Coronavirus: a Biblical point of view

The coronavirus is a concern for almost everyone on the planet: considered the most serious crisis since the Second World War it affects the world not only health-wise but economically, politically and socially. It is concentrating minds everywhere. Some say the coronavirus has been sent by God as ‘a punishment’, or that it heralds the ‘End of the World’, quoting Bible passages in proof.  So what does the Bible say about ‘pestilences’ like this and the ‘time of the end’?  Before answering that we consider two things:  one: God’s overall control of the universe, and two: His very specific plan for the earth.

God is in control

It’s a comforting fact that the Lord God is in control of what happens to the world he created.  Many of His acts throughout history have shown the inescapable truth:
‘The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).
‘…the Most High rules in the kingdom of men,
Gives it to whomever He will,
(Daniel 4:17)
Surely that is a great reassurance, knowing that God is in control, whatever humankind has in mind.  

God has a plan

What is more, the Bible shows clearly that God made the world specifically as a place for people to live:
‘For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else’ (Isaiah 45:18).
‘The righteous shall inherit the land, And dwell in it forever.’ (Psalm 37:29)
He promised it would always be there:
‘… the earth which He has established forever’ (Psalm 78:69).
‘Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever’ (Psalm 104:5).

He also promised that familiar agricultural and weather patterns will continue:
 ‘While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.’ Genesis 8:22 (NKJV)
In fact, it is God’s declared intention that, far from the world ending up as smouldering scene of desolation following some terrible holocaust (or pestilence), it will be just the opposite:
For a start, everyone will acknowledge God:

‘from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the LORD (Isaiah 66:23).
‘the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’ (Habakkuk 2:14)
The world will be at peace:
‘… they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid’ (Micah 4:4)
War will be eradicated:
They shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)
Sorrow and pain and death will end:
 ‘…I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ (Revelation 21:4)
The prophet Micah gives a delightful picture of this future world at peace:
Now … in the latter days
.. the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established on the top of the mountains,
and … be exalted above the hills;
… peoples shall flow to it.
Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
(Micah 4:2)

How can this happen?

But, you might ask, how can we get from where we are, with war, civil unrest, terrorism, social breakdown, increased drug use and now a pandemic, to a world of peace and tranquillity?

God’s promises fulfilled

The Bible is full of promises God has made and fulfilled.  One promise that has not been fulfilled yet is that God will send His son, Jesus, back to the earth to judge and reign as king over the earth:
‘...while [the disciples] watched, [Jesus] was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked ... toward heaven as He went up, …, two men stood by them in white …, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This … Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
 ‘because [God] has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained (Acts 17:31)
 ‘For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 2:3).
What about pestilences?
During Jesus’ ministry his disciples asked:
Tell us… what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
Jesus replied: ‘…you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not troubled; …all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet, …nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.’ (Matthew 24:6-7)
We can see, then, that pestilences are part of world events both now and in the past, along with wars and earthquakes:  part and parcel of everyday existence on this planet. 
At the time of writing, one third of the world’s population is in ‘lockdown’ and the British government makes it clear that things must get worse before they improve. No human being can accurately predict when this crisis will be over.  What those with a belief in God’s word know is that this is not ‘the end’ and are confident that, however difficult and painful things are, it will pass.

Coronavirus:  a punishment?

Should we understand the current emergency as a God-given reprimand?  There’s an interesting story in Luke 13:1-5. Some bystanders told Jesus about a repulsive event that had happened to some local people from Galilee at the hand of the governor, Pontius Pilate.  Jesus then reminded his listeners of the deaths of eighteen people who’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time when a tower collapsed on them.  Then, reading their thoughts, Jesus asked whether they believed these people were greater sinners than the rest of the population because they’d suffered so much?   Jesus response to both incidents was:  no, in neither case were these people more evil than anyone else.  Then he added: ‘…but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’

A lesson for us all

Maybe this is the lesson we should take.  The virus has brought us face to face with our mortality.  It has, sadly, already taken the lives of thousands who would, in normal circumstances, have gone on to enjoy much longer lives.  In the Old Testament the book of Leviticus (chapter 13) describes what people had to do if they thought they had contracted leprosy.  They went into quarantine for
14 days (exactly the time that today’s health experts recommend for suspected coronavirus cases).  Modern medicine, of course, has found a cure for leprosy, but then the person with early indications had to sit alone, contemplating his or her future:  if confirmed a lingering, living death awaited them.  That 14-day pause would surely have made them think seriously about their relationship with God and what they were doing with their lives. No doubt it was a deep period of introspection for them.
What about us today?  For someone with faith and an understanding of God’s plan for mankind, even at a time of uncertainty like this, there comes an assurance that, however bleak the immediate outlook, they personally and the world generally, can depend on God’s salvation and care for those who belong to Him.  The prospect of Jesus reigning as king over a peaceful world, untroubled by war, disease and death, provides encouragement and hope and the strength to carry on.

Action required

It is not enough to think that this all sounds very pleasant, then turn away to other things.  What God offers is a ‘pearl of great price’ (Matthew 13:46) that must be seriously looked for.  Now is the time to search out what God has prepared for those who put their trust in him and His Son. We’re told to ‘repent’ (or ‘turn around’) in response to the Word of God (Acts 2:38).  Make this pause in everyday life your opportunity to listen and turn around towards God. 

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