Summary: In the previous seven 'Reflections' I've looked at what the New Testament, excluding Revelation, says about 'End Times'. In this Reflection I try to draw the threads together and show how they are relevant to our question.
Today is a milestone – the end of the second stage of my study. At the end of March, I decided to try to answer the question, ‘Could God be behind coronavirus?’ I knew that people were asking the question and it seemed like a good question. I decided to split the task into three parts. I would look first at the Old Testament, then the New Testament less Revelation, and finally, at Revelation.
Today, I want to recap on how I’m approaching the question and summarise some of what we have found so far.
How can we approach such a question? Perhaps a medical analogy will help. A person goes to the doctor. He complains of a tingling feeling in his skin and a headache, and he has a rash on his chest. The doctor knows what the patient has got. It’s shingles. A particular illness presents itself in a particular way. I assume that God’s judgement also presents itself in a particular way, and the same will be true of ‘End Times’. We can look for indicators.
In the Old Testament we learned something about why and how God judges. God judges sin in general, and he judged his people because they abandoned him and went after other gods. That’s the ‘why’. God often executed judgement by acts in the environment, and God refers to ‘my four disastrous acts of judgement, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence.’ That’s the ‘how.’
Relating this to today, sin of many different forms is all too evident, and most of the western world has fallen away from God. We’re in ‘post-Christendom.’ A hundred years ago 80-90% of people in Europe considered themselves Christians. Now, in many European countries, the number is 5% of less. If God had reason to judge the ancient Israelites, he has reason to judge western society. The ‘why’ is there. We are in a time of unheard-of environmental destruction. This element of the ‘how’ corresponds. Coronavirus – a pestilence – would also be absolutely consistent with God’s judgement.
In the New Testament we have looked almost exclusively at End Times. We see a mix of indicators of ‘End Times.’ Some seem to be clearly evident; some less so. I started with Matthew 24.
The gospel has been proclaimed throughout all nations. That seems to be a clear indicator.
There are good reasons to think that when Jesus speaks about a fig tree, he has Israel in mind. Israel has been re-established as a nation and many Jews are turning to Christ. That’s another clear indicator.
Jesus indicates that there will be greater persecution of Christians. That’s a helpful warning but I’m not sure that it’s the clearest indicator. There have been waves of persecution all through human history.
I then moved on to Luke 21 and thought about Jesus’ rather surprising comment about waves. Luke is the only gospel which mentions waves as part of the ‘End Time’ picture. We are already getting some very large waves, but given climate change, we may expect even larger and more destructive waves – especially storm surges from hurricanes. So perhaps this indicator is partially fulfilled.
Finally, in the last Reflection, we looked at the mysterious figure of ‘antichrist’. It seems that there will be an actual person, but no one presently matches his description. This indicator therefore does not appear to be fulfilled. Might it be any time soon? In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 we find that this person will emerge at the time of the ‘rebellion.’ The word for rebellion is apostasia and means ‘defection’ or ‘revolt’. We may speculate that the present falling-away from Christ in the western nations over the past century will progress to the rebellion that Paul has in mind. But that is speculation. We don’t know when the antichrist will appear.
So, based on the pattern we see in the Old Testament, coronavirus is consistent with an act of judgement by God. And based on the passages we’ve looked at in the New Testament, some, but not all, the signs of ‘End Times’ that the New Testament mentions are evident. If we are in End Times then it would add weight to the thought that God is behind coronavirus. There will be plenty of plagues in ‘End Times’. 12 out of 14 references to ‘plague’ in the New Testament are in Revelation.
Next, we move on to Revelation.
Have a good day!