traumatic events Jesus predicted would precede His return, mercy is also clearly the heart of our heavenly Father. His desire as a protective Father is to shield His children.
His people Israel understood that concept quite well. In this passage from 2 Chronicles 20:9, the Israelites place their faith in God to protect them from plagues:
“They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war, plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.'”
Another often-cited passage from Chronicles deals with the issue of God’s protection and power to deliver. Most people cite verse 14 of 2 Chronicles 7, but they don’t always mention the portion in verse 13 that talks about plagues.
“(13) If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, (14) and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
God calls us to humility and repentance in order to receive His healing, and now is the perfect time in history for all people to cry out to Him for salvation. If we ask for His forgiveness through Jesus Christ, He will grant it. If we ask for His shelter, He will provide it. Psalm 91 also makes that clear.
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday…
If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.”
Obviously, no one knows when the end will come, or how close we are to Christ’s return, but Jesus made it clear that we can read the signs of the times to know when it’s getting closer. The Word of God ensures us that we can find refuge in Him and freedom from the fear and anxiety that plagues our world in the age of coronavirus and beyond.