Updated: Jun 1, 2020
I really believe, as most of us do, that the coronavirus pandemic is a sign of the times and of the nearness or our Lord’s return. I also see it as a punishment from God, but I’ve heard others say that it is not. What are your thoughts on its intended impact on the world and on us as true believers?
There is no question that the coronavirus has impacted the world enormously, essentially turning it upside down and grinding it to a halt. We agree with the reader that the question we should be asking ourselves is: What can we learn from this extraordinary event, and what was Yahweh’s intended purpose in bringing it upon the earth? Surely, there are lessons that we should take to heart as with any trial and major disruption in our lives. We know that we shouldn’t simply stumble through this crisis and hope everything ends quickly so we can return to our lives as before.
What does the Bible say about such plagues and what should our response be? What about those around us and the world in general? Is this the beginning of the wrath of God that we know would come just prior to Christ’s return? Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it (Isaiah 13:9).
Reaction of the World
The overall national conversation on the news has been all about containment measures, projecting worst-case scenarios, the number of infections and fatalities, and how protracted the shutdowns and lockdowns will be, etc. We hear very little about God when the pundits, doctors, scientists, and celebrities speak.
The media has created a great deal of hysteria around the world (not to minimize the severity of this crisis, for the facts are real). The early shocks to the global financial markets came from a fear of how bad it could get and not from existing disruptions. Likewise, shortages in grocery and other stores weren’t a result of supply shortages, manufacturing or distribution problems, but from panic buying and hoarding. Plenty of food, toilet paper and other essentials existed, but people were frantically grabbing more than they need, looking after themselves.
It exposed some ugly truths about human nature – truths certain to prove relevant in the remaining time leading up to our Lord’s coming. It may be a preview of how people will react as the world crisis continues or gets worse, which we know it will. What will happen if even a more lethal disease or an environmental or financial disaster totally disrupts the supply chain? What if earthquakes or other natural phenomena destroy infrastructure around the globe; wipe out food production; long-term economic depression hits and currencies collapse; we suffer an energy embargo; or terrorists deploy biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in major cities? How will the world’s population react then?
We, as believers, need to be sincerely looking to God at this time, not only for comfort, strength, protection, health and healing, but also for guidance in our walk on an individual basis. We need to try and see this current crisis from Yahweh’s point of view. We must see how He is involved and what He is trying to teach us. As stated in this issue’s editorial, many do see this pandemic as a wake-up call, and so must we.
Most of us have not suffered great hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic like some have, but we have been deprived of some of our freedom and been thrown into a “new normal.” Perhaps God is wanting to show us how a little hardship can make us realize how thankful we should be for what we do still have, even in difficult times. What if God is trying to warn us that bigger trials are coming, and to give us a taste of them to help prepare us? Maybe He wants us to slow down a little, to spend more time at home with our families/ecclesial brothers and sisters, and less time at work or play. Perhaps this is another reason why some of us have been forced to work from home, and why children are no longer going to school.
Is it possible that God is using this disease pandemic to give us more time to reflect on our priorities and how we might better redeem the time remaining in His service; that is, more time to ponder and consider His ways? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes (Haggai 1:5-6).
It is possible that God is trying to show us – through this crisis – that modern conveniences and other such “luxuries” have been dominating our lives and drawing us away from the spiritual to the carnal. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (Romans 8:6-7). Perhaps our Creator wants to help us see how we might be trusting in ourselves too much, and to realize how fragile the world and its healthcare and other infrastructure is, and just how tenuous life in general can be.
Our Guidebook has the Answers
God’s Word tells us why events like this are happening. It explains why God allows such trials – at times on a massive scale – to accomplish His plan and purpose. And we know our Bibles are full of examples, both historical and prophetic, of God correcting His people through trial including plagues and diseases in general.
Indeed, the Bible is our invaluable guide through an event like this. It tells us what to expect and how to successfully navigate through such tumultuous times. Mankind has not learned these lessons. How thankful we are that we have been given time to reflect on them ourselves. Adam and Eve’s choice cut mankind off from God and put all in need of repentance and reconciliation. Ever since, men have been trying to make things work on their own, distancing themselves further from God through damnable heresies (2 Peter 2:1). We know this is why Yahweh has sent one punishment after another for man’s pernicious ways and iniquity as Peter also explains (2:4-22). Our Creator is reaching out to mankind to see the error of his ways, and instill a love for His way. The Lord is…longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
The God of Israel told His people that plagues, pestilence and disease would be among the curses if they did not obey His commandments. If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, The Lord Thy God; Then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance.
Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the Lord bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.…that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee … because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee … (Deuteronomy 28:58-61, 20-21).
Moses then gets more specific, discussing disease in the next verse: The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption [chronic degenerative diseases], and with a fever, and with an inflammation [communicable diseases like influenzas including coronavirus], and with an extreme burning … (verse 22).
Here in Deuteronomy 28, we have the principle established that sickness and disease are one of the primary repercussions for disobedience. This is just one of many passages showing how God corrects His children when they go astray. Throughout His Word, we learn that the aim of such curses and punishments is to turn His children back to Him.
Intended Impact on Others in the World
Coronavirus is definitely a problem – but compared to the scale of what may be coming, it is only the beginning of what has been prophesied in terms of the cleansings of the earth. Again, we should not lose sight of the reason. God does not destroy indiscriminately: He is punishing the world in love and in measure – to help anyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see that they may turn from the path of destruction to the way of Truth!
Many of the things that our society loves have been suddenly and forcibly stripped away: sports, concerts, bars, comforts and luxuries, money and materialism, professions and careers, investment portfolios, etc. These things can be idols to anyone. They are idols because people put them ahead of God, which is a form of idolatry.
Just like us, many people who cannot go to work or school also have more time on their hands. This is an opportunity to direct their attention to the more important things in life that are too often neglected amid the hustle and bustle of everyday responsibilities and distractions. God wants mankind to see the error of their ways and turn their hearts to Him. He wants mankind to recognize just how failed and flawed the civilization they have built apart from Him is. He can use a crisis like this to try to drive people in that direction. But if people don’t respond, what more can a loving God do?
The Bible includes some grim prophecies about disease pandemics in the end time. In the Matthew 24 prophecy quoted in this month’s editorial, Jesus was forecasting the conditions that would precede His Second Coming. Among them He spoke of pestilences [diseases] arising in various places (verse 7).
God is trumpeting His end-time warning message to us and the world through this work, literally fulfilling His prophecy in Isaiah 58:1, Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. When the great tribulation comes, some will finally cry out to God for His intervention in their lives, but it may be too late. One must seek God while he may be found (Isaiah 55:6).
Impact on us
Must we suffer alongside the world? No: not in the same way. The same God who controls world events is altogether capable of protecting us as believers in Him and His Son our Redeemer. We must heed this wake-up call and act while the warning is still going out. He promises to forgive and to protect all who repent. The Bible is filled with examples of His helping the righteous and punishing the unrighteous. The Apostle Peter wrote that the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9 ESV). This lesson permeates the Bible: God protects righteous, obedient people who seek His protection.
The God of Israel has power over disease. He told His people in Exodus 15:26 that if they diligently hear Him and keep His laws, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. God promises to forgive and to heal: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases (Psalm 103:2-3). This does not mean we will never get sick or be infected with COVID- 19. In fact, this promise of healing ultimately applies to those who are blessed with immortality who will then be truly immune and never again get a sickness or disease, for the former things are passed away.
God is in control, and He promises in Romans 8:28 that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. We may experience some of the same troubles that descend on the world, yet we have a solid hope in the future Kingdom God has promised. It is as an “anchor of the soul” to stabilize us even in times such as this.