By Dr. Kevin Peacock
In the previous column we discussed whether the coronavirus is God’s punishment for our sin. We must leave that as a question mark in the absence of any prophetic warning or any specific sin tied to it. Rather, it is probably best to regard the coronavirus as another indication of the broken and dangerous world we find ourselves living in; a reminder of how desperately we need a Saviour to fix us and it.
Here is another question I have encountered:
2. Is the coronavirus a sign of the End Times?
Before answering that question, let’s set a little history and context. You may have overlooked this fact, but several pandemics are presently raging in the world today, from malaria and cholera to tuberculosis and AIDS. You may not live in an area of the world that is experiencing these maladies, and they may not have touched you personally, but coronavirus is not the only pandemic the World Health Organization is tracking and fighting.
Throughout history, millions have died from pandemics. Christians faced the Antonine Plague in AD 165, the Plague of Justinian in 541–42, and the Black Death in 1346–53, as well as seven cholera pandemics, the Spanish Flu of 1918, and the Asian Flu of 1956–58. [Dr. Jim Denison, Biblical Insight to Tough Questions: Coronavirus Special Edition, 4]
So the coronavirus, although severe and horribly tragic, is not unique in human history – not even in present history. If we want to talk about loss of life, in World War II German and Japanese aggression resulted in more than 7.4 million Germans dying and 3.1 million Japanese deaths.
We indeed live in a broken world.
In terms of the “End Times,” that also needs some context. If you do a search of the phrase “last days” in the Scripture, it is rather revealing.
‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams.’ (Acts 2:17)
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Heb 1:1-2)
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Avoid such men as these. (2 Tim 3:1-4)
It seems quite clear from these NT passages that the last days began with the coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – and one day they will be culminated when He comes again.
Now, to the question, is the coronavirus a sign that we are close to the end of time? Any widespread tragedy tends to bring about that kind of question – is this the sign of the end?
Virtually every generation since the time of Christ has believed it was the final generation; that Christ would return before that generation died. (I say “virtually” to qualify that I have not done enough historical study of every single generation, but every one that I know of.) Each generation read the “signs of the times” and the Scripture and came to the conclusion that the end was near.
There is actually good reason for the fact that every generation thought it was the final one. Jesus’ teaching and the writing of Scripture were done in such a way that all of God’s people in every generation need to be prepared for His coming. Jesus said, “No one knows the day or the hour” (Mark 13:32). It could be at any time, and it will be at a time that we do not expect, so we must always be ready (Matt 24:42, 44). He told us that it could be earlier than we think — think of the parable of the faithful and wicked servants (Matt 24:45-51). He told us that it could be later than we think – think of the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13).
Are we living in the End Times? Yes.
Could Jesus come back shortly? He very well could, and we must always be ready for it.
Is coronavirus a sign of the End Times? Not necessarily.