By Dr. Kevin Peacock
With the onset of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, I have found myself in several discussions regarding what this pandemic might have to do with the Bible and the End Times. Specifically, some preachers are pointing to the mentions of “pestilence” and “plagues” in the book of Revelation as biblical evidence that the end is near. It is always a good thing when people search the Scriptures for understanding of present circumstances, and even though the subject of the End Times can be quite controversial among Bible students, it is worth taking a look at the Scripture to gain an understanding of the ways of God and what He has told us in His Word.
Here are a few of the questions I have been asked lately:
- Is the coronavirus God’s way of punishing us?
It is true that in the Bible God sometimes used plagues and disasters as punishment for sin. Anyone who reads the story of Noah and the Great Flood (Gen 6-9) would remember that extreme disaster could come from the hand of God Himself.God used plagues to punish Pharaoh’s hardened heart (Exod 7–12) and Miriam’s sin (Num 12:1–15). God warned of sending “pestilence” and “plagues” in judgment (cf. 2 Chr 7:13; Ezek 5:17; Luke 21:11; Rev 18:8).
However, before the biblical acts of judgment, God sent a prophet to warn the people. Moses warned Pharaoh and the prophets warned the Jewish people before they fell to Assyria and Babylon. In fact, this is what Amos said when defending his own prophetic ministry of announcing God’s punishment upon His people:
Surely the Lord God does nothing [i.e. send judgment]
Unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.
A lion has roared! Who will not fear?
The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy? (Amos 3:7-8)
This was the ministry of the prophets, to be the very mouthpiece of God. In the face of Israel’s sinfulness, the prophets would announce God’s impending judgment if they did not repent.
In addition, biblical judgments are directed against specific sins. Asa was stricken with a disease in his feet for not relying upon the Lord (2 Chr 16:7-12). Uzziah was stricken with leprosy for his prideful sin in performing priestly duties (2 Chr 26:16–21). King Herod was afflicted with a horrible disease for his sin of claiming divinity (Acts 12:20-23). I could go on, but at this point I am not aware of any prophetic warnings or specific sins related to the coronavirus.
It is important that we also note that not all physical suffering is the result of sin. Job suffered horribly even though he was innocent (Job 2:7). Godly King Hezekiah was sick to the point of death (2 Kgs 20:1). Dorcas was known for her godliness, kindness, and charity towards others, yet she fell sick and died (Acts 9:36-37). And when it comes to innocent suffering, the prime example would be Jesus’ death on the cross. Not all suffering is tied directly to someone’s personal sin. [Dr. Jim Denison, Biblical Insight to Tough Questions: Coronavirus Special Edition, 6-7]
In the absence of any prophetic warnings or any direct tie to a specific sin, the coronavirus is a stark reminder that we live in a world that is broken and dangerous. Our world is fallen, and it is not how God created it to be. In fact, the truth be known, our world is broken because we broke it.Sin has done untold damage to God’s good creation. This was God’s pronouncement when Adam and Eve brought the first sin into the world,
“Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen 3:17).
Our sin has wreaked much misery and pain on God’s good creation. We now live in a world where disasters happen; plagues, illnesses, and coronaviruses occur. The Apostle Paul states it this way:
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Rom 8:20-22)
No, our world is not how it is supposed to be, or how God created it to be. Coronaviruses are a stark reminder that we need a Saviour.