Summary: We are asking if God might be behind coronavirus. Is sending a plague the kind of thing God might do? Yes, it is.
Before him went pestilence,
and plague followed at his heels – Habakkuk 3:5, speaking of God
We’re looking at three questions. Is coronavirus a judgement from God? Are we living in end times? And, what does the Bible say about COVID-19? These are hard questions!
Today I will think about the question, could or would God send a virus? Answering that won’t answer our three hard questions, but it’s a step in the right direction. If we were to answer, ‘No, God couldn’t or wouldn’t send a virus’, then we need go no further. I prefer easy questions to hard ones, and this, I’m happy to say, is an easy one. God could and would send a plague or pestilence.
In medicine plague is a specific disease in the same way as cholera or diptheria are specific diseases. The ‘Black Death’ of 1347 was bubonic plague. Modern English usage of the word ‘plague’ is a bit broader and it means ‘an infectious disease which spreads rapidly and has a high mortality rate’. It doesn’t only apply to diseases affecting humans. There is cattle plague and duck plague. Biblical usage of the word follows the modern English usage – a plague can affect humans or animals. Very occasionally, its usage is wider still, for example a plague of frogs. It is therefore clear that the Bible would consider coronavirus as a plague or pestilence, and a pestilence is one of three, or possibly four, standard ways in which God judges.
The verse which I think indicates this most clearly is Ezekiel 14:21:
For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgement, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast!
There is no scope for misunderstanding that! Pestilence is one of God’s ‘four disastrous acts of judgement’. We find the same set in Revelation. Here is 6:7-8:
When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.
The fact that the same four kinds of judgement appears here shows that God is consistent – as if we need to be told that! These are God’s standard kinds of judgement.
If we were in the mood to be picky, we could observe that other passages in the Bible speak of three, not four, main judgements. Jeremiah repeatedly (17 times to be precise!) refers to three judgements: sword, famine and pestilence. For example:
And I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them… (24:10)
But apart from the fact that Jeremiah has omitted ‘wild beasts’ they are the same as Ezekiel’s four. Jesus’ grouping generally fits with Jeremiah’s. He says:
And when you hear of wars and tumults [sword] … Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom [again sword]. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences… (Luke 21:9-11).
But there is no need to be picky. The main point is perfectly clear. Pestilence is one of three or four ‘standard’ kinds of judgement which God uses. So, God could, and would – if the need arose, send coronavirus. That does not mean that God is behind coronavirus. That is a much more difficult question.
Have a good day!